His Achievement Are We
For in grace, through faith, are you saved, and this is not out of you; it is God’s approach present, not of works lest anyone should be boasting. For His achievement are we, being created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God makes ready beforehand, that we should be walking in them (Eph.2:8-10).
This passage is a most enlightening one. Its revelations are clearly expressed and are exceptionally glorious. We are overwhelmed by the magnificence of these declarations and are exceedingly glad that they are true. For they allow us—indeed, they constrain us—to glorify God as God and to take our proper place as His creatures.
Ephesians 2:8 begins with the word “for” (gar, SURELY-CONSEQUENTLY): “For in grace, through faith, are you saved.” Gar is “a causal conjunction, introducing the logical reason” (KEYWORD CONCORDANCE, p.114, entry “for”). Whenever a sentence or clause begins with this word, what follows tells us why that which has gone before is so. It joins one thought to another, forming the causal link between them.
As in any passage in which gar appears, in Ephesians 2:8 at the beginning of the verse, we should note the causal relationship between a former and a latter statement, in order to understand why the declarations which have already been set forth are true.
The immediate revelation previous to Ephesians 2:8 is comprised in verses 1 to 7. There we learn that, notwithstanding our former walk, our shameful behavior in the lusts of our flesh, being, in our nature “children of indignation, even as the rest, yet God. . . . (Eph.2:3b,4a).
Yet God! “O what meaning, O what wealth these words impart.” It is true that having become unnatural through our own inherent disposition with which we were born (Rom.8:7), besides the ravages of mortality and those influences of sin which “accord with the chief of the jurisdiction of the air” (Eph.2:2), we were indeed, “in our nature, children of indignation, even as the rest” (Eph.2:3b). Consequently, we could only anticipate severe divine judgment. This is because, in the day of indignation and revelation of, God’s just judgment, “indignation and fury, affliction and distress” will be upon “every human soul which is effecting evil” (Rom.2:9).
Nonetheless, Yet God! It is evident that Paul is speaking here in an ultimate or final sense in accounting for the stupendous change that has occurred with regard to our present standing and future course. He has just rehearsed our awful past and insisted that insofar as anything related either to our acts or nature is concerned, it can only be said that we were, “children of indignation, even as the rest.” That is, we had no more claim upon God’s blessing and were no more entitled to exemption from indignation, much less to possession of eonian life, than anyone else.
Now if it were true, as many will say, that man is finally the key to his own welfare—especially to such unspeakable gain as exemption from indignation and deliverance unto glory—this would have been just the place to have made this known. In fact, if such a thing were true, Paul should have made this clear and would have been terribly remiss in having failed to do so.
But what does our apostle declare? Does he say, “Yet man. . . .”? Does he say, “Yet men, those such as ourselves who are saved, at the vital point, their former sinfulness notwithstanding, summoned something from within so as to make the right decision and thus qualify themselves for divine deliverance”? If this idea is the truth, Paul should have said as much, and he should never have said—especially at this vital juncture— “Yet God. . . . ”
Yet this is just what he did say! He said, setting forth the truth, “Yet God . . . .” “Yet God, being rich in mercy, because of the vast love with which He loves us (we also being dead to the offenses and the lusts [cp Rom.6:10]), vivifies us together in Christ (in grace are you saved!) and rouses us together and seats us together among the celestials, in Christ Jesus, that, in the oncoming eons, He should be displaying the transcendent riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph.2:4-7).
THE GRACE OF GOD IN TRUTH
The words of our Lord in Luke 6:32-35 give us an illuminating illustration of true grace: “If you are loving those loving you, what grace* is it to you? For sinners also are loving those loving them. And if you should be doing good to those doing good to you, what grace is it to you? For sinners also are doing the same. And if you should ever be lending to those from whom you are expecting to get back, what grace is it to you? For sinners also are lending to sinners, that they may get back the equivalent. Moreover, be loving your enemies, and be doing good, and be lending, expecting nothing from them, and your wages will be vast in the heavens, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”
Grace is that which is not out of works (Rom.11:6), which exists in order to bring joy and blessing to its beneficiaries (cp charis, JOY, “grace”; charisma, JOY-EFFECT, “grace”; chara, JOY, “joy”).
