God’s Workmanship

by Mike Ratliff

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)

In the ESV’s rendering of Ephesians 2:10, the word “workmanship” translates the Greek noun ποίημα or poiēma, which refers to what is made or created. Our English word “poem” is derived from ποίημα. I have one lexicon that renders ποίημα as “masterpiece” or “work of art.” In the context of Ephesians 2:10, the creator is God and the ποίημα is who? It is the true child of God! Before we continue let’s look at the Greek text of v10 and then a word-for-word translation.

αὐτοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν ποίημα, κτισθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἐπὶ ἔργοις ἀγαθοῖς οἷς προητοίμασεν ὁ θεός, ἵνα ἐν αὐτοῖς περιπατήσωμεν. (Ephesians 2:10 NA27)

His for we are masterpiece having been created in Christ Jesus for Good works which previously prepared – God, that in them we should walk. (a word-for-word translation from the NA27 Greek text of Ephesians 2:10) 

Please notice that all true children of God are His, that is, God’s workmanship. In the ESV and most other English translations, v10 begins with “For we…”, however, as you can clearly see, the focus on this passage is God Himself and His work. A good summary of this verse would be, “For of Him we are a product.” Think of all of the emphasis in the church visible in our time to become “culturally relevant” because, after all, people are a product of their own environment and experiences, even Christians, so the Church must adapt, the Gospel must adapt, the message of the Church must adapt, the needs of the focus group of a specific group must have their “needs” studied and the total message and ministry of the church must be structured to meet that.

However, God’s Word tells us that the believer is not primarily a product of their environment and experiences, but is actually “the product of God.” No matter what our education or culture, those of us truly in Christ are products of God.

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (Romans 9:20-21 ESV)

Does the product of the potter have any say so in what form it will be made into? The clay is just the material that is formed by the potter into a vessel either for honorable use or for dishonorable use. God, the “Divine Potter” molds those whom He saves into vessels He can use. This is why I marvel when some professing Christians detest this teaching so much. They desire that all this be up to their choice and ultimately their Free Will. If either of those statements is true then what do we do with passages like these?

In last night’s post, I mentioned that I served for many years in SBC churches as a Bible teacher and Deacon. The fact that I was considered very deep and a good Bible teacher back then is sobering to me because I know that God has taken me very far since then. One vast difference between then and now (amongst many others of course) is that in those days I sat under the teaching of men that our Pastors recommended. I read the books they wrote and attended the seminars and such that they sent me to. My theology back then had no real substance. It was just a patchwork of things from all those mens’ teachings. In the SBC churches, no one except Pastors are expected to go very deep into theology. I believe in our time, the cracks are beginning to show in that denomination because of this.

I mentioned in that post that in 2005 I began to get into trouble with my Pastor. That was because I began to engage him in theological discussions. The other men in our church would just sit around when we did that and grin and wait for him to put me down. However, I was very humble about the whole thing, even when it came to Seeker-Sensitive stuff. He was totally dumbfounded when I gave him a multi-page, very well-researched, documented paper that I had put together over several weeks that stated very clearly why we should not take our Church into the Purpose Driven paradigm. He had no answer except to remove me as a teacher and grin as my wife and I walked out the doors never to return.

What I am saying is that the wake up call God did in my case in 2004, which took most of the year, changed me forever. I lived and breathed in God’s Word continually. When I wasn’t doing that, I was in prayer or worship. My brethren, you do that for a year, God works in and through you. I look back on that time as personal revival, but it was all God’s doing. I went from just one of the Deacons who went along with the whatever the leadership at our church wanted to do, to one who compared everything that went on in our church with what God’s Word said was right or wrong in that context. You do that consistently and you make enemies, I assure you. Two of the deacons were on the fence while the rest went with the Pastor. I was the only one who stood against it. However, most of those that I taught in my class left when we left.

Since that time, I have encountered a few out and about our city from that Church. They asked me the link to my blog. I gave it to them, but never heard from them again. You know what the front page looks like on this blog. You tell me what is so threatening to a Southern Baptist church member. All I can think of is that they are so far into that watered-down, Seeker-Sensitive stuff now that what we do here may appear a bit over the top and bit threatening. It’s saddening really.

