Alive in Christ
Workmanship (ποιημα [poiēma]). Old word from ποιεω [poieō] with the ending -ματ [-mat] meaning result. In N.T. only here and Rev. 1:20. Created (κτισθεντες [ktisthentes]). First aorist passive participle of κτιζω [ktizō], not the original creation as in Col. 1:16; Eph. 3:9, but the moral and spiritual renewal in Christ, the new birth, as in Eph. 2:15; 4:24. For good works (ἐπι ἐργοις ἀγαθοις [epi ergois agathois]). Probably the true dative of purpose here with ἐπι [epi] (Robertson, Grammar, p. 605). Purpose of the new creation in Christ. Which (οἱς [hois]). Attraction of the relative ἁ [ha] (accusative after προητοιμασεν [proētoimasen]) to case of the antecedent ἐργοις [ergois]. Afore prepared (προητοιμασεν [proētoimasen]). First aorist active indicative of προητοιμαζω [proētoimazō], old verb to make ready beforehand. In N.T. only here and Rom. 9:23. Good works by us were included in the eternal foreordination by God. That we should walk in them (ἱνα ἐν αὐτοις περιπατησωμεν [hina en autois peripatēsōmen]). Expexegetic final clause explanatory of the election to good works.
(2:8–10) The definite article appears before the word “grace” here, pointing the reader back to the same statement in verse 5, and informing him that the writer is to elaborate upon this previously mentioned statement. The reader of this exposition is urged to go back to the exegesis of verse 5 and refresh his memory as to the total meaning of Paul’s statement, “by grace are ye saved.”
The words, “through faith” speak of the instrument or means whereby the sinner avails himself of this salvation which God offers him in pure grace. Expositors says: “Paul never says ‘through the faith,’ as if the faith were the ground or procuring cause of the salvation.” Alford says: “It (the salvation) has been effected by grace and apprehended by faith.” The word “that” is touto (τουτο), “this,” a demonstrative pronoun in the neuter gender. The Greek word “faith” is feminine in gender and therefore touto (τουτο) could not refer to “faith.” It refers to the general idea of salvation in the immediate context. The translation reads, “and this not out from you as a source, of God (it is) the gift.” That is, salvation is a gift of God. It does not find its source in man. Furthermore, this salvation is not “out of a source of works.” This explains salvation by grace. It is not produced by man nor earned by him. It is a gift from God with no strings tied to it. Paul presents the same truth in Romans 4:4, 5 when speaking of the righteousness which God imputed to Abraham, where he says: “Now, to the one who works, his wages are not looked upon as a favor but as that which is justly or legally due. But to the one who does not work but believes on the One who justifies the impious, his faith is computed for righteousness.”
One reason why salvation is a free gift of God and not earned by works, is given us in the words; “lest any man should boast.” Grace glorifies God. Works would glorify man. Commenting on the words, “For we are His workmanship.” Vincent says: “A reason why no man should glory. If we are God’s workmanship, our salvation cannot be of ourselves.” Expositors comments: “We ourselves are a work, the handiwork of God, made anew by Him, and our salvation, therefore, is due to Him, not to ourselves.” The word “workmanship” is poiēma (ποιημα), from poieō (ποιεω), “to do, to make.” Thus, poiēma (ποιημα) means “something thatis made.”
The words, “created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” Expositors says are “a further definition of ‘His workmanship.’ We are God’s spiritual handiwork in the sense that we were created by Him, made a new spiritual creature by Him when His grace made us Christians. This new creation was in Christ, so that except by union between Him and us it could not have taken place (Eph. 2:15, 4:24, II Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Col. 3:10). Also it was with a view to good works.… We ourselves then having been created anew by God, and good works being the object to which that new creation looked, not the cause that led to it, all must be of grace—not of deeds, and there can be no room for boasting.”
“We were created in Christ Jesus for good works,” and these good works are described as those good works “which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” The word “ordained” is proetoimazō (προετοιμαζω), “to prepare before, to make ready beforehand.” Vincent says: “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.” Expositors says: “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. There is the unseen source from which they spring, and there is their final explanation.”
