Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-2-62 8:15 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled God’s Workmanship. And this morning, our text is the tenth verse of the second chapter of Ephesians. Now, let me read the context, starting at the first verse in the second chapter of Ephesians:
And you hath God quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, Among whom also you had your living in times past,were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ,,
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace and His kindness toward us,.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God;
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
For – this is my text – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God;
Not of works, lest any man should say, "I did it," and should boast.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before prepared that we should walk in them.
That word "for" is argumentative. He is giving a reason why it is that a man is never saved by self-merit, by good works, by his own achievements. For, Paul says in his argument, the text is a support for his thesis that if a man is ever saved, he is saved by the grace of God, by the mercy and forgiveness of God; he is saved in Christ Jesus.
He is never saved in himself. However his worth, or his merit, or his fine character, or his moral achievements, a man is never saved in himself, he is saved by the grace of God. It is a gift, "for" – and this text is a cumulative argument in support of it – "for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, prepared for us, that we should walk in them."
Now, the message will be a taking of this text, phrase at a time.
"For we are God’s workmanship"; any man who is a Christian, who is in union with Christ, is a product of the skill and artistry of the Lord God our maker. No Christian is ever developed or evolved or comes into being by circumstance or a fortuitous gathering together of circumstances, but every Christian is a workmanship, an example of the workmanship of God.
We do not evolve into Christianity. We do not be there just by chance, adventitious circumstance, but we are a creation of God. We are an example of the workmanship of the Almighty.
Now, a man by nature, Paul says, is dead. By nature, he is the child of wrath [Ephesians 2:3]. It is by the grace of God that I am what I am, for I was born in condemnation into a world of misery, and corruption, and death. But God in His grace saved us, and recreated us, and remade us, and we are His workmanship. By nature, Paul says, we are dead, and we are children of wrath. By nature, we are never the children of God.
One time George Whitefield – an incomparable preacher of two centuries ago – one time George Whitefield raised an outcry against himself when one time he declared that a man by nature is half beast and half devil. That was a long time ago. I wonder if they would raise an outcry against the great preacher today having read these headlines of what happens in Hungary, and what happened in North Korea, and what happened at Pearl Harbor, half beast and half devil.
By nature, there is no evolution into the Christian faith. It is by a creative act of God, for by nature we are the children of wrath. Light never yields darkness; filth never yields cleanliness; hell never yields heaven; depravity never yields grace. It is only by the quickening, creative workmanship of God that depraved human nature is ever fashioned into the likeness of Jesus Christ. And that comes as a creative work of God.
It takes God to take the filth and the dirt and the mire and the scum of a pond and remake it into a beautiful lily, but without the hand of God the dirt stays dirt, and the filth stays filth, and the muck stays muck. It is only the creative workmanship of God that touches it, that resurrects it and creates it into a beautiful plant and a beautiful lily.
It is God that goes to the great bed of rock and marks out the stone, and hues it from the quarry, and squares it, even as it is God’s artistic sculptural skill that fashions it into a living image. It is God that must touch the heart before a man can ever be saved. I went out the Dallas Zoo one time, and they had a little baby chimpanzee out there. Cutest little thing you ever saw. You could talk and talk and talk, and teach and teach and teach, and plead and plead and plead with that cute little baby chimpanzee, but he would never respond.
There must be something on the inside of a little child that God quickens that makes him sensitive to the appeal of His Maker, and without that quickening hand of God, without that sensitivity that comes from heaven, he could never, never, never respond.
Ever try to teach an elephant geology? Ever try to teach an eagle astronomy? Ever try to teach a dog theology? This thing comes with a quickening creative power of God. We are God’s workmanship. And those first tremblings, and that first response, and that consciousness of sin and our need of a Savior, all of it is of the finger of God. We are His workmanship; we are God’s workmanship.
Not only that, but "We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" [Ephesians 2:10]. Now, he is just saying the same things in different words. Paul is reiterating, he is repeating his great argument and thesis that a Christian man is not of himself, but he is of God; and if he is not of God, he is not a Christian.
