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THE WORKMANSHIP OF GRACE
Intro: I think you would agree with me when I say that grace is a mystery. As we have studied these first two chapters of Ephesians, the mystery of grace has only deepened for me. As I reflect about what we have learned about grace from this book thus far, I stand amazed at Gods great work of grace for His people.
Consider a few reminders of what we have discovered about Gods grace.
· Grace chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world – Eph. 1:4
· Grace has given us all spiritual blessings through Jesus – Eph. 1:3
· Grace has determined that we will be like Jesus, and with Jesus, one day – Eph. 1:5; 11-12
· Grace has made us accepted in Jesus – Eph. 1:6
· Grace proved the blood of Christ that washed us from our sins – Eph. 1:7
· Grace reached out to us when we were dead in our sins and headed to Hell – Eph. 2:1-4
· Grace loved us – Eph. 2:4
· Grace gave us life – Eph. 2:5
· Grace has secured our future – Eph. 2:6-7
· Grace has secured our salvation – Eph. 2:8-9
Everything we possess as believers is ours through and by the grace of God. We earned nothing we have received. We deserved nothing we have received. We purchased nothing we have received. Everything we have in Jesus Christ has been given to us by the free grace of Almighty God.
God has given us the gifts of His grace without asking for a single thing in return. He doesnt expect us repay Him for grace. While God does not expect any return payments from us; He does expect a return on His investment. The work of grace in us results in some very real changes in our lives. These changes allow us to live for God. Our living for Him, according to His will brings glory to His name, and that is all He wants from us!
When grace comes to a lost, dead sinner, that sinner is born again as a new creature in Jesus, 2 Cor. 5:17. The old appetites and ways of living are laid aside for a brand new life in Jesus. What God works in us by His grace will work its way out in our lives. Not only are we saved by His grace; we are changed by that same grace. As the grace of God works itself out in our lives, it manifests itself in us through our works.
Verses 8-9 made it very clear that works have no part in our salvation. We are not saved by what we do or by what we produce. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone! However, the proof that Gods grace has worked in us to save us is our works after we are saved. John Calvin said, We are saved by faith alone, but he faith that saves is never alone.
In other words, works do not save us, but we are saved to work. James 2:18 says it this way, Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. James is reminding us that while faith brings us into Gods salvation, Acts 16:31, our works prove the reality of our profession of faith.
The verse before us today is about the work of grace in our lives. This verse tells us what the Lord does in us when He saves us, and how He works through us to accomplish His will in the world. This verse is a challenge to all of Gods people to be the examples of grace He saved us to be. Lets notice the thoughts mentioned in this verse as I try to preach about The Workmanship Of Grace.
I. A WORD ABOUT WORKMANSHIP
· Paul begins this verse by saying, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus The words in the Bible are very important I believe that God inspired every word in the Bible, 2 Tim. 3:16. I believe that when we study a passage, we need to take the time to look at the words in that passage. The words in the first part of this verse are vital to understanding its importance and meaning. Lets take a few minutes to examine these words together.
· The word workmanship means, that which is made, a work, a work of art. It comes from the word that gives us the word poem. It refers to a piece of literary workmanship. It came to refer to an authors magnum opus, or his greatest literary achievement. In other words, it refers to his masterpiece.
Paul is saying that the redeemed saints of God are His masterpieces. The saints are his greatest achievement. The saints are the greatest work of the Master Potter. The saints are the greatest letter ever written by the hand of the Master Author. The redeemed saints of God are the result of Gods loving industry. We are saved because He took the shapeless, dead clay of our lives in His loving, powerful hands and He molded us into something new for His glory. With loving care and infinite skill, God shaped us by His grace and wrote His love into our lives. (Ill. 2 Cor. 5:5, Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. The word wrought in that verse means, to fashion. We are His Workmanship!) When you stop to think about the raw materials God has to work with when He saves sinners and changes live, it all becomes far more incredible.
The redeemed are Gods letters of love to a lost world. Paul says it this way, Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, 2 Cor. 3:2-3.
If you are saved, your life is Gods love letter to a lost, dead world. He has written His love in you and on you. And through you, He tells this world that He loves sinners; that His Son died to redeem the lost; that there is life-changing power in the grace of God; that the Gospel is real, and that Jesus Christ makes a difference in every life He redeems through the power of His blood. You are Gods billboard upon which He writes His love for the lost.
No artist paints a painting to hide it in a closet. No sculptor fashions a sculpture just to hide it away in an unseen place. No writer pens a literary work to keep it away from the eyes of others. Every artist wants his paintings to be seen by many. Ever sculptor wants his work to be viewed by others. Every writer wants his words to be read by other people.
God did not save us to sequester us within the walls of the church. God saved us to display us to the world. He saved us so that through us He might show others what He can do for them. If you are saved, you are Gods testimony to the world that He saves sinners. Let the world see what God has done in you, with you and for you!