These good works were prepared beforehand “that we should walk in them.” The word “walk” is peripateō (περιπατεω), “to regulate one’s life, to conduct one’s self, to order one’s behavior.” “In them” is en toutois (ἐν τουτοις), “in these,” namely, the good works, locative of sphere. We are to order our behavior within the sphere of these good works. Expositors comments: “God’s purpose in the place which He gave to good works in His decree was that they should actually and habitually be done by us. His final object was to make good works the very element of our life, the domain in which our action should move. That this should be the nature of our walk is implied in our being His handiwork, made anew by Him in Christ; that the good works which are the divine aim of our life shall be realized, is implied in their being designed and made ready for us in God’s decree; and that they are of God’s originating, and not of our action and merit, is implied in the fact that we had ourselves to be made a new creation in Christ with a view to them.”
Translation. For by the grace have you been saved in time past completely, through faith, with the result that your salvation persists through present time; and this (salvation) is not from you as a source. Of God it is the gift; not from a source of works, in order that no one might boast; for we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus with a view to good works which God prepared beforehand in order that within their sphere we may order our behavior.
God’s Amazing Work
The remarkable flow of thought in the second chapter of Ephesians, leading up to the magnificent statement of verse 10, begins with Amazing Depths (vv. 1–3) as Paul takes us down to the Death Valley of the Soul where all are seen to be dead in their transgressions and sins. Then (vv. 4–7) we are taken up, up and away to Amazing Heights, to the very pinnacle of life as we are seated in the heavenly realms with Christ. This incredible journey from the amazing depths to the amazing heights is capsulized in the Amazing Grace described in verses 8 and 9 — “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” Amazing Depths, Amazing Heights, Amazing Grace, and now we come to verse 10 — God’s Amazing Work: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
In this great statement we see: 1) God’s role in salvation, and 2) man’s responsibility to God. In regard to the first we will answer the question, what does it mean to be “God’s workmanship”? And in regard to our responsibility, what does our being “God’s workmanship” require of us?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE GOD’S WORKMANSHIP?
The word “workmanship” comes from the Greek word poiema, from which we derive our English word poem. The Greek literally means, “that which has been made — a work — a making,” and sometimes it is even translated as “poem.” In one of Sir Walter Scott’s novels he has one of his characters say to another who has just given a beautiful description of a city, “Aha, so thou can’st play the maker yet?” Then Scott adds a footnote explaining that the ancient Scottish word for “poet” is the word “maker,” which is the literal translation of the original Greek.1 Because of this some have tried to replace “workmanship” (as the NIV renders it) with “poem” — “we are His poem.” But the result is misleading because the Greek poiema meant any work of art. It could mean a statue or a song or architecture or a poem or a painting.
The best translation by far is that given by F. F. Bruce: “his work of art, his masterpiece.”2 We are God’s works of art. I do not think there is any more exalted description of a believer in all of Scripture. You and I are God’s works of art — his masterpieces!
God is the Creator. Nothing exists apart from him. He brought everything into being. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). The galaxies, the stars, our solar system are his handiwork. Yet as wonderful as the cosmos is, it is not his masterwork.
Nature radiates the glory of God. The very trees on our streets do this if we take time to notice. Perhaps you have really looked and had an experience like that of Annie Dillard and have seen your backyard tree for what it is: full of lights, “each cell buzzing with flame,” and you were “knocked breathless” and your heart went up in wonder to God.3 Nature breathes the glory of God.
I remember fishing at Cabo San Lucas at the mouth of the Sea of Cortez — the cloudless, windless day, the perfect sunlight dancing rhythmically on the water in platinum and blue. I recall gliding into an emerald cove surrounded by a cactus desert, donning a snorkel, and slipping over the side into a world of green and turquoise and yellow and pink — and another world of slower, gentler rhythm. I remember too the sunset with its Pacific fire as we sat on the sand gazing at the summer stars. There I saw God through his handiwork. But in all those wonders I did not see his chief work! That same day I marveled at his animate creation: the ever-present gulls in flight, a sea of yellow-fin tuna and porpoise I could not see across, a striped marlin walking on its tail and crashing back into the water like a fallen horse. It was all so beautiful, but it was not his ultimate workmanship.
