“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Saved we are by grace only!
It is not of works, lest any man should boast!
Now surely this cannot mean that the apostle, when he writes thus in the immediate context, will have nothing of works. So some would interpret him. But the text, which is the subject of this meditation, clearly shows that the apostle has a place for good works.
Rather, the apostle is stressing the point that our work can never be the ground or reason for our salvation. Were this so, then surely man would have reason for boasting in self. Our salvation, from beginning to end, is all of grace, in order that God’s may be all the glory.
We are saved by grace through faith, and in such a way that neither the grace nor the faith is of us. It is all of God!
Our text serves as a further explanation of this truth.
What is so striking is the fact that the apostle ascribes even our good works to God’s saving grace.
We are entirely, as a saved people, His workmanship.
A glorious creation!
Far exceeding the glory of the first creation!
Oh, indeed, that first creation was also glorious. That was true, first of all, of the creation in general. Also then the creatures were not the product-of their own development, as the abominable theory of evolution would maintain. But all creation was called into being in the wisdom and by the power of God. And this was done by the Lord, almighty and all-wise, in such a way that all the creatures together and each creature in particular showed forth the glories of their Creator. Indeed, the heavens declared the glory of God, and the firmament His handiwork. What was true of the spacious heavens was also true of all the earthly creation. The blade of grass, the meandering brook, the precipitous mountain, the leviathan of the deep, the flowering field, the singing bird, the denizens of the forest, as well as the star-studded canopy of heaven, — altogether speak the Word of God which is in them. Whether you will hear it or not, God exclaims in loud tones: I am the Lord, and there is none else! I have made the world and all it contains; and for My praise have I created it.
Especially was this true of the creation of man!
Though he was made a little lower than the angels, yet was he crowned with glory and honor. Made was he in the very image and likeness of God. As a rational, moral, and spiritual creature, he was made to be the head of all the earthly creation. And as such he could intelligently and intuitively express to God the correct interpretation of the Name of His God which he read in all the works of His hands. He himself was a creature reflecting in a creatural way the glory of God.
Indeed, that first creation was exceedingly glorious!
But the new creation, of which the apostle speaks, is far more glorious!
That first creation is only earthly, and serves only a temporary purpose. It has no abiding value, nor shall it forever remain. It fell under the curse of God due to the sin, transgression, and fall of man. In due time that earthly creation passes away. The very elements of which it is composed shall all be burned up. The very firmament shall be rolled up as a scroll, that very creation which was intended to separate the earth from heaven, shall disappear, in order to make way for the appearance of the heavenly. Not in the annihilation, but in the regeneration of all things, shall all, this take place.
It is of this new creation, which shall be infinitely more glorious than the first, that the apostle speaks.
Here God, Who calls the light out of the darkness, and brings life out of death, speaks again, and calls forth a new, eternal, heavenly creation into being. It is the beginning of this new creation that the apostle has in mind in the text. Of that creation Christ Jesus is the first-born. He is the first-born of every creature, the beginning of the creation of God. He is that as the image of the invisible God. He is that as the Head of the body, the church: the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in all things He might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell. He is the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.
We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus!
Not only are we chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, but God has created us in Him. And this means that in Christ Jesus we are given the right to become new creatures. Through His sacrifice on the cross He cleanses us in His blood from all our guilt and pollution of sin. By the Spirit of Christ we are regenerated, given the life of Christ which He brought with Him from the dead; and we are made righteous and holy, given all the graces of Christ, including a true and living faith.
All is of God, in Christ!
All is of grace, not of our work!
Indeed, a glorious creation!
With an eternal design! Created are we in Christ Jesus unto good works!
Whereas all of creation was designed to serve God’s purpose, and all the works of God’s hand function, each in its own place, and with it own contributions, even so, man works. The sun, for example, accomplishes its circuit through the heavens, and the earth revolves about the sun, and each day these creatures unwittingly accomplish their function according to the law which God has created for them. Again, the tree, according to God’s design, sprouts from its seed, and under the rain and sunshine which God constantly provides grows in its green verdure, producing its luscious fruit. The green blade of grass in the spring time sparkles under the dew of heaven, and in the fall it fades and dies, to be buried under the snow of winter, only to begin its function all over again after death’s cold hand has been lifted, and it is resurrected in the warmth of spring. All of the creatures simply function according to the plan of God for them.
But man works!
In distinction from the rest of creation, he was made a rational, moral, and spiritual creature, so that consciously and willingly he performed his deeds. Having been created in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, yea, in God’s image, his calling was to cultivate the earth and bring it into the service of God. This he did so long as he remained in the state of righteousness.
However, through the temptation of Satan, he fell from his high estate. Consequently his nature became corrupt, and all his works became evil. He continued to work in God’s creation, no longer with a view to bringing creation into the service of God, but of himself. And all his posterity with him did only evil continually. So all mankind became incapable of doing any good, and was inclined to all evil.
But those who were by nature the sons of Adam, and by grace became God’s workmanship, in Christ Jesus were created unto good works. It was the design of their new creation that they should do good works.
And good works are those, and those only, which proceed from true faith, are performed according to and in harmony with the law of God, and with a view to His glory.
Good works which were before prepared!
Not only were those who are in Christ Jesus before ordained, but so also were their good works.
O, the depth of the wisdom and power of God!
All our good works He prepared beforehand, from eternity, in order that we in time should walk in them, and so shall it be unto all eternity.
Our walk is our whole life, from the cradle to the grave, from the moment of our birth to the moment of our death. It includes our eating and drinking, our sleeping and rising, our working and playing, our week days and our sabbaths, our childhood and adolescence, our adulthood and old age. It includes our religious and social, our physical and spiritual life. There is no department in life where our walk is not involved. Always we are walking.
Now in all these departments of life God gives us good works, which He before prepared, in order that we should perform them. Not, you understand, as robots, mechanically manipulated, but as rational, moral, regenerated children of God, who obediently and lovingly respond to the good grace of God which is in them. The circle of good works is as broad as life itself. Each day they are set before us by the hand of God.
When you look at life this way, and at our walk in this world from this point of view, then there are no menial jobs in it, no moments when you wish to run away from it all. Then the Christian mother who brings forth children with a view to the realization of God’s covenant, who wears the skin of her fingers down to the bone to make a home for her darlings, performs a good work. Then the uneducated but strongly built man, who works in the sanitation department of the city, who labors with great difficulty to earn enough money to give his children a sound Christian education, performs a good work. Then the child of God, who is hungry and thirsty after righteousness, seeks the Lord’s house on the sabbath, not because he follows a custom or superstition, but because there he would be filled, so that he may be strengthened in the inner man to praise God in the company of His saints. Then all of life becomes something worth living. Then all our works, proceeding from true faith and tempered with the love of God, become good works. Yes, even when I have to condemn my evil works which proceed out of my old nature, against which I have to struggle all my life long.
Indeed, there was a time, as the apostle signifies in the context, when we all had our conversation in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.
By His grace He saved us through faith. He made us entirely His workmanship, creating us in Christ Jesus unto good works, which He before prepared, in order that we should walk in them.
Not only shall this be so for this present life, but also in the world to come.
For He hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Then shall all of our works, which are now tainted by the flesh, be only good works, in perfect harmony with His law, and serve perfectly unto His glory.