Not only, he says, are we God’s workmanship, but He fortifies His argument, saying, that we are created, we are created in Christ Jesus, and a creature cannot create itself. Somebody outside of him must make him, must create him. Creation is a prerogative of the Lord Jehovah alone, and there is none anywhere to share it with Him. A man could not create a little gnat that dances in a sunbeam, nor could he create the sunbeam, nor could he create the eye that looks upon it. All creation is in the hands of God. Creation is calling something out of nothing, life out of darkness, life out of death, and we are a creation in Christ Jesus.
Some people have the persuasion – not in the Book, nowhere in the Bible – some people have the persuasion that a Christian is a man, any man, this man, and we touch him up; we knock off a rough place there, and we square up an oblique corner there, and we dress up a little shameful place there, and we kinda re-make the man, and dress him up, and send him out, and he is a Christian.
Ah, no! Oh, no! God’s Book says that the old nature is dead and is to be buried, that is all. That is the great emblem of baptism, a burial [Romans 6:4]. The old nature is corrupt and corrupting. The old nature is dying and shall die. There must be another nature, a new nature that God puts on the inside of the natural man, and he is got both of them in him if he is a Christian, the old dying nature that is to be buried, and the new creation, the new nature that God fashions and makes after the likeness of His Son, a Christian nature by the side of the old nature, the likeness of God by the side of the likeness of the earthly old man Adam.
We are a new creation in Christ Jesus [2 Corinthians 5:17]. The old nature is dead. The old nature is a child of wrath. The old nature is one of corruption, is dying. But the new creation is the quickening power and Spirit of God.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing [Genesis 1:1]. So is it of a Christian. In the beginning of a Christian’s life God created his new nature out of nothing. Not remade the old thing; not patched up an old garment, but He created a new thing, and gave a Christian man a new nature, and God does that by fiat, God does that by the power of His Word.
The effective power of God is a spoken will, a mandate. By the mandate, by the fiat, by the one spoken word of God, the heavens were of old. In 2 Peter, the third chapter, "For by the word God the heavens were of old." Or as the Psalmist said, "He spake and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast" [Psalm 33:9].
Vaiyomer Eloheim yehi ovr, vayhi ovr. Vaiyomer Elohim, "and God said." Yehi "let there be," ovr "light," va "and," yhi "and there was," ovr "light" [Genesis 1:4]. By fiat, not by the development of a thousand million geological ages but in an instant, instantaneousness, by God’s word, light; and the whole earth and heavens were aflame with a blaze of the glory of God.
The Bible says the same thing about the creation of a Christian. It is done by the word of God, by the mandate of God, by the fiat of God, by the command of God; 1 Peter 1:23, 25, by His word we are begotten anew, born again "by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." James 1:18, "Of His own will begat He us by the word."
We are fashioned anew. We are quickened by the mandate, the fiat, the quickening pronouncement of the Spirit of the living God [Ephesians 2:1, 4-5]. It is a miracle, it is something God does. We are created, created, something out of nothing, light out of darkness, life out of death; we are created in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 2:10].
There are two Adams, the old Adam and the new Adam. The old Adam is the old nature, the old man. We are born into the old Adam. By nature, by my mother and my father, I came into a fallen world, for my first nature fell in Adam. He was our federal head. He was the representative man. And I was born into a world of corruption and misery and death. And that fallen nature is in evidence through all the days of a man’s life. In a thousand forms does it appear, and we are never able to escape it nor are we ever free from it.
When I go back and read from the ancient moralists, from Plato, from Seneca, from Marcus Aurelius, I find them to be brothers with us in the same calamity. However the mountain heights to which a man might achieve in moral splendid and rectitude, there are always the stars above us, and we have no wings by which we can reach them. However a man may have aspirations to rise to God Himself, his feet are still on the earth. The worm is my brother, and corruption is my sister. I cannot rise out of it.
I might aspire. I might desire. I might hope, but I still am anchored to the race in which I was born, tied and bound to the earth in which I shall be buried. And these that feast on corrupting flesh are my guests, that God’s appointed day and the Lord’s inevitable hour. That is despair; that is hopelessness. That is the grave. That is corruption. That is the night.