Consider something far beyond that: a newborn human baby, eyes and mouth wide-open, arms reaching for life — the apex of God’s creation. Why do we say this? The baby is, of course, a physical wonder. Its mind is an amazing computer recording virtually everything it experiences. Its eyes pass on incredible amounts of data — first through the cornea, then through the focusing lens where the image strikes the retina, stimulating 125 million nerve endings simultaneously. This is processed by millions of microswitches and funneled down the optic nerve, which contains one million separate insulated fibers (so there are no short circuits). When the information reaches the brain, an equally complex process begins — all of which takes place in a millisecond! Likewise, the infant’s ears are so tuned to the vibrating around her that one day she will make music.
But far beyond this wonder is the fact that the baby is made in the image of God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). He or she not only has a body but an eternal soul. That newborn child has, despite its sin nature, a delicate moral sensibility and mind-boggling possibilities of achievement. St. Augustine said:
Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the season, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.
Man is without a doubt the apex of God’s creation. No angel can rival him, for no angel is made in the image of God.
Yet, as wondrous as man is, he is not the masterwork spoken of in our text as “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” The ultimate workmanship of God is a human being who, despite being dead in his transgressions and sins, has been made alive in Christ. We say this because he is the subject of two creations by Christ. His very existence is due to the work of Christ. “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16, 17; cf. Proverbs 8:22–31). Every human being is created and held together by Christ.
But the masterwork here has undergone a second creation “in Christ Jesus.” Christ, Lord of creation, is also the executor of salvation. Paul describes this elsewhere as well: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is a greater work than the Sea of Cortez and the summer stars because it cost the Son, the Father, and the Spirit everything, and because it involved the unparalleled power of the Resurrection! To quote Jonathan Edwards, the supreme mind on conversion, the “spiritual life which is reached in the work of conversion, is a far greater and more glorious effect than mere being and life.”4 God’s most stupendous creation is man made alive! As the subject of Christ’s two creations, we are his ultimate workmanship, his masterwork!
“[I]n Christ” we are of untold worth. This great truth may be hard to actually take hold of as we exist in frail human bodies carried along in the rush of modern-day busyness. Some of us have had things happen which make us doubt our worth. But we are his “workmanship” — his work of art. Moreover, we are in process.
Michelangelo was once asked what he was doing as he chipped away at a shapeless rock. He replied, “I’m liberating an angel from this stone.” That’s what God is doing with us. We are in the hands of the great Maker, the ultimate sculptor who created the universe out of nothing, and he has never yet thrown away a rock on which he has begun a masterwork.
His tools are Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, his Word, and the preaching of the Word. Very often he uses difficulties and difficult people, like David’s Shimei, to sculpt our character. Other times it is a great saint with which God carves his impression upon us.
WHAT DOES BEING HIS WORKMANSHIP REQUIRE OF US?
Having established the grand truth that we are His “workmanship” — his masterwork — the question is, What does this privileged position ask of us? Two things are required. One is to believe it, for simple belief that this is true will lift us from the prison of despair. The other is to hold still. Our tendency is to be like a two-year-old in the barber’s chair — squirming so much that we really never get the care we need. We must submit to the authority of his Word and the shaping influences he brings to our lives!
