And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:1-10
On the one hand, there is nothing more important than faith in Jesus Christ and the gift of salvation that comes to us by means of that faith. After all, if we’re saved, the moments of life here on this earth, and the challenges and joys of it are nothing compared with the lasting glory that will be ours, “seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly places.” What more could there be than that?
Well…actually a lot more. For while – as my friend used to say – “Eternity lasts a long, long time.” It is also true that the times and seasons we do have are gifts from God and are to be used for his purposes. We are commanded to “make the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16). That must mean that the opportunities we have are valuable and important to God and to us.
Martin Luther explains who Jesus is, what he has done, and what that means in his Small Catechism:
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won [delivered] me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be [wholly] His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, [emphasis added] even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
But one more authoritative is here: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). We’ve been saved. We have the riches of Christ’s grace. His goodness and kindness abounds. That is a present reality. Also present – and into the future – are the good works God is preparing for us. He’s at work in and through us for his glory and our eternal good. Even the opportunities for our good works are gifts from his grace.