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Meditations on Ephesians 2:10

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

Background

Of Whom it speaks

It speaks of Christ. This is the principal subject with a further revelation above and beyond the gospel as delivered by Christ, revealed to Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit.

To Whom it speaks

It speaks to Christians – saints who were both Jew and Gentile.

It speaks to the saints of the church at Ephesus, but also to the all churches in all ages.

Of the church in Ephesus:

Ephesus – a large commercial centre.

Temple Artemis, centre of worship, burned down by Herostratus 355 BC, rebuilt and considered one of the wonders of the ancient world.

Paul visited Ephesus according to Acts 18:19-21, which was brief, returning for three years, as outlined in Acts 19-20.

Paul writes to the Ephesians while a prisoner (3:1, 4:1, 6:20), at the same time he wrote to the Philemon and the church at Colossae : the letter was taken to Ephesus by Tychicus (See 6:21, Acts 20:4).

Why was it written

Ephesians is a book that makes full or complete the Word of God, through revelation to Paul while a prisoner.

I have become its servant [minister] by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness[1]-Colossians 1:25 (NIV)

Of which I became minister, according to the dispensation of God which [is] given me towards you to complete the word of God, Colossians 1:25 (DNT)

This letter along with the letter to the Colossians gives us the full understanding of the redemption of sinners; God redeemed us by the blood of His Son. It reveals God’s own loving heart, and the fact that He had thoughts of us before the foundation of the world (Arno Gaebelein).

When it speaks

It is a New Testament revelation. It speaks after Christ is seated on the right hand of God. It tells of the things that have happened that made it possible for the wall of separation (2:14) (partition) between man and God to be taken away and the fact that this action was planned before the creation was (the foundation of the world).

Where it speaks

Physically, it was written from prison, and read in the Churches in Asia Minor.

Positionally is speaks of citizens of heaven, saved by grace, and delivered from darkness, chosen before the foundation of the world.

The Letter to the Ephesians

The letter to the Ephesians talks of a number of things, but in the first chapter we see that Christians have a calling, incomplete, but present nevertheless; "to be holy and without blame" 1:4, and the second is in connection with us as "children" being partakers of the inheritance 1:5. He has made known to us His will, that is, to gather us together in one. This latter state is yet to occur.

The place Christ entered is far better

We read in Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork (KJV), but the revelation of Ephesians makes us look into the heavenlies where Christ Himself entered.

The principal message in the first three chapters is the revelation of what God has accomplished in His Son, to the praise of the glory of His grace. 1:6, 1:12, 1:14.

It also shows how He makes believers one with him in His Son; sharers of His glory 1:11, and 1:18

The key to the first half of the letter is 2:10.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

Workmanship = poiema (ποἱημα) from which the work poem is derived. It is a beautiful thing. This word is used by Paul in connection with the physical creation (Rom 1:20). It shows the two great masterpieces of God – creation and saved believers. Ηe called creation into being out of nothing, but a far greater work was performed: He saved us from eternal damnation by His own precious blood - redemption. This latter workmanship is much superior to the first (See also Hebrews).

Before Paul gives the key to our station before Christ, we are reminded that it is by grace we have been saved:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 (NKJV)

Exegesis of 2:10

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

For

We understand that this text is preceded by a beautiful preamble, and is therefore connected to the sentences that go before. The preamble shows that redemption is solely the work of Christ – the entire Old Testament testifies to this fact. That is, we are saved by grace through faith. It is not a work we perform: we are the observer, the one who believes what the One has done. There is no effort on our part, but it was a gift from God himself (2:8,9).

we are

This pertains to us. It is clearly the present tense, and is where all believers stand right now. This phrase demonstrates the current position of all of us.

His workmanship

We are His workmanship. Note the ownership. It cannot be of ourselves – least we should boast (2:9): indeed is impossible to be of us, because we are incapable of placing ourselves in this position – we of the first man corruptible, that is corrupt and clothed in filthy rags. But, in Christ, in which all-in-all exists, we are made new. This newness is God’s workmanship. It implies the finished product. We are His and His alone. Nothing can snatch us from His hand. Furthermore, it gives us a responsibly – our servanthood is not to ourselves, but to the One who died for us.

If you look in the verses forming chapter 2 you can see why this was necessary:

(5)                We were once dead in our trespasses (2:1): When we ponder the cross it is to ponder the price needed to make as alive again in Christ. Our separation from God was our own doing - it was not God’s. The first man sinned – Adam from which our earthly position is established at conception. We were separated and aliens to God, and afar of (13). Indeed we were called strangers and foreigners (18). But through His workmanship He created the peace that now exists between a believer and God (15), and made us no longer strangers (19).

(6)                Christ rose from the dead and we have testimony that this occurred: the tomb was empty (he is not here!) plus many saw him (see 1 John etc). Our sins were nailed to cross with Christ, and in His resurrection, so are we. When we ponder the empty tomb, it is to ponder our tomb which is empty – we have, as in the active sense, been raised with Christ. Indeed, our position is now "in heavenly paces in Christ Jesus". This no higher position than this: all due to the work of Christ on the cross.