We must keep in mind that Paul is very clear in verses 8, 9 that no one is saved by works, “so that no one can boast.” There is an old story from the Middle East which speaks to this issue. A man was traveling on his donkey when he came upon a small fuzzy object lying in the road. He dismounted to look more closely and found a sparrow lying on its back with its scrawny legs thrust skyward. At first he thought the bird was dead, but close investigation proved it to be very much alive. The man asked the sparrow if he was all right. The sparrow replied, “Yes.” The man said, “What are you doing lying on your back with your legs pointed toward the sky?” The sparrow responded that he had heard a rumor that the sky was falling, and so he was holding his legs up in support. The man replied, “You surely don’t think you’re going to hold it up with those two scrawny legs, do you?” The sparrow, with a very solemn look, retorted, “One does the best he can.” The little bird’s self-deceit and futile works were obvious.
In the same way man’s condition is so desperate that his works are no more effective than a bird’s legs in the air or putting makeup on a corpse. No one will ever be saved by works.
But once we are saved and become his “workmanship,” we must work. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (v. 10). Works are a sign that we are his workmanship! “No one more wholeheartedly than Paul repudiated good works as a ground of salvation; no one more strongly insisted on good works as a fruit of salvation.”5 Authentic believers, those made by God’s hand, work for him.
In the last century a famous Scottish clergyman foolishly wrote that from what was to him “the highest of all authority, the authority of his own experience,” he concluded that the ministry required only two days a week, leaving the other five days to pursue higher interests such as mathematics and science. He insisted that “There is almost no consumption of intellectual effort in the peculiar employment of a minister.” What was needed was a friendly disposition which enjoyed comforting others and an open air of honesty.6
In 1911 this Scottish divine, Thomas Chalmers, was converted, and with his conversion came the greatest outpouring of energy the Scottish church has ever seen (apart from John Knox) as Chalmers mixed his evangelism with social action and turned the city of Glasgow upside down.7 From a leisured ministerial dilettante, Chalmers became a man on fire, mourning, in his own words, “the littleness of time.” He lived out Luther’s dictum that “Justification is by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone” — for where there is faith, there are works!
This truth is echoed by the prayers of the New Testament again and again: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself … encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17). “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). “Now the God of peace … equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever, Amen” (Hebrews 13:20, 21, NASB).
Not only are we, as God’s workmanship, to work, says Paul, but we are to realize that we are “to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (v. 10). Each of us has an eternally-designed job description which includes the task, the ability, and the place to serve. You may prefer Jerusalem, but you will glorify him more in Babylon if he has called you there. And whatever the task to which he has called you, you will be equipped for it as surely as a bird is capable of flight. And in doing the works he has called you to do, you will be both more and more his workmanship and more and more your true self.
Sometimes as I have been preaching I have become aware of an unnatural silence. The ever-present coughing ceases and the pews stop creaking, bringing an almost physical silence to the sanctuary through which my words sail like arrows. A heightened eloquence invades my speech so that the cadence and volume of my voice intensify the truth I am preaching. Though I know that I am speaking, I have thought at these times, “What is going on here? Is this me?” And then, seeing it for what it is, my heart has cried, “Lord, help me!”
Thousands of preachers have had like experiences, even greater ones. But what makes it so amazing to me is the fact that during the early years of my preaching there was little to indicate I would ever experience this. Though I had the nerve to attempt to preach when I was just sixteen years old, it was a painful experience for both me and my hearers because of my obvious discomfort. Though I made other attempts during the following years and eagerly sought leadership positions in church and school, public speaking remained very painful. Some today probably think I am in the ministry because I pursued my natural strength of public speaking. Not so! It never ceases to amaze me that I am able to stand and preach in the pulpit of any church. And at those times when the sanctuary assumes that telltale hush, I feel like pinching myself.8
What is the point of all this? All of us are “God’s workmanship,” and as such we have been given “good works” to do which were appointed before our existence. And when we do them, he gives us the necessary power and a marvelous sense of the Holy Spirit in our sails.
There is nothing more beautiful than his workmanship working for him. Are we doing this?
