Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #685 MP3 Audio File Video File

His Workmanship

Ephesians 2:10

Delivered 12/15/2013

We are looking at the first ten verses of Ephesians chapter 2. In this passage Paul clearly and concisely lays out that salvation is totally and only a work of Yahweh. It seems like he goes overboard to prove that men play no part in this work of God.

Verses 1-3, focus on fallen man and his hopeless condition—he is dead as a result of his sin. Man doesn't need to be healed, he needs to be raised. Secondly, verses 4-6 focus on Yahweh and on His mercy, love, and grace in making dead men alive. We were dead, but Yahweh gave us spiritual life as a sovereign act of His will. Thirdly, verses 7-10 focus on the purpose of salvation—it is to the praise of the glory of His grace. These verses continue the above idea and are clearly intended to ascribe all the power and initiative to God in our salvation. These verses include expressions like, "by grace you have been saved," "this not from yourselves," "it is the gift of God," "not by works," "so that no one can boast," "we are God's workmanship."

The whole passage emphasizes our depravity and inability, and then God's grace and God's work. We were spiritually dead, and so every spiritual good produced in us comes from God's sovereign grace and power. So if you have a faith that comes from "free will" it contradicts the content and the intent of this entire section.

Today in evangelical churches there is on going debate on the issue of salvation. Is it by a choice of man's free will or of God's sovereign choice? And most of the church today holds to the school of thought that is known as Arminianism. People who hold to this viewpoint typically believe that man cooperates with God in his salvation; and salvation is through faith in Christ, but we choose to believe when we are ready. Most people who hold to this point of view also believe that we can stop believing at any time, and, thus, we become lost again; and, basically, they believe that salvation is based upon the will of man.

The basic debate in the Church today is between Calvinism and Arminianism. Calvinism proclaims a God who saves, while Arminianism speaks of a God who enables man to save himself. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God's gift of salvation, the other as man's contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of salvation to God, the other divides the praise between God, who built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it.

The Gospel is the good news about what God has done for His people. It is the good news about Yeshua the Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. Salvation is a gift of God to His people from beginning to end. The new birth roots in the resolute will of God as the motivating force which gives new life. Salvation is a work of God. Man has no part in the miracle of the new birth and cannot have. This is what we call the "Doctrine of Sovereign Election." And that is what Paul is teaching in these ten verses of chapter two.

I said last week that Paul gives two lines of supporting evidence for his statement in verse 7, that God has saved us for the demonstration of the riches of His grace. Each of these begin with the word "for." The first is found in verses 8 and 9, the second in verse 10. We will look at the second one this morning:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 NASB

"For"— this conjunction is a purpose clause. His says in verse 9, "So that no one may boast"—for, or because, we are His workmanship. We are a product of His work. He is the Potter and we are the clay. There is nothing for us to boast about.

"We are His workmanship"—in the Greek the pronoun is at the beginning of the sentence rendering it emphatic—His workmanship are we. This underscores the point that Paul has been making throughout chapters 1 and 2, that our salvation was ordained by God from eternity and that we had nothing to do with it.

The word "workmanship" is from the Greek word poiema, which means: "a product, thing that is created or made, workmanship." We get our English word poem from this word. He is saying, we are God's poem. Another translation says that we are God's "work of art." We are God's poem—His work of art. It is just as foolish for us to boast of our part in salvation as it would be for a masterpiece painting to boast of painting itself.

