The Living Commentary
Paul J. Bucknell
Ephesians 2:10, 'The Purpose of Our Lives,' unfolds why God made us. Ephesians 2:10 is an astonishing passage that not only reveals the special care He took to make our lives but also to design the very 'good works' that we are supposed to do. If you feel bad about your life or do not know how about to get excited about God's will, the truths found in verse 10 will certainly help you get on your feet and get you moving! This is the third of four segments of Ephesians 2:8-10, Extraordinary Purpose - The Living Commentary. The Bible study questions forms the last section.
The Purpose of Our Lives
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
The second ‘for’ is used here in Ephesians 2:10. The first ‘for’ described God’s purpose in designing such a salvation. It was to show off God’s glorious grace. How humbling that we are the people He chose to display it in. But this is just the beginning. God not only wants to display the great riches of His salvation to us in the way that we came to know God through faith in Christ but also through what happens after salvation.
Religious people confuse good works. They believe we are saved by works. God clearly tells us that it is not through good works through which we are saved. As a whole these big institutions are false christs. They tell you to believe in the church rather than in Christ. They tell you to trust in your infant or adult baptism rather than your belief in Christ. These are clearly deceptive means through which the evil one attempts to keep you in his power away from Christ.
On the other hand, we need to know the place of good works. Good works are not to gain salvation, which would place confidence on ourselves. Good works are to follow salvation so that they too are a fruit of God’s good work in our lives. The new life does not only provide a faith to believe in Christ for salvation but a faith to live out what He wants in our lives.
It is here that we see the glorious power in the faith that He has given to us. Paul’s argument is straightforward. If we are saved, then we are saved to live out good works such as Christ would do. Paul is expanding the notion of what it means to be raised up together with Christ. Christ lives through our lives in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Remember, however, no matter what else you might forget, that if you are chosen to receive His grace then you also are appointed to live out Christ’s works. There is absolutely nothing to stop you from gaining all that God has planned to give you. Let’s just focus on four truths gleaned from these words.
1) We are His workmanship For we are His workmanship
Paul identifies those who received grace through faith to be the same ones who should know without the slightest doubt that we are His design. We are His workmanship. God has hand-crafted us. Much like a proud craftsman, He has His purposes in making us.
He has shaped our backgrounds, designed our personalities, our pimples and dreams. God does not blame our beings on another but takes full responsibility for who we are. He designed us. We might feel inferior but that would be doubt in God’s excellent workmanship. You might like to change this or that, but God wouldn’t and more important will not. He has placed us in a situation where we can adjust our teeth, but if one is not, then he should be content with that life. It is not just our bodies that He has designed but the whole of our situation. It is just right to get His work done.
That is the attitude that we ought to have. We have been designed to do His work. This world tries to have us think what we want when our only concern ought to be what God wants. You can enjoy who you are with your limitations, your scars, your tendency to get sick, your inability to do as well as another. For once in life, you can be content and confess all that envy and discontent. Instead we think:
- I am this way because God made me this way.
- I can do whatever He wants for my life.
- I don’t have to be someone else.
- I can be myself.
- God has chosen me to live out His glorious self through my life.
Whether we are young or old, we can trust Him for the future. You might be young and afraid of getting older. Trust Him. He designed you, and He will make it all work out like He wants. Or if you are getting old, your memory is going, your legs are not as strong, you can still trust Him to enable you to do all His will. Our possessions or capabilities should never stop us from thinking what He wants to do in our lives. Instead, we should focus on knowing what He wants to do through our lives. Never worry about whether we can do this or that but only focus on knowing what He wants you to do. He will provide for you even if He needs to give you extra wisdom, cash or contacts. Remember Nehemiah? God gave him many things like cash, wood and assistance through the emperor of the then known world so that he could rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Of course, if your parents designed you or some genius scientist, we would be right to worry. They might have made some mistakes. Or they might have only had a limited purpose.
But God calls you His workmanship. Place your full confidence in His work in your life. You can even now feel your faith get stronger and a new or stronger urge to serve Him. As long as you focus on your own abilities rather than His will and design, your life will be filled with problems.