With respect to the regenerated sinners themselves: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, etc., v. 10. It appears that all is of grace, because all our spiritual advantages are from God. We are his workmanship; he means in respect of the new creation; not only as men, but as saints. The new man is a new creature; and God is its Creator. It is a new birth, and we are born or begotten of his will. In Christ Jesus, that is, on the account of what he has done and suffered, and by the influence and operation of his blessed Spirit. Unto good works, etc. The apostle having before ascribed this change to divine grace in exclusion of works, lest he should seem thereby to discourage good works, he here observes that though the change is to be ascribed to nothing of that nature (for we are the workmanship of God), yet God, in his new creation, has designed and prepared us for good works: Created unto good works, with a design that we should be fruitful in them. Wherever God by his grace implants good principles, they are intended to be for good works. Which God hath before ordained, that is, decreed and appointed. Or, the words may be read, To which God hath before prepared us, that is, by blessing us with the knowledge of his will, and with the assistance of his Holy Spirit; and by producing such a change in us. That we should walk in them, or glorify God by an exemplary conversation and by our perseverance in holiness.
2:10. This verse, beginning with For, tells why this salvation is not from man or by his works. The reason is that salvation is God’s workmanship. The word “workmanship” (poiēma), used only here and in Romans 1:20 (where the niv renders it “what has been made”) denotes a work of art or a masterpiece. It differs from human “works” (ergōn) in Ephesians 2:9. Believers are God’s workmanship because they have been created (a work only God can do) in Christ Jesus (cf. “in Christ Jesus” in vv. 6-7). The purpose of this creation is that believers will do good works. God’s workmanship is not achieved by good works, but it is to result in good works (cf. Titus 2:14; 3:8).
In the clause, which God prepared in advance for us to do, the word “which” refers back to the “works” in the previous clause. “For us to do” is literally “in order that we might walk in them.” The purpose of these prepared-in-advance works is not “to work in them” but “to walk in them.” In other words, 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 (cf. Phil. 2:13). This path of good works is discussed by Paul in Ephesians 4-6.
In conclusion, 2:1-10 demonstrates that though people were spiritually dead and deserving only God’s wrath, God, in His marvelous grace, has provided salvation through faith. Believers are God’s workmanship in whom and through whom He performs good works.
2:10 Created . . . that we should walk: The genius of God’s new creation work in each believer is that He renovates the nature of His redeemed children to make good works a living possibility.
10. we are. Dt 32:6, 15. Ps 95:6. 100:3. 138:8. 149:2. Is 19:25. 29:23. 43:21. *60:21. 61:3. 64:8. Je 31:33. 32:39, 40. Jn *3:3-6, 21. 1 Co *3:9. 2 Co *5:5, 17. Ph *1:6. ✓2:13. He *13:21. workmanship. Ro 1:20g. created. Ep 3:9. *4:24. Ps *51:10. 102:18. 2 Co ✓5:17. Ga *6:15. Col 3:10. 2 Ti *3:15. good works. Ep 4:24. Mt +*5:16. Ac +9:36. 2 Co *9:8. Col +✓1:10. 2 Th 2:17. 1 Ti 2:10. 5:10, 25. 6:18. 2 Ti *2:21. +*3:17. Ti *2:7, 14. ✓3:1, +8, 24. He *10:24. *13:21. 1 P 2:12. which God. Ep +1:4. Ro +*8:29. ordained. or, prepared. Nu =4:27. 1 Ch 6:48. Jn +*15:16. that we. Ep 1:12. walk. ver. 2. Ep 4:1. Dt 5:33. Ps 81:13. 119:3. Is +*2:3-5. Ac 9:31. Ro *8:1. Col +✓1:10. 1 J *1:7. +*2:6
10 we are. De 32:6 Ps 100:3 138:8 Isa 19:25 29:23 43:21 44:21 60:21 61:3 Jer 31:33 32:39,40 Joh 3:3-6,21 1Co 3:9 2Co 5:5,17 Php 1:6 Php 2:13 Heb 13:21 created. 4:24 Ps 51:10 2Co 5:17 Ga 6:15 Col 3:10 good. Mt 5:16 Ac 9:36 2Co 9:8 Col 1:10 2Th 2:17 1Ti 2:10 5:10,25 1Ti 6:18 2Ti 2:21 3:17 Tit 2:7,14 3:1,8,14 Heb 10:24 13:21 1Pe 2:12 which. 1:4 Ro 8:29 ordained. or, prepared. walk. 2 4:1 De 5:33 Ps 81:13 119:3 Isa 2:3-5 Ac 9:31 Ro 8:1 1Jo 1:7 1Jo 2:6
Character of Saints.
