A sculptor takes a piece of clay and works and molds it with care and purpose. Carving and shaving, he deliberately etches and defines each curve and nook. As he labors intently, the outside world begins to perceive what the sculptor’s mind has envisioned so clearly. Through careful strokes, the shapeless and unrecognizable lump is replaced by an exquisite masterpiece. In the hands of a master, even the most rudimentary form can be transformed and recreated into a work to be admired. The beauty of the finished product relies on one thing – the skill of the artisan. The deftest hands create the most perfect workmanship.
We are God’s workmanship. This is an incredible thought. There is no artisan with more skill than the creator of all things. As we continue our study of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, we see that this unparalleled skill is displayed in all who receive God’s grace. God’s grace is a saving grace, but it is also a transforming grace. It is not good enough to perceive God’s grace as simply the thing that saved us from the eternal punishment for our sin and brought us to peace with Him. We must further understand that God’s grace extends beyond our being justified to our being sanctified.
Paul helps us further understand this workmanship of God in his letter to the Philippians when he says that “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform (complete) it.” (Phil. 1:6) At the point of our conversion, (described here in Ephesians 2 as “for by grace are you saved through faith”) God is at work to transform us into something different from what we already are. Like a sculptor picking a lump of clay, God chooses us to be His workmanship. From the point of regeneration, He uses His Holy Spirit as a shaping and transforming agent in our minds and in our hearts.
In Ezekiel 36:27, the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel tells of the day when God will put His “Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” This prophesied indwelling of the Holy Spirit is accomplished at the moment of regeneration. Jesus himself describes this as a “new birth” while speaking to Nicodemus in John 3. After telling Nicodemus that he must be born again, Jesus goes on to explain that those who have been reborn are the ones who believe on Him.
This is the beginning of the work – regeneration. But the work continues for our whole lives. It is an ongoing work of God whereby he shapes and fashions us to look like something different than we are. In Romans 8:29 we find that God is conforming us “to the image of His Son.” He works to shape us and mold us into conformity with Christ. And all the while that he shapes and fashions us he calls us to challenge one another to “love and good works.” (Heb. 10:24) He is working to transform us, and He desires that we strive to conform ourselves and each other in the process.
So what does this workmanship look like? We are called to good works. Galatians 5 tells us that the Spirit is at work in those who are believers and the evidence of that indwelling Holy Spirit will be seen in their actions and interactions with others and toward God. Do we repent of our sin? If we truly see sin as a violation of God’s holiness, we will. Do we love and care for others? If we truly see love as the desire of a loving and gracious God, we will. Philippians 2:12-13 tells us that as we strive to obey God, He is at work in us to help us obey Him by loving Him and doing what He commands. What a wonderful thing that if we are believers, we are God’s workmanship!
Reflect: Read 1 Corinthians 15:10. How does Paul explain that he is the workmanship of God in this text?