In that period of personal revival (2004), the following year of walking in it and going through those fiery trials (2005), then the confrontation with the pastor and church leaders leading to our leaving that church (2006) I did talk with many of those in that church in both leadership and non-leadership roles. I spoke of possessing the treasure of that close, intimate walk with God down that narrow path as He sustains us through fiery trials. However, they were more interested in that fun stuff they were doing in place of Bible Study like coming together to make things out of cardboard or color things then have group discussions about it. Yeah, that’s what they were doing. It was through that that I began to pray for God to remove us from that nightmare.

I would not be surprised at all if I walked into the study of my former pastor at that church and find all of Rob Bell’s books there. After all, that same sort of all about man, God giving everyone a break, grading on curve, Love wins attitude goes down a lot easier than the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified!

Well, Resurrection Sunday is almost upon us. I do rejoice in that because my brethren, He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Soli Deo Gloria!

11 thoughts on “God’s Workmanship

  1. I have a confession to make. Today I made a breakthrough with the theological term of Lordship Salvation.

    Up to this point in time, when I hear the Lordship Doctrine I hear “blah blah blah”…just too much for my spongy brain to absorb. So if I have said some things that don’t make sense and you all think that I should know better, I’m getting there…just at my own pace.

    I just read an interesting commentary on the Lordship Doctrine vs Free Grace. The light is slowly dawning. Not saying which side I’m on…that should be pretty obvious by what I have said so far from my Biblical perspective. And there are degrees…

    As I’m sure most of you have, like me, said things the wrong way, not read what other bloggers were actually saying or not had our coffee before venturing onto the net, when we realize our mistake we have had the universal experience of head in hands, dissolving into a pool of dumbfounded amazement that we have said something that brainless and moronic.

    But too late… stupidity cannot be sucked back up…it must be put right if possible and if not possible, it must be absorbed into the great fathomless sea of forgetfulness. Hopefully if you say something half ways clever, the next time, the stupid will be forgotten or at least lost in the mist. I digress…

    The point I want to make today was that as I was reading about these very deep and theological ideologies I had a light bulb moment when I saw how free grace can get lost in the fluffy cloud of moralism (my paraphrase).

    Two summers ago I had too many discussions with a moralist who went round and round with his intellectual smurfiness using his moralism to dodge the need of a Saviour from his sins. Moralism always breaks down at some point, usually the point where you don’t get your own way…in his case it didn’t take very long.

    And now to my real reason for writing… for my opinion, Mike, on why your site is so threatening to the Purpose Driven, SBC adherents…because their presupposition is all linked back to the positive thinking and occult masters that are the bedrock foundational fathers of their ministries, even if they don’t know it. Norman Vincent Peale was Robert Schullers mentor, Schuller was Warren’s mentor and if you go back to the New Age roots, you’ll understand the fruits.

    What they have built on the foundation is the kind of material that gets burned up as hay and stubble. It is moralistic, socialistic, free grace that leans toward and travels to the extreme all the way into Liberal Theology which is the only way it can go.

    In, a nutshell, since they love their sin, “men love darkness rather than light”. Do they desire Truth? No they(speaking generally) desire many things, but Truth is not one of them. Naturally you are a threat to their chosen spirituality.

    IMHO

  2. Carolyn, yes, I think you said exactly what I was attempting to get my mind around. When I tried to debate theology they smuggly clung to their, “I’ve already got this all figured out and I have this under control, blah, blah, blah…leave me alone…” Yep, that was the way I remember it. Oh, if only I could have debated them presuppositionally back then! :-) Well, you know the greatest sin in our time in that crowd is to cause offense, that is, unless it is them offending you when you given them the Gospel. Spiritual blindness is incredible in its darkness.