1. Attentive to Christ’s voice. Joh 10:3,4.
2. Blameless and harmless. Php 2:15.
3. Bold. Pr 28:1; Ro 13:3.
4. Contrite. Isa 57:15; 66:2.
5. Devout. Ac 8:2; 22:12.
6. Faithful. Re 17:14.
7. Fearing God. Mt 3:16; Ac 10:2.
8. Following Christ. Joh 10:4,27.
9. Godly. Ps 4:3; 2Pe 2:9.
10. Guileless. Joh 1:47.
11. Holy. De 7:6; 14:2; Col 3:12.
12. Humble. Ps 34:2; 1Pe 5:5.
13. Hungering after righteousness. Mt 5:6.
14. Just. Ge 6:9; Hab 2:4; Lu 2:25.
15. Led by the Spirit. Ro 8:14.
16. Liberal. Isa 32:8; 2Co 9:13.
17. Loving. Col 1:4; 1Th 4:9.
18. Lowly. Pr 16:19.
19. Meek. Isa 29:19; Mt 5:5.
20. Merciful. Ps 37:26; Mt 5:7.
21. New Creatures. 2Co 5:17; Eph 2:10.
22. Obedient. Ro 16:19; 1Pe 1:14.
23. Poor in spirit. Ps 51:17; Mt 5:3.
24. Prudent. Pr 16:21.
25. Pure in heart. Mt 5:8; 1Jo 3:3.
26. Righteous. Isa 60:21; Lu 1:6.
27. Sincere. 2Co 1:12; 2:17.
28. Steadfast. Ac 2:42; Col 2:5.
29. Taught of God. Isa 54:13; 1Jo 2:27.
30. True. 2Co 6:8.
31. Undefiled. Ps 119:1.
32. Upright. 1Ki 3:6; Ps 15:2.
33. Watchful. Lu 12:37.
34. Zealous of good works. Tit 2:14; 3:8.
WORKS. The three main uses of this term, although distinct, are essentially related: the works of God, the works of Jesus Christ and the works of man in relation to faith.
1. In the OT the works of God are presented as evidence of God’s supreme power, authority, wisdom and benevolence. The OT defines the Deity not by abstract terms such as omnipotence, but by his activity. Moses adduced the works of God as evidence of his unique distinction from other gods (Dt. 3:24). In the Psalms the works of God are frequently proclaimed as providing confidence in his power and authority and his sole right to receive worship. These works are his creative activity (Ps. 104:24) and his sovereign acts in relation to his redeemed people (Ps. 77:11–20) and to the nations (Ps. 46:8–10).
2. It was by his works that Jesus revealed that he was both Messiah and Son of God, exemplified by his answer to John the Baptist (Mt. 11:2–5). John’s Gospel records the significant activity of Jesus with set purpose to reveal his Messiahship and deity so as to induce faith in his Person (Jn. 20:30–31). Frequently Jesus pointed to his works as evidence that he was sent by the Father (Jn. 5:36; 10:37–38). Being the very works of God (Jn. 9:3–4), his works are sufficient ground for faith in him as being uniquely related to the Father (Jn. 10:38; 14:10–11). It was through equating his work with that of God that he was accused of blasphemy in identifying himself with God (Jn. 5:17–23). His death completed that work (Jn. 17:4; 19:30).
