RPM, Volume 19, Number 52 December 24 to December 30, 2017

Created to do Good Works

Ephesians 2:1-10

By Ken Benjamins

Confessions: Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 91 of Lord's Day 33.

Dear Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Why does God save? What is the purpose of God's salvation in Jesus Christ? God saves you… so you can—what? What is the purpose of God's salvation?

Some people say that salvation is so that you can go to heaven someday. That's the purpose of God's salvation. We hear that very often. Maybe that's what you think. God saves so that you can go to heaven after you die. The question is: Is that the purpose of God's salvation? Is that why God saves you? Is the goal of everything so that you can go to heaven some day?

It's noteworthy that when you read our text you won't find that answer in there. It's not in the broader context either. I'm not denying the reality of heaven. I'm not denying either that after we die believers do go to heaven. Of course they do! But is that why God's saves? Is that the purpose of his salvation—so we can go to heaven some day?

That we might know why God saves—that's why we look at our text for today from Ephesians 2:10. I'll read it again and then we'll examine it closely. Paul says, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do".

Notice the four parts of our text. Paul says, "For we are God's workmanship," "created in Christ Jesus," "to do good works," "which God prepared in advance for us to do…" What I'll do is examine these four parts. I'll look at each one, one at a time. I turn to my text.

Paul says in verse 10, "For we are God's workmanship…" In this first little part Paul is addressing who we really are as believers. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ who are you really? You are God's workmanship. You know how we all have our pet projects, hobbies, those things we like to spend time on, our energy on? Our hobbies are our works of art. Well, that's what we are! We are God's workmanship!

In the Greek the word there is "poiema." Poiema is technically "something that is made." But it's a word that also carries connotations of a "work of art." So, it's not just something that's made. It's something that's made with care, with love. It's like a painting. That's what we are! We're God's painting! You understand that God's been touching us up for a long time now. He's still working on us—even now! He's putting just the right touches over here. He's putting just the right touches over there. He's perfecting us! We're his painting! We're his workmanship!

Do you see yourself that way? Maybe you don't see yourself that way. Maybe you have a very negative view of yourself. To you, you're just average. Or worse, you're below average. You think you are something to hide way back in the closet. Well, according to our text, you are not that! If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, then God sees you as something totally different! He sees you as his workmanship! That's what you are! Isn't that amazing?

In our text Paul says, "For we are God's workmanship, 'created in Christ Jesus'..." What does Paul mean by that? Ok, let me explain it this way. Usually when we make a project, a painting, or a craft we start with fairly good building materials, right? For example, a real painter starts with a good canvas. He works with good paints, the right colours. He finds the right brushes. He works with the best easel. It's all good stuff. But when God began working with us, he didn't have such fine materials to start with. No sir! Outside of faith in Jesus Christ we are sinful. Spiritually speaking, in and of ourselves we are rotting corpses. We are dead! If you read the context to Ephesians 2:10—that's clearly the point. In Ephesians 2:1 Paul says, "As for you, you are dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world." You follow that? In and of ourselves we are in the ground! We're dead! But God came to save us. And so he sent Jesus Christ. He died on the cross to pay for our sin. He rose from the dead to conquer it! And he poured out his Holy Spirit so that he might enter us and make us alive so that we might be his workmanship! Do you understand that this requires tons of thankfulness on our part? Spiritually, we were garbage but God turned us into a work of art! We are God's workmanship 'created in Jesus Christ!' Isn't that amazing?!!

Paul says, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, 'to do good works'…" Here is the purpose, folks! Why does God save? What is the purpose of God's salvation? It's not just so that we get to go to heaven. The purpose of salvation is Good Works! Doing good! Here's where it all comes together! Understand, we don't do good works only later on sometime, like, when we go to heaven. No! We do good works now! Good works now is our salvation! This is God's grace! This is God's blessing now! In Jesus Christ we are created to do good works! And heaven, that's just an extension of the grace we receive right now! Our privilege, responsibility and calling is to do good works. This is why we are saved!

And so we do good works. We show love to our neighbour. We help people in our community who are in need. This is the heart, soul, and life of the Christian. This is why God saves.

Understand that good works is not something we do just in certain areas of life, like at the Pregnancy Centre or the Bibles for Missions store. No, good works is something we do in every area of our lives. We practice it at work, at school, at home, in our families, and in our marriages. Is this you? Does good works describe and define your life?

You know, so many get this wrong. They think, "This is my life! I can do whatever I please." No! We are God's workmanship, created in Jesus Christ to do good works!

