Online Text Sermon - God's Workmanship, Ephesians ch.2 v.10
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||God's Workmanship|
|Text||Ephesians ch.2 v.10 |
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"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works"
The Apostle Paul here is speaking about a work of God's creation. And we know that creation is different from simply making something. The difference between making and creating is this - when you make something you have to have some materials with which to make it. We can't make anything without some materials in our hand. We can't make a chair without wood or metal. We can't make a table without some materials. But now, God makes things out of nothing. He brings them into being when they did not exist before. We call it 'creation out of nothing'. 'Creatio ex nihilo', as the old writers used to put it. Creation out of nothing. Now that is something that we cannot do. But it is something that God can do in virtue of His power and His control over everything. He brings into being things that did not even exist before. Now God has two great creations. Let me call them the first creation and the second creation.
The first creation is what we read about right at the very beginning of our Bible in Genesis Chapter 1. I shall call it the material creation. God said let there be light and there was light. Let there be sun, moon and stars and earth, and all the fullness of heaven and earth. We refer then to that as material creation. God out of nothing by the mere word of His power and in the space of six days brought all things into existence. That is not the creation referred to here to in my text, however. Here the apostle Paul is speaking about a second creation. It is not the material creation referred to in Genesis Chapter 1. It is a still more important creation - a spiritual creation. And you may say to me, and what then is this creation? And I say to you, it is the bringing into being of the Christian church. The Christian church, that is what is referred to here in my text. Let me give it to you again at verse 10. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus...." (Ephesians 2, 10)
It is a creation in Christ Jesus. Now these two creations of course are intimately related one to another. I am going to use an illustration. I hope it helps you to see the connection between the two. Supposing now we are building a great house or a temple or a church. Before it is ready, you have to have metal poles erected all round. And we refer to these metal poles as the scaffolding. They are not intended to be part of a building but they are there at the preparatory building stage. You cannot build a cathedral or anything of that kind without their being scaffolding. Now the material creation in a way of speaking is like God's scaffolding. It was not intended, at least not in that form, to remain. It is intended to be taken down in the form in which it was originally made. The scaffolding is put up in order that they should be a still greater building than itself. The material world that God made in the very beginning of history was for the preparation for the far more important creation and far more permanent world and that world is referred to as the Church of Jesus Christ. And Christians, who are in Christ, are that building. They are that temple. They are that house that God has been secretly, silently, quietly building while the scaffolding has been in place.
Now the fact of the truth is that when God's temple is complete and the church is fully made up by the gathering together of His people out of the world, that at the end of history the scaffolding will be taken down. Indeed in this case it will not be discarded and thrown away as scaffolding usually is but God will reshape it and re-mould it so that the sun and the moon and the stars and everything round about us will be reshaped into the new heavens and a new earth. But now my meaning is this, the most important thing that God has been doing all through history is not what men see and what they write about in their history book. It's not the wars and the rumours of wars. That is not the important thing about history. The Bible shows us that God has a secret plan and a secret purpose in history and it consists of His building silently from generation to generation a new creation. Something which cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is a spiritual creation. It is the creation of a temple which will not become visible in all it's fullness until the end of time when this present universe is folded up and refashioned into new heavens and new earth. And then this great spiritual creation will appear to the eyes of the wondering world. And it will be the Church of Jesus Christ in all its completion and in all it's magnificence.
You may read about this temple in various places in the stage in which it is fully complete. I'm just going to point out to you a verse or two in this very chapter. Later down the chapter at verse 20 where Paul speaks about it. He says, Christians are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. We "are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Ephesians 2, 20-22). Now that is this creation which he is referring to in my text at verse 10. It is the sum total of all converted people. He refers to it elsewhere under different illustrations.
It is the body of Christ. He is the head, we are the members - chapter 4 of this very epistle. But He has a still more wonderful illustration for it. He calls this temple by the name of the bride of Christ. And this you know he does in more places than one and especially and notably at the end of chapter 5 of this very epistle. The Church of Jesus Christ is the bride. You know the Bible has two Adams. It refers to the Adam created in the beginning of the Bible chapter 2 of Genesis and whom we meet again in Chapter 3 and so on. But you remember that Adam had no wife. And God in His goodness provided a wife for Adam. And out of his body, from one of his ribs, God formed the woman and brought her to him. And this was now bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. And she was the mother of all living.