3. The believer also demonstrates by his good works the divine activity within him (Mt. 5:16; Jn. 6:28; 14:12). Conversely, the man who has no faith demonstrates by his evil works his separation from God (Jn. 3:19; Col. 1:21; Eph. 5:11; 2 Pet. 2:8, etc.). Good works are therefore the evidence of living faith, as James emphasizes in opposition to those who claim to be saved by faith alone without works (Jas. 2:14–26). James is in harmony with Paul, who also repeatedly declared the necessity for works, i.e. for behaviour appropriate to the new life in Christ following our entry into it by faith alone (Eph. 2:8–10; 1 Cor. 6:9–11; Gal. 5:16–26, etc.). The works rejected by Paul are those which men claim as earning God’s favour and securing their discharge from the guilt of sin (Rom. 4:1–5; Eph. 2:8–9; Tit. 3:5). Since salvation is given by God in grace, no degree of works can merit it. The good works of the heathen are therefore unavailing as a means of salvation, since the man himself relies on the flesh and not on the grace of God (Rom. 8:7–8).
WORKS — acts or deeds. God’s works are praised often in the Book of Psalms (Ps. 33:4; 92:5; 104:24), and Christ’s works are thoroughly discussed in the Gospel of John (John 10:25–38). Human works are either good or bad, and these two categories are often mentioned together (Rom. 13:3, 12; Heb. 6:1, 10). Christians are taught to display good works (Matt. 5:16; Rev. 3:8).
On the other hand, works are viewed negatively when they are either bad in themselves, works of darkness (Rom. 13:12; Eph. 5:11), works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19), idolatry (Acts 7:41), hypocrisy (Matt. 23:3–5), or works of the law. Although works of the law are good in themselves, they do not bring salvation (Rom. 4:2, 6; Gal. 2:16). Romans 4:2 (Abraham not justified by works) and James 2:21 (Abraham justified by works) are not contradictory but complementary; works were the evidence of Abraham’s faith (James 2:14–26).
Alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1–10). God is fully aware of who we were. We were “dead in … transgressions and sins” and we used to follow “the ways of this world.” We were dedicated to “gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature.” So in affirming our new identity in Christ, there is no question of misunderstanding. God knew full well what we were.
But it is were. We are no longer what we were! Now we have been “made … alive” in Christ. His grace has been poured out on us and we were “raised … up with Christ,” recipients not of a reward but of a gift. Who are we now? “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
God knows who we were: it is up to you and me to take Him at His word about who we now are! We can no longer think of ourselves in the old way, or burden ourselves down with past guilt. In Jesus we are renewed: we are His own fresh creations, shaped by the divine hand for the good works He calls us to do.
Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 by Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. (Eph 2:10-11). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.
Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Eph 2:7-11). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Hughes, R. K. (1990). Ephesians : The mystery of the body of Christ. Preaching the Word (Eph 2:10). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.
Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (Eph 2:4). Peabody: Hendrickson.
Walvoord, J. F. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Eph 2:10). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Spirit filled life study Bible. 1997, c1991 (electronic ed.) (Eph 2:10). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Smith, J. H. (1992; Published in electronic form, 1996). The new treasury of scripture knowledge : The most complete listing of cross references available anywhere- every verse, every theme, every important word (electronic edition of the Rev. ed. of: The Treasury of scripture knowledge.) (Eph 2:10). Nashville TN: Thomas Nelson.
The treasury of scripture knowledge : Five hundred thousand scripture references and parallel passages. 1995. Introduction by R.A. Torrey. (Eph 2:10). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Torrey, R. (1995, c1897). The new topical text book : A scriptural text book for the use of ministers, teachers, and all Christian workers. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos research Systems, Inc.
Wood, D. R. W. (1996). New Bible dictionary (3rd ed. /) (Pages 1248-1249). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
Youngblood, R. F. (1997, c1995). Nelson's new illustrated Bible dictionary : An authoritative one-volume reference work on the Bible with full color illustrations (F. Bruce, Ed.) (electronic ed. of the revised ed. of Nelson's illustrated Bible dictionary.). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Richards, L. (1987). The teacher's commentary. Includes index. (Eph 3:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.