  3. I do not think when we speak the truth we mean to offend folks , but we must remember that truth even presented with love will offend some folks. We have the choice to either love people enough to offer them everlasting life, knowing that we might offend them, or we can choose to simply be quiet and not risk offending anyone.
    Mike, the more you stand up against Heresies, the more you will be dispised.
    Mat.10 16-40
    16Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
    17But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
    18And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
    19But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.
    20For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
    21And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
    22And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
    23But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
    24The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.
    25It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?
    26Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. 27What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
    28And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
    29Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
    30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
    31Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
    32Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
    33But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
    34Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
    35For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
    36And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
    37He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
    38And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
    39He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
    40He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

  4. Thanks Cristina, most of my run-ins with the leadership at that church were in the context of semi-monthly deacon’s meetings that we had at some restaurant. The environment doesn’t really lend itself to deep theological discussion, but even so, when I would counter the shallowness of what was going on with some depth, the pastor would make sure that the chairman and himself would isolate me from the rest of the deacons during and afterward. The very last meeting I went to was the Saturday before I left that Church. I left the next morning. I was ushered out into the parking lot of the restaurant by those two. They walked me to my pickup and they asked me how I “felt” about the new Sunday school curriculum and format, et cetera. I told them that I had it at home and had already written around it and devised my own lessons using Scripture. They looked at each other. I got in my pickup. They went back into the restaurant. When I got to church the next day to teach my class, it had been absorbed into the class taught by the Chairman of the deacons. My wife and I went to worship. The Pastor kept staring at me all through it. When it was over we walked through the class area just to confirm. We left and never went back. I received calls from those dear souls in that class for weeks afterward wanting to know what happened. I think nearly all left that church as well. It was a mix of single young adults and young married couples. Some had small children, some had no children. The Pastor’s daughter was in my class. She quit coming for awhile. She was single, but had become pregnant. She showed up again about three months pregnant. My wife and I ministered to her. There was no retribution. There was none of that. We led her to seek the Lord’s forgiveness. She eventually married the guy she had been dating. For my Pastor to do what he did even though we were ministering to those dear people, she wasn’t the only one, was quite sad. I think what he didn’t like was the fact that I stood up to those radical Baptist Fundamentalist fellows that came to our class and tried to intimidate me to teach out of the KJV only and never talk about Reformed Theology. So, to not offend them outweighed my wife and I ministering to his own daughter…

  5. Wow. I felt that rejection. Harsh.

    @Mike and Christina…he that receiveth you, receiveth me…acknowledged!

    I don’t want to disturb the somberness of your post, Mike. The treatment you received is reprehensible.

    Perhaps I can add a little from my own perspective on bureaucratic obstinance and fear of cross contamination between the lines of denominationalism. In any case, these day I feel like an arrow on its way to some pre determined target. I can’t help myself.

    To pick up from my last post, another possible angle on why SBC brothers, the ones who have NOT bought into the false presuppositions of Purpose Driven but are, nevertheless, threatened by this web site. I propose that they may also suffer from some form of conditioning as they eye their Reformer brothers with varying degrees of suspicion.

    I remember growing up, in the Pentecostal denomination that somewhere along the lines I formed this picture in my mind of a little grey church with a big black X on it, padlocked doors and across the front of it, like a cargo container were stamped the words “Dead Orthodoxy”.

    It was the dreaded “Reformed Theology”, although I knew nothing about their actual teaching, it had been draped in the same sort of censured fabric as Catholicism to suppress this supposed “ false religion”.

    So goes the conditioning of shepherds wishing to protect their parishioners from wandering into other pastures. Feed them subliminal messages and steer them clear.

    And besides all that, the only Reformers I knew, I was informed by the gossip factory, smoked outside their church and apparently “drank beer” which two things were strictly forbidden in Pentecostal circles, and so, re-enforced the non-descript nature of their dead religion for me.

    So, Mike, I’m not sure what the SBC’s “value conditioning” is toward Reformed Theology, but I would think it would be a bit of a threat to their denominational agenda. Better to paint them with a wide brush of doctrinal error and put up an electric fence with a few yellow flashing danger lights to warn the sheep to stay clear.

    Now, as I have found out, and as fate would have it, I have stumbled, quite innocently and unexpectedly, straight into a life giving, Spirit breathing, Spurgeon ignited, Orthodox spewing, and incidentally, not so inhospitable after all, camp of Reformers. There is, surprise, surprise, spiritual life behind those padlocked doors.

