MEANS OF SALVATION
Verse 8 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Being saved is the experience of Ephesians 2:5-6. By what means does salvation come? By grace. Romans 11:6 says, "But if by grace, it is no longer out of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace." What does this tell us about grace? There is no need for you to do anything. Otherwise, grace is no longer grace.
Grace can save us from the temptations of the world, the enticing of Satan, and the lusts of the flesh. This is all God’s work. The foundation of God’s work is the grace of God, but it is through faith. The channel of this grace is faith. For example, electrical wire is for the transmission of electricity. Grace is like electricity, and faith is like the electrical wire. "By grace" indicates that it is God’s work. "Through faith" indicates that faith is the channel through which grace flows.
What are we to have faith in? Thank and praise God! He has made us alive together with Christ, He has raised us up together with Christ, and He has seated us together with Christ in the heavenlies. This is not a psychological illusion. It is not just something we say with our mouth. It is a speaking by faith of what God has accomplished in Christ. Do not for a single moment let Satan say to you that you have not been made alive. You should say, "I have been made alive." Do not let the world say to you that you have not ascended to the heavenlies. You should say, "I am seated in the heavenlies." Brothers and sisters, in the same way that you were saved, even so today, you who are so weak and incapable, God’s Word assures you that you have been crucified, raised up, and seated in the heavenlies. If you believe in what God has done, everything will be accomplished.
However, there is one problem, that is, the question of faith. For instance, I would ask you whether you believe that you have been made alive, raised up, and ascended? You may say that you believe. But by the afternoon, when a temptation comes, if you only say with your mouth, "I have been made alive, I have been raised up, I have ascended," it will not work at all. You will become helpless. It seems as if all the faith is gone. What should you do? Thanks be to God! Although you cannot believe, His grace can work to such an extent that you can believe—"this not of yourselves"; it is "the gift of God." Not only is salvation not of ourselves, even this faith is not of ourselves; it is the gift of God. There is a basis in the Bible for saying that God gives us faith. Second Corinthians 4:13 says, "And having the same spirit of faith." According to the original language, this phrase may be translated, "We, having received the same spirit of faith." Philippians 1:29 says, "Because to you it has been graciously granted on behalf of Christ not only to believe into Him." This shows us that we can believe because grace grants us to believe.
Does this mean that God is believing for us? No. How can we then believe? It is God who loves us and works in us until we can believe. God is changing our nature, and God is giving us a clear revelation so that we can believe. At least we should have a faith that asks God to make us believe.
Ephesians 2:9 says, "Not of works that no one should boast." We cannot even do a little bit of good. It is all by grace. We can boast of nothing. Brothers and sisters, our worst trouble is that we all want to try. We all hope that we can do well. We must believe in what Christ has accomplished, that we are separated from the world and that we have a separated life. Salvation is not of works. If one depends on works even a little, he will surely fail because the position he stands on is wrong. Please remember that you were dead, and that there is no ability in you to accomplish the righteousness and holiness of God. You must have faith in what God has accomplished. You should also know that even this "faith" is given to you by God.
THE PURPOSE OF SALVATION
Verse 10 says, "For we are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand in order that we would walk in them." In our natural state we make a big mistake, a hateful mistake. Formerly we thought that salvation was of works; now we think that since salvation is by grace and we are saved, we do not have to care for anything anymore. It is as if we do not even have to pray. All we have to do is just go to sleep and let Christ win the victory for us. As a result, we simply become lazy persons. The previous mistake is to consider justification and sanctification as something of works; the latter mistake is to think that once we are saved we do not have to do anything. But Paul says that God has saved us for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
The word masterpiece, according to the original language, is used twice in the New Testament. It means the best in a lifetime. For example, among the paintings of a painter, the best one in his life is his masterpiece. The phrase "we are His masterpiece" indicates that we are His best; there cannot be any better. God has made us alive together, raised us up together, and seated us together with Christ.
Where did God create this masterpiece? In Christ Jesus. This shows us that when the Lord was made alive, God put us in Him. When the Lord resurrected and ascended, God also put us in Him. The creation here is the same as the new creation in 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Man says, "If I do good, I will obtain salvation." But God says, "Since you have obtained salvation, you should do good." Doing good works comes after having been raised up and ascended to the heavenlies; you do good works because you are already God’s masterpiece. You must do good works, pray, read the Scriptures, and witness to others. However, if you think you will make your life better by doing these, you are wrong. Rather, by confessing that you already have a good life, you go about doing good. One should first believe that he is sanctified, then he goes about doing good. Some people fall into the danger of saying, "Christ has done everything. Hence, I do not have to do anything." This is wrong. Rather, we should say, "Since Christ has done it, therefore I should do it." Paul said, "For which also I labor, struggling according to His operation which operates in me in power" (Col. 1:29). Paul was striving because of the operation which operated in him in power. The more there is the inward operation, the more there will be the outward striving. God’s thought is higher than our thought. We should not lean toward any one side. We should not depend on works for salvation, and neither should we do nothing just because we are saved by grace.
Ephesians 2:10 says, "Which God prepared beforehand in order that we would walk in them." "Walk" here is in contrast to "in which you once walked" in verse 2. Because we were dead, we walked according to the dead; because we are alive, we walk according to the living. First, we die, then we commit sins; first, we are made alive, then we walk. You should say boldly, "I am able now because I have been made alive." Have you believed in Jesus as your Savior? If you have, you have already passed from death into life. Now you can walk.
Brothers and sisters, we have to believe that we have obtained salvation and that we can go about doing good works. May God bless us and His word, so that we may walk in what God prepared beforehand. We should pray more diligently, read the Scriptures more diligently, and offer up ourselves more diligently. May God bless us that we may be willing and walking for the accomplishment of His good will.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 08: The Present Testimony (1), Chapter 37, by Watchman Nee)