Rev. Miersma is pastor of Loveland Protestant Reformed Church in Loveland, Colorado.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
The Lord’s will and work must be done. We see that every time we consider the law. The law in the Word is the revelation of His will. We must perform it in the service of love. We do not do this as co-workers withGod, which requires the combined efforts of God and us to accomplish God’s will. That is impossible and likewise unworthy of our God. Rather, we are co-workers ofGod, called by Christ to accomplish God’s work through the Holy Spirit. Called to do God’s work because only God’s work is good, and is always good.
So He taught us to pray: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Only when we are engaged in that work can it be appraised as good. This should deeply humble us, for there is no cause for boasting, in that the work of salvation is His to the finest detail. Salvation is always solely of grace.
The context leads us to this truth. Verse eight summarizes the first seven verses. Verse nine is added for emphasis. Our text, verse ten, is designed to prove and illustrate that great truth. This is seen by the word “for”: No man who works boasts, forwe are God’s workmanship. All is from Him, including our very existence, the purpose of our existence, our good works, and our walking in them. All is of grace in Jesus Christ.
That means that we are God’s product. Not that we are the only product that God has ever produced, but that we are of God only. No one else has anything to do with it. We take no part in it and are not worthy of it. We are solely and entirely the work of grace.
That we are God’s creation does not refer to our first creation, but to our recreation. This is the work of the Holy Spirit whereby we are made new creatures in Christ. That is plain from the context, which speaks of our being quickened in Christ. According to our first creation, we were formed in the image of God, but we apostatized, took on the image of the devil, and hence became children of wrath. But in Christ we are new creatures, in that all the old has passed away and all has become new, including the whole elect church and every individual believer.
It is unto good works that we are created. It belongs to the image of God that man is a working being. Christ said: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Therefore, we are active, working friend-servants. At one time we rebelled against God in sin, but we are now restored in the image of God consciously to do good works. Consciously and willingly we work to the praise of our Maker, servants of God in willing obedience and devotion.
In that light we see what Scripture means by good works. The Heidelberg Catechism puts it both negatively and positively. Negatively, good works are not founded on human imaginations or institutions of men. Nor is it up to man to set the criterion or standard. Nor is anything good because it carries an attractive sheen or appeals to the fancies of men.
Positively, God alone determines what is good. Good works, then, have their source in the faith that the Holy Spirit has wrought in our hearts, they find their criterion in the law of God, and they are performed unto His honor and glory. Only such can be good works because only God is good. Of Him, and through Him, and unto Him are all things.
Unto these good works we are created. Good works are not the cause but the fruit of salvation. They are the manifestation of God’s work of sanctification within us.
It must also be emphasized that we are God’s workmanship. This refers, first of all, to the church as a whole. The earthly body is used in Scripture as an example of the perfect unity, multiformity, and harmony that belong to the church of God. Other figures used are that of the tree, the vine, and the temple. Secondly, it refers to the individual members. Each one of us is wondrously made. However, to a large extent this is hidden by the body of sin and death. We wait for the final glory where the saints sin no more.
It should come as no surprise to us to see here that we are created in Christ Jesus. Jesus is His personal name, designating the Son of man who came to seek His own and save that which is lost. He is Jehovah-Salvation. All that He ever does He does as Jesus, from the counsel of God, from birth to eternity.
The name Christ denotes His exalted position as chief servant in God’s house, anointed of the Father, the Head of the church. We are in Him both from a legal point of view and organically.
Legally Christ is our representative Head before the Father. In Him we are engraved in the palms of God’s hands. In Him we have redemption and the right to be called the sons of God. Christ is all our righteousness before God. He is our Savior, Intercessor, Mediator, and eternal High Priest before God.
So also organically. As the branches of the tree are one organism with the root, and as all the members of the body have their unity in the head, so Christ and His church are one. As branches we live out of the root. As members of the body have their reflexes and power to act from the head, so we receive all our power to live and act out of Christ.
This has been the case already from eternity. Sovereignly God chose us. He knows His own in infinite foreknowledge. He knows them as objects of eternal good pleasure to share in His covenant forever. Election is also organic. God chose a people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. As the body cannot have an arbitrary number of heads, so all the elect from eternity form a perfect unity.
Reprobation is also organic. There are a given number of reprobate. They serve their purpose in the present time in the ingathering of the saints, but perish forever in their wickedness.
Not only is election organic, but it is also personal. God appoints each one of us his own place as member in the body of Christ. Each serves his unique place in the church in the history of the world.
Created in Christ Jesus also includes the cross. God chose unto Himself a redeemed people in Christ. We find all our righteousness in Him. By the Spirit of God in Christ we are created sons and heirs of salvation. He implants His life in us by way of regeneration. This is how He makes us able and willing to walk in all good works. As men of God we have the unction of the Holy One to be prophets, priests, and kings unto God and before His face.
The amazing truth is that God has created us unto good works that He has foreordained that we should walk in them. Not only are we foreordained, but also ourworks. These good works are not our inventions, but God’s. We do not bring them to God, but He brings them to us. They are the works that He has eternally specified for us. Just as an expert mechanic has special uses for certain tools, and each part of a mechanism fits intricately so that it functions well, so also the church. God uses human instruments to serve His purpose. He determined a Moses, a David, as well as a Peter, Paul, Calvin, and Luther. He determined when they should be born and where they would labor and with what talents. What applies to them also applies to us.
That is pictured for us in Revelation 14 in the 144,000. That is a figurative number indicating to us that God has chosen an exact number of people who are His peculiar possession. They are a complete unity consisting of just so many individuals. Each has his own place for a specific task and no one can take that place. All this will become more evident in heaven.
Thus we are privileged in Christ to serve His purpose. We walk in the good works that God has ordained. This is not only true occasionally, but those good works become the desire of our lives. We do this not as robots who are moved by remote control, but as living and willing members of Christ, governed by His Spirit in mind and in will.
We should be well aware of the fact that this does not mean that we sin no more. Even our best works are polluted with sin. The Word of God constantly admonishes us against sin. The new man is motivated by the love of God. Therefore, we do walk in good works, for, by the wonder of God’s grace, God’s strength is accomplished in us. What a blessed privilege to be counted in that glorious number who belong to Christ. To God be the glory!