While Grace is not partial (sinfully preferential), it is nonetheless purposeful. Any gracious gift, then, that is not intended for all, through its very purposefulness, necessarily excludes those for whom it is not designed, as much so as would be the case if its motivation were that of partiality.
“Grace” refers to God’s work or action of grace, the work which He does for us and in us, as a favor or gracious gift. As ordinarily used, the expression “God’s grace” is a figure of speech. It is a metonymy (figure of association) for “God’s work of grace,” in reference to whatever gracious gift may be in view. That is, literally, grace is not an action, but the character of an action.
The grace of God is effective, for it, like everything else, only exists according to God’s own intention and purpose (Eph.1: 11; Rom.9:19; Isa.46:10,11). Indeed, it is the saving grace of the Almighty God (Titus 2:11; Rev.11:17).
Consequently, then, since it is effective, grace is a causal entity. This entails the necessary and inevitable existence of its achievements. That is, Grace cannot fail.
Grace is not a wage or requital in response to service or cooperation (Rom.4:4). Instead, it constitutes a favor. Grace acts in order to bless. It does not offer to bless but actually effects blessing. Therefore, at the deepest level, grace always initiates, out of its own intrinsic virtue. Though it responds to need, it is never under extrinsic obligation to do so and can never be put under such obligation.
Our God is in the heavens: He has done whatsoever He has pleased (Psa.115:3; cp Psa.135:6). Though He loves His creatures and provides for them ideally, He is never beholden to them. “For, who knew the mind of the Lord? or, who became His adviser? or, who gives to Him first, and it will be repaid him? seeing that out of Him and through Him and for Him is all: to Him be the glory for the eons! Amen!” (Rom.11:36).
“The word of the truth of the evangel . . . is bearing fruit and growing . . . [in] you . . . ,” “from the day on which you hear and realized the grace of God in truth” (Col.1:5,6).
IN GRACE, THROUGH FAITH
In light of these prior and related revelations, Paul declares, “For in grace . . . are you saved” (Eph.2:8). We have all that we enjoy in Christ because we are saved in grace. It is true, in the nature of things, that we are saved by grace, for we are saved by God Who acts in grace in saving us. “Grace,” however, is in the dative case, and this idea is most clearly conveyed in English by the word “in” (or “to,” or “into”). It speaks of the sphere in which salvation occurs, in which we find ourselves, the effectual agency of which having wrought our salvation.
We are about to address the question of the words “through faith,” which we omitted (indicated by the elliptical dots) in our citation from Ephesians 2:8 in the previous paragraph. We did so not because we wish to minimize them or pass them by altogether, but because we wish to show that they do not represent the primary revelation here. The emphasis of this passage is upon God’s grace, not the means which it employs.
FAITH IS A CHANNEL
It is frequently very helpful to simplify a statement into its most basic form, for apart from the wider thought of its complete expression, the basic expression of a thought in itself remains fully true. For example, if we are told that “thus God loves the world, that He gives His only-begotten Son . . . .” (John 3: 16a), it must be so, first of all, that “God loves the world.” He could not love the world “thus” if He did not love the world at all.
Similarly, we could never be saved in grace “through faith,” if it were not first of all true that, in any case, “in grace . . . are you saved.” We have been saved in grace. The revelation of any further particulars concerning our salvation in grace will not change this fact. In most considerations of the phrase, “through faith,” “through” is usually ignored altogether, “faith” alone being given any attention. Yet what does it mean for something to come to us “through” something else? That is, what does “through” mean? “Through” is a preposition which means “by way of.” A synonym for “through” is “by means of.” That which serves as the means through which something else is achieved, is merely a channel. It is the means which the one who achieves the objective in view uses in order to accomplish his purpose. The fact that God uses the faith that we have—which He first of all grants us—in order to effect one aspect or another of the salvation which He Himself thus works in us, does not make faith into some type of contributing factor which ultimately owes its existence to the flesh and not to God.
