Many Christian principles are stated simply but are challenging to understand. One such principle is this: God saves us to do good works, but our good works do not save us. It is easy to place our faith in our accomplishments (good works) instead of the grace in Jesus' atonement.

Paul emphasized that principle to the Christians in Ephesus. He stressed Christians owe their salvation to God's grace (Ephesians 2:1-10). God's rich mercy and great love makes it possible to be resurrected to life in Jesus Christ. They were saved by God's grace in Jesus Christ. The "surpassing riches of His [God's] grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" made their salvation possible (Ephesians 2:7). No reason for human arrogance exists. Everyone depends on God's grace for salvation. Salvation is the result of what God did, not what we do. God saves; human works do not.

However, God recreated them when He saved them (Ephesians 2:10). Salvation recreates. When a person enters Christ, God makes him or her something he or she never was. God recreates Christians for a purpose. His purpose is simple: to do good works [to live daily life doing good works]. That remains God's intention for all who enter Christ: every Christian is saved to do God's good works.

American Christians have difficulty understanding this simple principle. Our view of human existence rejects that principle. We are products of the free enterprise system. Our economic system declares a person should be paid for what he or she does. Payment for our work is earned wages "owed us."

Older generations regard a common concept of younger generations confusing. That concept is entitlement. "I am entitled to have (or to enjoy) 'X' because I am owed 'X' experience." Older generations survived times when "no one owed you anything." The concepts of "society owing me," "the world owing me," or "life owing me" are foreign to their experience.

Younger generations regard older generations' past experiences as irrelevant to current existence. All are "entitled" to a basic standard of living. Everyone is "entitled" to specific experiences. "Society," "the world," or "life" owes everyone specific things.

Salvation is not the result of earnings or entitlement. It is the result of Jesus' atonement.

As a people, we are poorly prepared to understand that God does not reward us for what we do but for our trust in Christ. We are poorly prepared to understand that God expects each Christian to do good works when salvation is never a matter of earnings or entitlement. The foundation of Christian existence is not mere "church membership." It is serving God's purposes in Jesus. It is doing God's good works because we love God, believe in Jesus, and live in the atonement they provide through grace.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 27 May 2001

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