The New Creation
January 11th, 1970 @ 10:50 AM
THE NEW CREATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-11-70 10:50 a.m.
You who are listening on radio, watching this service on television, are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled, The New Creation, or The Workmanship of God. In the morning, I am preaching through the Book of Ephesians, Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. In the evening, I preach from the life of Christ. Tonight the sermon is entitled, Wearing the Clothing of God, at seven-thirty o’clock, the evening service. And as always, in the evening, the pastor brings a message from the life of our Lord, but this morning hour, from Ephesians.
The text is Ephesians 2:10: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." When Paul begins his verse with the word "for," that word "for" refers to the arguments that have preceded, and the words that follow are his deductions, his conclusions. He begins the verse with a "for": "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus," so I look above to see what Paul has said, and what he has said in this second chapter is that our salvation is not by our good works. We do not win it through our personal merit, but it is a gift of God. It is something God does for us [Ephesians 2:8-9].
In this second chapter he begins with the avowal that we were dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1-2], and that we by nature are the children of wrath, of condemnation and damnation [Ephesians 2:3]. But God, he says, "In His rich mercy . . . raised us from the dead and sat us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" [Ephesians 2:4-6]. Then he avows that same thing again: "For by grace we are saved through faith; and that not of ourselves; it is a gift of God: not of works" [Ephesians 2:8-9], lest any man should say, "See, I did it." It is a gift of God. Our salvation is not of our merit or of our good works, but it is by grace, mediated to us through faith [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Then, having said that, then he follows after that "for; For we are God’s workmanship, we are God’s creation in Christ Jesus, which He purposed beforehand that we walk in those good works that glorify our Lord" [Ephesians 2:10].
Now the message will be almost an exegesis of the verse, "For we are His workmanship" [Ephesians 2:10]. The Greek word is "His poems": "For we are His poems." We are God’s workmanship. Our salvation is not the product of some evolutionary development. We are not saved by rearranging our environment or controlling the circumstances and the providences that press us in this life. By evolutionary process, by human development, we never become spiritual or godly or Christian; but we are saved, we are regenerated, we are born again, we are created, we are the fruit of the workmanship of Almighty God [Ephesians 2:8-10]. Never by nature or by development do we become Christians. By nature, by our first birth, we are iniquitous and vile and evil [Ephesians 2:1-3].
One time, the great preacher George Whitefield created an outcry against himself when he avowed in one of his eloquent sermons that a man is half-beast and half-devil. I don’t think today there would be such an outcry against the great evangelist, were he to say it now, for we are increasingly sensitive to the fact that the development of humanity is in a veritable ferment of violence, and evil, and iniquity. We are now looking askance at a flood tide – at a flood tide of crime in our own nation, and we can hardly believe our ears or our eyes as we read the record of the atrocities that have characterized the generation to which I belong, in these horrible world wars and in the wars that are now going on. The dread of Biafra this moment is that, having lost the ability to resist, there will be a massacre of literally hundreds of thousands of those Biafrans. There is no day in Vietnam that the godless Vietcong are not maiming hands and ripping open women and exposing the corpses in public squares.
This is the development of humanity. It is the same with our bodies: as our bodies continue, they finally fall into decay and disintegration. And this is a story of the human souls. We move toward the pit, and in the abyss, as vile as it is, there is nothing so vile as those who are in it. By development, there is never spiritual life. The prodigal in the pigpen [Luke 15:11-32] may be redressed, and his environment embellished, but as long as he’s out of his father’s house and in that pigsty, he is in a natural setting, and without a conversion experience in natural soul and heart, identifies with the abysmal, dark nature of our lives. There is no birth of light out of darkness, there is no birth of purity out of filth, and there is no birth of grace out of degeneration and depravity. This must come as a workmanship of Almighty God [Ephesians 2:8-10]. He must speak resurrection to the dead, for the dead cannot raise themselves.
A pond is filled with muck and mire, and would be that forever were it not for the genius of God that could raise out of it the beautiful glory of a lily. So God has done for us; our salvation, our Christian life, is from His gracious hands [Ephesians 2:8]. He goes to the mountainside. He marks out the stone. He quarries it. His genius of masonry shapes us and sets us in His holy temple.
