Read Ephesians 2.
This chapter of scripture lays out clearly and logically what God has done for us in Christ.
First, Paul described our need: we were “dead in [y]our transgressions and sins.” We were under God’s wrath by nature (v. 3b) and because we deserved his wrath for our sinful actions and lives (vv. 2-3a).
Second, he pointed us to God’s amazing nature. Despite our sin, God had “great love for us” and “is rich in mercy” (both in verse 4) despite the fact that we deserved justice for our sins. So, since we were “dead” in sins (v. 1) God “made us alive with Christ” (v. 5a) and “raised us up with Christ” (v. 6a). That’s a reference to the spiritual life God gave to us through the gospel message. More about all this in a second….
Third, God united us with his chosen people Israel (vv. 11-22). We used to be excluded from the spiritual status the Jews (v. 12) had but now, “now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (v. 13). Christ accomplished this reconciliation for us, using one means of salvation–the cross–for both Jews and Gentiles (v. 16b) to make us into one body (v. 16a). As a result, we are God’s children just as much as any Jewish believer is (v. 19) and Christ is building us together into a holy temple (vv. 20-22).
Going back to verses 4-9, we learn there that God has done incredible things for us in Christ.
First, all that he has done for us is by grace (vv. 5, 8a). God’s grace is his favor that we don’t deserve and could never earn. Sinners though we were (and are) and unable to make our own favor with God, God just gave it to us! He gifted us new life in Christ including the faith to trust him for it (v. 8a).
He also will give us an eternity where he lavish us with more gifts of grace than we can possibly imagine (v. 7). But there is a purpose to all of this: God not only gave us this redemption for his own glory, he did it to make something great out of us.
Verse 10 calls us “God’s handiwork.” He wants to make works of holy art out of our sinful lives.
How does he do this?
By “good works” (v. 9). As we become more holy, we live more righteous lives and do unselfish things to serve the Lord, his gospel, and his people.
All of this displays the greatness of God because, on our own, we are incapable of becoming masterworks of holiness. This is what Jesus was getting at when he said, “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16).
Let’s shine God’s light through our good works today–by his grace, of course.