Know Your Bible

VOL. 11                                                                                                                                                                                March 18, 2012                                                                                                                                                                                NO. 8


 Not Our Workmanship But His


"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).

When one is baptized he becomes a new creation, but he is not the creation of any man. He is the workmanship of God.

He is not the workmanship of the person who converted him -- not primarily, anyway. Man can teach, influence, persuade, and baptize; but only God can cleanse, and give him new life. He is God's creation -- God's workmanship. Just as surely as no man could create an "Adam," just that surely no man can create a new creature in Christ.

Neither is one self-made. In Christ, one does not lift himself "by his own bootstraps." Christianity is not a "do-it-your-self religion" -- not in the fullest sense. One does not effect his own salvation through his own merit. Rather, in obedience to the gospel and faithfulness as a Christian, he places himself as clay in God's hand, to become the work of the divine Potter, who molds, shapes, and perfects him that he might be fashioned in the image of His Son.

He is the workmanship of God because his salvation is "by grace...through faith," "the gift of" God (Eph. 2:8,9). If one's salvation were of meritorious works, he would not be the workmanship of God. This is the primary thrust of the passage.

The workmanship of God exists as a monument to the greatness of the Potter, as a beautiful painting is a monument to an artist, so a mature and perfected Christian is a monument to the marvelous power of God. Such a person is a product of God's grace and exists for "the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1:6,12,14; 3:14-19). That God could take a Peter, a John, a Saul of Tarsus, an Aquila, a Priscilla, a John Mark, and mold him or her into the lovely vessel each became is a manifestation of His greatness. That He could do the same for people this writer has known and observed equally manifests His greatness. That He can and will do the same for me if I will but submit myself to His care in humble obedience, trust, and prayer is the greatest marvel of all. The workmanship of God must be handled with care. Such a person is special, precious, priceless to God. As one is cautious in handling a family heirloom or rare piece of pottery fashioned by the hands of a master, so we must be cautious in our treatment of that creation which is the work of God. "Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food," Paul warned the Romans (Rom. 14:20). The person toward whose tender conscience you are showing little regard or whose soul you are placing in jeopardy is the work of God. Love that person. Appreciate him. Be tender toward him. Recognize his value. Handle with care!

The workmanship of God must never be content until it is brought to perfection. "Finish then Thy new creation," Charles Wesley wrote in his familiar hymn, "Love Divine." In keeping with this, Paul could express his confidence in the Philippian Christians, "That He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6,7).

Only those who remain in the Potter's hands until brought to completion and perfection become vessels of honor. All others become marred  and fit only for destruction (2 Tim. 2:19-21). Let not man, then, boast of himself. Self-righteousness has no place in the heart of a Christian. If any man boast, "let him glory in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:31) and "in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal. 6:14). We are His workmanship. (“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). 

---Bill Hall

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Fat Doctors Who Smoke

Most have heard about the overweight smoker who, after taking his annual physical exam, was lectured at length by his doctor on the dangers of smoking and obesity. When asked by the doctor what he intended to do about these things he replied, "Sir, I’m going to go out and find me a fat doctor who smokes!"

Herein, even if in a humorous vein, is revealed an all too common response to things that expose our weaknesses and call for correction. You might expect adverse reactions when such judgments are rendered in ridicule or from ulterior motives, but not when their purpose if for our profit. And if this is true in the physical realm, how much more so in the spiritual? Yet, even here it is not unusual to find some looking for "fat doctors who smoke." It was so in the days of Isaiah for he writes of those who wanted such prophets as would speak unto them "smooth things" and not right things (Isa. 30:10). Recall also how wicked Ahab hated the prophet Micaiah because, he said, "he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil" (1 Kings 22:8). Faithful Micaiah had spoken only what the Lord had told him (v. 14) but this was not what Ahab wanted to hear.  Many modern Ahabs feel the same about God's word. 

Indeed, God said it would continue this way. "For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside unto fables" (2 Tim. 4:3,4). They will leave the faith, but not religion.  Their measure of acceptable preaching will be personal preference rather than sound doctrine. To this end, they will hearken less unto the words of the Great Physician and heap to themselves "fat doctors who smoke," so to speak; preachers who will feed them pleasant fables instead of objectionable truth.

In fact, here is the heart of the problem. It is not that such persons find ALL truth distasteful, or even most of it. Many are deceived on this point because they think only in terms of what they receive and not what they reject. They fail to see the gospel as a system of truth -- to be accepted as a unit, or not at all. This is why he who stumbles in one point is guilty of all (Jas. 2:10). Not that he has violated every law, but that in the violation of one, he reflects disregard for the entire system of law as well as the Lawgiver. Now, which laws do violators not want to hear about do you suppose? The answer is obvious because the truth that incriminates is often the truth that irritates.

However, it is also such truth that convicts and converts. This is the means by which the Holy Spirit convicts the world in respect of sin (John 16:8). It is not a question as to whether this Truth or its faithful spokesman may show us to be wrong on some point. They will expose our spiritual infirmities -- and they must, because only the convicted can be changed! May we love, respect and respond to God's truth, even when it hurts--and shun the counsel of "fat doctors who smoke"!

---David Shipley 

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Know Your Bible" is e-mailed weekly by the church of Christ which meets at 112 Roberts Avenue in Wise, Virginia. If you know of others who might benefit from the articles contained in this bulletin, we would be glad to have you submit their e-mail addresses and we will include them in next week's mailing. If you are receiving this bulletin and do not wish to continue to do so, please e-mail us with your desire to be removed from the mailing list and we will remove your address promptly. Continue to the bottom of this page and further instructions will be given as to how you may contact us.

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