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“Which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them”
Intro: Have you ever heard the expression “There are no self-made people in the Lord’s church.” If a person is a Christian he has been made by God alone.
- Certainly we recognize that every person is the physical creation of God, because God created all things. But there is a spiritual creation as well, and it this creation that Paul references in 2 Cor 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
- As we have studied previously, Ephesians 2:10 describes the Christian as “His workmanship created in Christ Jesus”. The Greek word translated “workmanship” is poiema from which we derive our English word “poem.” It means, “that which is made, a manufactured product (from The Bible Exposition Commentary)
- As sinners, we are made new through the initial forgiveness of our sins that we receive when we obey the Lord in baptism “for the remission of sins”. In Romans 6 the apostle says those who are buried with Christ in baptism are raised to “walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4)
- But Paul takes us further here in Ephesians 2:10. He tells us the ongoing purpose of the Creator and the quality of this new life. We are “created for good works” In fact, God has made preparation for this very purpose – that we should “walk” in good works. What does this mean?
I. “Which God Prepared Beforehand” – the thought here is that God made something ready ahead of time. Vincent’s Word Studies says “…God prearranged a sphere of moral action for us to walk in. Not only are works the necessary outcome of faith, but the character and direction of the works are made ready by God. (from Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament). God’s preparation or prearrangement may be applicable in two ways:
A. God has prepared or prearranged the works themselves. What is a “good work”? We may come up with some seemingly adequate definitions, but the bottom line is that a good work is one that God has arranged and defined. In the description of the physical creation in Gen. 1&2, everything that God made was called “very good”.
1. The rich ruler in Mark 10 came to the Good Teacher (Jesus) asking what he had to do to receive eternal life. (Jesus did not tell him there was nothing he could do, He directed him to the commandments of God) But Jesus began by qualifying his willingness to call Jesus “good”. “No one is good but One, that is, God.”( Mark 10:18) Jesus’ good teaching was the commandments of God. They were to be obeyed w/o reservation.
2. The early church is Acts was devoted to following God’s orders given through the inspired apostles. Acts 2:42 – And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 1 Peter 4:11 – If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
3. Good works are the ones that God has authorized and regulated in His word. I must carefully look for these works in His word, and do only what He has commanded. Luke 6:46 – 46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?
B. God also prepares the worker. Implied in Paul’s language is the preparation of the worker himself. God equips His people to do His will. A couple of corollary thoughts:
1. God is able to fit us to do all that He requires. C.H. Spurgeon cites the example of a bird and a worm. God created a bird to fly and a worm to burrow in the earth. Nothing flies better than a bird, and nothing can fertilize and prepare the soil better than the earthworm. In creation God knows what He is doing. So in our spiritual re-creation, He adequately fits us to do His spiritual work.
a. Have ever seen a baby bird out of its nest, laying on the ground. You might wonder, Did God really equip this thing to fly? It has what it needs, it just needs to grow. So we too must use what God has given us to grow, in order to do what God intended us to do.
- Heb 13:20-21 –Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
- Eph 4:11-13 – 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; ….vs. 15-16 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
b. Our free moral choice is a part of this preparation. We have been created in the image of God with the ability to reason and decide on issues of morality (even as God). His Spirit speaks to our spirit in His Word. We can choose to do what is right, and we can choose to incorporate the spiritual qualities of God into our lives. As we noticed in our last study, Peter urges the development of spiritual virtues into our lives, so that we may be “partakes of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4-7) and then adds … if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (v. 8)
2. God fits me inwardly to do good works. Our human perspective may lead us to the conclusion that good works are a matter of the right place, right time, or physical circumstances. “I would be able to do god works if I had… more money, more receptive people, a better church to work with.. etc) Although God does supply us physically to do good things (“seed to the sower” in 2 Cor. 9:10) these physical provisions are the latter fruit of God’s equipping. His primary preparation of the Christian to do good is inward and spiritual. He prepares our hearts.
a. Is this not Paul’s point in 2 Cor. 8 as he urges the Corinthians to complete the good work of helping the poor saint in Judea? The Macedonians served as his example: 2 Cor 8:5 – And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. 2 Cor 8:12 – For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.
b. Therefore, we cannot excuse ourselves with the thought that if we were in a different circumstance, with different resources, we would be able to do good works, and really serve God. If our hearts are not prepared we will always be unfruitful. (a blind man does not change his view by standing in front of different windows) If you become what God wants you to be inwardly, you can do good works and glorify God in Babylon, as well as in Jerusalem.
3. God qualifies me to do good works through a call to repentance and obedience. Notice the apostle’s words in 2 Tim 2:19-21 – Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” 0 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
a. Sanctification (separation from impurity) and usefulness are tied to together in this passage. My usefulness to God is dependent on my willingness to depart from iniquity. So God calls me to be obedient so that I can prepare myself to do good works.
b. In Jesus’ parable of the talents, one of the consequences of obedience vs. disobedience was the opportunity to do more in the future. Compare Matt 25:21 – ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ As opposed to” Matt 25:27-29 – So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
Conclusion: We will conclude this lesson tonight as we consider specifically HOW God prepares us to do good works. It is not going to be difficult to spend the rest of this year discussing the good works that we are to be doing. We have been redeemed for a purpose, and the Bible is full of that purpose.