I find it interesting that poiema is only used here and in:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20 NASB

If you can remember back to our study in Romans, I said that I don't think that Paul is talking about the physical creation in this verse. The context here leads me to believe that he is talking about Israel. Israel is the "creation." The Greek word used here for "creation" is ktisis, which is at times used for the physical creation, but it is also used for mankind:

And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 16:15 NASB

Here "creation" is ktisis, and it is obvious it doesn't mean physical creation. They were to preach to people. In Isaiah 43 we see that Israel was God's creation:

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! Isaiah 43:1 NASB

He seems to be talking here about the creation of the covenant people Israel. So it is possible that "creation" in the text in Romans is not referring to the material creation, but to Israel:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:20 NASB

Literally, this verse reads: "For the invisibles of Him from the creation of the world He made has clearly understood being discerned." The word "made" here is our word poiema. Israel was a special creation, the workmanship of God, we see this in:

"Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you. Deuteronomy 32:6 NASB

This verse tells us that Israel was a special creation of God. Israel was special, God gave them His covenant. The reference in Romans speaks of God's physical people Israel, and the reference in our text speaks of God's spiritual people, the new creation.

We, all believers, are Yahweh's workmanship. I think that in using this word poiema for both Old Covenant Israel and the Church Paul is saying, "We are the new Israel."

If being an artistic production is not enough to locate the activity in the artist rather than in the work of art, the next words are "having been created":

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 NASB

"Created in Christ Yeshua"—"created" is from the Greek word ktisthentes: "having been created." It is used in the New Testament only of God's acts of creation in both the physical and spiritual realms. The participle ktisthentes is passive, indicating that the believer is the recipient of the action. We didn't create ourselves or have any part in the creation.

The prepositional phrase "in Christ Yeshua" most likely has the idea of "in our union with Christ." Yeshua is the sphere of God's new creation. The CJB says, "created in union with the Messiah Yeshua." We must understand that everything God has done for us comes through Yeshua the Christ. Apart from Him, we have nothing. In Him, we have every blessing in the heavenly places. Paul put it this way to the Corinthians:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB

Here "creation" is ktisis, and it is obvious it doesn't mean physical creation. Believers are made a new creation in Christ; the Church, the body of Christ. We are no longer in the body of Adam, but are new in Christ. It is only in union with Christ that we are a new creation.

"For good works"—is a construction of purpose. The preposition "for" with the dative can denote purpose or goal, as it does here. So the goal of being created in Christ Yeshua is for good works. The attributive adjective "good" normally has a moral as well as a beneficial connotation.

Some are saying, "Finally after ten verses on what God does in our salvation, we finally get to our part." Are good works our part in salvation? There is an on going debate in the Church about faith and works.

Within the professing Church there are two main views of soteriology: Arminian and Calvinist. Within these two views are two other views that can be called "Lordship Salvation" and the "Free Grace" position. I believe that most Calvinists and Arminians hold to the Lordship view, but among Calvinists and Arminians are those who hold to a Free Grace position.

Which of these views (if any) does the Bible teach? Which of these theological positions is a biblical soteriology? We, as believers, need to hold a theological position, we need a framework or grid to filter things through. And this grid or framework must be formed from a diligent study of the Bible. All theology must come from exegesis—out of the text of the Bible. When we take our theology and force it on a text, that is called "eisegesis." We must allow the Bible to speak and then shape our theology from the Scripture. If you find that the Scriptures go against your theology, change your theology.

Those who hold to Lordship theology believe that if a person is truly a Christian, they WILL live a righteous, obedient life. Without this practical righteousness, there is no reason for a person to think that he/she is a Christian. So those who hold to the Lordship view would say that true Christians live a life characterized by obedience to all that the Father has commanded.

Please get this: Jesus Christ is the only Person who ever lived in complete obedience to the Father. All other men have sinned. The only reason that any body can get into heaven is because Jesus Christ's obedience is imputed to their account by faith:

For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 NASB

I am righteous because of Christ's obedience that becomes mine by faith!

The Free Grace view teaches that a person becomes a Christian when they understand and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At that moment they are placed into the body of Christ, given Christ's righteousness, indwelt by God, and are as sure of heaven as if they were already there. They are "in Christ."

Because God permanently indwells, His power is constantly available to the believer. That power will not operate in the Christian's life, however, unless he personally appropriates it by faith. Moment by moment the believer must trust God rather than himself to give him power for victory in daily life.

