Wednesday, May 18

His Workmanship, Part 5

Commentary on verse 10 of Ephesians 2.

This is the conclusion to a series of posts on the first ten verses of Ephesians 2. This post examines the last verse and concluding idea of the passage.

So far in this passage we've seen a description of our condition prior to God's work in us, a explanation of God's work within us, a statement of the overarching purpose of this work of God, and the reason why the praise for this work goes to God's grace alone. Then we come to verse 10:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

  • For we are his workmanship. The word for connects this statement to something previous in the passage. This statement is giving us a reason that what comes before it is true. The commentators I read connect the for back to either one of two places: to the statement of purpose found in verse 7, or to the statement in verses 8 and 9 that tell us that our salvation comes not from our own work, but as a gift from God. If it connects back to verse 7, then verse 10 is giving us an additional reason that God's grace is magnified. It would be saying, in this case, that the God-worked good works that those being saved do come as a result of God's grace, so this is another reason that God's grace gets the praise in our salvation. I believe that it is certainly true that the good works done by a person who is being saved have their source entirely in God's grace, and as such they "demonstrate....the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus"; and moreover, this is one of the intended points of the whole passage; yet I see the for in this verse connecting more directly back to the verses immediately preceding it. The whole salvation process is a gift from God, not arising out of our works, and not so that we can boast, because "we are [God's] workmanship". The reason that no one can boast that they are being saved is that those who are being saved are not their own workmanship, but God's.

    The word workmanship carries with it the idea of making a finished product. Those who are being saved are God's production, or God's masterpieces. You'll find the same idea in Jeremiah where it says we are clay in the hands of the Potter. God is like an artist who takes something of no real value--like unformed clay--and through his own skill crafts something beautiful and useful from it. And just as a good piece of pottery points back to the skill of the potter, those being saved, as God's own productions, point back to the depth of God's grace--to his graciousness in making something good out of nothing.

  • Created in Christ Jesus. This is another reminder that this reworking by God--our recreation into God's good product--comes only through the work of Christ, and because we are united with him in his death and resurrection.

    It may be the life of Riley, but it's
    not the life for God's masterpieces.
  • For good works. If you were thinking that "not out of [our] works", but out of "[God's] workmanship" means a life of reclining on the couch for those being saved, this little phrase is your wake-up call. Here is where our works come in. They don't bring us salvation--that is God's gift, his work--but they are a necessary result of our being recreated by God. They are what we are recreated for.

  • Which God prepared beforehand. Not only are we chosen beforehand for salvation in Christ (Ephesians 1:4,5,11), but the good works God intends for us to do as a result of our recreation in Christ Jesus have also been prepared beforehand for us. Of course, God expects those who are renewed/regenerated/recreated to live out their new character in their actions; we are expected to show that we are the workmanship of God in the way we act in the world. However, the phrase prepared beforehand seems to suggest something more specific in the prepared good works than the general sort of righteous behavior becoming to regenerated people; but rather, that there is work especially designed by God for each one of us--work that fulfills part of God's good purposes in the world. God accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, and recreating those he is saving so that they will do the good works he prepared beforehand for them to do is one of the ways he accomplishes this will.

    When my husband was ill and dying, knowing that caring for him and helping him make his journey on to the next life was a specific job that God had "before ordained" for me to do--that it was a special good work that God had planned in ages past for me--helped me not shrink back from what I needed to do, because from this one truth I knew these two things: That this specific work was important, for it had been decreed for me in eternity past; and that I would never be left alone to accomplish it on my own, for the God who had prepared this work for me would also accomplish this work in me.

  • That we should walk in them. The purpose of preparing the good works beforehand is so that we walk in them; that we will do the good works is the reason God preordains them for us. This ought to give us confidence and fortitude. As we walk in this world as recreated products of God's work, we will do the good works preprepared for us to do, for they have been set down as part of the counsel of the will of the God who works all things according to the counsel of his will. We don't have to stew about what we are here for, because as our life unfolds, the prepared jobs will be given to us to do and we will be given the strength to do them.

    And all of it will demonstrate God's grace, since it all comes as a result of God's work. From start to finish, taking sons of disobedience and working them into masterpieces who do good works, it is all a work of God out of of his love for us, in order to demonstrate the richness of his grace.
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