Ephesians: God’s Workmanship


Greetings to you in Jesus’ name

I am thankful you are here with us as we continue our study of the book of Ephesians. Today we are in chapter 2.

And we will be looking at the same verses as the last two lessons, but I want to draw your attention to another aspect of what Paul has written here. So I invite you to open your Bibles with me, and we will read from verse 8 down to verse 10.

8 For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2 ESV

Let us pray.

Lord God, we worship you. We praise you for the love and goodness and grace you have shown us by Christ Jesus. We rejoice at these words we have read from the pages of the Holy Bible. Bless our study, we pray, that we may see clearly and understand. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Free Gift

These are very special verses we are examining today. Along with what we have been looking at in the past couple of messages, I believe these verses are truly the most important part of the entire book of Ephesians. And that is why we have spent three messages now examining them.

And what I want to draw your attention to in these verses today is the fact that God’s activity is the focus of Paul’s attention.

It’s God’s activity that is in focus here, not man’s activity. Paul is making a very clear point that all the work associated with salvation is a work that God is performing.

In verse 8, Paul wrote:

8 For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2 ESV

I cannot think of a way that I could say it any more plainly than Paul did. The fact that you and I are saved is not our own doing. There is absolutely nothing at all we did that has anything to do with our salvation—no work we performed, no good deed we did, no special understanding we learned, no special group we joined. It is nothing like that. It is not our own doing in any way, shape, or form. It is a gift from God.

And a gift is something you get for free. A gift is something you don’t pay for, don’t work for, don’t study for. A gift is something that is totally free to you. And if it is not free—then it wasn’t a gift, right?

If I say, “Here I have a gift for you, but I need you to give me $10 for it,” then it wasn’t a gift, was it?

And it is the same with this gift of salvation. God doesn’t say, “Here I have for you a gift of salvation. Now you give me this and that, and then you can have it.” If God did that, it wouldn’t be a gift.

But salvation is a gift. God gave it to us free of charge. He didn’t require us to give him anything in exchange for it, and he gave it to us because he loves us.

It is not of your own doing; it is a free gift.

And if we should need further clarification, verse 9 gives us further clarification. Paul writes that it is:

9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2 ESV

There is no room, whatsoever, for us to be able to say that we deserved or earned this gift of salvation. Maybe you heard the saying before: You need to clear up your vessel if you want God to fill it, or that somehow, there is something you need to do in order to be worthy of having the Holy Spirit come into your life.

Back when I was in the doomsday cult, we had a person come to church, and he wanted to be saved and receive the Holy Spirit. The preacher told him God would not fill an unclean vessel and that if he wanted to receive the Holy Ghost, he had to do certain things first. What is that kind of advice? That is telling someone they need to perform works in order to be saved—you need to clean up your vessel in this way or that way, and then you can be saved, some will say.

But that is entirely incorrect.

Your salvation is not related to works in any way whatsoever. And God ordained it to be this way because he doesn’t want anyone to boast. God wants to have all the credit for saving us, all the credit for himself. Like we explained in the last message and Paul explained in the last verses, part of the entire reason God is doing all this is so that he can hold you and me up as evidence of his grace in the coming ages.

You and I, and all the other people saved by grace, will be proof and evidence that God is merciful and saves people who don’t deserve it. We are going to be character witnesses of God. And in order to be the witness he wants, we can’t have the slightest room to be able to boast or suggest there was anything that contributed to our salvation.

It has to be a 100% free gift for God to demonstrate his character, and that is what Paul is conveying here.

9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2 ESV

If we are able to boast that we contributed towards our salvation, then God will not be able to claim it was all by grace and that it was a free gift. But the truth is, salvation is:

9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship…

Ephesians 2 ESV

See, it is his workmanship; he is the one doing the work, and we are the ones being created and worked on.

God’s Workmanship

The scripture tells us that He is the potter, and we are the clay. In that analogy, God is like someone who is making pottery. He is doing the work, molding the clay into the right shape, getting the pot to look just right, just how He wants. The clay is not active in the process at all; it is being molded, and it has no capacity to mold itself. It’s all the work of the potter. And that is what our situation is. What we are being molded into is not a result of our works because we are His workmanship. As Christians, what we are becoming will not be a product of our own work but will be a product of His work.

And that is precisely what Paul is telling us. There is nothing you are doing that is saving you; there is nothing you are doing that is transforming you into a redeemed creation. It is all God, all an act of God working on us.

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.

