For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
The two verses before this passage are verses that all of us should commit to memory. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Here God’s grace is contrasted to our own works and efforts. God’s grace is His undeserved favor to His elect people. Works are works of obedience to God that a man may perform. We are taught very clearly that salvation is not of works. This is so that no one may boast before God or man. Salvation is all of grace, so that our boasting may be in God alone.
The passage that we consider for this meditation gives the reason why salvation is not and cannot be of works but is of grace.
Notice that this passage also speaks of works. It emphasizes that these good works are the result of God’s work of grace to save us. We who do good works have been created in Jesus Christ and thus are God’s workmanship. In fact, God has created us in Jesus Christ exactly for the purpose that we may do good works. In addition, all our good works have been ordained by God from all eternity. Certainly good works are not the basis of salvation but the fruit of God’s gracious salvation. Indeed, we are saved by grace alone and not by our works.
But good works are necessary for those who are saved by grace. Their necessity is found in the fact that God created His people unto good works and even ordained that they should walk in them. A wonderful workmanship!
Workmanship is the end result or product of someone’s work. Thus, for example, a beautiful home is the workmanship of a builder who spends weeks and months building it. A beautiful song or arrangement is the workmanship of the composer who created it.
In like manner we are God’s workmanship. We are that because He has created us.
In the beginning God created Adam out of the dust of the ground. And what a wonderful work that was. God made Adam to be superior to all the creatures that God made on the earth, so that Adam could have dominion. He even created Adam in his own image, so that Adam resembled some of the perfections of God in a human way. Being the image of God, Adam was God’s own son, with whom God would live in covenant friendship in the garden. What is amazing is that when God created Adam, He created the entire human race. The entire human race was genetically in Adam, so that it develops out of Adam as its first father. For that reason Adam also represented the entire human race before God. In that sense, all men are the workmanship of God.
However, the passage of this meditation is not talking about God’s workmanship of creating us in Adam. It is talking about our being God’s workmanship in that we are created in Christ Jesus.
Because we were originally created in Adam, we also fell in Adam. Adam rebelled against God in the garden by eating of the forbidden fruit. God’s punishment on that sin was to take from Adam the beauty and wonder of His own image and turn Adam into the image of the devil. Being the image of Satan, Adam lost the ability to serve God and was bound to a life of sin and judgment. Because Adam represented us, his sin became our sin, as also did its horrible consequences. We are all born in sin, dead in trespasses and sins, bound to serve sin, and suffer the horrors of God’s judgment.
However, there is a people whom God in His grace recreates in Christ Jesus. This is a people whom God has eternally chosen to Himself and determined to live in covenant fellowship for time and eternity. That God might live with them in covenant fellowship, He has eternally determined to save them in Christ Jesus. This determination is not based on their worth or efforts but is merely of His sovereign and gracious good pleasure. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
How does God save His elect people in Jesus Christ?
He sent Jesus to the cross carrying the guilt of their sin, and He punished Jesus in their place. This redeems them from their sin and secures their salvation.
On the basis of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, God through Jesus Christ recreates His redeemed people, so that from a spiritual point of view they become new creatures. This is a work similar to the original work of creation, only much more wonderful. In the original work of creation God created man out of the dust of the ground and gave him His own image. In Jesus Christ God takes men, women, and children who are the very image of Satan and makes them over into His image and likeness so that they become His beloved children. This work of recreation is also called in the Bible a new birth and a spiritual resurrection from the dead.
What is important to remember here is that this work of creation in Jesus Christ is something that is not found just with believing parents of the church but also with their children. Indeed, believing adults have been created in Christ Jesus. The fall left all men incapable of faith in Jesus Christ. To believe on Jesus Christ one must be recreated in Christ Jesus and become a new creature. But this work of spiriÂ¬tual recreation and its resultant faith are not limited to the adults in the church. It is also a work found among the children of the church. Notice, “we” are the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus. This “we” is the inspired apostle Paul, who wrote the epistle, and the church of Ephesus, to whom this epistle was sent. Included in the congregation of Ephesus were children, whom Paul addressed specifically inEph. 6:1-3. Also the children in the church are the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus.