If a man is a Christian, it is by the grace of God that he becomes what he is. I sometimes think of that work of God in the life of a child. I went to the zoo upon a day, sat there – or stood there – for a long time, and I watched a mother chimpanzee with her newborn little animal. And it was an astonishing thing to me to watch that mother. She fondled it, and played with it, and loved it, and caressed it with her long, hairy, bony animal hands; held it, pitched it up, played with it. Oh, it was a pleasant sight to see the lavishment of love that that beast poured upon that little animal. And as I stood there, and looking and thinking and watching, I thought, "What is the difference between that little animal born there, loved there, and a child laid in your bosom and placed in your house and growing up in your home?"
The difference lies in a creative workmanship of God. "And God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living soul" [Genesis 2:7]. And when that child was born into this world and laid in your arms, God breathed into the life of that child that moral sensitivity, and God quickens the little thing as it grows up, and that child becomes sensitive to right, to wrong. And that child, if brought under the influence of the gospel, will respond to the loving grace of Jesus our Lord. It is a gift of God . . . for we are His workmanship [Ephesians 2:8-10]. God does it. It comes from heaven. It is of Him; not of us, but of Him.
And our continuation to our final glorification is in God. Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" [Philippians 1:6]. I’m not to interfere or interdict or intervene. God has a program, a work, a plan for every life, and if I let God have His way and His will, I will come to that place in my life where I am completely – if I am obedient to it – completely in the will and service of my Master, doing what God wants me to do, serving in the place God wants me to serve. Oh! How precious and how wonderful to know, to realize, to have the assurance, that we are in God’s hands, that we’re God’s workmanship, that God has a program and a plan and a way for us [Ephesians 2:10]; and my part is just to walk in it. As God shall say, as God shall will, as God shall open the door, as God shall lead, I am a servant, Lord, in obedience to the great King. It’s God’s work and it’s God’s day and it’s God hour, and this life is God’s life, and my will is God’s will. Oh dear, what a wonderful way to be; for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus!
He uses another word to describe the identical thing. "We are His workmanship," then he uses another word: "we are His creation" [Ephesians 2:10]. The word "create" is to bring something out of nothing, and that’s why, really and actually, the word "creator" can only be applied to the great Jehovah God. We can "create" actually nothing. Creation is a divine prerogative of the Almighty. Why, all the genius of man – every scientific achievement and advancement and instrument that we know – all the genius of man could not create one little gnat, or the sunbeam in which it dances, or the eye that beholds it, or this voice that speaks of it. It is all of God.
So it is with this new nature. Sometimes people think that it is the grace of God that takes the old nature of a man, and reforms it, and develops it and shapes it, and remakes it: no, not according to God’s Word or the experience of human life. We who are Christians, we do not possess just an old nature that God is ameliorating and embellishing and fashioning and beautifying. No! He gives us another nature and a new nature [Ephesians 4:24]. If you are a Christian, there are two men inside of you. There are two natures inside of you. The old nature, so many times it wars against the new nature. But the old nature is there and will be the drag of it till you die. The old heart is there, the old life is there, but God gives us a new heart and a new life and a new nature, and that new nature is called a creation in Christ Jesus [2 Corinthians 5:17]. It is something God has done. The Christian is a creation at the hands of our gracious Lord, and He does it by His word, through the word [Ephesians 5:26]. God recreates us, remakes us, regenerates us through the word, as in the beginning God flung these worlds and starry spheres into the universe. He did it by fiat [Genesis 1:3-31]. He did it by word. The Scripture so ofttimes will mention that.
