In our Greek Word Devotional series, we discuss some of our favorite passages in the Bible, focusing on the specific use of certain Greek words. This time, we’ll look at Ephesians 2:9-10:
“…not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.”
The following is an excerpt from the CSB Study Bible:
Greek pronunciation: EHR gahn
CSB translation: work
Uses in Ephesians: 4
Uses in the NT: 169
Focus passage: Ephesians 2:9-10
Ergon (work) is related to the verbs energeō and ergazomai, both meaning to work or accomplish. Other related terms include katergazomai (to effect or achieve) and energeia (working, action, or activity). Ergon appears several hundred times in the Greek OT and is found in every NT book except Philemon. Paul used ergon in two primary ways in relation to salvation: to deny that works or human effort contributes to salvation (Rm 3:20,27-28; 4:2,6; 11:6; Gl 2:16; 3:2,5,10; 2Tm 1:9) and to affirm that those who are saved will manifest good works (1Co 15:58; 2Co 9:8; Col 1:10; 2Th 2:17; 1Tm 2:10; 6:18; 2Tm 2:21; 3:17; Ti 2:7,14). Salvation is “not from works, so that no one can boast,” but God created us “in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do” (Eph 2:9-10).
Paul reminds us – repeatedly – that it is not through our own works that we are saved. He also reminds us – repeatedly – that our salvation will manifest in good works. After all, James tells us that faith without works is dead.
How do we see that in our lives? Do we find ourselves working because we think we have to in order to please God? Some of us indeed struggle with this legalistic view, and it’s a trap of a mindset as we are constantly striving after something that God freely gives. Our perspective is off, and no amount of our own work can re-center that focus. It’s in these struggles that we must turn to God for understanding and grace.
Others of us acknowledge that we cannot work our way to salvation, and so we decide that we are not required or pushed to do anything. And so we sit in our grace and aren’t moved to act. This is no better than striving for salvation.
Paul is able to help us shift our attention to the truth – through our salvation, we will be compelled to do good works. When we are filled with the goodness and kindness and mercy of Christ, we can’t help but exude that Light by doing good works. It is in this medium that we find God’s truth. These works do not save us, nor should our salvation render us unable to move. But it is our faith which allows us to tap into the generosity of Christ and echo his life of ceaseless good works.