Thursday, 28 July 2016
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
From the thought of being saved by grace and not of works, thus excluding any boasting on our part, Paul notes that we are His (meaning God’s) workmanship. The word “His” is emphatic, showing that it is solely a work of God. He has created us, He has redeemed us, and He has orchestrated His plan, which includes us. All of this was done apart from our participation. The Greek reads, “Of Him, indeed, we are workmanship.”
The word translated as “workmanship” is poiema. It is found only here and in Romans 1:20. There, it refers to that which God has made in the physical creation. The word means just that: “a thing made, a work, workmanship.” In this we can see that our works are excluded in the process of salvation. Instead, it is the work of God which saves. This word poiema, eventually came down to us in the form of “poem.” This doesn’t mean that we are “God’s poem,” but just as a poem is formed by a poet, so we are formed into that which God designs. We are the work of His intelligence, having been formed by His hands.
We, His work, have been “created in Christ Jesus.” Jesus is the means by which God has accomplished this. It is through faith in His work that we become a part of this “new creation.” Paul speaks specifically of us as a new creation, or new creatures, several times in his letters, such as in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15, and again in verse 15 of Ephesians 2. God did the work, through Christ, for the purpose of accomplishing our own “good works.”
This then reiterates the thought of verses 8 & 9. Our works are not that which come before, but rather they are the consequence of what God has done. In our receiving of Christ, we are sealed with the Spirit as a guarantee of our salvation, but it is with the expectation of accomplishing good works.
This brings in an obvious question, however – “What works?” What is it that we are expected to do? Are we to help little old ladies cross the road? Don’t the unregenerate do this also? What works are required in order for us to fulfill this plan of God that we have been created for? In short, the answer is that whatever we do by faith which is good and acceptable after salvation is a good work, counted for righteousness.
Apart from Christ, the greatest and most noble deeds are counted as filthy rags. It is only through being “in Christ” that a deed is made acceptable before God. The very same deeds as the unregenerate are made acceptable; they are sanctified, by being “in Christ” as long as they are deeds of faith. This is further explained in Hebrews 11, using one example after another, by showing us that it is faith which pleases God.
This further explains the very difficult and often misunderstood passage in James 2, especially James 2:24 which says that “man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” It is deeds of faith which justify us, not deeds in and of themselves. Any deed not of faith is not acceptable for credit. Therefore, it is ultimately faith which justifies the man.
This is then reflected in the final words of the verse. We have been “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” These words again show us the synergistic relationship between God’s work in Christ and our faith. In Philippians 3:12, 13, Paul will say –
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
We are told in both passages that it is God who works, and yet we are expected to work. In God’s plan, there is His predestination of the matter, and yet man’s free-will is also highlighted. That free-will is man’s faith, both for salvation, and for deeds which follow salvation. Faith is never considered a work, but rather a necessary part of the process. God prepares the salvation; man receives the salvation by faith. God prepares the workmanship; man walks according to God’s preparation. On both sides of the process, there is a synergism which is evident. It is that faith is a necessary requirement of pleasing God.
Life application: What more could we give to God than to live holy lives of faith? Heaven is not the purpose of our salvation; holiness is. And one cannot be holy without exercising faith in that which God has revealed – both for us, and for us to do.
Lord God, our faith is small and fragile, but by keeping our eyes on Jesus and our minds in contemplation of Your word, it will surely increase. What else is there to carry us through the times of difficulties and trials which hem us in on all sides? Help us, O God! Remind us to pursue You through the sure word You have given and to trust in the work of Christ which is detailed there. Help us to be people of great faith, with whom You will be pleased. Amen.