Worthless Works

Whitney Capps

Day: 9 | Plan: Christ Alone

Today’s Reading: Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV) “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” 

The life of Paul is perhaps one of the greatest stories of redemption in Scripture. Saul was a passionate and nearly-perfect Jew, observing almost every regulation and Levitical law. He said of himself:

“If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless” (Philippians 3:4b-6).

Faultless under the law. That’s a strong assertion! And from what we know about Saul before he met Jesus, this man was everything he claims. So passionate in his commitment to Judaism, Saul was a leader of the murderous persecution of the early church.

But when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, everything changed for Saul, not just his name. Paul was clearly proud of his pedigree and all he’d accomplished. Yet now, in Ephesians 2, Paul systematically builds a case that those works were incapable of earning his salvation.

Salvation, Paul describes here, is given by God to awaken those dead in their sin to life. So we boast in God’s grace because our works earned us nothing; we deserved God’s wrath. And if Paul says his works were ineffective for salvation, what hope can the rest of us have? This is exactly Paul’s point, not only for the Gentiles of the first century (the primary audience of this letter) but for you and me, living in the twenty-first century,

Gentiles had been considered permanently excluded without hope of salvation unless they performed the “works” of the Jews, namely circumcision. But if Paul is saying that his circumcision, heritage and observation of the Law means nothing for salvation, then the Gentiles have hope – hope in Jesus! Because of Christ, Jew and Gentiles have peace not just with one another, but more importantly with God!

What comfort! Paul’s life is the perfect example for you and me. No matter how good we are before we meet Christ, we cannot earn our salvation. And no matter the evil we participate in or oversee, we cannot forfeit God’s grace. For good or bad, our works mean nothing before we encounter Jesus and God makes us alive in Christ.

God's extravagant grace does what we could never do. And His lavish mercy forgives what we did do. He alone deserves all the glory.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I willingly give You all the glory for making me righteous before You. Jesus paid the price. I have been reconciled to You and made alive. Because of Christ, I have life, hope and peace. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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