The New Creation
January 11th, 1970 @ 8:15 AM
THE NEW CREATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-11-70 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message from Ephesians chapter 2, verse 10. It is entitled The New Creation – God’s workmanship. The reading of that beautiful, meaningful text is this: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
When the apostle begins a sentence with a "for," it refers to the discourse that has gone before. He is coming to a conclusion: because of these things and these things and these things, now these other things obtain. So we look above to see what he refers to when he says, "For we are God’s workmanship." And when I turn to the verses preceding, the apostle has said that our salvation is not something of us, but of God; it’s not of our good works, but of His grace; for we by nature are dead in trespasses and in sins. "But God, who is rich in mercy, raised us from the dead and set us with Christ in heavenly places. For by grace are ye saved through faith; that not of yourselves: it’s a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" [Ephesians 2:4-9]. We are saved not because of our merit or our work or any good thing that we have done, but we are saved in the grace and love and mercy of God. Then he continues, "For we are His workmanship."
In Baylor, I majored in English under a most illustrious professor named A. J. Armstrong, Dr. Armstrong. And somewhere he heard a preacher preach on that word "workmanship." In Greek it is poiema, "poem." And this preacher preached a sermon on, "We are God’s poems." And being an English professor it made a great impression upon him.
"For we are His workmanship; we are a product of God’s gracious, merciful hands. That would mean, of course, then, that a Christian is not a result, the end result, of an evolutionary development. A Christian is not someone who is formed by the circumstances or the change of environment around him: it is something that God has wrought; it is something God has done. For there is no such thing as the development of the natural life into the supernatural glory of God. By nature we are children of wrath; and the development in human life is not so much God-ward and heavenward as it is downward and hellward.
I remember reading in the life of the great preacher George Whitefield; he created a hue and a cry against himself when he one time avowed in an eloquent sermon that a natural man, a man as he is, is half beast and half devil. I don’t think today that hue and outcry would be raised against George Whitefield, if he were to say it today: for we have seen the depravity of the fermenting mass of humanity, the atrocities of war, and the unbelievable viciousness of the human heart and life as we have seen it in our generation. The development of the body, the natural body in which we live, is toward decay, and corruption, and disintegration. And the soul is no different. As vile as the pit of hell may be, those that are in it are even more vile and more iniquitous. There is no spiritual life in the development of this natural life.
The prodigal in the pigpen: dress him up, embellish it; but he’s still there, and away from home and the father’s house. There is no light that develops out of darkness, no purity that develops out of filth, and no grace that develops out of depravity. It is a workmanship of God, the spiritual life of the Christian.
The muck and the mire is always that, until the hand of God, and only His hand, can frame it and quicken it into the life and glory of a beautiful lily. It is God that raises the dead: the dead cannot raise themselves. It is the hand of God that goes to the mountainside and there in the quarry cuts out the stone, and with the genius of only God’s masonry places us into the temple of the Lord. It is God who quickens us: He breathes into the life of the child that breath, that sensitivity to sin, and shows us the glorious graciousness of the Savior.
One time I stood before the cage of a zoo, and watched a mother chimpanzee with her newborn baby. It was an astonishing thing to me to watch that mother as she so lovingly, seemingly, fondled and handled that little animal. Then as I looked at it, I reviewed in my own heart the difference between that little newborn animal and a newborn human child. The difference lies in a workmanship of God; in that breath, that moral sensitivity that God breathes into the life of the child when it is born. It is something God does: not by nature, not by evolutionary development, but it is a workmanship of God. And our vision of the Savior, and our acceptance of the Lord, and our trust in Him, our sensitivity to sin, and our asking God to forgive and save us, all is a part of His premeditated preparation for our salvation, that we might be framed in the mind and life and orbit of our Lord.
And it is a continuing work. "Being confident," Paul writes to the Philippians 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]. The whole Christian life is a workmanship of God; it’s something God has done for us. And if I don’t interfere with the Lord, and if I don’t interdict, and if I don’t try to dissuade or to turn, if God’s perfect will is done in me, then I come to that place in my life where I am in God’s work, in God’s time, in God’s choice, in God’s hour, doing what God has ordained for me. Just taking "hands-off" of my life: no choice of my own, no will of my own, but every vision and dream in the choice and wisdom of God – the workmanship of God in the life of the Christian.
"For," he says, "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" [Ephesians 2:10]. He says the same thing with a different word: "We are God’s workmanship; we are God’s creation." That word "creator" actually and rightly belongs only to the great Jehovah Himself. He alone can create. All of the genius of man together could not create one tiny gnat or the sunbeam in which it dances, or the eye that could behold it, or the voice that speaks now that could describe it. All is a gift of the genius and creative workmanship of God. So it is with the life of the Christian: it is a creation of God!
Our natural life and our natural bodies, our natural souls tend toward destruction and death and decay. "We are born," he says, "in trespasses and in sins" [Ephesians 2:1]. That drop of iniquity is in our bloodstream when we come into this earth; and, by nature, he says, we are the children of judgment and wrath and damnation [Ephesians 2:2-5]. The soul left alone, and the life left alone, tends toward disintegration and decay. And this new life in Christ is not a reformation, or a development, or an evolution of the old life; but it is another nature. It is a new heart and a new soul: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation" [2 Corinthians 5:17], another somebody, and there they are together. Every man who is a child of God is two: he’s the old man with the old proclivities and propensities to sin; but he is also a new man with a new heart, with a vision of the glory of God in his soul.
And in Christ the old man is buried. As the picture in that baptismal pool, the old man is buried, and the new man is resurrected in the likeness of the glory of God. And the Lord does that through fiat: by His word. God created by His word the whole system of the heavens and the earth in the beginning [Genesis 1:1-31]. And God does this new creation by His word in our souls and in our lives.