But there is another Adam. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, or, as Paul calls him, the second Adam. There is another Adam. There is another creation. "If any man be in Christ Jesus, created in Christ Jesus, if any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creation: old things have passed away; look, behold, all things are become new" [2 Corinthians 5:17].
In Christ Jesus, if a man is in Christ, he died in Christ. If a man is in Christ, he was raised from the dead in Christ. If a man is in Christ, he ascends into glory with Christ. If a man is in Christ, he is at the right hand of God in Christ.
There is a mystic union between a man in Christ and Christ Himself. The head cannot be separated from the members. God looks upon us as one. Temporarily, for the moment, for this hour, we may be here and He there, but in God’s sight, as God looks upon it, we are forever one in Him. In Christ, a mystic eternal, unseverable union that binds us with cords of steel and chains of gold to our Lord. "We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" [Ephesians 2:10].
What Paul is saying is, he is taking this thing out of the woe and the despair of death and the depravity of humanity, and he is lifting it up on another foundation which is the hope of God and the glory of man, "for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus."
Ah, that I could be a Christian. Ah, that I could be saved. Ah, that I could go to heaven when I die. Ah, that I could be delivered from hell and from corruption and from death. Oh, that I could see God’s face.
Why, brother, it is a simple thing to be a Christian. It is a simple thing, the way to go to heaven when you die. It is a simple thing to triumph over corruption, and the worm, and the death, and the wrath; very simple. Just be created again. Just be born again; it is just that simple.
Ah, but preacher, how can I recreate myself? I cannot create anything. And how can I be born again? Can I go back into my mother’s womb and be born? Pastor, [there is] no power in me to create myself, and no power in me to be born again. How could I ever be a Christian? Why, that is it. That is what Paul says. That is what he is talking about. That is the appeal he is making to your soul.
He says, as long as you think you are a creator, you are lost; as long as you think you are the fine architect and workman to reshape your life, you are lost; as long as you think by your merits and your worth and your moral achievements you can go to heaven when you die, you are lost. But Paul says when a man comes to that place in his life where he can see, "Lord, I cannot create myself, I cannot reborn myself, I cannot save myself; Lord, I cast myself upon Thee," Paul says, "then you are saved."
That is it. I am no workman; God must be the workman. I am no skilled artist; God must be that artist. I am no creator; God is that creator. With no pretense of being able, with no pretense of worth or merit, Lord, I cast myself upon Thee. "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none other" [Isaiah 45:22].
That is the way to be a Christian. Come down that aisle and take this preacher by the hand, and look me in the eye and say, "Preacher, I want you to know I am good enough to go to heaven. I am good enough to join the church. I am good enough to stand on my own. I have settled all these problems in life, and I am ready to walk into the glory itself. Here I am, preacher, look at me."
Brother, you are still lost. You are still lost. You are not saved, and you do not know God. You get out of your seat and into that aisle and down here to the front and take me by the hand and say, "Preacher, I cannot make it. I am not able. I am a lost sinner. However I try, I still fall short of the mark of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. Preacher, I cannot remake myself. Preacher, in the hour that is inevitably coming of death and darkness and eternity, my arm is not able. Preacher, I need God. I need God."
You come down that aisle and tell me that, and you will walk right straight into the kingdom. It is by grace. It is a gift of God, not of works lest a man should stand in His presence some day and say, "Look at me, God. I did it. I made it."
That is all Paul’s saying:
For by grace are you saved through faith; that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God;
Not of works, lest a man should boast.
For, for, we are God’s workmanship – God must do it – created in Christ Jesus – God must do it – unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Why, even the good that a Christian does, he does not do it of his own will or determinative purpose, but God foreordained those things to be done by you before you were born in the ages of the ages before – born into it; made for it; own purpose, created in Christ Jesus unto those good works.
Do you not see how that turns a thing around? The fruit does not make the tree, but the tree bears the fruit. So it is with a man’s salvation. He is not saved because of the fruit of his life, the good of his life, the worth and merit of his life, but his life bears fruit because God has quickened him and made him into a fruit bearing plant growing to the glory of the Lord, and those good works God hath chosen for us before we were born.