Ill. R. Kent Hughes gives the following illustration, Michelangelo was once asked what he was doing as he chipped away at a shapeless rock. He replied, Im liberating an angel from this stone. Thats 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.[i]
· The word created means, to form or to shape. It refers to making something out of nothing. It speaks of a new thing. Thats what the child of God is! One moment he is dead in trespasses and sins and the next he is alive in Jesus. The believer instantly becomes a child of God and is forever changed by the power of God.
When a sinner is saved, it is the greatest of all miracles, and it is the greatest demonstration of Gods creative power. When God saves a sinner, a new person is formed, 2 Cor. 5:17. Something that has never before existed comes into being at the instant of salvation.
The redeemed are trophies of Gods saving grace. The Bible says, The heaven declare the glory of God; and the firmament His handiwork, Psalm 19:1. The vast expanse of the heavens above, the sun, the moon and the stars, all stand as diligent testimonies to Gods power in creation. When you see the heavenly bodies above you, they declare, There is a God! Bow to Him, honor Him, worship Him!
As surely as the stars, planets, sun and moon declare the existence and power of God, nothing declares His glory, His power and His existence any more than a life that has been redeemed by grace! Every child of God, who walks, talks, acts, thinks, and lives differently because of grace, is a bold, powerful witness to the power of our great God.
· Ill. Napoleon, the French military genius, was aboard ship in the Mediterranean one clear, starry night. He was on deck and was walking past a small group of officers who were mocking the idea of a Supreme Being. God of creation, what a joke!
He stopped, stared at them, and then was sweeping his hands across the stars of the sky and said, Gentlemen, you must get rid of those first![ii]
And, to discredit the God of salvation and His power to change lives, you must rid the world of those He has changed you must empty the church pews, and the golden streets of Heaven. You must silence every testimony of grace. You must silence every shout from a redeemed child of God. To rid the world of God, you must first rid the world of those transformed by God!
· All around this room are living, breathing testimonies to the live-changing power of God. All around this room sit the examples of His workmanship. All around this room sits the tangible evidence that God makes a new thing when He saves a soul! God is a Master Craftsman. He took something worthless and transformed into something of infinite value. Thats about enough to make a Baptist shout!
· The words in Christ Jesus remind us where the ground upon which salvation rests. When God makes a new creature out of a dead sinner, He does it in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation for the whole world, Acts 4:12; John 14:6.
The only way a sinner can be saved is by believing the Gospel, and Jesus Christ is the axel around which the Gospel turns. Ill. 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Rom. 4:25.
If you are in Christ Jesus you are saved. If you are not, then you are lost! Ill. 1 John 5:12! The only way for you to be saved is to get in Christ Jesus. How? By believing the Gospel by faith, Rom. 10:9, 13. You must be born again, John 3:7, and the only way for that to happen is for you to come to Jesus by faith and trust Him and Him alone for your souls salvation.
· The word for carries our thoughts back to the preceding verses. In verse 8-9 Paul told us that Gods salvation is not the result of works. In other words, we did not save ourselves. We did not pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We did not turn over a new leaf. We did not just decide one day to change out lives.
Salvation occurred when God Almighty came to us in grace, drew us to Jesus and gave us the faith to believe in Him. We are new creatures, but we did not make ourselves! We are the work of His hands, and we owe Him all the glory! There is no room for us to brag about who we are or what we have in Him. We are what we are by the grace of God, 1 Cor. 15:10. In Rom. 3:27, Paul says, boasting is excluded. Why? for by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Eph. 2:8. Therefore, if we want to glory, let us glory in the grace of God, because we had nothing to do with our salvation! Here is how Paul said it, But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature, Gal. 6:14-15.
I. A Word About Workmanship
II. A WORD ABOUT WORKS
· Paul tells us that we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Works do not save us, but works are a sure product of our salvation. As surely as you are truly saved, good works will mark your life. The word good means, that which excels; is useful; of a good nature. The word works refers to employment; that with which one is occupied. In other words, it refers to how you spend your time.
· The child of God will evidence a life that is occupied with deeds that reflect well on the Lord Jesus Christ, Phil. 1:27. The good works of our new life in Christ Jesus stand in contrast to the old works of the flesh, Eph. 2:2-3; Gal. 5:19-21. The new life God places within us when He saves us always manifests itself in good works. When we are in truly Jesus Christ, our walk will be different, Ill. Eph. 2:2; 4:17.
· The new life He creates within us when we are saved will always work its way out through us in our works. Whatever is on the inside of man always works its way to the outside, Ill. Matt. 12:33-37; 15:17-20. When God saves a soul and changes a life, He moves into that life and takes up residence, John 14:17. When God dwells in any life, He will make His presence known. If He is in your heart, He will let His presence be known through the way you live your life, Gal. 5:22-23; Ill. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them, Matt. 7:16-20.
That is why Jesus said what He did in Matt. 7:21-23, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
There are many who claim to be saved. They prayed a prayer in an altar. They made a profession. They joined a church. They laid down a few sins. They did what they thought was necessary, but they missed the most important thing of all: they missed Jesus! Because they missed Him, their lives never changed, and they never produced those good works that are the evidence of genuine salvation!
