Grace and faith work together to empower us to move from what we believe about ourselves to what God believes about us. We’re already complete in Christ (Col.2:10), but not in our experience. We’ll look at how we make our true identity our experience as we continue unpacking the first two chapters of Ephesians to see what the good news that brings great joy means to us.
We’ve come to a very familiar passage to evangelical Christians. It’s probably so familiar that we have a tendency of tuning it out like an old nursery rhyme. Hopefully, we can look at it anew and gain a fresh perspective here.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph.2:8-10 NKJV)
First, we learn that God is the initiator of the relationship. He invites you and me into His life. To do this, God provides the grace and the faith we need to respond to Him and fulfill our purpose and destiny. We can’t do God’s part…but it’s also true that He won’t do our part. Our part is to respond. We do this by exercising faith which puts us on a transformational journey with Him.
We need to be careful here to not confuse what is being said here with determinism or fatalism. God indeed chose you to be His child (Eph.1:4), but you still have to respond to Him. We’re not automatons simply running a script. While your life may be known by God, who knows the end from the beginning, your choices are completely yours to make.
This choice is because love, to be love, requires free will. Now, this free will is limited within the boundaries of our lives (Acts 17:26-28), so I don’t want to take this too far, but the point is that we certainly can and do resist the will of God. This is clear from Scripture.
The Pharisees were accused of always resisting the will of God (Acts 7:51). Jesus died for the whole world (1 John 2:2), and God’s will is that everyone would change their minds and be saved (2 Pet. 3:9). Yet, the sad fact is that many won’t accept His invitation.
Paul goes on to tell us that we are God’s “workmanship.” The NLT says it this way:
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Eph.2:10)
The Passion Translation says it this way:
10 We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!
Beloved, you are the canvas of God’s masterpiece He is painting called your life. As we saw last time, when Christ died, we died, when He was raised from the dead, He took us with Him and forever joined us to Him and His relationship in the Divine Dance. When our formerly blinded eyes are opened to this heavenly reality, we begin to experience a truly wonder-filled transformation process.
We can look at this passage as God’s invitation into a life-long cooperative process with Him: to become like Christ, to be become fully human…to become whole and fully alive. We are working out what He is working in (Phil.2:12-13).
As we cooperate with His indwelling Spirit, we are shaped and changed (2 Cor.3:18). To the degree we allow this shaping will be the degree to which we become who we really are—our authentic self in Christ. Like fine pottery crafted in the master’s hands, we become vessels of honor that put His goodness on display (called “glory”) for all to see.
And this is the good news that brings great joy. God is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t chose one person and reject another. He has chosen you and me to bear fruit, and that our fruit would remain (John 15:16). While it’s true that many are called but few are chosen, as Reinhardt Bonnke puts it, God calls out to all of us, and when we say “yes,” He says, “I choose you!”
I was thinking about something a preacher once said. “There is a difference between Translation and Interpretation.” Translation is exact (word for word) whereas interpretation is a summarized version based off of the original.
That is the difference between an automaton or being in a relationship. We are created in God’s image. This means that we are not exact replicas but individually designed copies based off of the original. Once again, I hope that made sense.
Makes total sense to me. 🙂 It’s actually a great analogy, Patrick. Relationship is dynamic and nuanced. It’s also the difference between being mimetic (mirroring) and simply copying behavior. We are mimetic in order to grow and learn by example, copying is just trying to just be a replica. Relationships go much deeper, are not based on a set of rules but on mutual love and honor.
“We need to be careful here to not confuse what is being said here with determinism or fatalism…We’re not automatons simply running a script.”
I liked this, Mel. It’s kind of like not confusing God’s sovereignty with God’s will. Fatalistic Christians remind me a bit of the Jews of old when Lazarus has died. It’s just in the hands of God, we can’t do anything about it, it just is what it is. But He actually died under God’s sovereignty, not under God’s will. It was God’s will that Jesus resurrect Him.
We’re people, it is just hard for us to wrap our brains around things that exist outside of our own perceptions of linear time, outside of our own line of vision. There is a certain amount of safety and comfort in our fatalism and determinism, I mean the dead aren’t going to come to life, we aren’t going to be accountable for our choices, we never have to deal with disappointment, we never have to step out of our comfort zones…
I think the tendency toward fatalism in Christian thinking is one of the biggest hindrances to real spiritual growth. It creates a false sense of comfort and makes believers attribute things to “God’s will” that clearly contradict His nature. And I agree with what you said, it leads to complacency and even defeatism, staying needlessly unrenewed in our thinking and embracing a powerless form of Christianity, none of which are good things when you consider that God calls us more than conquerors!
Amen. I think all are chosen but most do not want to be a part of His Team of Grace and Faith. Ty:)
Very true…and sad when you think they’re rejecting infinite goodness. But we don’t often act in our own best interest.
Yes, I am my worst enemy.:)