Now the second Adam, Jesus Christ, also has a bride. God has given to Him one who is bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh. That is the Church - the sum total of all believers, from the beginning of history to the end of history. So the history of the world, when you look at it by faith and through the eyes of the Bible is not simply as people say, it's not simply his story, that is to say the story of man. That's how we were sometimes told about history when we were boys and girls in school. History is His story and man's story, the story of man. That's true up to a point but it's far more than that. It is above all, His story with a capital "H". It is God's story. It is a story of the way in which all through the passing of the time God is bringing men and women to Himself in Christ, according to a plan and a purpose. And He is fitting them into the church like living stones in a temple. So that when the end of the Bible comes, we meet this bride and we are shown a picture of her descending out of Heaven from God. It is the church like a beautiful woman prepared with all the wonder of her dress and beautiful appearance and she is fully ready to be presented to her husband. It is the church who is to be finally married to Christ.
For John, in illustration again at the end of the Revelation,the church is made, as you know, this great temple, the city of God. Beautified with stones and glorious colors and gold and nothing that defiled whatever entered in. Well that is what is referred to in my text at verse 10. For we are God's workmanship, His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God had before ordained that we should walk in them. Well, that then is the meaning of my text.
And I want to point out to you, my friends, how different is this view of the church from most people's view of the church. How different is Paul's attitude to all the privileges of being in God's church. From the attitude of the people of the world towards God's church. We all know that to talk about the church among worldly people is to raise a laugh and a smile of contempt. The world refers to the church as something which is so unimportant. It is like boredom. Talk to worldly people about the church and you can see them stifling their yawn. They have a phrase don't they in the world. They talk about a church mouse. 'As poor as a church mouse.' We all know that mice are pretty poor anyway. But the church mouse is worst of all. Can't even find food in the building. There is no food there. A church mouse. A church to them, to the world, is the most awful thing imaginable. It's another word for boredom and death and drudgery and monotony and everything which is awful and the world hates the very word. But you see that's because they don't see that the church is right at the very centre of all that God is doing in history. That's why the world is kept in being.
Why doesn't God stop the world right now,and judge the sins of the world? Well, the answer is because He is still building His church. He is still gathering out of the world those who are the stones that form His church. He is building, building, building the church. The walls are going up. The scaffolding of this universe is only going to be in place until the church is ready. Until she reaches her perfection. And until the coping stone is put on the top. Now when the great dome, if you like, is ready and all the spires are in their place and every building and every window and every door is complete. Of course the picture of this was the tabernacle in the Old Testament and then still more the great temple of Solomon's day; it is a picture and the type and shadow of the church of Jesus Christ, the second creation, the spiritual creation, the new creation and God calls His own people therefore new creatures in Christ.
We are His workmanship. We are His 'poems,'-literally the Greek word. And the poem is something which is made, something which has been made. The Greek word 'poieo' is 'I make'. Poems, things which are made. And that's what we are. We are made by God, created by Him. We once were not a people. We once were in the world. We once were of the world but God has done something creative within us. He has made us what we were not by nature. He has made us spiritual. He has made us His own children. He has made us holy. He has given us faith. And you notice even faith is said here to be the gift of God. Verse 8. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2, 8-9) And over and over again in this section and other sections the Apostle in this epistle, the Apostle Paul makes it clear we are not saved by works that we do, we are saved by grace through faith alone and faith is the gift of God and the work of God. So we are altogether from start to finish as Christians. We are His created work. His wonderful new spiritual creation.
Well, I wonder my friends if we appreciate our privilege this morning. Or if we are cast down in our minds. I wonder if we are depressed and if we feel dispirited. We feel, oh, what's the point of living? What's the point of going on? What's the point of anything? It seems a senseless world, a senseless life. We are born and then you go to school, and then you finish with school, you go to work, you get married perhaps and maybe have a few children and then you retire. And you say what is the sense of life? The whole lot of it seems a drudge and a boredom. What is the point of going on? Why do I live at all? Here I am, you might say, getting older and older. And there seems no sense in anything. Ah, but you see, here is what the Apostle is saying. The meaning of life is to be seen in the purpose of God. And the purpose of God affects the lives of everyone who is a Christian.