The first Adam was placed in paradise. What for? To enjoy himself? I suppose. To enjoy his beautiful companion, Eve? I suppose. To eat of all the trees in the garden except the one interdicted? I suppose. Oh, I could think of a lot of things. But the Bible says God made the man and placed him in the garden of Paradise. Do you remember it? to dress it and to keep it [Genesis 2:15]. There was a work for him to do in Paradise, and God made him and placed him there among all those other things God had foreordained. Before he was created, God had foreordained a work for him, and there it unfolded as the man lived in the garden of Eden.
And the second Adam, Paul says, is created for a ministry, for a task, "For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
God has a purpose and a reason and a place and a plan for each one of us. Now, there is a place for you. There is something God has foreordained and planned for you, a work to do.
Every once in a while the Lord will call out a boy, put His hand on him, and send him down this aisle to me. And the boy will say to me, "Pastor, God has put His hand upon me, and He wants me to preach the gospel." That is wonderful. That is wonderful. Ah, it calls back the days when I had those same quickening promptings of the breath of God and went down the aisle, "The Lord has called me."
And sometimes one of these girls will come down this aisle and say to me, "Pastor, the Lord has quickened my heart. I feel God has called me for a special ministry." And she will get ready to work in a church, to be a missionary, to give her heart altogether to the service of the Lord. God touched her, and quickened her, and made her for that cause and purpose.
Now, that is obvious. But, preacher, look at me. I am over there working in the store. And look at me, I am washing dishes and keeping the house and rearing these children. And look at me; I am out there struggling to keep body and soul together. Is there any purpose, and any call, and any work, and any ministry for me?
Bless you heart. Ah, sometimes the need is so pressed upon me until I nearly break under it. One of our deacons stood up in our meeting this week and said, "May I say something to you men? But mostly, may I address my words to the pastor?" And this is what he said, he said, "I am in one of the Young People’s departments, and," he says, "we have a union there. And for over a year there has not been any leader, and there has not been any sponsor for those young people. And they meet up there with nobody to guide them or to help them. And we plead, and we beg, and we ask our people, but there is no one to respond. And," he said, "my brethren," and then repeated, "and mostly, I am speaking to my pastor." He said, "There are literally thousands of young men and young women who are in this city, and they would come and they would respond, and there is no limit to the number of unions you could develop among the young people who are in this city if there was among us the dedication to be a leader and a sponsor and to help them."
Those are the foreordained works of God that the Lord hath made us for, and there is a place for you. Let me tell you something, all you got to do to get into the heart and life of a young person is just to show yourself interested, and the rest comes along. You do not have to be brilliant, and you do not have to be handsome, and you do not have to be rich, just interested, just interested, just interested, glad to see you. Glad you are here and not in somebody’s joint. Glad to have you in God’s house. Is there any way that we can help you and make you feel more welcome and at home and introduce you to friends?
Ah, it is limitless. It is limitless. And that same need is among our Intermediates. And that same need is among our Juniors. And that same need is in the Sunday school. And that same need is in the seven days of the week. And that same need is everywhere.
And what makes it great and strong is when that young fellow comes down the aisle and says, "God called me to be a preacher." And he gets ready to be a preacher. And then right behind him is another boy coming down the aisle, and he says, "God has not called me to be a preacher, but God called me to be a layman. And where I am in this business world, I am going to be the best servant of God that I can."
It is all of us. It is all of us. He never singled out anybody. Read the text. "For we, and that is all of us, are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before prepared for us that we should walk in them." God has a place for you. God calls us all. The work is there before us. God help us to respond and to do it.
I must close. While we sing this song, while we make this appeal, anywhere, somebody you, give his heart to the Lord and give his life to Christ, would you come? A family of you, put your life in the church, would you come? Somebody to rededicate his life to the work and ministry of the Lord Jesus, would you come? I do not make these appeals. I just voice them. I just repeat it. I just say it. I am just an echo, that is all. If it is not of God, it is nothing; it is nothing; it is sound and sentence, but if it is of God, it is of heaven and earth. Would you come? Would you come? As the Spirit shall press the appeal and make the call, in the aisle and down here by my side, would you come? Would you? While we stand and while we sing.