And, we will talk more about this in a later message, but catch there, that act of creation happened in Jesus Christ. The creation of you and I as a redeemed creature happened in Jesus, when we were nailed to the cross with Him, when we died with Him, and when we rose with Him. When we rose with Him, we were a new life.

Paul has been telling us all those things starting back in chapter 1, and now that we are risen with Christ, verse 10 is speaking about the life we are living after we are saved.

And now the resurrected life we are living is in Christ. Verse 10 is speaking not just of our salvation but also of this life we are living in Christ. Let me read all of verse 10.

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Now here, Paul tells us we were created for good works. As Christians, we are not a bump on a log; there is a purpose to our lives, things for us to do. We were created for good works.

Our works do not save us, our works do not contribute to our salvation at all, but God created us to do good works.

We don’t do good works to get saved, but we do good works because we are saved.

And, right here, we are not going to talk about what these good works are. But remember, Paul’s epistles like this are always in two parts: the first part is doctrines, telling us the right way to think about things, and in the second half of this epistle, he will give us practical application. If we want to know what kind of good works Paul has in mind, we just jump forward into chapter 4, and there Paul will give us a description of what he means by good works here.

And if you go there, you will find in chapters 4, 5, and 6 that love is the centerpiece of the good works, love—the fruit of the spirit. We will look at that in depth when we get there, but the good works Paul has in mind are very much the same thing you could call the fruit of the spirit. It is a life guided by the love of God. Those are the good works God wants us to perform, and we could summarize it by quoting from chapter 5. Paul says there, “Walk in love, as Christ loved us.” If you do that, you will be performing the good works Paul is speaking of here in verse 10.

So, for now, let’s leave those good works with that simple explanation that it is a life guided by the love of God. We will look at that in depth later. But for now, what I really want to draw your attention to is how it is that we come to do these good works, how it is that we come to live a life that is guided by the love of God.

And verse 10 gives us the answer to that, how is it, and maybe I should say, who is it that is actually working to change and transform us into a person who is doing good works, who is living a life guided by the love of God.

Who is doing it?

And let me read the verses here again.

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So, we see that we are indeed intended for good works; I think we would all agree on that. And it also says that God prepared these good works beforehand. God prepared them, foreknew all about these good works, but He didn’t simply foreknow it; He also foreordained it—ahead of time. That is what it means that He prepared these works beforehand. In God’s great eternal plan for the ages, He predestined everyone who has come to saving faith in Jesus Christ to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. God willed it to be so, and it will be so because He is the one who will make it so.

It is a total certainty; remember back how Paul ended chapter 1.

It is a total certainty; it is impossible for it not to be so because it is a work that God Himself is performing, and God cannot fail.

And verse 10 here flows directly out of chapter 1. Let me go back to chapter 1 and read you verse 11 again. Paul wrote there:

11 In Him, we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.

Ephesians 1 ESV

Now let’s compare this back to verse 10 in chapter 2, and you can see how they are related.

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2 ESV

So, in both of these verses, Paul is telling us that God is the one performing the work, and he is telling us in both verses that these things are predestined or prepared beforehand.

Paul is very clearly putting this back into the hands of God. It was God who saved us as an act of grace, and it is God who is also transforming our lives.

God’s Transformative Work in Us

And I want to put a few more verses with this to help you see what I am talking about. So, turn with me to the book of Philippians, chapter 2. I am going here because the main topic of the book of Philippians is holy living, the main focus being on developing Christ-like character. Paul is addressing the same good works here in Philippians that he told the Ephesians about. I want to read to you how Paul explained that it is brought about.

In verse 13, Paul writes:

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Philippians 2:13

It is God working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. Think about what Paul is saying here. Paul is telling his readers that our desire to please God, our desire to do good things that please Him, is given to us by God. God works in us to produce the desire to do good.

So, if you have a desire in your heart to please God, that desire itself is there because of the transformative power of God. It was God who worked in you to lead you to have that desire to please Him.

It was not your own efforts; it is not you desiring to please God just of yourself. But your desire to please God is something that came from the redemptive power of God working in your life.

So, it is God working in you, giving you the desire to do what pleases Him. But there is more. Not only is He working in you to give you the desire to please Him, He is also working in you to give you the power to please Him.

He is giving you the desire, but He is also giving you the capacity and ability to follow through. And both of those things are the work of God.

And if we compare that back to what we read in Ephesians, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God foreordained we should walk in.”

Paul told the Ephesians the same thing he told the Philippians; he just worded it differently. The point is this: God is the one working in our lives, both to give us the desire to please Him and to give us the ability to please Him.

