(Ephesians 2:1-10) — Ephesians chapter two gives us a picture of what we were before conversion, (Ephesians 2:1–3). To begin with, sinners are dead spiritually; that is, the inner man is dead to spiritual things and cannot respond to them. The Gospels describe the resurrections of three people that Jesus raised from the dead: (1) a twelve-year-old girl, Luke 8:49–55; (2) a young man, Luke 7:12–15; and (3) an older man named Lazarus, John 11. Each of them was dead; the only difference was their state of decomposition. Lazarus had been buried for four days and had begun to smell! All sinners are dead, regardless of age; the only difference between the unsaved church member and the vagrant on skid row is the state of decay.
Sinners are not only dead, they are enslaved by the world and live for its pleasures and fashions. Tell them that this world is under the condemnation of God and is passing away, and they will laugh at you. They are also enslaved by Satan, who is at work in the lives of unsaved people. This does not mean that he necessarily makes them drunkards or murderers; his usual tactic is to give people false security through self-righteousness. Jesus called the Pharisees “children of the devil” (John 8:44), yet they were religious, upstanding citizens. We are born by nature children of wrath; when we reject Christ knowingly after reaching an age of accountability, we become children of disobedience by choice. When we trust Jesus Christ, we become children of God.
Ephesians chapter two next tells us what God did (2:4–9). “But God!” These words are among the greatest in the Bible. God could have allowed us to go on in sin and live eternally with the devil in hell, but instead He chose to save us. He gave us life (quickened us), raised us from the grave of sin, and took us out of the graveyard! More than that, He made us members of Christ! We have been quickened together, raised together, and we sit together in the heavenlies. God did this because He is rich in mercy and great in love. Mercy means that God does not give me what I do deserve; grace means that He gives me what I don’t deserve.
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. As believers in Jesus Christ we should never be bored because God has something already planned for us to accomplish. 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. 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: (1) For we are His workmanship. It means something that is composed or constructed, something that is made. God is an artisan with two works of which He is unusually proud—His universe and His people. We are “under construction.” He is perfecting that which concerns us (Psalm 138:8). He who has begun a good work in us will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6). (2) Created in Christ Jesus for good works. The importance God attaches to good works is seen in the following verse: Jesus challenges us to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good
works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). We get the idea from this verse 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.” The end of Ephesians 2:10 says, “which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The prophet Jeremiah’s work was assigned, “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5) The Apostle Paul was set apart from his mother’s womb to take the gospel to the Gentiles, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,” (Galatians 1:15 )
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 are 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.