Ill. Gods desire is that every one of His redeemed saints bears fruit to His glory. Col. 1:10, That ye may walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.
Those folk are like the man who built his house on the sand, Matt. 7:24-27. When the flood came, that house was destroyed. So it will be when the wrath of God falls on those who do not know Jesus Christ. If that life has never been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and saved by the grace of God, that person will not stand in the judgment, but they will be swept away into the fires of eternal damnation.
The message is simple: repent or perish! And, if you truly repent and believe on Jesus Christ, good works will mark your life. Not the works of the flash, but the works of a new man, who is walking in faith!
I. A Word About Workmanship
II. A Word About Works
III. A WORD ABOUT OUR WALK
· Referring to those good works Paul says, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. This statement makes a couple of truths abundantly clear.
· First, this statement makes it clear that God expects His people to walk in good works. The word walk means, to make ones way; to regulate ones life; to make full use of opportunities. The word is in a tense that suggests a once for all decision to walk in good works. In other words, it isnt some a person turns on an off. You dont walk for God for six months, then for yourself for ten years. It refers to a fixed way of life that is committed to living the way God intends for His people to live.
How does God expect His people to walk?
· In Love – John 13:35; Rom. 5:5; 1 Cor. 13
· In Obedience – John 14:15; 21
· In Faithfulness – 1 Cor. 4:2
· In Holiness – 1 Pet. 1:16
(Ill. Sanctification is a process. God saves you from a life of sin and He begins the process of transforming your life. He remakes you into the image of His Son, Gal. 4:19; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 4:24. We are not perfect the instant we get saved, but we are changed. That change should manifest itself in an ever-increasing holiness before God and before the world.)
(Ill. Once a little boy was acting up in his Sunday School class and his rowdy ways were really frustrating his teacher.
She said, Why do you act like that? Dont you know who made you?
He said, God did, but He aint through with me yet!
Thats the truth; we are all a work in progress. But, I have it on good authority that God will finish what He started in our lives. 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, Phil. 1:6.
· The phrase hath before ordained that we should walk in them reminds us that we were not saved by any accident. It was in Gods plan to save us by His grace so that we might live for Him. Before we ever came to Jesus by faith, God had already planned the path He would have us walk in life.
Ill. Jeremiah – Jer. 1:5, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Ill. John the Baptist – Luke 1:13-17. Before either of these men were born, God had already determined the path they would take through life. Even Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ into the hands of His enemies, was walking a path that had been selected fro him, While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled, John 17:12.
The same is true for us. The Lord has planned our path through this world. The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way, Psa. 37:23. We may make our plans and do set ourselves to do the things we want to do, but in the end, the Lords will for our lives will be the final outcome. Ill. Pro 16:9 says, A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.
· It is Gods will that His people clothe themselves in works that glorify Him. Those works have been prepared for us. Our duty is to surrender to His Lordship over our lives and allow Him to take us where He will. That is the message of the New Testament. Rom. 12:1-2 says, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Find the path God has laid out for your life and walk in it for His glory! The fact is, a legitimate faith will always manifest itself in good works. If works are missing, so is saving faith, James 1:17-26.
Conc: Martin Luther, who had made himself the apostle and champion of faith alone, wrote the following: Faith is a living, busy, active, powerful thing; it is impossible for it not to do us good continually. It never asks whether good works are to be done, but has done them before there is time to ask the question, and it is always doing them.[iii]
A faith that is real reveals itself through works that are righteous! When God, through His grace, saves a sinner from the deadness, the deception, the depravity and the doom of his sins, He does not save that person to live as they please.
· He brings them out of death so they can live a new life through Christ!
· He brings them out of deception so they can know the truth.
· He saves them out of depravity so they can walk in righteousness.
· He saves them from their doom so they can enjoy the blessings of His salvation.
· God does not save us so that we can live for ourselves; He saves us so we can live for Him!
· He saves us so that we can walk in newness of life.
· He saves us so that He can use us for His glory in this world!
· He saves us to put us to work for Him in bringing a lost world to Jesus Christ.
As we close, here a couple of questions you need to consider.
1. Have you been saved and changed by Gods grace? If not, you need to come to Jesus today. If you will come to Him, He will save your soul.
2. Is your life marked, not by perfection, but by a profound change and by works that glorify God? If it is, you should thank God for that is evidence of your conversion, if it is not, then you should come to Jesus because your lack of works is evidence of your lost condition.
3. Are you doing everything God has called you to do? If you are not, let me invite you to fully surrender to His will and allow Him to take the reigns of your life for His glory.
4. Are you grateful to Him for His work of grace in your life? If you are, come to Him today and thank Him for His life-changing work on your behalf.
Listen to His voice and obey His call today.
[i] Hughes, R. K. (1990). Ephesians : The mystery of the body of Christ. Preaching the Word (84). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.
[ii] Swindoll, C. R. (2000, c1998). The tale of the tardy oxcart and 1501 other stories (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Swindoll leadership library. Nashville: Word Publishers.
[iii] Green, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.