And that is an act of grace. It is God’s grace giving us both the desire and the ability to please Him.

God does want us to do good works. Of course, He does. God wants us to live a life that is defined and guided by love. Absolutely, that is what He wants. And He is at work to transform us into that very thing. That is the ultimate goal of redemption—to bring mankind back to a state where there is no more sin and instead there are good works.

And God is the one giving us both the ability and the desire to do the good works. Turn with me to 1st Corinthians. I want to give you another example of what I am talking about. Turn to the 15th chapter, and I will read verses 9 and 10.

For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

1 Corinthians 15:9-10

So, Paul here says he worked harder than anyone else, comparing his life to all the other apostles, and Paul is saying here that he was the hardest working apostle. I think, from what we know in scripture, that is true. Paul spent more time preaching, sharing the gospel, and facing hazards than all the rest. He truly did work harder than all the rest.

Paul did more good works than Peter. Paul did more good works than John. That is reflected in scripture. And that is exactly what Paul is saying here: “I worked harder than any of them,” said Paul.

But then look at how he frames it at the end of verse 10. He says, “though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

Paul looks at all the hard work he did, all the good works he performed, and he says, “but I didn’t really do any of it. It was the grace of God that is with me that did it all.”

It was God working in him to give him both the desire and the ability to do all that he did. He was God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God had foreordained for him to walk in.

Implications of God’s Work in Us

So as I share all this, I want to point out that this has certain implications. If God is the one who gives you the desire to please Him and the ability to please Him, then what does that say about someone who does their best but does not quite measure up to whatever idea you or I may have of how they should measure up?

If someone is doing their best, isn’t that all that God requires? The desire I have to please God was given to me by God; He worked in me to have that desire. Over time, He can continue to work in me to give me more and more of that desire. But at the end of the day, the desire within us to please God is something God Himself works to create within us.

So, if I look at my neighbor and they have less desire than I do, do I have any room to judge them? The apostle Paul said, “I worked harder than all the other apostles,” but did that give Paul any room to look down on the other apostles or judge them? And you or I may live a life that we think is really spectacular in the eyes of God, but does that mean you can look down on your neighbor who is not measuring up to your performance?

No, it doesn’t. Because it is God who gives you your desire and capacity to please Him, and it is God who gave your neighbor their desire and their capacity to please Him. God gave James one capacity, and He gave John another capacity, and He gave Paul another capacity. Does that give Paul room to look down on James or John? Of course not.

The same is true with you and me. We may have a greater desire and greater capacity to please God than other people around us. If we do, it may simply be that God has given us a greater desire and capacity than He has given our neighbor. It may be that we have walked with God longer and have had much more time to grow than they have. Or, it could be that God has just blessed us differently, and that is how it is.

But one thing is sure: the degree to which I am able to do good works is a product of God’s grace towards me, and the degree to which my neighbor is able to do good works is a product of God’s grace towards them.

We are not all the same. Jesus said some brought forth fruit thirty-fold, some sixty-fold, some a hundred-fold. Jesus told us we are not all going to have or be given the same capacity. And that is okay because we are all God’s workmanship; it is God at work in us producing that.

The fruit of the spirit is just that—the fruit of the spirit. It’s not my own work; it’s the work of the Holy Spirit. And whether my fruit is 30, 60, or 100-fold, it’s okay because we are all God’s children, and we are all going to be there in glory with Christ.

Where I come from, a lot of attention is paid to this because some are consumed by the belief that their ability to escape doomsday is based on these sorts of things. But they seem to miss the point that the entire reason the Bible tells us about this is not so we can divide up and judge each other. The Bible tells us these things for the exact opposite reason—to realize that we are not all the same and to avoid judging each other. It’s to let us know this thing is not one size fits all.

And it doesn’t matter what size you are. It’s God who is at work in you, bringing it all about. Let not the head boast against the foot; let not the hand boast against the ear. We are all unique and part of the body of Christ, and we don’t all have the same capacity, or the same gifts, or the same talents, or the same skills.

Now, let’s go back to Ephesians, chapter 4. I have another verse I want to read to you, and chapter 4 is where Paul starts to take what he talked about in the earlier chapters and turns it into practical guidance. It’s where he tells us what this looks like in action.

The Measure of Grace

Let me read verse 7 to you. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:7:

“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Ephesians 4:7 (ESV)

Each of us has been given a measure of grace, a measure of Christ’s gift, and we do not all have the same capacity. We differ from one another in terms of our gifts, talents, and skills, and we can also differ in the measure of grace. This directly relates to why some people seem to excel more than others.