2) Knowing His Will created in Christ Jesus for good works
If we are to focus on His will, we are to ask what His will is and how are we to know His will. Paul knew what we would be asking and answers us, at least in part, with this phrase, “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” The workmanship, the piece of art, that God has been showing off was created in Christ Jesus. He reminds us that our strength does not come through our own will power but through Christ in us. He is ultimately speaking of our spiritual lives as we live them out here on earth.
But why does He make us? He makes us for good works. Paul certainly understands all about good works. As said before, salvation is not dependent on us but Him. Good works are not our good efforts but our willingness for Christ to live out His life through our lives. I suppose many of you have never quite thought about this. We have discussed “raised with Christ” and “seated with Christ.” Well, now we are finally getting to what it really means.
As Christ lives in our lives, He wants to continue doing good works as He did on earth. The Holy Spirit that fills us is the same as Christ living in us. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).
When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning ( John 15:26-27).
What are these good works? They include all sorts of things that we would expect and many that we do not. We should place our confidence that the works He wants to do are described as ‘good.’ We can trust Him that they always will be pleasing to God and needed.
Good works can be thought of as in two categories:
(1) General works. We all are to love our neighbor.
(2) Specialized works. Specific activities that only we can and will do.
Let me give you an example. The Lord arranged it that we are part of a documentary on Biblical Parenting named "Raised by the Hand of God." We were not sure God wanted this. We had been praying about this matter. We knew full well that much wrong can be done the way the media tends to slant things. One day as Linda was reading through the scriptures, she happened upon a verse through which God spoke to her, “The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26). This gave her the faith that despite all the things that could go wrong, whether it be our children’s uncooperativeness, failure for words, hate mail or media distortion, we should trust the Lord to do something good from it even if many bad things could happen. God enabled us in the filming, in the editing process over which we had no part and will in the end. This is a good work which He planned for. It required faith, time and film makers in our home for about two weeks. Many good works make up a big good work.
God’s good works involve big and little events. Big events are often a series of a lot of small good works over a period of time requiring a commitment. Instead of focusing on what we want which gets boring and evil very quickly, we get to focus on His will which He wants to implement through our lives. He gives us the faith and resources to do what He wants. We have so many miraculous stores to share, but in fact, when we begin to live by faith day by day, we begin to see the giants fall in the land because some man, woman, boy or girl has allowed the Spirit of God to mightily work in his or her life.
See what Jesus says on this topic in Matthew 5:13-16!
3. God appointed works which God prepared beforehand
These good works are prepared along with the design of our beings in mind. If the works were prepared before our lives began, then certainly we can trust Him for our design to accomplish them. God already had the design of what He wanted before He made us.
We need not fear battles with giants. If we must fight a giant, then He will give us grace to do it. Notice our faith is in Him, His design and His appointed work. Now we do not see how all of God’s works are fitted together. God only allows us to see, at the appropriate time, our own needed activities.
“On the day I called Thou didst answer me; Thou didst make me bold with strength in my soul” (Psalms 138:3).
“O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, And my refuge in the day of distress” (Jeremiah 16:19).
Let me make a word of caution. God has appointed our work. It behooves us to search out for these good works whether big or small. We should be busy doing them. But we should always ready ourselves for them. Paul knows that as much as God has appointed us good works, there is also an enemy that will oppose us as he did Jesus Christ. We look forward to that study in Ephesians 6. It is sufficient, now however, for us to remember that we always need to be in shape as God’s workman, ready to do God’s will. Those that run the marathon practice day in and day out. If you were not practicing, then when the sign up came about, you wouldn’t even dream of yourself of being a candidate.
If you think that God is not using you, it more than likely is from your unwillingness to be trained. Are you meeting God each day? Are you evangelizing? Do you disciple others? Are you consistent in your prayer life? Although these things might seem so basic, they all fit together slowly building up our confidence in how God can work in our lives. Never despise the small lessons of life. David cared for sheep before he cared for a nation. He fought off lions before a towering giant named Goliath and later huge armies. We do not know what good works that the Lord has planned for us. We focus on the ones at hand and trust Him for those that are coming.