Some Lordship theologians make it sound like good works come naturally and automatically to all who are "truly" saved. C. H. Spurgeon said, "We have been clear upon the fact that good works are not the cause of salvation; let us be equally clear upon the truth that they are the necessary fruit of it." (All Round Ministry; Banner of Truth,, p. 310)

John MacArthur writes, "The life of God in the soul of man will always produce a righteous pattern. And if you have an unrighteous pattern in your life, you are fighting against the very nature God has created in you in salvation. It's like holding your breath; it's a lot harder than breathing."

For a Christian, is living unrighteously like holding your breath, or is it more like breathing? Maybe it's just me, but living a holy life is not easy, it takes constant diligence. We must live in constant dependence on God. Walking implies some effort on our part.

John Stott makes this statement, "In spite of our newness in Christ holiness is neither automatic nor inevitable" (Romans, p. 317). That is a very surprising statement from someone who is "Lordship." But it is true, our holiness is not automatic nor inevitable. S.L. Johnson writes, "True faith will issue in good works. Now not necessarily seen by you or me, but there must be good works."

If living righteously came automatically, why are there so many commandments in Scripture? Why does Paul give so many instructions to believers? All he should be doing is telling them how to get saved, if the rest is automatic. No, Paul is constantly telling believers how to live because we need instruction on living holy lives. So if we don't have the instructions, will we live holy lives?

Let me be clear here, I am not saying that everyone who says they are a Christian is one. What I am saying is that everyone who has trusted in Yeshua the Messiah, who believes that they can do nothing to be saved and casts themselves upon the mercy of God, trusting in what Christ has done for them is saved. You may not see much or any fruit in their lives depending on the environment they are in and the teaching that they get. How can they live righteously if they have no idea what righteousness is?

What if I'm wrong? What if the Free Grace view that I am espousing is not correct? Let's think about this. If I'm wrong, what damage could this view possibly cause? If the Free Grace view is wrong, it could cause people to think that they are saved when they're really not. It could be giving false hope to unbelievers. So what? Do you believe in election? Will the elect of God ever be lost? No! Will the reprobate ever be saved? No! So, in my opinion, the worst that the "Free Grace" view will do is give false hope to the reprobate.

If the Lordship teaching is wrong, what harm can it do? It can cause a believer to think that he is not redeemed because of sin in his life. This view can bring the elect under guilt and condemnation. It can cause a believer to give up on Christianity by making him doubt that he really is saved. The Lordship view can hurt the Church of God by causing Christians to live in guilt and doubt. But the worst that the Free Grace view does is give the reprobate false hope. As I see it, only the Lordship view is harmful to the Church. We all must admit that neither of these views can change the destiny of the elect. Selah!

When we talk about salvation by grace alone, we don't deny that Christians are to live moral lives. We just say no one can live a life pleasing unto the Lord until he has been made alive by God, and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. We are not saved by works, but we are saved for works. Luther said, "It's not against works that we contend, it's against trust in works that we contend."

Back to our text; notice what Paul says about these good works:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 NASB

"Which God prepared beforehand"—the nearest antecedent to the relative pronoun "which" is "good works," which along with the following pronoun "them," refer to the works and not people. We can translate it, "which good works God prepared beforehand."

The Greek verb proetoimazo, which is translated here as: "prepared beforehand" is only used here and in Romans 9:23, where after writing that God prepared vessels of wrath for destruction, talks about vessels of mercy "prepared beforehand for mercy." Both of them have God as the subject. What "good works" did God prepare beforehand? What is he talking about here? It is the good works, or conduct, given in chapters 4-6. Vincent says: "God prearranged a sphere of moral action for us to walk it."

"So that we would walk in them"—"so that," shows the purpose of the good works prepared beforehand. God has prepared a path of good works for believers which He will perform in and through them as they walk by faith. This does not mean doing a work for God; instead, it is God's performing His work in and through believers:

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 NASB

After telling them to work out their salvation, Paul adds, "for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

Paul says, "so that we would walk 'in them"—this is referring to the good works, it is a locative of sphere. We are to order our behavior within the sphere of these good works.

