Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Salvation is by grace alone. That theme has resounded through the ages within the church of Jesus Christ. It could be no other way. No dead sinner could save himself. No corrupt man could provide works whereby he could merit his deliverance. It is God Himself Who must and does save His people freely by grace.
But what then of works? If salvation is not of works, but of grace, then can the Christian ignore works? The answer to this question the Word of God presents in this text when it declares: we are God’s workmanship – created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Good works must be the fruit of God’s work in us.
That we are God’s workmanship points out the wonder of our formation. God’s workmanship is, of course, evident in all of creation. By the Word of His power, He has created all things in heaven and on earth. These He has fashioned in such a way that they serve His sovereign purpose. Some of the wonders of this workmanship man is only in recent years beginning to discover, though natural man refuses to recognize the power and glory of God manifest in all of this.
But far more wonderful is that workmanship mentioned in our text: the forming of a people unto Himself. He forms those who were dead sinners, those opposed to Him, those living in open rebellion, into children of the light. He eternally determines to do so. In time He provides the way of the cross – the only way through which His people can be fashioned in holiness. He also regenerates them through the Spirit of the Son and guides them in righteousness here on the earth.
The wonder of God’s workmanship is summarized in this: He forms this people in His own image! That image of God consists of true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. The image was lost by Adam when he sinned against God. Now God has restored that to His people – this is His workmanship.
That workmanship is through Jesus Christ. Christ’s perfect work is the only basis for justification and sanctification of God’s elect. Through the work of Christ, God’s people shall finally be glorified. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.
But the above truth seems to deserve the criticism which is leveled against it by some: if that is true: there is then no place for good works. Then a Christian can live and do as he wills – he is not bound by any law of God. And there are times when children of God appear to live according to that false premise. One says, “I am a child of God. And there are times when children of God appear to live according to that false premise. One says, “I am a child of God. I shall not be lost. Therefore I need not be concerned about good works.” At any rate, in some children of God one sees often no desire for spiritual development or growth. These are idle, or even walk in paths of unrighteousness.
Yet the Word of God emphasizes that we are created in Christ for good works. That His people should perform good works is the very purpose or goal of God. These good works must be such as are in harmony with the standards set forth in Scripture itself: they must be according to the law of God, to God’s glory, and out of a living faith.
No natural man can perform such works. Wicked men may indeed conform outwardly to some of the requirements of the law of God. He does so when he recognizes that there is some advantage for himself in doing this. But he does not do good – for whatsoever is not out of faith, is sin.
But the child of God is formed that he may do good works. Within the earthly manifestation of the body of Christ, he desires to have the pure Word of God proclaimed – the Word of the cross which is the power and wisdom of God. Within the home, he teaches as parent or receives instruction as child in the fear of God’s Name. In seeking friends, in receiving education, in performing one’s daily labors, he desires to serve God. In all things he loves God with his entire being, and his neighbor for God’s sake.
The striking truth presented in this text is that such works are foreordained. It is not only true that God has chosen His elect from before the foundations of the earth, but He has also determined the very works which they shall perform. God determines not only that He shall have His people, but also what they shall do. Even as a composer determines, before the concert is ever given, what each instrument shall play, also God determines the position and calling of each of His saints. He determines their work that they may be part of that whole grand chorus of the saints who sing His praises forevermore.
If such foreordained works were not present, then God’s work would be a failure. A new car which does not run is useless. Apple trees which produce no apples are worthless. So too, if God’s workmanship produces not these foreordained works, then God’s work would be a failure. But that shall never be.
But now the objector would insist that if God even determined my works before the foundation of the earth, then I am hardly accountable for my action (or lack of it). If God determined what I am going to do, then I am unable to determine my own actions. Then I am nothing more than a pre-programed robot. Then, so it would seem, I am a stock or block.
But such an objection is of the devil. He would lead us in this distortion of the truth. Those who are God’s workmanship are those also who work out their own salvation with fear and trembling – for it is God Who worketh in them to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13).
This idea is emphasized in the text which states that we “walk” in these good works. We are not sticks or blocks. A “walk” suggests that there is a definite goal; there is a path towards that goal; and there is the willing activity of the moral rational creature to go in that path. Inanimate objects, such as the sun, have their “courses”. Moral, rational creatures have a “walk”. The Christian consciously desires to serve God with his entire being. He does not ask, “Did God determine this or that way for me?” Rather, he studies God’s Word; and as he is directed by the Spirit, so he also walks as God’s Word directs. He will not seek excuses for a sinful walk. Rather, in his walk he will be revealed as God’s workmanship indeed.
You, young people also confess to be God’s workmanship. Even those who have not as yet made confession of faith, have nevertheless professed from your youth the truths of God’s Word. God’s workmanship, in the line of generations, becomes evident from one’s infancy. In your lives must then be evident also all good works. You shun the world and all of its corruptions. You seek that which is heavenly and eternal. He who claims to be God’s workmanship, yet follows after this world and its corruptions – lies. God’s workmanship is manifest in the works which are seen. Are such works evident in you too?
Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 2 April 1971