In Ephesians 1—3 Paul explains the new position of the believer (as being in Christ) and the implications of that position. In the second half of the letter (Ephesians 4—6), Paul challenges believers to walk in a manner worthy of that calling. One key pivot point between position and practice is the reality that we were created “for good works” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).
In Ephesians 1, Paul explains how each Person of the Trinity has worked to achieve our new position in Christ: the Father predestines (Ephesians 1:4), the Son redeems through His blood (Ephesians 1:7), and the Holy Spirit seals (Ephesians 1:13–14). He then prays that believers will understand the amazing blessing that God has provided for them (Ephesians 1:15–23). In their previous lost state, people walked according to their fallen nature, which was sinful (Ephesians 2:1–3). Paul offers quite a contrast when he explains that, in our new position, we were created for good works (Ephesians 2:10).
Paul explains how people moved from the state of being lost, of being by nature children of wrath, and of being dead in trespasses and sins to this new, lofty position in Christ. By God’s mercy and love (Ephesians 2:4), He made us alive in Christ even when we were still dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:5). In other words, we did not earn it. We were not able to demonstrate any righteousness or provide any merit—God accomplished this through His grace and mercy. We were raised up to be with Christ and have a new position of citizenship with Christ in heaven (Ephesians 2:6). God did all this for His own glory (or the demonstration of His character, Ephesians 2:7).
How God accomplished our salvation is perhaps beyond our comprehension, but Paul provides a simple formula to help us understand what God did: by God’s grace (undeserved kindness) we have been saved (delivered from lostness and given His righteousness). This is His gift, and not something we have earned (Ephesians 2:8). Paul reiterates that we did not earn it; otherwise, we would be glorified rather than God (Ephesians 2:9). In giving us new life, God made us new as His workmanship, creating us in Christ Jesus for good works that He designed before this deliverance took place (Ephesians 2:10).
Remarkably, God created us for good works, not because of good works. We were not saved by our good works; rather, He saved us for good works. This is such a liberating and encouraging fact for believers. Good works are important in the life of the believer—they are what we are designed to do. But they are not the basis of our lives or the cause of our salvation. Because we have been made righteous and have new life, we can please God. As the author of Hebrews puts it, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6)—yet that same author explains that believers can please God (Hebrews 13:16). Paul tells the Thessalonians that they are pleasing God by their behavior (1 Thessalonians 4:1), yet he reminds them to excel still more.
God has created us as new creatures so that we might walk with Him and bear fruit (John 15:5; 17:3). We are designed for good works—doing that which pleases God—rather than living according to our old lostness. It is important that believers fulfill God’s design, as we have been created for good works (Ephesians 2:10).