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Sermon #31 — Ephesians Sermons

 

      Title:                                 We are his Workmaship

                                    God’s Masterpieces

 

      Text:                                  Ephesians 2:10

      Subject:               God’s Masterpieces

      Date:                                Sunday Evening — February 21, 2016

      Readings:           Merle Hart and Rex Bartley

      Introduction:

 

(Ephesians 2:10) “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

 

Paul has been arguing throughout the first nine verses of this chapter that salvation is altogether the work of God’s free grace and not the result of human works. – “Not of works lest any man should boast, for we are his workmanship.” In this tenth verse he proves that human merit has nothing whatever to do with our salvation.

 

Paul’s Argument

 

Our text begins with the word “for;” and that indicates an argument. — It is as though he had said, “Here is a conclusive proof that salvation cannot be the result of our good works, because all of our good works are the result of God’s grace.” All who are saved by the grace of God are the workmanship of God God’s masterpieces. With each of us, this argument holds strength, for we know it, not only by revelation, but by experience as well. With this, we fully agree. — “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; for we are his workmanship.” You have the title of my message in my text: — We are his workmanship.

 

God’s Creation

 

We are so completely the workmanship of Jehovah that we are also called his creation. We were “created in Christ Jesus.” Surely none would be so foolish as to claim to be his own creator! Such a supposition would be absurd upon the very face of it. It would be a misuse of language to speak of anything creating itself. Whatever, therefore, we are in Christ Jesus is the result of God’s work upon us and in us; and it cannot be the cause of that work.

 

God’s Purpose

 

Our text gives yet another argument. Our good works, be they what they may, are the subjects of God’s eternal decree. — “Which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” It is certainly true that we purpose for ourselves a life and walk of good works. We will and determine in heart to walk in them. But long before we resolved to walk the path of holiness, God’s purpose for us was settled.

 

Here is Paul’s argument. — If good works are ordained by God, as well as the salvation of which they are the result, then the whole matter must be the result of sovereign, predestinating, effectual grace, and there is no place left to impute salvation to human works. The tree is not the result of its fruit, for the fruit is created with the tree, and it is one purpose for which the tree was made. Good works are not the cause of salvation, but the result of it, and good works are a part of God’s purpose in saving men.

 

Paul’s Doctrine

 

I ask your careful attention as I try to give you the exposition of this verse. Its subject is most important in our day. There are some who make good works to be meritorious and the cause of salvation. In this they greatly err, perverting the gospel of Christ. But there is another great error in the opposite direction, which is employed by Satan to destroy the souls of men. This is the error of the “carnal Christian” doctrine. Many suppose that since good works are not meritorious, they are not necessary. We are told that a man may be a true believer and yet live in ungodliness. He may choose to walk in good works that he may obtain greater reward in heaven. But if he does not choose to do so, he will still be saved, only with the loss of reward. In our text Paul steers the middle course between both extremes. He firmly denies that good works are meritorious. But he also insists that good works are necessary.

 

Proposition: Salvation is altogether a matter of divine grace; therefore good works cannot cause it; but good works are the fruit of the work of grace, and are therefore necessary.

 

Divisions: “We are his workmanship.” — I will set before you three things that are clearly taught in our text in the development of this subject.

  1. The Believer’s Origin — “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.”
  2. The Blessed Object — “Created in Christ Jesus unto good works.”
  3. The Beneficial Ordination — “Which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

 

THE BELIEVER’S ORIGIN

 

“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” — Here we have the singular origin of all believers. All Christians are the workmanship of God, whether Jews or Gentiles. We owe our being to the work of God alone, whether we are among the strongest believers, like Paul, or among the weakest, as we may be. As many as are truly saved and brought into union with Christ, every member of the family of God are the workmanship of God.

 

The origin of our being, not only as men, but even as Christians, is God alone. No man ever became a Christian by chance. Spiritual life is not the reform and moral development of our old nature.

 

There are many who denounce as infidels those who preach natural evolution, who are themselves guilty of preaching a spiritual evolution.

 

  • When our nature matures to its fullest years, it only becomes more vile.

 

Note: On one occasion Mr. Whitefield brought much scorn upon himself by saying that man is half beast and half devil.

 

  • Even after we are born-again that old man within us is as evil as ever.

 

It is an utter impossibility to suppose that spiritual life could arise from our dead nature.

  • Nothing produces nothing.
  • Flesh produces flesh.
  • Death may produce corruption, but it will never produce life.
  • Hell is a horrible place, but I am sure that the worst thing in hell is man, who grows worse and worse in his spiritual and eternal death.
  • Developed manhood is but developed sin. The Bible knows nothing of evolution, but it does speak of degeneration, decay, and depravity. — “When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15).

 

Darkness never produces light, filth never produces purity, hell never brings forth heaven, and depravity never produces grace. If we are believers, if we are saved, if we are Christians, we are God’s workmanship.

 

We are his workmanship from the very beginning. — It is God who marks the stone that he will have while it is yet in the quarry. God cuts the stone from its mountain. God hews it, squares it, polishes it, refines it, and makes it his own jewel. We might use David’s language: — “Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16).

  • God chose us.
  • The Lord first taught us our need.
  • Jehovah first gave us holy fears and holy desires.
  • He gave us spiritual life.
  • He called us to himself.
  • God himself spoke the peace of pardon and forgiveness to my heart.

 

We are his workmanship now. — There is much within us that is not yet perfect. The fact is that there is nothing in us that is perfect, except Christ, that new man created in us in righteousness and true holiness. But we are his workmanship. He has not yet finished this masterpiece; but he is working on it even now.

  • He chips off the rough places, and sands down the coarse edges, and refines the work according to his own will, like the potter does the clay.
  • He strengthens our faith by trials.
  • He increases our patience by afflictions.
  • He draws forth our love by his providence.
  • He teaches us to pray by showing us our needs.
  • He subdues our sin by chastisement.