My friends, let us lift up our eyes to our wondrous destiny above. Look at the horizons that Paul is talking about. We are going to be God's temple forever in heaven. We are going to belong to Bride of Christ. We are going to be of His flesh and His bone. We are to be married to the eternal glorious Son of God. There is a marriage day coming and the attitude therefore which is to be engendered in us and appropriate for our situation is one of expectation. We are not to look at the things that are seen. We are not to worry about the grey skies and the rainy days. These things are passing away very quickly. We are to remember our future and our inheritance. Look at the way He puts it over and over again. In whom we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, we who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted (Ephesians 1, 11-13) He is referring to the Jews first of all. The Jews were the first ones to trust in Christ and then we Gentiles were gathered in. You see the building is going on and on and upwards until it comes to its great climatic finish at the end of history when Jesus Christ returns and all God's purposes are complete.
So I say, Christian friends, be of good cheer. The world is going on from day to day not by some accident. It is going on for one reason, and for one reason only and that is that God Almighty has a plan and His plan is to gather others out of this fallen sinful humanity as He has gathered you. And to make them partakers of the blessings of Christ and to make them a new creation as He has made you. And to unite them and you and all of the old testament and of the new testament into one glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing but that we should be complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power. Look at the way which he refers to the church at the end of the last chapter. He has put all things under Christ's feet and gave him to be head over all things to the church which is His body the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. And He is saying this in order to cheer our hearts and gladden our spirits and make us to realize that our labour in this world is not in vain. Here we are, getting older, tired, wearied with the state of the world. When you look at the world round about you, you say to yourself where on earth are we going? We seemed to be getting worse and more wicked from day to day.
And then you remind yourself, ah, but God's plan is not being thwarted. Nothing is going wrong with God's purpose. Nothing is interrupting His marvellous intention. Day by day, sinners are being added to the church all over the world. And day by day the new creation, the temple and the building is rising higher and higher. You don't see it with the naked eye. No man sees it. Perhaps not even the angels see it in all its wonder and glory. But God sees it. He sees it from the beginning of time to the end of time. His work is steadily going forward irresistibly. And the stones are being fitted into their place. So it is therefore fitting that you and I, if we are believers, and we must become believers, that we should trust in the purpose of God and be reassured that God is carrying out all His promises, working out all His will and bringing all His children to their great destiny in Christ.
Now then, there are three brief things that we need to say in connection with the erection of this church and this building which He calls the new creation.
The first thing is that the creation of God referred to here is first of all chosen by God the Father. And the second thing to notice is it is purchased by God the Son. And thirdly we must notice and very briefly, it is being gathered together and it is being polished and prepared and finally fitted and erected by God the Holy Spirit. This point is made very clearly in the chapter I read to you, Chapter 1 of Ephesians and the first 10 verses of Chapter 2. In other words, the Church is the subject of God's continual attention. It was the subject of God the Father's attention. It was the subject of God the Son's concern. It's the subject of God the Holy Spirit's activity. The Father, the Son and the Spirit. This great Trinitarian God, this great and glorious God. All the three persons of the Godhead have been active from eternity past all through history to the present time and will be to the eternity to come, active in the interests of the church. The church is in the foreground of God's plan. Everything else is in the background. And if you and I have faith, that's the way we look at life. We see that nothing matters like the Gospel. Nothing matters so much as the church. Nothing matters like bringing sinners to Christ. Everything else is secondary. And it's in the background. But the church and the Gospel and Christ and the things of the spirit of God, they are right in that centre of everything that God is doing. Nothing in the universe matters to God so much as His church because it is His building. It is His new creation. The old creation was preparatory to it. Everything else in life is secondary to it. What matters to God is His new creation.
