"Created in Christ Jesus to do good works"
In my devotional reading the other day, mention was made of Ephesians 2:10 "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
A number of thoughts occured to me as I re-read the verse.
First, we who are Christians are "created in Christ Jesus" and that means that we are new creations. It also means that we are part of one body that is Jesus Christ. The nature of our salvation is corporate and not individualistic. True, the body of the redeemed is made up of individuals who must each be born again in order to be part of the body. I deliberately said "individualistic" and not "individual." We cannot rely on the corporate if we have not been regenerated ourselves. And to that extent salvation is an individual affair. None the less the "in Christ" language of Ephesians is clear that we redeemed to be a people. And that means that our life together is vital. The western world, since the Enlightenment, has thought in purely individualistic terms. It is all about my rights. At best I need only curtail them when the exercise of them may infringe the rights of others. But ultimately this life is privatised. Sadly all too many Christians have succumbed to the individualistic viewpoint. We therefore struggle when it comes to the clear challenge of Scripture to grow together as the body of Christ.
Second, if we are God's handiwork then God has equipped us for the works that he has prepared in advance for us to do. We cannot say, "You know I would really love to be able to______ [fill in the blank for whatever command of Scripture you find hardest] but I am not built that way." That is to deny what God's Word says here. We are created in order to do the good works he has prepared for us to do. And God does not botch the job. If we struggle to do the things he has commanded us to do, the fault lies in us rather than in God's handiwork. Part of that equipping is, of course, the Holy Spirit, the very power that raised Jesus from the dead. And the other part is the body of believers as a whole. It tells us in Ephesians 4:11-12 that, "So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service..."
And the third thing that occured to me was that this verse gave me an added dimension on the nature of sin. How so? When I commit sinful acts I cannot, at the same time, be doing the works that God has prepared in advance for me to do. In fact, at that point, I will be doing the very opposite. Thus to the extent that I permit myself to enter into sin, to that extent I also am failing to carry out the purposes of God for me. Therefore, it seems to me, every sin of commission (the actual doing of a thing that is wrong) is also an act of ommission (the failure to do that which I ought to have done). Sin is a waste of the faculty of pleasure because our truest and highest pleasure comes from worshipping, exulting in, praising, delighting in God and Christ Jesus his Son and in doing his works. Sin is also a waste of the precious time that God has given for me because I am thus preventing myself from doing that for which I was given new birth.
Ephesians 2:10 reminds me that God has a purpose in my salavtion that goes beyond simply preventing my having to face his fierce anger at sin. It goes beyond simply being forgiven. It goes beyond being saved from hell. It is not simply being saved from things. It is being saved for things, the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do.