God endows us all with different capacities, talents, and gifts. In addition to that, we have the liberty to have differing convictions. As Christians, we are not uniform; we are unique individuals.

The idea that we all need to be the same is a product of the doomsday cult we came from, and it’s a product of their false unity beliefs. To them, unity means we are all the same, but that is not what the Bible tells us unity means. In Romans 15, the Bible tells us that, with one mouth and one mind, the body of Christ should respect our individual differences. True unity respects the fact that we are different and does not try to force us all to be identical. A unity that forces everyone to be identical and does not respect our differences as individuals is false and unscriptural.

The idea that unity means we can’t have differing abilities, gifts, talents, capacities, measures of grace, or convictions is not a biblical idea. Christians can and do differ in those ways, and it is perfectly biblical for it to be that way. Failing to respect those differences is disunity.

That is why Paul wrote in Romans, “Let us therefore not judge each other anymore, but instead let’s try not to hinder one another.” If you look at your neighbor and they don’t have your gifts, talents, convictions, or capacity, that does not give you an opening to judge them. It does not give you an opening to compel them to change to fit your mold. Instead, don’t hinder them. It is important to realize that we are all at different places. Some are more mature in their walk with Christ than others, some have a greater capacity than others, and in any event, we should not judge one another but rather seek to avoid hindering each other.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:10 ESV

You and I are being worked on by God, and our neighbors are being worked on by God. God uses circumstances, situations, events, and the things going on around us to mold us. He uses the things going on inside of us, the scriptures, and our relationship with Christ to mold us.

All of these are tools used by God to mold our character, to shape us in a unique way. He brings things our way that will cause us to develop more self-control, patience, love, humility, and meekness. God is at work to mold within us a godly character, to teach us to be grateful, kind, generous, and compassionate. When God is done working on us, it will be fulfilled what the Apostle Peter said: “We are partakers of the divine nature, fruitful unto all good works,” the works Paul speaks of right here—good works that God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. We are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

If you ever get confused about what that means, you only need to read the words of Jesus. He said, “I am the life,” and if you want to know what kind of life you should live, Jesus said, “I am the life.” He went on to say, “The works I do, those works you shall do also.” These are the good works, and then He said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Brothers and sisters, I hope I have painted a picture that is easy to understand. God is the one doing the work within us to transform us into what we should be, and He desires for us to do good works. These good works stem from keeping Christ’s command to love one another as He loved us. It makes us partakers of the divine nature and transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ, our loving Savior.

Gentle and Gradual Work

As I bring this lesson to a close, I want to encourage you to take comfort in the knowledge that you are God’s workmanship, even though you are a work in progress. Perhaps there are still rough edges that need to be smoothed out. Be comforted in knowing that the one smoothing your edges is the Lord God of heaven and earth, and He loves you. He is not beating you with a hammer. Pottery isn’t made by beating clay with a hammer; it is created by gently molding it while it turns around on the wheel. This is the image God chose to convey the manner in which He works on us—something soft, gentle, and gradual.

That is how God works, and we can entrust ourselves to Him.

If you come from a background where, instead of the Lord molding lives, it tended to be loud, screaming preachers doing the molding, and instead of being soft, gentle, and gradual, it was loud, harsh, and violent, I want you to know that is not how God operates. I encourage you to get on God’s pottery wheel rather than man’s chop block. Jesus said, “I am meek and lowly, I am easy to get along with. My burden is light, and my yoke is easy.” That is what it is like to be on God’s pottery wheel. If that is not what you are experiencing, then that is a pretty good sign you might be on Satan’s hamster wheel instead of God’s pottery wheel.

A hamster wheel never gets you anywhere. You run and run, but you always end up right at the same spot you started. You never make any real progress, but it sure leaves you worn out from all the running.

So, let me invite you today: If you are looking for real Christian growth, if you truly desire for God to work on your life, then get off of man’s chop block, jump off Satan’s hamster wheel, and come find your way into the open arms of a loving God.


Let me close in prayer.


Lord God, I rejoice to know that we are Your workmanship. We rejoice to know that it is a kind and loving God who is gently molding us, gradually changing us to be ever more like our loving Savior. Lord, you know our hearts, how we truly desire to please you from the depths of our inner being. We thank you for placing that desire within us, and we also know that it is You who gives us the capacity to fulfill that desire. Lord, grant it to each and every one of us, I pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.