Well, let me say a little about those three points. And the first one you notice is this, we are chosen by God the Father. Let me put it to you in my illustration. Supposing now we have a congregation that wants to build a church building. Now, that's a very welcome thought to us all, isn't it? Wouldn't it be nice if we could walk into a brand new church building? Maybe the day will come when that will happen. But now let me use that simply as an illustration on this occasion. What do you do when you have planned to have a building? Well, you must first of all go to an architect. No point if you are going to build a church building or any other sort of building in ordering a quantity of cement and then a few hundreds bricks and a few windows, doors and expect the building to appear out of nothing. You can't do it that way. If you are building anything, you must first of all go to an architect, an expert at drawing plans. It all has to be worked out. Where the doors and windows are to be. The height of the walls and the roof. Everything has to be marked out in meticulous exact and precise details. Now when the plans are ready and approved, then you call for your cement and bricks and you have your bricklayers and builders and tradesman to do the work and so on. For that's exactly how it was with the new creation. God the Father is the architect. In eternity past before Genesis Chapter 1 even began, before there was anything but God Himself. God the Father made His plan and the plan was for the church. And the plan really was in three stages. God has been building His church in three stages.
Let me explain what I mean. The first part of the plan was to call Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees and say to him, 'in you Abraham all the nations of the world will one day be blessed and in your seed'. And then God proceeded after that to call the Jews to Himself. You remember how He did this. They were captives in Egypt. They were slaves and they were forced to make brick and so on. And God called them out of Egypt in the Exodus. He made them His church and His people and He led them through to the promised land. And centuries after centuries, He looked after them. They were His chosen people. The Jews were His peculiar people. But then something else happened. The second stage in the building was reached when Christ came along into the world. He died and rose again and ascended on high. And ten days later he called out the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. And what happened then? A new stage and a new development in the building of the church. The Gentiles were called in. It was a very critical time. The Jews whenever they heard the Gospel, they immediately divided. Some believed it, some did not. And the apostate Jews turned away from it. They turned away from the truth and from that day to this, as a nation, they have been very largely hardened in unbelief. That's something sadly which always tends to happen again and again. When people under the Gospel for too long, they began to despise it and when the truth is made clear to them, they turn their backs upon it and although they had the privileges of the truth. And although they have known the Gospel, Yet large numbers of people become hard and careless and worldly. And they simply drift off into apostasy. Well that's what happened to the Jews. It happened to others as well as, it is a repeating story. It happened to the Jews in the days of Pentecost and immediately after that.
And what happened? Well, the Gentiles who heard the Word of God, they believed it. And so the second stage is reached in the building of God's great church according to His eternal plan. It was not an accident. It happened by plan, by arrangement and according to His purpose in Heaven. According to the architect's blueprint in glory. Now that's the stage we are at the moment. If you want to know where are we in history and in God's plan, I would say, we are into the second phase of the building program. The Gentiles are being called all over the world. In China, millions are now believers. And in Russia, the same. And in India, and all over the world. There are those who love Jesus Christ and they are worshipping Him in their different languages today. If you and I had ears to hear it, we would hear them singing in Hindi, and Gujurati, and all these far away languages of the East as well as in the English language, in the Gaelic language, and Welsh and right across the nations of the world. This is the second stage of the building of God the Father.
But there is a third stage still to come. That is when God will bring home our elder brother. When the Jews who have been so long hardened will come home when the spirit of God will be called upon them and their eyes will be opened and they will see Christ for what He is. And then in their synagogues, reading the Old Testament Scriptures, they will recognize Christ is Jesus of Nazareth, and great numbers of them will come to faith in Him and they shall mourn for Him as one mourning for an only son. And they will weep out their eyes that their forefathers for two thousand years or more have been blind to the identity of the true Messiah. And when that happens, a third building stage would have been reached in the purposes of God. But when God has called out of this world all those who are His, according to His eternal purpose, then the trumpet will sound and the work of building will be over and the building complete and the church finished. And then the fullness of God's purposes will be brought to light.
But now, there is a second thing that has to be done in the making of a building or a church and in a word or two I shall tell you what it is. When you have got your plans drawn up, you must then have your building materials. Your stones must be brought, and they must be purchased. They have to be bought. You have to pay for them. And they have to be brought at great expense. If you are making a huge building like St. Paul's Cathedral, you have to pay millions and millions of pounds obviously to erect such a magnificent structure. Now Jesus Christ the Son of God has paid the price. This is what is referred to in an earlier section in chapter 1 verse 7. "In Whom we have redemption through His blood the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace." (Ephesians 1, 7) This is what Jesus Christ has done. He has paid by His death and blood, the price for all the stones who are to be entered into the building of God. And He paid for that by His suffering and agonies and death and that's why we have the thing called the Lord's Supper. It's to remind us of the church owes everything to Christ her Lord. We owe to Him our very existence. If He had not paid the price, there would be no church. If He had not shed His blood, there would be no forgiveness, no redemption, no hope for any man. It is Christ Who has done all the great work of purchasing. He has bought us by His blood.