In 2 Peter, chapter 3, the apostle writes, "By the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth" [2 Peter 3:5], and in one of the psalms, the psalmist says, "For He spake," God spake, "and it was done"; He commanded, and it stood fast" [Psalm 33:9]. So with this new nature God gives to us, it is created in us by the word of God; 1 Peter 1:23-25: "Ye are born again by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever . . . And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." James 1:18: "Of His own will begat He us by the word of God." John 15:3: "Now you are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you." Ephesians 5:26: "We are sanctified, we are cleansed with the washing of water by the word." John 5:24: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life." Romans 10:17: "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
We are regenerated [Titus 3:5]. We are recreated; we are made Christians by the word of God, "for we are His workmanship. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" [Ephesians 2:10]. "In Christ Jesus"; God does it in the grace and atoning mercy of the Lord. The Word magnifies Him, presents Him, describes Him, preaches Him; that’s the Word of God. When a man is delivering the Word of God, he is delivering the glory, and the majesty, and the ableness, and the all-sufficiency of the grace and atoning mercy of Jesus [John 1:14]. That’s what the gospel is, and that’s what saves us. That’s what God uses to regenerate us in Christ Jesus, the second Adam [1 Corinthians 15:45]. In the old Adam, in the first Adam, we received this natural body and this natural proclivity and affinity for evil: in the first Adam [1 Corinthians 15:22]. And the fall of our first parents who are the federal heads of the race: in that fall [Genesis 3:1-6], all of us alike have suffered. We have fallen also. The sins of my father, the sins of his father, the sins of the generations past are the sins that I know. They are the drag of my life, and there are no manifestations of life that do not have that drag, that shortcoming, that mistake in sin and failure. It is a concomitant with everything that we do.
When I turn back to the great moralists like Plato or Seneca or Marcus Aurelius, I find that they are my brothers in calamity and damnation. All of us alike, yesterday and today and until God shall rid us of this body of evil and death. Even when I rise to the highest mountain peak of my finest moral achievement, I still haven’t touched the stars, nor have I wings to mount up to the sky. My feet are still on this earth, and I am a brother to the worm and a sister to decay and disintegration and corruption. I cannot escape it.
In myself, I am helpless. As the dead cannot raise themselves, so I cannot give myself a new nature, a heavenly disposition. I am a lost sinner. But there is another Adam, another federal head. There is a second Adam, and in Him there is the creation of a new race, a spiritual race that is sublime and without spot or blemish and that knows and loves God. And when we are regenerated and born again, that new nature, the seed of God in us, that new nature is one that aspires to heaven, that loves the Lord, that seeks God’s will [1 Corinthians 15:45-]. And we are identified with Him and forever. In our second Adam, in this federal head of the new race, we died with Him and are dead to sin [Romans 6:11]. We were buried with Him, and the third day raised from the dead [Romans 7:4-6]. We who were dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1], raised to a spiritual sensitivity and new life in Christ, and we ascended with Him into heaven, and we’re with Him at the right hand of God [Romans 8:34]. There is no separation between the head and the members of the body. We are one. One! He there, we here for a while; but in our new natures, in our Christian spirits, we are forever one in Christ Jesus [John 17:21].
"Oh dear, pastor, would to God I could be like that! I’d love to be a Christian. I’d love to go to heaven when I die. I’d like to be saved, but how can I?" Why, you can be saved. You can be become a Christian by being born again; by being recreated, you can [John 3:3, 7]. "Oh, but pastor, how can I recreate myself? How can I give myself a new nature? How could I enter again into my mother’s womb and be born again?" [John 3:4]. Oh, that’s the gospel! If you see that, and if you know that, and if you come to that place in your life – "I cannot save myself, I cannot born again myself, I cannot regenerate or recreate myself; I am helpless" – then let us take ourselves to Jesus, to God, and let Him do it. That’s what it is to be saved. That’s what it is to be born again, to be recreated. We take our helpless selves to God, and we cast ourselves upon His kind arms [John 3:14-17; Titus 3:5]. We are dependent upon His mercies and His grace, and it’s something God does for us that we cannot do for ourselves [Ephesians 2:4-9].
What a verse in Isaiah 45:22: "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none other." Take ourselves to God, and He does it. "But pastor, there’s such a drag in me. There’s such a pulling down in me. I lack so much. There is so much of sin and evil in my nature. I’m just like a bird trying to fly, held down by a heavy trap."