Created

This is to fabricate or build, but has the inherited flavour of an owner-builder – the one who creates for His own good purpose. Note also the past tense (aorist). We have been raised from being dead in sins and put into Christ: positionally we are with Him in heavenly places. We will be sitting with Him in a time to come. It is the operation of God putting us in this place.

Our new creation is a heavenly being and our citizenship is heavenly; therefore our earthy walk is a sojourn – in a strange place.

Our sitting is in Christ so that it is Christ that God sees. This verse tells of the operation that performed this action making us God’s workmanship. Noting that the chapter goes on to show that it is neither Jew nor Gentile, but one with Christ.

in Christ Jesus

The blessed name above every name. The revelation of the letter to the Ephesians shows that even before the foundation of this world, to the praise of His glory, we were in His thoughts us to our redemption.

In Colossians we see the headship of Christ revealed.

1.       He is the Head over all things, and,

2.       He is the Head of the body, the Church, the husband, the family, the individual.

Although we were in utter confusion and enemies of God He has reconciled us unto Himself. God sees us through the work of Christ Jesus.

Chapter two therefore shows how far God has accomplished the work in us, which is spoken about in chapter 1:

[H]aving made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, Ephesians 1:9 (NKJV)

for good works

We are not a new workmanship for our good pleasure but to God’s. His good pleasure is the fulfilment of good works. Note that good works flow from us due to God: it is His workmanship.

Our work is excluded entirely. We are the workmanship of His hand, and we perform the good work of His good pleasure.

These takes effort. Paul reminds the Corinthians of this in 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8 (NKJV)

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. ….And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

Here are the divisions of the priests and the Levites for all the service of the house of God; and every willing craftsman will be with you for all manner of workmanship, for every kind of service; also the leaders and all the people will be completely at your command."

1 Chronicles 28:21 (NKJV)

This is a reminder of what the Church should be like – each working in the manner which he or she has been skilled [talented], for the purpose of the house of God. The foundation, mind you, is not man’s ideas or philosophies, but Christ himself. In some ways this verse is fulfilling the law:

The Lord your God will make you abound in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your land for good. For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers, 10if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 30:9 - 10 (NKJV)

We therefore partake of His work, created by God. This means the work of man is excluded, as it can only defile. Further, it is not the work of the law, as it cannot justify.

which God prepared beforehand

The beautiful thing about this passage is that it shows the depth of the thoughts of our Heavenly Father, even before the foundation of the world was laid. It was no idle thought, or some stop-gap measure that sent God’s own Son to his death on the cross. It is plain that the entire action of God was pre-planned.

that we should walk in them

We do not have an aimless path to follow. The works we need to do have been laid out; now we need to do them. This is our command – to walk in them.

Firstly we need to recognize we have everything we need to walk according to God’s plan. Colossians 2:10 states "you are complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power".

Note two things: (1) the word "complete" and (2) the object in whom we have this completeness. Complete means there is nothing else to add. We have it all. Unlike the Old Testament saints who could only look forward to this day, when the Church would exist, we exist now – as Paul explains in chapter 5 of Ephesians. The object in whom we have this completeness is Christ and it is in Him we also have complete confidence. He is the head of all things – hence our obeisance is to Him: what a source of strength, and wisdom and knowledge, and understanding we have – a book that flows without end, a spring and source without magnitude!

Walk in what?

Chapter 5 of Ephesians puts it another way: "Be imitators of God" and then Paul goes on to explain what this means – things one does not do, or even think (12) and things we aught to do, if we are to be imitators.

This epistle shows that we are servants, but more than this. It speaks of us as being adopted as children – having predestined us to adoption by Jesus Christ. The Spirit of adoption is received, so we not cry Abba Father.

Conclusion

Hence we see that the consequence of Christ dying for us [that is saints] is a new creation, from which derives two great blessings:

1.       we are in the body of Christ and hence the processors of the glory of it,

2.       we are the dwelling of Christ here on earth.

That is, it is a matter of spiritual blessings for those who are quickened (made alive) and raised up together with Christ, according to the exceeding riches of that grace which has set the sinner in the same glory as the Son of God.

In heavenly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear:
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here:
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid,
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?

 

[1]Give the fullness of.’ It is not to fulfil a command in the way of obedience, nor to complete another thing by adding to it; but to fill up some system sketched out, or that which is expressed in the thing fulfilled, as a whole. Thus the doctrine of the Church completed the word of God, made full what was expressed by it. Christ does not here fulfil what is said, nor add to what still remained and was perfect itself; but came to make good the whole scope of law and prophets. The passage has nothing to do with obeying the law. Nor is it here accomplishing a particular prophecy. He comes as the revealed completeness of God’s mind, whatever the law and the prophets had pointed out. Verse 18 forbids the sense of obedience as not to be maintained, though v19 proves that he was to be condemned who, being under law, broke the commandments spoken of. But this is a consequence; Christ speaks of their authority. All was to be fulfilled in some way or another, not set aside. See also Matthew 5:17 (JND)

 

NKJV = The Holy Bible, New King James Version Original work copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
NIV = The Holy Bible, New International Version Original work copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
KJV = The Holy Bible, King James Version. This book is not copy protected.

 

David L Simon
Edited and revised 2 August 2011
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(March 2005 GB)