Our Faith Comes Before Our Good Works

by Mike Ratliff

8 Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον· 9 οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται. 10 αὐτοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν ποίημα, κτισθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἐπὶ ἔργοις ἀγαθοῖς οἷς προητοίμασεν ὁ θεός, ἵνα ἐν αὐτοῖς περιπατήσωμεν. (Ephesians 2:8-10 NA28)

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this not of yourselves, it is God’s gift;  9 not by works lest any should boast. 10 For we are his masterpiece having been created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God previously prepared that we should walk in them.  (Ephesians 2:8-10 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

We spend a great deal of time here at Possessing the Treasure examining what makes up “Christian Authenticity.” The genuine Christian is a new creation. He or she will not be the same after regeneration as they were before. Before regeneration they were children of wrath and conformed to this world. After regeneration they were adopted children of God who, from an eternal perspective, are Holy, justified, sanctified, and glorified in Christ. However, from a temporal perspective they are in the process of sanctification that God uses to conform His children unto the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The unregenerate may suffer. They may have a large number of problems. However the suffering of Christians is different. God uses suffering, tests, and trials in the lives of His children to build humility and uproot pride in their hearts.

Why does God do it this way? Why not totally regenerate our hearts so that we will be completely conformed unto Christ’s image right from the beginning? I can’t answer that except to say that the process of growing His children unto Christlikeness this way brings Him glory. As God’s elect grow in grace, maturing and becoming humble and more and more devoted to the Lordship of Christ, they will, according to their new nature, do good works. These good works are the natural product of a regenerate heart that is submitted to Christ’s Lordship. The good works do not cause salvation. They do not bring it into being. Instead, God will work in His children’s hearts and lives causing circumstances, tests, trials, and what have you to bring them to more and more dependence upon His grace to provide the fuel for our Spiritual growth, which is Christ’s Joy. When we have His Joy we can do His will and endure our circumstances no matter how hard. We can also do good works from the right motive.

Tragically, there are many calling themselves Christians who believe that their good works is the source of their faith. They are working their way to God by being religious. Instead, we must understand that our Faith comes first. Our good works flow from our faith not the other way around.

With this firmly in our understanding, let’s devote ourselves to a level of faithfulness that is entirely open to God’s wrecking ball and reconstruction processes to remake our hearts according to His will. As we submit to His will and Lordship this way, let us also do the good works that He sets before us each and every day to do by His grace and for His glory knowing fully that they are the product of the faith He has given us and the Joy of our Lord. (John 15)

Soli Deo Gloria!


5 thoughts on “Our Faith Comes Before Our Good Works

  1. Dear Mike,

    You posed the questions “Why not totally regenerate our hearts so that we will be completely conformed unto Christ’s image right from the beginning?”

    I pondered this very question will I was researching those who have been influenced by “Perfectionism”. For instance, Madame Guyon who practiced Quietism actually believed that she reached perfect union with God and was sinless for the last 18yrs of her life. If in fact she was perfect who needs Christ? It is the ultimate in human pride to think that we have become like God – perfect. Obviously if we are honest about every single thought, word, and deed you can throw perfectionism out the window.

    Until we shed this sin tainted world and body we will battle our old man. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10

    Trusting in Christ alone, charisse


  2. I discussed this question about why we are left here to struggle with sin just yesterday with a couple of brothers in Christ. I do think a part of the reason is that God knows us – that we as time-bound imperfect creatures need contrast to discern anything. Paul didn’t know sin until the Law showed him the holiness demanded by God and then he saw how exceedingly wicked his sin was. If we were made perfect while still here, we would – as noted above – cease to need Christ. Then we would be as Satan told Eve – as God. Heresy squared!


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