GOD’S APPROACH PRESENT
Similarly, before giving emphasis to our own pursuit of a righteous walk, we would emphasize God’s righteousness, and seek to perceive its significance as well as its achievements. God’s righteousness is manifested to us “through Jesus Christ’s faith” (Rom.3:22). Even Christ’s faith, His faithful obedience to God even unto the death of the cross, is only the channel of God’s own righteousness. Ultimately, it is the Deity Himself Who alone is our God and Saviour. Our Lord’s sacrifice would have occurred in vain were it not the fulfilling of God’s own counsels (cp Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:27,28). In speaking of our glorious salvation in grace through faith, Paul would have us know that “this is not out of you; it is God’s approach present, lest anyone should be boasting” (Eph.2:8b,9). We doubt that any are so foolish to suggest that salvation itself is actually man’s creation and that God only makes use of it after it comes to Him “out of us.” This cannot be what the words, “this is not out of you” are denying (Eph.2:8b). Rather, Paul’s point is that it is not due to something from (i.e., “out of”) us that we now find ourselves in Christ and the beneficiaries of God’s saving operations.
Instead, our salvation in grace through faith is God’s “approach present” (doron, GIVE-GUSH). Our salvation, in its entirety, is a present! It is that which God has given us out of His love. Doron is practically the same word as dorea (GIVE-GUSH) and is defined for us by the adjectival form, dorean (GIVE-GUSHed), which means “gratuitously” or “freely.”
This clearly shows that it is completely mistaken to conceive of one’s faith as a means of qualification, a practical warrant entitling its bearer to God’s salvation while placing the Deity under obligation to grant it as if He had promised to do so on such a basis.
In Greek this special form, doron, served to represent the Hebrew “corban” (korban, Heb. qrbn, NEAR, approach; Mark 7: 11). In the figure, here in Ephesians 2:8b, instead of the sinner bringing a sacrificial gift unto God, God brings a sacrificial gift on behalf of the sinner in order that he may approach unto God! The gift has already been purchased and its character fully determined before we are even told what it is. Any “rejection” of it by ourselves will not change the fact that it is ours. That is, this will be so if we are indeed among God’s chosen ones, which is evidenced not by our understanding of these mature revelations of Ephesians but by our basic faith in Christ’s death and resurrection.
Indeed if we should reject the salvation encompassed in the approach present of God of Ephesians 2:8, it can only be because we really do not believe at all, or because while we do believe in Christ and His sacrificial death, we do not yet believe what God actually says as to the nature of His approach present for us which is presented in this passage. This, of course, will not change the character of God’s gift; it will only mean that, at present, we cannot enjoy what we actually possess, being in the trap of the Adversary, having been caught alive by him, for that one’s will (cf 2 Tim.2:25,26).
THE DOINGS OF GOD
Our salvation is not out of ourselves. We do not possess it because we have done this or that in order to acquire it. Consequently, boasting is debarred (Rom.3:27). This is because we are God’s achievement. “For His achievement are we” (Eph.2: 10a). We are saved because we are God’s achievement. It is just that simple and this is fully the truth.
The word “achievement,” is poiˆma (DO-effect). We are the product of God’s doings. It is only unbelief that will seek to modify this or to explain it away. This unbelief is due to the deceptive influences of the worldly philosophy known as free will. We do not care for the fact that we ourselves, who effect much evil and some good, are the product of God’s own doings.
God, however, is able to operate in us, to will and to work for the sake of His delight (Phil.2:13), so that we think of these matters continually and in a profitable and uplifting way. As those who are God’s achievement, being created in Christ Jesus for good works, ones which God Himself prepared beforehand, there is no possibility but that we should be walking in them. Indeed, since the subjunctive, “should,” in this case, points us only to God, the good works to which it refers are just as certain to be accomplished as would be the case had the indicative “shall” been used instead.
May God grant us a foretaste of the superabundant and transcendent good works of the future in a measure of good works even now, even if the best of these should be totally eclipsed when compared to our labors to come, during the oncoming eons, when we are conformed to the image of God’s Son and seated together among the celestials (Rom.8:29; Eph.2:6).
“Lest anyone should be boasting”—lest we ourselves should artfully contrive some way to look to and lean upon the flesh—we would glory only in God and in His Christ. We are saved in grace through faith, faith being an assumption, based upon God’s own word, concerning what is already true prior to and apart from our conviction in it. “For His achievement are we, being created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God makes ready beforehand, that we should be walking in them” (Eph.2:10).
* “thanks,” literally, is “grace”
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