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!