This is due to the very nature of the covenant. God’s covenant is the relationship of love and friendship that God forms with the elect in Jesus Christ. To establish that covenant, God recreates His people, making them His own children, who bear His image. One of the realities of the covenant is that God establishes it in family lines, so that He places His elect children in the homes of believing parents. And He recreates them in Christ Jesus early on in life to be His children, and to live with Him in the covenant from a very early age.
What a great blessing this is for the church and every covenant home! A wonderful purpose!
God’s purpose in creating a people in Christ Jesus is good works.
People often think of good works in terms of avoiding certain behavior. They don’t curse, do drugs, get drunk, cheat on their spouse, lie, or steal. This is indeed part of what good works are. The standard of good works is not society, the press, or the courts, but God’s law. God in His law has forbidden certain kinds of behavior that are offensive to God and contrary to the goodness of His being. In fact, because of our tendency towards this kind of behavior, the law of the Ten Commandments is largely negative in language. Thou shalt not….
But good works are far more inclusive than avoiding certain behavior. For everything God forbids in His law, there is a positive work implied. There is the good work of worshiping God in His house, of confessing His name, of keeping the Sabbath day holy, of seeking the welfare of our neighbor, of being a faithful husband and wife…. And all this must be done as an expression of love, to glorify God and promote the welfare of the neighbor.
God has even foreordained the good works that we should do. This suggests that the good works mentioned in our text go beyond a general keeping of the law. They include also specific works of service that the Lord has in mind for each of us as one of His people. For example, the work that God has for some is to be a husband or wife and raise a family, whereas the work he has for another is to serve Him in a special capacity in single life. The work that God has for some is to be an employer, and for others to be employees. The work that God has for some is to be officebearers in the church, but for others to be engaged is other work of the church. The work that God has for some is to aid the poor, the dying, the sick, or the despondent in ways that others cannot.
And the only way one can do this work is to live a life of good works in love to God and the neighbor.
But these specific works have all been predetermined by God in eternity for each of His elect children.
And God has created us in Christ Jesus unto these good works. This expresses God’s purpose in creating us in Christ Jesus. His purpose is that we may do the good works He has ordained for us from all eternity. Being fallen in Adam we are corrupt and depraved and thus totally incapable of doing good works. To do the good works that God has for us to do, we must be created in Christ Jesus. And so God created us in Christ Jesus that we may do good works. A wonderful calling!
Our calling is to walk in the good works that God has foreordained for us.
To walk in good works means to devote our entire life to serving God in good works. We must devote our entire lives to avoiding the behavior forbidden by God’s law and serving God in the work He has foreordained for us. In that connection we must prayerfully consider what is our special place of work in the church and kingdom of God and gladly devote our lives to it.
This calling arises out of the very work of God. A principle of Scripture is that it is our calling to walk according to the works of salvation that God has performed in us. So also here. God has created us in Christ Jesus unto good works. Our calling is to discover what these good works are and walk in them.
The power to do so is found only in Christ Jesus, in whom God has created us.
And Jesus Christ uses the Word to empower us to walk in good works. It is by the power of the Word that God makes us new creatures in Jesus Christ, even as He made us originally in Adam by the power of His word. And it is by the power of that same word that we will be strengthened as new creatures to walk in good works.
Here we see then also the need for proper training for our covenant children. God uses the Word to recreate our children in Christ Jesus and also to make them fit for good works. It falls to parents and the church to bring them that Word.
May the church be faithful in this.
May parents also be faithful in this. This requires that they themselves walk in good works by the power of the Word. Only then can they train their children in the same Word unto good works.
Good things to remember as our Christian schools open their doors again for another year of instruction and as the Catechism season is about to start!