Richard has a vaguely Christian background — Jesus died on a cross, like that. He never really thought about it much, but he lost his job three months ago, and this week he’s not going to make his mortgage payment. Not knowing what to do, he took a long walk to try to clear his head, and happened to pass by the church on a Sunday evening. People were going in, and he thought, “What the heck? Nothing else is working.”
So he sat through the service. Didn’t know any of the songs, but it sounded sort of nice. A little weird, to be honest — something about Jesus shining, and a fountain filled with blood. But they seemed like nice folks. Then, somewhere in the course of the sermon, the pastor said this:
We were dead, separated from God. But Jesus came to give us life! People talk about Jesus dying on the cross, and that’s important, but many miss what it was all for. He died our death so that He could give us His life — and He gives it as a gift! We couldn’t earn it, and we don’t have to. When we believe on Him, He gives it to us. The barrier between us and God is lifted, and we begin a new life with God that lasts forever. Even after we die, we go to live with Him.
Richard never heard this before, but for some reason he couldn’t really explain, it felt like someone had hit a gong inside his chest. It was true; he knew it was true. Right there, sitting in the back, he believed.
What’s wrong with that scenario?
Absolutely nothing. Not a thing. God saved Richard by grace, through faith, apart from works, so that Richard would have nothing about which he could boast. All the credit and glory belong to God. That’s Ephesians 2:8-9.
Christ saved Richard so that Richard could be united to His Body, the Church, and join in its labors: doing the good works that God commissioned us to do from the beginning.
What’s wrong with that way of describing it?
It’s Ephesians 2:10.
Jesus has an agenda, and He is carrying it out. When He saves you, He unites you to Himself, and He is moving His Body with purpose, a purpose that will be accomplished: revealing the manifold wisdom of God to heavenly principalities and powers and growing itself up to match the full stature of Christ, the Head.
It is this Jesus, and no other, that promises you everlasting life as a gift, unto His glory alone. He can make that promise because His purposes for you will be accomplished, and in the accomplishing He will be glorified. The promise can’t be separated from the Person, and when you try, you dishonor your high calling, shame the name of Christ, and become a walking contradiction.
Which is to say that it’s bad to try to chop Ephesians 2:10 off of Ephesians 2:8-9. What God has joined together, let not man put asunder. So let’s not — not even in theory.