Simon Peter says, "By the word of God the heavens were and the earth" [2 Peter 3:5]. And the psalmist wrote, "For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast" [Psalm 33:9]. It is a work of God through His word: He spoke it into existence. And God said, "Let there be light" [Genesis 1:3], and there was the glory of the sunrise and the burst of the sun itself. The creation of light, by fiat: so the enlightenment of the soul and of the life: it is by the word of God. God does it, this new creation, by His word.
First Peter 1:23-25: "For we are born again, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever,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 ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." Ephesians 5:26: "We are cleansed, we are sanctified with the washing of water by the word." John 5:24: "He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life." Romans 10:17: "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing the word of God." This marvelous creation, the Christian life, the regenerated heart and spirit is a product of the workmanship of God through His word. He does it by the word. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" [Ephesians 2:10]; the new creation, the new nature, the new life, the new glory in Jesus.
In Adam, in the old nature, we are in a thousand ways, in every manifestation, fault, failure, sin, judgment, disintegration, corruption and death – and however life is manifest, always that drag of our fallen parents. We can turn to the highest moralists who ever lived – to a Plato, to a Seneca, to a Marcus Aurelius – and we find that they, with us, are brothers in calamity. However I may ascend to the glorious mountain heights of personal reformation and vows of purity and holiness, when I have done my best in my natural self and stand on the highest mountain peak I can achieve, the stars still lie above me; and I have no wings to stretch them upward to the sky; my feet are still on the earth, and I am a brother to the worm and a sister to calamity, and destruction, and decay.
The old Adam, the earthy nature is of the earth, earthy, and is bound to corruption and decay. But in Christ Jesus there is a second Adam, another order of life and being. "If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is another, a new creation" [2 Corinthians 5:17]; he belongs to another order of God’s beings.
And when Christ died, we died with Him. And when Christ was buried, we were buried with Him. And when Christ was raised, we were raised with Him. And when Christ ascended, we ascended with Him. And when Christ sat down at the right hand of God, we sat down with Him. For you cannot separate in the human body the head from the members: they are one and together. And Christ in us and we in Christ are one: joint-heirs with Him to all of the riches of God’s grace and glory [Romans 8:17].
And some would say, "Oh, what a wonder! Oh, what a glory! Oh! that I could be a Christian, and that I could be saved, and that I could be one with God, and that my home might be in heaven when I die, and that I might be a joint-heir with Christ! How could I?" By re-creating yourself, by being born-again. Oh! but the cry comes, "I can’t re-create myself. I can’t go back into my mother’s womb and be born again. Alas, what shall I do? For I am helpless!" That’s the only requirement: confess we are not creators, confess we can’t remake our fallen natures, and let’s take ourselves to Jesus who can do it for us.
Isaiah 45:22: "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none other." I cannot; but He can. I am unable; but He is able. I cannot save myself; but He can save me.
"Oh, pastor, but you don’t understand. You don’t understand the drags in my life, and the weaknesses in my nature. You don’t understand. Oh, there are such things that interdict and intervene." Oh? If my hand is withered, what am I to do when Jesus says, "Stretch it forth," and He makes it well?
"Oh, but I have no man to put me in the pool when the water is troubled." But what is that when Jesus of Nazareth says, "Rise up and take thy bed, and walk"? [Luke 5:23-24].
"Oh, but pastor, I was just looking for an alms, just looking for an alms." But what is an alms, what is an amelioration or a reformation or some kind of an environmental circumstantial change in a man’s life, when God bids us, "Rise and walk," and our crippled limbs find strength in Him? This is the workmanship and the creation of God, not of me, lest I should say, "I did it." It’s a gift of God.
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" [Ephesians 2:10]; proetoimazo, which God hath prepared before, that we should be like that, that we should walk that way, that we should do these things. God had them in His mind when He made us, and when He remade us, and when we were saved God had in His mind all of these wonderful works whereby we glorify His blessed name. God had that fruit in His mind when He created the tree of the Christian life. The fruit does not create the tree, but the tree bears the fruit. So with God: God gives us a new heart and a new nature, a new vision, a new love, a new dream; we are a new creation; and the new life God hath ordained that we bring forth these good works, this fruit that honors the Lord.
When God made the first man and placed him in the garden of Eden, He said, "I have an assignment for you. The garden, you are to dress it and to keep it" [Genesis 2:15]. And when God makes the second man, the new man, the new spiritual creation, the Christian, He says, "Go into My vineyard and work. The fields are white, oh, but the harvesters are few" [Matthew 9:36-37; John 4:35]. God thrusts us forth into the fields, puts us in the vineyards, that we might bring fruit, and honor, and glory to God. He has fore-prepared that we should do these things for Jesus.
And if you are saved, you want to do it. "Pastor, where is a place for me to work? Isn’t there something I can do?" Just be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord, raise the window, or sweep the floor, or knock at the door, a place for me – and there is. When God saved us, when He re-created us, He had good works fore-prepared that we should do them, walk in them, and offer them as the fruit of our hands in loving response and gratitude to God.
"Pastor, would there be a place for me in so large a church?" Oh! This vast city, and the responsibility of their souls; youngsters to teach and guide and train, homes to visit, God’s Word in truth to mediate – oh dear! how much, how much. And God calls for you. There’s a plan in God’s mind for you. Your life fits into a place God has chosen for you. Take it, take it, accept it, and walk in the light and the glory of the new life in Christ Jesus.
Come this morning. Come. A family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, while we sing this appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come. In the balcony round, on this lower floor, down to the pastor, "Here I am, pastor, I make it this morning." Do it now, come now, make that decision now, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. Into that aisle and down here to the front, "Here I am, pastor, I make it today," while we stand and while we sing.