"Walk" is the Greek verb peripateo, which means: "to walk, live, conduct one's life." It literally means: "to walk about or around." While peripateo is used in the New Testament of one's literal walk, it is often used metaphorically of one's behavior, conduct, of the way one lives. The Christian life is compared to walking. Walking becomes a visual aid to teach us how to live.

Peripateo is an ingressive aorist subjunctive which expresses the coming about of a conduct which contrasts with prior conduct. "Walk"seems to form an inclusio, at least by contrast, with the walk in trespass and sin mentioned in verses 1 and 2. Inclusio is a common literary technique of Hebrew poetry, which involves repetition in a poem in a way which binds its parts together. It is a literary device based on a concentric principle, also known as bracketing or an envelope structure, which consists of creating a frame by placing similar material at the beginning and end of a section. This inclusio draws attention to a movement from the negative to the positive. Paul is saying when you were dead, "you formerly walked according to the course of this world." Now that you are alive you are to walk in good works.

The use of "walk" here suggests that these are the same works outlined for the believer in chapters 4-6 because the dominant them of those chapters is the believer's walk (4:17, 5:2,8, 15):

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, Ephesians 4:1 NASB

The Christian life is compared to walking. Throughout the Bible, we are exhorted to walk in a manner worthy of our calling:

Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. Romans 13:13 NASB

The word "behave" here is our Greek word peripate:.

so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; Colossians 1:10 NASB

To walk in a manner worthy of the Lord means: "to walk in a way that is fitting and consistent with who the Lord is to us, and what the Lord has done, is doing, and will do for us." The idea is something like: let your walk be the kind that brings credit to the grace of God in Christ.

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Yeshua, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NASB

When we talk about pleasing God, we must make a distinction between our position and our practice. As believers, we stand "righteous" before God. The good news of the Bible is that our debts were paid in full by Yeshua the Christ. And not only has the Christian's debt been paid in full, there is no possibility of going into debt again. Yeshua paid the debt of all our sins; past, present, and future. This is GRACE!

So, when I talk about pleasing God, I'm talking to Christians about how they live. We are to live in such a way to please God by all that we do. Pleasing God is a way of life. Learning to walk or live to please Yahweh is a matter of biblical instruction. It is neither natural nor innate. Without the Word, there is simply no way any of us are going to be able to walk as we should so we are able to please the Lord. Over and over again in the Tanakh, we read that God's people are to walk in His ways, statutes, and laws, i.e., according to the Word (Lev. 26:3; Deut. 5:33; 8:6; 10:12; Josh. 22:5). So if we are not in the Word, we are not being reminded of what we are to do. How many of you know what a tsiytsiyt is?

"Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. Numbers 15:38 NASB

The word "tassel" here is the Hebrew word tsiytsiyt. The word tsiytsiyt is a noun derived from the word tsiyts, which is the blossom of a tree which will become its fruit. The tsiytsiyt is a blossom, not in appearance but in function. Why were they to wear this tsiytsiyt?:

"It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, Numbers 15:39 NASB

The function of the tsiytsiyt is to be a reminder to the wearer to produce fruit. Fruit being the observance of the commandments. It was to remind them of the commandment of Yahweh so that they would walk in them.

The word Torah is usually translated as Law, but to the Hebrew it meant: "the journey." To a Hebrew "command" is the direction for the journey. "Righteous" is traveling on the path. And "wicked" is lost from the path. If we could grasp this Hebraic concept about Yahweh's Word, it would change our thinking and our walk.

We don't like commandments, they seem restrictive— "don't do this". But directions are helpful and beneficial—"go this way." If you want to get somewhere you must follow directions. If you are in Virginia Beach and you want to go to Florida, you have to follow the directions which would take you south. You cannot go east if you want to end up in Florida. The same is true with Yahweh's directions. If you want a life of fellowship with the Father, a life of joy and peace, you must follow the directions that Yahweh has given us. To not follow the directions and leave the path is to not arrive at your goal of joy and peace. Yahweh has laid out the direction for the path in His Word. So we need to read it, study it, and follow it.