Now, this assumes of course, that we know what "good works" really are! Some say, "Oh, I do good works. I don't kill, I don't steal. I help people. I helped an old lady with her groceries the other day. I do good…" Ok. Very good. But that's not really good works as defined by Scripture. What is good works according to Scripture? Lord's Day 33 of the Heidelberg Catechism nicely summarizes what Scripture teaches about this. "What do we do that is good?" asks question and answer 91 of Lord's Day 33. It gives three answers.

1. Good works, they arise out of true faith. True faith in Jesus Christ is what produces good works. Faith is what connects us to Christ and so when we are connected to Christ, what's happening is that Christ is living in us and he's doing the good works! And so true faith in Jesus Christ is vitally important! Do you know Jesus Christ?

2. Good works, they conform to God's law. That make sense. Everything we do has to fit within the boundaries, the parameters of God's law.

3. Good works, they are always done for God's glory. Good works are not done just for me or for my neighbour; they are done for God! We want his name honoured! We want his kingdom advanced! We want the world to know that God reigns, that he sent his Son to save and that we have the privilege to do good works for him!

So again, is this you? Is this stuff in your life? Do you have true faith? Is your life within the boundaries of his law? Are you doing all for God's glory? Are you doing these kinds of good works?

Now, in saying that we must do good works, I'm not suggesting that we all have to do the exact same things in life. No, there are many different opportunities for different kinds of service in the kingdom. We are all gifted in different ways. We all have different locations in life. But we are all called to serve! Some are called to be firemen. Others are called to be policemen, farmers, politicians, musicians, stay at home moms or dads. But in all these "areas" we practice good works.

Some are called to be pastors. Is God calling you?

Some are called to special opportunities for service like elders and deacons. Absolutely! These are big tasks! These are important opportunities for good works. Hey, office bearers: Do you feel unworthy? Do you feel inadequate for the task? I understand. But you know, doing good works, no matter where you are, is always a daunting task. Which brings me to the last part of our text.

Paul says in our text, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Which God prepared in advance for us to do…

We are getting into the whole idea that somehow our whole lives, our opportunity for service, our call to do good works was all predestined for us. We're getting into the whole realm of election and predestination. Mysterious stuff. Yes, this stuff is mysterious but I caution us not to make this stuff more complicated than what it needs to be. The fact of the matter is that in scripture predestination is never considered to be a problem to be solved; it's always understood to be the solution! It's in scripture to encourage us.

A good way to explain how this works is to draw our attention to the book of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy Israel is about to enter the Promised Land. They went through the exodus already. They went through the Red Sea. They travelled through the wilderness and now they are on the edge of the Promised Land. They are about to enter, to take it over. They are afraid. They know that in the land of Canaan are some pretty big cities—like Jericho and Ai. And these cities have huge armies and big soldiers. And so they are terrified! They're saying to each other, "We can't beat them!" And so they are scared. They feel unworthy. They feel inadequate.

And God's response? In Deuteronomy 7 God says to the people of Israel, "Listen people, I have a plan for this world! And I have a plan for you! And my plan involves you entering into the Promised Land! And so it will happen. You will succeed. I have chosen you for this! I have predestined you for this! So don't' fear. Just go! Walk in obedience and be encouraged! All of this is prepared in advance for you! So just do it! Go! Be confident!"

It's this whole idea that we must read into our text in Ephesians 2:10. We are God's workmanship! We're his handiwork, his painting! We have been created in Christ Jesus, through his death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit. And we've been given a task! We've been saved, and called to do good works! They've been prepared for us! God planned this for us! And so if they have been planned for us, all we need to do is just go and do them! And we need to do them with confidence! God will bless this. He'll make it work. It's been prepared in advance for us to do and so: Go! Go and be joyful!

Isn't this good stuff??

And so, what we have here is a very powerful text! What incentive for us to us to go! Our text tells us who we are: we are God's workmanship. It tells us who we belong to: we belong to Jesus Christ! He bought and paid for us! It tells us our task, our salvation: Good work! And it reminds us of the big plan: it's been prepared in advance for us to do!

It's the four 'P's. Our text reminds us of:

- Our Person: we are God's workmanship.
- The Property: we belong to Jesus Christ and we are created in him.
- The Purpose: we do good works!
- And our Predestination: it's all prepared in advance!

And so we are encouraged to go. There are many ways to serve. Are you doing good works? God is calling you! May you heed the call. And may God richly bless you. May he bless his church for the furthering of his coming kingdom! To God be the glory right now and forever more!

Amen!

Prayer of Response

Father, we thank you for your word. We thank you that in Jesus Christ we are remade! We are your workmanship! May we do good works, out of faith, in line with your commandments, and for your glory! May be go boldly and with confidence knowing that our service is prepared in advance for us to do. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen!

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