Ephesians 2:8–10, especially verse 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Writing in the magazine Challenge, Tibor Scitovsky, professor emeritus of economics at Stanford University, suggests that high school and youth gang shootings may be caused, in part, by boredom. “What makes those teenagers become so violent in the first place?” he asks. “I suspect that their motivation could well be boredom.” He thinks the affluence of our society has fostered too much leisure, and that the fragmentation of the home has left children without proper oversight. The ensuing boredom induces much mischief. God doesn’t want His people to be bored.
• “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT).
• “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (NIV).
In Ephesians 2:1–9, Paul insists we are not saved by doing good works. Now, in verse 10, he tells us how important good works are in their proper place. We set about doing good works, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved. We aren’t saved by good works, but for good works. “Works” is not the condition of our salvation, but the consequence of it.
There are three grammatical phrases in this verse, separated by two commas:
- For we are His workmanship. The Greek word for “workmanship” is ποίημα (poy´-ay-mah), from which we get our English word “poem.” It means something that is composed or constructed, something that is made. It occurs one other time in the New Testament, in Romans 1:20, referring to God’s making of the universe. God is an artisan with two works of which He is unusually proud—His universe and His people. We are thereby “under construction.” He is perfecting that which concerns us (Ps. 138:8). He who has begun a good work in us will carry it on to completion (Phil. 1:6).
- Created in Christ Jesus for good works. The importance God attaches to good works is seen in the following verses:
• Matthew 5:16
• Acts 9:36
• 1 Timothy 6:18
• Titus 2:6, 14 and 3:8, 14
• Hebrews 10:24
• 1 Peter 2:11
We get the idea from these verses that by “good works” the Bible means charitable deeds and acts of kindness, not merely sermons, sunday School lessons, and songs. Random acts of kindness make Christianity tangible to the unsaved world. William Penn wrote: “I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore there be any kindness I can show or any good thing I can do to any fellow-being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
- Which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. God prepared these good deeds in advance for us to do. Some commentators believe Paul is speaking here in a general way, telling us that God wants us to walk through life doing good works. But as it is translated in several versions, it sounds more specific than that. Perhaps God, in His eternal omniscience and sovereignty, has planned out the specific work in advance He desires for us to do. That shouldn’t be too surprising. Sometimes we make out lists of assignments for our children, as do teachers for their students.
• Jeremiah’s work was assigned before his birth (Jer. 1:1–2).
• Paul was set apart from his mother’s womb to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Gal. 1:15).
• Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed (Ps. 139:16 TLB).
Christians should never be bored, for God has specific work for each of us to do. We aren’t saved by doing work, but we do works because we’re saved. Perhaps you’re saying, “I don’t have a clue as to what God wants me to do. How do I find out?” Remember that “good works” are often tantamount to acts of kindness done in the name of Christ. Just look around for someone you can help or encourage, for an opportunity to do something kind for someone with no thought of a favor in return. Be a blessing to someone today, and brighten the corner where you are.