By Mike Willis
In concluding our study of salvation by grace through faith, let us concentrate on the last verse of Eph. 2:1-10. It states,
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. There are several points regarding this verse which we need to press. Continue with us in studying this material.
We Are His Workmanship
Salvation is God’s work, not man’s Work. The word polema means “that which has been made; a work” (Thayer, p. 527). We are not a new creature in Christ because of anything which we have personally done; we are a new creature in Christ because of God’s work. We need to keep this in mind in order to have a proper concept of salvation by grace.
Man is made a new creature in Christ when he believes the gospel, repents of his sins, confesses his faith before men, and is buried with Christ in baptism. However, faith, repentance, confession and baptism are not able in and of themselves to produce new life. The new life comes through the work of God in Christ Jesus. Hence, we need to be reminded that our new life comes through the work of God. Paul wrote elsewhere, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:11-12).
What happens in baptism is the work of God. This is the circumcision not made with hands. When we are baptized, we manifest faith in the operation of God; He removes from us that body of sin of the flesh and makes us a new creature in Christ. Hence, without a doubt, we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. We are new creatures, not because of anything which we have done (so far as the grounds of our -conversion is concerned, although we receive this gift conditionally) but because of the work which God has done in us. Hence, we are His workmanship!
Created Unto Good Works
The phrase “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” shows the purpose of God’s work in us. The epi is used to express purpose (see Thayer, p. 233). We are created in Christ Jesus for the purpose of doing good works. Let us illustrate what has been done for us.
Suppose that a farmer purchased a combine for $40,000. His purpose for buying that combine would be to harvest his crops. Hence, he purchased the combine to harvest his crops. However, on the day to begin harvesting his crops, he went out, started the engine on his combine, and proceeded down the first row. About mid-way down that row, he noticed that there was nothing in the hopper; yet, the first row was half-destroyed simply by driving his combine over the crop. What do you suppose his reaction would be?
Similarly, what do you suppose the reaction of Jesus Christ is when those whom He purchased with His precious blood (1 Cor. 6:20) for the purpose of doing good works do not perform good works? If you can imagine the farmer’s disappointment when his $40,000 machine fails to do the work which it was created or designed to do, you can understand the Savior’s disappointment when those who were created unto good works fail to do those good works!
The Scriptures repeatedly teach that the Christian is to be active in doing good works. The parable of the separation of the sheep and goats shows that judgment will be based on whether or not we have been active in good works (Matt. 25:31-46). Here are several passages which emphasize the necessity of Christians being involved in the doing of good works:
And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them (Rev. 14:13).
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).
. . . who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Tit. 2:14).
Put them in mind . . . to be ready to every good work (Tit. 3:1).
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (Jas. 1:27).
These passages, and several others which could be added, show that God’s people are to be people active in the work of the Lord. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Christians are created unto good works and should be active in doing them.
Which God Hath Before Ordained
The pronoun “which” refers to the “good works” which Christians are to be active in doing. Paul’s statement is that God has prepared beforehand the kinds of works which Christians are to be doing. Consider the following comments about this phrase by the different commentators:
Long in advance of doing a single good work God himself prepared and made ready the good works in which he wanted us to walk. Even this God did and not we. All the ways of holiness and righteousness are God’s design and preparation. We need not puzzle about and search for what may please God, he has long ago mapped out the entire course (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, p. 427).
They (good works — mw) are the goal to which God’s new creation of us looked; they are also in God’s eternal plan. Before He created us in Christ by our conversion He had destined these good works and made them ready for us in His purpose and decree (S.D. Salmond, “The Epistle to the Ephesians,” Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. III, p. 290).
God prearranged a sphere of moral action for us to walk in. Not only are works the necessary outcome of faith, but the character and direction of the works are made ready by God (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. III, p. 377).
The phrase is obviously teaching that the works which God wants Christians to do, both collectively and individually, are God-given. He predetermined what He wanted us busy doing.
The difference between revealed religion and humanly,; devised religion becomes obvious by a comparison of the works in which both religions are involved. Those who area walking in revealed religion are busy doing only those works which are divinely authorized in the pages of God’s word. Those who are walking in humanly devised religions are involved in all kinds of works of their own making and choosing. Hence, we see these churches involved in building hospitals, sponsoring boy scout groups, supporting secular education, sponsoring recreation for children and hundreds of other works not authorized in the Scriptures. They say, “What is wrong with this?” The thing that is wrong with it is that God has not ordained that we should walk in them. They are not found authorized in God’s word and that is all that is wrong with them!
The people who lay aside the salvation which is by grace through faith to walk in the works of their own choosing have departed from God. They are in apostasy and fallen away from the revealed religion of God. The salvation which is of grace and through faith demands that the new creatures in Christ walk in the works foreordained of God. Hence, both collectively and individually, we should be busy doing the works of God which are revealed in His word.
Christians are God’s workmanship; He created us in Christ Jesus. We are saved through His operation, not through any works of our own. We have been created in Christ Jesus to do good works; hence, we need to be busy working for the Lord. The works which we are to be busy doing are foreordained of God; hence, we need to be busy doing the works of God.
In summary fashion, let us enumerate the points which we have learned from our examination of Eph. 2:1-10; (1) All men need salvation because all of us are sinners; (2) God manifested His grace toward man in sending His Son Jesus Christ in order that we might be saved. (3) Salvation by grace is conditional salvation. God has offered salvation to all men but men must respond to His offer in order to receive it. (4) Salvation by grace is through faith. Faith comes through the testimony of God’s word. It is used in this part as the sum total of all that man must do to receive God’s gift. (5) Those who are saved by grace through faith are expected to be busy working the works which God foreordained that we should walk in.
A more serious and gratifying subject for study cannot be imagined than the study of salvation by grace through faith. what study is more important to man than the study which pertains to his eternal salvation? I hope that the reading of this material on Eph. 2:1-10 has been half as gratifying to you as the study and writing of it has been to me.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 29, pp. 467-469
July 26, 1979