For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
I could point to some cameras, some microphones, a computer, and a mixing board as the handiwork of my brother and myself. These things have enhanced our livestreamed and recorded services. Is this something to be proud of? We have others in our church who can make music, together or by themselves; we have those who can teach, who can disinfect, who can arrange flowers, who can keep track of finances, and many other things. We have members who do amazing things at work, though it may not always be visible, members who can make amazing meals for their families, and the list goes on. Are these things to be proud of?
Let us hold that thought while we take a look at some other handiwork, namely God’s handiwork. As we see this phrase in our text, we will see some aspects of God’s handiwork in us.
Look at God’s Handiwork
I. Our being saved is God’s handiwork
II. Our good works are God’s handiwork
I. Our being saved is God’s handiwork
A. We are saved from eternal death by God.
V8: It is by grace you have been _______. (saved)
Consider for a moment what that means. Some people—maybe you or someone you know—have been saved from drowning, saved from a burning building or car, saved from cancer, saved from a terrible fall. It was probably frightening, and the person saved was certainly grateful.
But those are cases of being saved from temporal death. Here we are talking about being saved from the eternal wrath of God where punishments last forever. It can make your skin crawl just thinking about it.
For as Paul points out in the verses before our text, we are by nature spiritually dead in our sins. We didn’t know God, didn’t want to know God, didn’t want to listen to him, didn’t want to follow his commands. What we did, even those things that look good, were done entirely for ourselves. And you were facing God’s wrath, his eternal wrath, for this.
But you _______ ________ saved. (have been) through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
Done by God, by grace, not from yourselves, not by works.
V8: Your being ________ is God’s handiwork. (saved)
B. We are saved by God’s saving work in Christ
Think briefly what that handiwork involved. He couldn’t overlook or ignore sins. Punishment had to be carried out. So he sent his one and only Son to become a human, to become Jesus, to be loaded with our sins, to inflict the punishment due our sins on him, to abandon him to the agonies of hell while he hung on that cross, and to die as an ordinary human being. It was not his death, he had never sinned and earned death, his death was our death. He saved us from death, he saved us for eternal life.
For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
This is God’s handiwork.
Your being saved is God’s handiwork.
What now? What now is a good question to ask. How to respond to someone who has saved you? How do you repay someone who got your life back for you? We start with contemplation and praise, like the shepherds and Mary on the night of Jesus’ birth. As it sinks in, we are ready for what God prepared us for.
II. Our good works are God’s handiwork
A. God has prepared good works for us to do
V10: For we are…created in Christ Jesus to do _______ _____. (good works) which God prepared in advance for us to do.
It is not just that we respond to God’s gracious act of saving us by doing things pleasing to him, he is the one who has prepared works that we are to do. If we are filled with gratitude for his saving us, certainly we will want to do them.
Let’s note something about them first. These aren’t even our works. These are God’s works. He has prepared them for us.
So even our _______ _________ are God’s handiwork. (good works)
B. God’s word describes the good works we are to do
So how do we go about finding out what good works God has prepared for us? He doesn’t usually speak directly to us individually, but he has spoken to us through his word. So, we take his word and apply it to our situation in life.
Are you married? What does God’s word have to say to people who are married? Love your spouse, not just in the sexual sense but in the sense of figuring out what they need, what would be good for them, and doing that. He has some specific things for each spouse: husbands to love and be ready to sacrifice for their wife, wives to submit to, to follow their husbands. There’s nothing about husbands disciplining their wives or ruling over them; likewise, there is nothing about wives becoming doormats and serving their husbands like slaves. It all starts with love and continues even when the other is not so loveable.
Are you not married? God’s word has something to say to you do. Keep the marriage bed pure; it is not for those who are not married. Look for a caring, believing spouse to share your life with. And learn that you can serve the Lord single as Paul did.
Do you have children? God’s word tells us not to exasperate them. Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Love them, feed them, care for them, take time with them, make them a priority in your life.
Are you a young child at home? God’s word tells us to obey your parents in the Lord. This means trusting the Lord that he will work good for you in your obedience even in cases where your parents might be wrong. Keep your room clean, do your chores, finish your homework—the rules your parents have set for these things are there to prepare you to be responsible adults in this world.
Are you a worker? Are you a boss? Are you a teacher? Are you a law enforcement officer? Do you have what seems like a menial job? Are you working to support your family? Are you cooking and cleaning for your family? Apply God’s word to your situations in life and do the good works he has prepared for you to do, remembering these are God’s works, no matter what the world thinks.
Think about this. Are the teachers over at Precious Lambs doing anything less big than Elon Musk is flying astronauts to the space station or developing environmentally friendly electric cars? Absolutely not. Is the husband struggling with spreadsheets or factory assembly pieces doing anything less big than Jeff Bezos is delivering those countless boxes to your doorstep? Absolutely not. Supporting a family and training children is not spectacular but it is important for a good society and so that our families become and remain part of God’s family into all eternity. This is God’s work.
We should note that when we let God’s word guide us in good works, it will often bring us into conflict with what is common and what is considered good and bad in this world. What constitutes family and marriage, how we should train our children, how we should respond to laws and rules we don’t like are just a few examples of this. But even in these cases these are good works our God has prepared for us to do. We remember again:
Our good works are God’s handiwork.
What Now? As we look around ourselves in this world, we see many people trying to do great works in many different ways. Some are simply wrong, some are misguided, some are good. As we seek to do good works we want to look to God’s word for our guidance—learn it, trust it, put it into practice.
As we look at where we come from and what we are doing, and then what God is doing, somethings become clear. When we are born into this world, we are dead in our sins. But God saves us through his Son Jesus. Our being saved is God’s handiwork. But once saved he has plans for us, he has good works planned for us. The good things we do in response to his saving us are part of God’s plan. Our good works are God’s handiwork. And Paul sums it up succinctly:
What is God’s handiwork?
We are God’s handiwork, saved by his grace, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. We will want to live as his handiwork in this world. We pray to our God for help in living this life. Amen.