This means that we need to meet with God each day seeking Him and His will. As He shares with us His will, He also begins to share with us His ways. Do not be foolish and run off before He has given you instructions on how one is to accomplish His will. This is the grand Christian life. Christ in us, full of glory. We do not boast in ourselves but in Him who lives in us.
Keep firm in your faith. God knows what those works are and will put your heart on them. He works with and through your life. You do not need to imagine things for Him. When we face trials, we just look back at our salvation and remember the good works He has designed for us to do. We trust Him and go forward. Endurance is a good work. A joyful heart is a good work. Sharing the gospel is good work. A wife caring for children is good work. A worker not giving into compromise is a good work. Picking up someone else’s trash without resentment is a good work. Some we have been trained for. Others we are being shaped for.
4. Walking in them that we should walk in them
People have all sorts of problems. Some worry. Others get involved in pornography. Others gossip. That was the old way of life. We now have a new life. If we have not allowed God’s Word to grow in us, then we will not fight well. We will either turn back, give up or get so focused on what we have done that we will do it poorly or in the wrong way or wrong time.
We can trust the Lord for getting us into ‘hot water’ at times. It is not a mistake but a strategic plan by Him. They are, after all, His good works. Keep steady. Stay close to Him. He will guide and empower you whether it is to learn to love your distant spouse, drunken neighbor or difficult boss. These principles work for us at home or far away on the mission field.
The Lord has given us the Book of Joshua to remember certain things about good works. He has arranged them for us to do. He is the One doing them. He guides us. He will give us extra guidance if needed. If we stay close to Him, He will warn and protect us. Even if we need miracles to get them done, He will help us. His advice to Joshua is the same to us. “Do not fear.”
We must stop dreaming of being a great Christian and simply start doing. Life in one sense hasn’t begun if you have not lived out His purpose through your lives. Each of us as God’s children have our lives all planned out. Do you think the Lord cares about our wealth, house and fame? Certainly not. He cares about His glory and getting His plans done. We must turn once again to God’s almighty purposes and see that those things He has planned for us as individuals, families and a church are not only thought of but are implemented. Our time is so short and it is through these good works we are able to show Him our appreciation for our salvation. So let us glorify Him through the good works through the joyful taking up the appointed tasks that He has put in our paths. He will be with us.
Paul was exhilarated in all the things that God has done for us in Christ. We could even say, that with the thought of His purposes through salvationto bring glory to Christ, that he has brought us even higher in our appreciation of such a grand salvation that we have. We wonder why everyone doesn’t seek after salvation in Christ.
But Christ’s work does not stop with what happened with Christ on the cross or our salvation when we believed. Christ is alive and still exerting His great purposes through our lives. This grace of using us to do His will is absolutely amazing. We are not faithful. We are weak. We are forgetful. And yes, we are very distracted. Despite all this, God did not only make us alive in Christ (saving us) but raised us in Christ and seated us in Christ in the heavenly places. The raised seems to refer to the way Christ lives out God’s purposes through our lives. The seated refers to the power we have in Christ.
We should not be afraid of God’s purpose to do good works through. The world only offers tantalizing offers with which we are bored once obtained. Christ gives us an exciting adventure. He doesn’t usually tell us ahead what we will be facing but only promises to be with us. Some people look back at the cross and resurrection as the proof of Christ’s lordship. Perhaps we should begin to add to that Christ living through our lives. He who is in us is greater than He who is in the world.
Perhaps we can close with a close examination on whether we are affirming His purposes or not. Are we indeed walking in the good deeds He has appointed for us. Let us summarize the progressive steps we need to take to actually do God’s good works. If we miss out on a step, we will more than likely not be able to consistently carry out the following. This is the reason Paul speaks of design and workmanship. The truths break through some of the typical false concepts that we have about ourselves that keeps us from properly serving God.
- I thank the Lord for how He made me.
- I accept God’s appointed works for my life as the best thing for me and all concerned.
- I believe God will empower me to carry them out.
- I therefore discipline myself to stay close to Him and focus on His good works.
- I will give praise for the great things He is doing through my life.
Next => The Bible study questions on Ephesians 2:8-10
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