    I hope this has been a little amusing and at the same time, strangely comforting. Denominations have agendas. They’re not all bad, but some are. Whereas, Christians have no agenda. Just a love of the Truth and a passion for telling it.

    I have an anecdotal style of writing, hold the applause…while some of you have a much more sophisticated, apologetic, reasoning, organized, planned and well presented style.

    Either way, may the gospel go forward, may we all be edified, encouraged and strengthened in the faith. And may we get past our petty, dogmatic, denominational agendas and live with single minded, confident hope in the One who died and rose again for our transformation into heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Have a blessed Easter, everyone.

    And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a mother in law coming for a 3 day visit and I am looking for a quick exit through the nearest cosmic porthole….

  6. Thanks Carolyn! Yes, I think you are right about that conception of dead orthodoxy that had been falsely implanted in us over the years concerning those who believed and lived according to the very same theology that I teach and love right now. Yes, there is life where God’s Truth is upheld and obeyed and that is the key. What keeps this from becoming dead orthodoxy is that we continue to follow the Son and not men. Now, think of all those non-Reformed folks out there in “Evangelicalism” who do nothing but follow men and whose theology is as mushy and full of holes as mine was back before my wake up call in 2004. You see, that wake up call had NOTHING to with the effort or work or preaching or teaching going on in my church, but through the intervention of God Himself into my life to draw me to seek Him continually, finding fulfillment in Him alone. It changed me forever and was not an overnight thing. It took months. When I shared this with my church friends, I could see that they wanted what I had, but didn’t have any desire to go through all that. Well, if you had asked me a year earlier if I had wanted to, I probably would have said no too. God called me to that and did the work as I obeyed Him. Will He do that for other believers? I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Him.

  7. @Carolyn you said….Norman Vincent Peale was Robert Schullers mentor, Schuller was Warren’s mentor and if you go back to the New Age roots, you’ll understand the fruits.

    Warren has lots of mentor’s. By warren’s own admission C Peter Wagner was Warren’s mentor. also. Here is that document.

    http://www.zimbio.com/Rick+Warren+and+Seeker+Sensitive/articles/101/Rick+Warrens+mentor+C+Peter+Wagner+commissions

    I believe Rick Warren has also claimed that Peter Drucker was him mentor.

  8. Hello, Teresa, my sweet friend. Good to hear from you.

    Yes, so much is known about the CGM movement with Peter Drucker and that whole corporate network of marketing genius. Depending on how deep you want to dig, less is known about the earlier days of the Warren Schuller connection, although it is knowledge readily available on the internet.

    For a very brief summary, in the 1970s, Rick and Kay, studied at Schuller’s Institute for Church Growth in Orange County. Schuller had decided to teach his mega secrets to anyone who was interested regardless of denomination. He once remarked, “An undisputed fact is that I am the founder, really, of the church growth movement in this country. I advocated and launched what has now become known as the marketing approach in Christianity.” Rick Warren became one of Schuller’s most successful students.

    Which wasp nest did the wasps come from? It doesn’t really matter…The fruit is so rotten and covered with wasps at this point that you don’t even need to go back to the roots to discover which hornet nest or new age, occult based spiritual network the false teaching originated from. It is quite apparent with just a casual glance, from any discerning Christian that the fruit is spoiled, infested and something to run from.

    It was when I discovered in the writings of Norman Vincent Peale that he was experiencing auras of green light emitting from his body, as he meditated, that I first became alarmed that he was not the nice Christian man that I had naively thought…

    And in digging deeper, most, if not all his mentors were New Agers or Practicing Occultists.

  9. Carolyn, I do believe that Shuller and Norman V Peale are both freemasons, I know Peale is for sure.

    I miss you Carolyn. One day I will come back posting, needed to take a break. Happy Passover. Love you Teresa

  10. Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12-13)These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

    And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. (Luke 12:4)

    The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. (Exodus 14:14)

    The Lord is on My side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)

    And when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:40-41)Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

    Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

    The scriptures are such an encouragement, take courage Mike and Carolyn, and keep fighting the good fight!
    Cristina

Comments are closed.