And if time allowed, I would say, that is why we teach what we called Limited Atonement. That His blood was shed only for those who become Christians, not for the rest. It is a Limited Atonement. An atonement for those who are for the building. An atonement made for those who are to come into the true church. A shedding of blood and a paying of a price to God's justice in order that those who are predestinated unto glory may be allowed the privilege of being grafted into the church as living stones in the temple and house of God. Now that is a great price. And we must remind ourselves day and daily that we owe everything to Jesus Christ. My beloved friends, we owe Him, the very fact that we exist and we owe Him still more the very fact that we are born again. Or that we have grace or favour or anything, it was the Father's plan. Yes, and it was the Son's gracious death in love for us that gave us our standing as the people of God.
But there is a third thing which has to happen before the building is complete. And that is when you have bought your stones there are often very rough, aren't they? Rough hewn stones they are, great boulders. Now what happens then? You have your experts with their chisels and their hammers and they have to chisel down the stones to the right dimensions and they have to polish them and square them off. And fit them expertly into their places and cement them. And that is the work of the beloved and gracious Holy Spirit. And that's what He does. The Father plans, the Son purchases and the Holy Spirit does the work of preparing the stones in this life. And you and I are the rough hewn stones which He uses for the temple. And you know how rough hewn we are. We are wicked, rugged, wretched sinners as we come into His kingdom. We are very unsuitable to be members of the holy church of God. And the Holy Spirit therefore first of all has to make us holy. How does He do that? He does it by the work of the new birth. The new birth is that which happens in our lives and through the new birth we become holy men and women. We can't help it. It's His work. We are quickened together with Him as He says here who once were dead in trespasses and sins. He has quickened us together with Christ. By grace we are saved and we are fitted together in the temple of God. We belong together. We are together.
Now we talk about many churches, don't we? We say there is Church of Scotland, Free Church of Scotland, the Free Presbyterian, the Baptist Church, the Brethren, and so we can tick them off on our fingers all these churches. But my friend, there is only one church that matters and that is the true church. And the true church consists of the whole number of those who are in Christ and are born again and are washed by His blood and are united to God according to the purpose. And they belong in some cases to the Church of Scotland, and some cases to the Free Church and some certain cases to the Free Presbyterian and in some cases to the Baptist church and so on. But what matters to you and me is not which denomination we are in so much as to be in Christ and to have Christ and to be built upon Christ and the truth of Christ. And to be born again of His Spirit and to be indwelt by His Spirit and to have the proper view of God which His Word teaches that all is of grace through faith and all is to the glory of His praise. And all is for God's sake. And all is for His name's sake. And the praise of His grace that in the ages to come He might show us what is the exceeding riches of His grace. According to purpose and according to plan and according to His wonderful love towards His own elect people who are here in this world.
I must close and I do so with three very brief applications from this passage of His word. My dear friends, this is God's building. And the first application is let any one beware of damaging His church. If anyone damages His church, he will pay the price for it. False teaching, wrong practice, wrong ordinances, inventions, novelties, everything which spoil the church, men must give an account for it. We must keep to the law and to the testimony. If we don't do so, there is no life in it and we shall pay the price for damaging the church of God. Second application is this, oh my friends, how we should love God! How we should love the Father, for His goodness to us. What? You and I are nothing by birth. We are born sinners and wretched and lost and dead. And the great God has made us His children. We should love God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And we should live in the light of all this purpose of God. And look forward with triumph in expectation and confirmation of it when Jesus our Lord comes back in the end of History to finish His work with a shout of triumph. And there is one final thing, let us love one another. We are to spend eternity together and with all God's people. Let us be men and women that have love and kindness to one another and patience with one another. Let us not offend one another but encourage one another as fellow heirs of the grace of God.
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