And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:3 NASB

The word "come" is the Hebrew word halak, which means: "to walk". The Christian life is a journey that we are to walk. And we can only do this as we follow the directions:

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. Psalms 119:105 NASB

Yahweh's word guides us on our journey.

Adultery, fornication, abortion, homosexuality and lying are pervasive in our day among those who call themselves Christians. The Church has left the path of Yahweh and it is costing us all. C.S. Lewis was right when he said, "The best argument for Christianity is Christians—their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the best argument against Christianity is also Christians—when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug, when they are narrow and repressive. Then Christianity dies a thousand deaths."

When Christians walk in fellowship with Yahweh and begin to express their Christianity through their lifestyle, the society cannot help but be changed. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes: "Most competent historians are agreed in saying that what undoubtedly saved [England] from a revolution such as that experienced in France at the end of the eighteenth century was nothing but the Evangelical Revival. This was not because anything was done directly, but because masses of individuals had become Christians and were living this better life and had this higher outlook. The whole political situation was affected, and the great Acts of Parliament which were passed in the last century were mostly due to the fact that there were such large numbers of Christians found in the land."

Once we are saved, the direction of our lives should be to walk on the path of obedience to God in everything. There should be no division between the sacred and the secular for the Christian. When you're at work, you serve God there (Col. 3:23-24). When you're with family, you serve God there. The same applies to Church. Every Christian should be seeking to serve the Lord in every situation of life. The New Testament generally, and the apostles in particular, consistently urge those who have experienced God's gracious redemption to lead holy and godly lives.

It is God's will that those who belong to the new creation should be characterized by a lifestyle which ultimately reflects His own character and action. The Divine intention, forcefully expressed by the purpose clause in Ephesians 2:10, is that we should walk in good deeds. This is the same thing that Yahweh told the children of Israel:

"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7 NASB

So what does this verse mean? The Hebrew word for "name" is shem; this comes from neshemah, which we see in:

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Genesis 2:7 NASB

The word "breath" here is neshemah. Your shem is your breath. In Hebraic thought your breath is your character, it's what makes you you. It's what makes you different from everybody else. You can replace the word "name" in the Bible with "character."

In Hebraic thought a name is not merely an arbitrary designation or a random combination of sounds. The name conveys the nature and essence of the thing named. It represents the history and reputation of the being named. In English, we often refer to a person's reputation as his "good name." The Hebrew concept of a name is very similar to this idea.

So we could translate: "You shall not take the 'character' of Yahweh your God in vain." This could literally be translated: "You shall not falsely represent the character of Yahweh." When followers of Yahweh don't walk on the path following the directions and act ungodly, we take His name in vain.

George Barna's research has shown that the average Christian in the average evangelical church is almost indistinguishable from the rest of society. He is not talking about being different in some artificial and outward way that you might see in some legalistic churches. Rather, he is talking about the fundamental moral and ethical difference that Christ can make in how we live. When our teens get pregnant and do drugs at the same rate as the general teenage population—when our marriages end in divorce at the same rate as the rest of society—when we cheat in business, or lie, steal, and cheat on our spouses at the same statistical level as those who say they are not Christians, something is wrong:

the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:6 NASB

If you lie, if you steal, if you commit adultery, if you fail to love your neighbor, you are misrepresenting the character of Yahweh. Think about that! You shall not falsely represent the character of Yahweh. This is serious, believers, because we are to be demonstrating to the world the character of Yahweh. In order to do this, we must stay on the path and follow the directions.

If you are a Christian, this text in Ephesians 2:1-10, should serve as a reminder of what you once were, and of what you now are, in Christ. It should produce both humility and gratitude. It should stimulate you to love and good deeds, knowing that even the good works which you do are accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit, for His glory.

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