 

And we will be God’s workmanship to the very last. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Rest assured, my brethren, that God will complete his work in you! He will not allow any other hand to put even one finishing touch to his masterpiece, not even your own.

 

All of this is very comforting to remember, and it should stir up our hearts to magnify the Lord.

  • Remember his skill and wisdom, and magnify his name.
  • Remember his power and magnify his name.
  • Remember his loving patience and magnify his name.

 

Our text also shows us the peculiar manner of God’s work in us.“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” Our new life is the creation of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Just as God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing, so in the spiritual creation, God created us out of nothing.

  • We were without form and void, but the Spirit of God moved upon us.
  • We were darkness, but God gave us light.
  • We were dead, but he gave us life.

 

In the first creation God made all things by his Word.“The heavens were framed by the Word of God.” Even so, our spiritual creation was effected by the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23, 25; James 1:18; John 5:24; Romans 10:17).

  • God’s Son came and spoke life into our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).
  • God sent his servant to preach the gospel, and begat faith in his Son.
  • In the work of creation the Lord is all alone and unaided.

 

Our text tells us that this new creation is in Christ Jesus. We were first created in Adam, and our father Adam plunged us into spiritual death. We are created anew in Christ Jesus, the second Adam, and he gives us eternal life.

  • We were in Christ from everlasting.
  • We are created anew in Christ by his own power.

 

Here is hope for poor sinnersSalvation is not a matter of works. It is a divine creation. And no one is beyond the creative power of God.

  • Look then to him.
  • Ask him to make you a new creature in Christ Jesus.

 

Don’t miss this — The word “workmanship” is “masterpieces.” God’s elect are God’s masterpieces, his best work, his highest work, his signature work.

  • Before the World was Made (Romans 8:29-30)
  • Now “Righteousness and True Holiness
  • When Time is No More (Ephesians 2:7)

 

The Blessed Object

 

Second, I want you to look for a moment at the blessed object of God’s new creation. What is the purpose, or object of our creation? Our text spells it out plainly. — “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” We were not created because of good works, but unto good works!

 

When Adam was created, God made him for his own glory. This was and is the chief end of man. And how was Adam to glorify God? Why, the Lord put Adam in the garden “to dress it and keep it.”

 

When God creates his elect anew in Christ Jesus, it is that we may glorify him by good works. We are placed in the garden of the Lord, and it is ours to dress and keep it. To you the great Father says, “Son, go work today in my vineyard.” Now what are those good works which we are to perform?

 

We are to perform works of love.

  • Our works are regulated by love to God.
  • Our works are to be works of love to man.

 

We are to perform works of faith.

  • Faith is to work in our homes.
  • Faith is to work in our shops.
  • Faith is to work in our sick rooms.
  • Faith is to work in our travel.

 

“Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” — “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” —— A good work is a work of faith, done for Christ, motivated by love and gratitude (Mark 14).

  • Mary’s Anointing of the Savior
  • A Cup of Cold Water

 

 

How can we perform these works of love and faith?

  • We must be enabled by Christ’s presence.
  • We must follow Christ’s example. — Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us a plain example of the work of love (John 13).

Š               He was tender and kind.

Š               He was longsuffering and patient.

Š               He was forgiving.

Š      He sought the good of others at great self-sacrifice.

  • Whatever Christ did he did in faith, with an eye to his Father’s glory and upon his Father’s promise. — So must we.

 

Our text says that we are to walk in good works. God has ordained this to be the habit of our lives, not just an occasional gesture.

 

One final thing on this point I must show you that in this new creation, these good works of love and faith are not optional. They are necessary. If we are without them, we will not only lose reward, you will lose your soul (John 15:5-8; Titus 3:14). — “Necessary Uses

  • The Glory of God
  • The Honor of the Gospel
  • The Benefit of Others

 

THE BENEFICIAL ORDINATION

 

Third, I will try to encourage your hearts by showing you the beneficial ordination. — “Which God hath before ordained that ye should walk in them.”

 

God has not only decreed our salvation, he has also ordained that his people be a holy people, zealous of good works. Godliness is the purpose of divine predestination, and it is the design of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice (Titus 2:11, 14).

 

(Titus 2:1-15) “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: (2) That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. (3) The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; (4) That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, (5) To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. (6) Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. (7) In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, (8) Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. (9) Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; (10) Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. (11) For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (12) Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (13) Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (14) Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (15) These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”

 

If God has ordained that you be a new creature, he has also ordained that you live as a new creature, prayerful, godly, sanctified, and upright. Godliness does not consist in outward things (Romans 14:17-19; 1 Timothy 4:4-5).

  • The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace toward God.
  • It is longsuffering, gentleness, and goodness toward man.
  • It is faith, meekness, and temperance in our own hearts.

 

God has personally prepared every Christian for good works. If the Lord God makes a bird to fly, it is the best flying machine possible. If God makes a worm to plough the soil, nothing can replace it. When God makes a Christian, he equips him with the presence and power of Christ to walk in good works.

  • A New Nature
  • Faith in Christ
  • His Spirit

 

God has not only prepared you for his work, he has also prepared a work for you. God prepares the man for the hour and the hour for the man.

 

Application

 

Have you been made a new creature in Christ Jesus?

  • Are the marks of the new creation upon you? — Faith? — Hope? — Love?
  • Look to God alone, and call upon him to make you new.

 

Children of God, labor today in the Master’s vineyard, for “the night cometh when no man can work” (John 9:4).

 

Soon, very soon, our day of work will end. Then we shall shine forth as “His Workmanship,” as God’s Masterpieces!

 

(Matthew 13:43) “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Don Fortner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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