God’s Election of Grace Unto Good Works

Ephesians 2:8-10

By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): We trust, by the Holy Spirit, we are not afraid that you will so misunderstand us, as to suppose that when we speak of good works today, we shall in any way whatsoever wish you to imagine that they can promote your eternal salvation.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): A man is justified by faith alone, and not by works. Without works―that is, without regard to any former good works supposed to have been done by him―so the righteousness of Christ, without the good works which we afterwards perform, brings us life.

C. H. SPURGEON: I shall call your attention to the near neighbourhood of these two phrases, “not of works,” and “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” The text reads with a singular sound; for it seems strange to the ear that good works should be negatived as the cause of salvation, and then should be spoken of as the great end of it.

WILLIAM JENKYN (1613–1685): We are not justified by doing good works, but, being justified, we then do good.

C. H. SPURGEON: Those who place least reliance upon good works are very frequently those who have the most of them; that same divine teaching which delivers us from confidence in our own doings leads us to abound in every good work to the glory of God…If we are not positively serving the Lord, and doing his holy will to the best of our power, we may seriously debate our interest in divine things, for trees which bear no fruit must be hewn down and cast into the fire.

WILHELMUS à BRAKEL (1635-1711): True faith is the fountain of good works. Good works are fruits of faith and characteristic of it, and it is thus evident that where good works are absent, true faith is also absent. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also,” James 2:26. You can be certain that the body is dead if breathing has ceased. You may likewise know that faith is dead, that is, that true faith is not present, when it does not manifest itself.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): They who are redeemed and purified by Christ, through the power of His grace upon them, become a people “zealous of good works.”

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): As Paul more plainly teaches us that we are redeemed from all iniquity, that Christ “might purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, Titus 2:14.

WILHELMUS à BRAKEL (1635-1711): Far be it from us to suggest that the apostle here states that God perceives the faith and good works of some in advance and therefore elects them…These are fruits issuing forth from election. They are not the causes of election. They do not precede election but are a consequence of it. There is nothing which necessitates God to do anything. Nothing which would be in man, nor any future deeds, moved God to elect a person. The reason for election is nothing but the sovereign good pleasure of God, Ephesians 1:5,9. This alone is the fountain of election…God does not choose anyone unto salvation because of his good works, rather He chooses them unto good works.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Should not we likewise be excited to good works by this―that we were elected to them?

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works,” Titus 3:8. To “maintain” these according to the signification of the word used, is to excel in them; to outdo others; to go before others, by way of example.

JOHN WESLEY: Though the apostle does not lay these for the foundation, yet he brings them in at their proper place, and then mentions them, not slightly, but as affairs of great importance. He desires that all believers should be careful―have their thoughts upon them, use their best contrivance, their utmost endeavours, not barely to practise, but to excel, to be eminent and distinguished in them: because, though they are not the ground of our reconciliation with God, yet they are amiable and honourable to the Christian profession.

JOHN TRAPP: In all things show thyself a pattern of good works,” Titus 2:7. The word τυπος there used, signifies a thing that makes the stamp on the coin, or the mould whereinto the vessel is cast and shaped―the excellency of a Christian is to follow God fully, as Caleb, Numbers 14:24; to have a heart full of goodness, as those of Romans 15:14; and a life full of good works, as Tabitha, Acts 9:33.

NATHANIAL HARDY (1618-1670): Good works are jewels not to be locked up in a cabinet, but to be set forth to public view. If Christ would have Mary’s name remembered in the gospel until the world’s end for one box of ointment poured on His head, we cannot imagine that He would have the many pious and charitable deeds of His servants to be buried in oblivion.

WILHELMUS à BRAKEL: Therefore “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” Matthew 5:16.

JOHN CALVIN: And hence, as often as we become languid, or more remiss than we ought to be, in good works, let the promises of God recur to us, to correct our tardiness.

RALPH VENNING (1620-1673): Though we should not serve God for a reward, yet we shall have a reward for our service. The time is coming when ungodliness shall be as much prosecuted by justice, as in times past godliness had been persecuted by injustice. Though our reward be not for our good works, yet we shall have our good works rewarded, and have a good reward for our works.

C. H. SPURGEON: Yet even then the reward is not of debt, but of grace. God first works in us good works, and then rewards us for them.

JOHN CALVIN: We do not deny that a reward is promised to good works, but maintain that it is a reward of grace, because it depends on adoption…We must therefore hold these two principles: First, that believers are called to the possession of the kingdom of heaven―not because they deserved it through the righteousness of works―but because God justifies those whom He previously elected, Romans 8:30; Secondly, although by the guidance of the Spirit they aim at the practice of righteousness, yet as they never fulfill the law of God, no reward is due to them, but the term “reward” is applied to that which is bestowed by grace.

JOHN WESLEY: Although still, every good, as well as evil work, will receive its due reward.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Good works do not make a man good, but a good man does good works.


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