Oh, oh, that’s what God does for us! "You don’t understand. I have such a withered hand." But what is a withered hand [Mark 3:1], when Jesus bids us stretch it forth and be well? [Mark 3:5]. "But pastor, I don’t have any man to put me in the pool when the water is troubled" [John 5:7]. But what is that when Jesus of Nazareth passes by and says, "Take up your bed and walk"? [John 5:8]. Be healed, cripple; walk. "But I was just expecting an alms" [Acts 3:3-5]. But what is a tent or an alms when the apostle says, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazereth rise up and walk" [Acts 3:6], and his feet and anklebones immediately received strength, and he walked [Acts 3:7-8]. That’s what God does for us. Our spirits have withered arms and hands, our spirits have drags and broken bones and weak joints, mostly out of joint – ‘Tis nothing when God speaks amelioration, and recuperation, and health, and strength, and length of days of life, and that lasts forever and forever. It is nothing for God to do it. It’ll be something for us, for we cannot. It is as nothing for God who is so all-sufficient and so able to save us and to keep us forever, for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained – proetoimazō – which God hath prepared before, in the mind of God, that we should walk in them [Ephesians 2:8-10].
We don’t see fruit making a tree. The tree makes the fruit. So the works of lives don’t regenerate us; they don’t give us a new nature. God gives us the new nature, and the new nature bears the fruit that honors the Lord. And that fruit was in the mind of God, the good works were in the mind of God, before we were saved [Ephesians 2:10]. He saved us unto those blessed ministries. When God made the first Adam and placed him in the garden of Eden, He gave him an assignment. He was to dress and to keep the garden [Genesis 2:15].
So in the new Adam and in the new paradise, we have works to do. The Lord said, "Go work in My vineyard" [Matthew 21:28]. He said, "The fields are white unto the harvest" [John 4:35]. "Pray that God will thrust forth workers into His harvest" [Luke 10:2]. As God saves me, there is a task and an assignment for my life. Maybe it’s to sing; God bless you. Maybe it’s to pray; God bless you. Maybe it’s to teach; God bless you. Maybe it’s just to be a doorkeeper, or to raise the window, or to sweep out the floor. Doesn’t matter. Whatever God shall will for our lives, it is our sublimest joy to do it, for we are saved unto that purpose to do good and to honor God in our lives [Ephesians 2:10]. That’s why the appeal and the invitation.
Give yourself to Jesus, and join heart and hand with us in the ministry of this Word. In a moment we shall stand to sing, and when we sing, in the balcony round, that family you, on this lower floor, that couple you, anywhere this one somebody you, make that decision now, "I shall give my heart to Jesus. I’ll let Him save me and keep me. I’ll let Him regenerate me. I can’t myself. I’ll just cast myself upon the mercies of God. I’ll look in faith that God’s able to do it, and here I come." To put your life with us in the work of our Lord, come, "Pastor, today, we’ve made that decision, and here we are." As the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, come now, make it now, do it now! On the first note of that first stanza, come. In a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. In that aisle or down one of these stairways and to the front, "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." Do it. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
A. Begins verse with
"For" – refers to the arguments that have preceded
B. Earlier in the
chapter avows that our salvation is not by our good works
Begins with avowal that we are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3)
God in His mercy and grace has saved us, mediated through faith (Ephesians 2:4-9)
II. "For we are His workmanship"
A. Our salvation is not
the product of evolutionary development
1. By nature we are
iniquitous, vile and evil
a. Seen in
development of humanity
b. As our bodies
continue, they fall into decay and disintegration
c. The story of the
B. If a man is a
Christian, it is by the grace of God he becomes what he is (Genesis 2:7)
C. We remain the Lord’s
workmanship until the very last (Philippians
A. Creation a divine
prerogative of the Almighty
B. The new nature a
creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Creation done through His Word (Genesis
1:3-31, 2 Peter 3:5, 1 Peter 1:23-25, James 1:18, Ephesians 5:26, John 5:24,
15:3, Romans 10:17)
A. The first
creation in Adam
re-creation in the second Adam (1 Corinthians
We are dependent upon His mercies, grace(Isaiah
45:22, Mark 3:5, Acts 3:6)
good works, which God hath before ordained"
A. Our good
works are the subject of God’s forethought, preparation
B. The fruit in
the mind of God before we were saved(Genesis