Our new life in Christ is just that, A New life, it is not a development of our old nature.
2nd chapter of Ephesians
I want to draw your attention today to the interrelationship of two of the verses from our reading, verses 10 and 22. ‘For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus … in Whom ye are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.’ Have you ever stopped to consider the implications of that statement – we are His workmanship in Christ. God has accomplished it; He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, created us for good works, which He has foreordained, which He has prepared for us to walk in. No place here for patting ourselves on our back, for praising ourselves for our own works, our good deeds, our reformed temperaments, our charitable acts, our moral transformation – for it is all of Him. That is why it is referred to as a new creation – something that never existed before. Our new life in Christ is just that, a new life, it is not a development of our old nature. Good works are not the cause of salvation; they are the result of it, and if not seen as such, they actually become a hindrance, a stumbling block and impediment to the display of His grace that is at work within us.
We are His workmanship, in Christ – and we have been so from the very outset of our spiritual journey. It was He who first taught us our need of a Savior, who awoke our sense of sin and our desires for Him, for no man can come unto Christ except the Father which has sent His only begotten Son, draw him. And we remain His workmanship. ‘For He that has begun a good work in us will perform it unto the day of Christ.’ We can surely add nothing to it, but oh so often do we impede, distract or mar that which He is doing in us. He is both the author and finisher of our faith. He is the divine sculptor. He has taken each one of us, rough stones that we are, has removed us from the quarry of this earthly life wherein He found us, from our natural sin-laden existence, from the course of this world as St. Paul describes it, just lying there, as it were, spiritually dead stones – removed us in order to build us together for an habitation of Himself through the Spirit. We are told that “It does not yet appear what we shall be”, and yet, how many of us, though we don’t even know what we are to be, even though we but see through a glass darkly, even though we are His workmanship, how many of us, rather than living by the faith He has graciously bestowed upon us, instead, interfere with His work, taking, as it were, the chisel from His hand and attempting to complete His design ourselves. ‘Oh foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?’
And what is God’s grand design, why has the eternal God who inhabits eternity offered Himself up as a bloody sacrifice to bring about our salvation – what exactly are we being formed into in Christ? What is the mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord? Surely it is not simply for us to gather together once a week for an hour or two and then blend back into everyday society, one which acknowledges not God’s existence, nor to squander our time pursuing common everyday affairs as others do, pursuits that have no eternal worth nor glorify Him not. Did the invisible become visible, the eternal Word become flesh and allow Himself to be tortured, dishonored, violated and crucified on a Roman cross so we could keep the Golden Rule, be moral, be nice people? Is the eternal purpose of the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, create us anew in Christ Jesus so that we may approach Him in prayer, when we feel like it, just to plead for His assistance in helping us cope with this passing, finite, world, a world to which supposedly our Baptism attests that we are already dead to? No, no, a thousand times, no. Our salvation is, as Scripture tells us, to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. We are God’s Church, His very members incorporate, the bride of His beloved Son – that magnificent entity which should be revealing, expressing, living, and making known God’s divine wisdom of the cross, of His bringing man into union with Himself through the Eternal Son, Jesus Christ. How is it that we so easily allow ourselves to be satisfied with the empty, temporal, seductive offerings of this passing world once we realize that we have been preordained for higher things, for eternal life in the Father’s mansions in Christ.
We have been told that we are His holy temple, a habitation of God through the Spirit, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. We are told that our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in us. We know that “God who made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” We know that God does not dwell in bricks and mortar, that His Holy Spirit does not inhabit stained glass, that no building of man is sanctified, nor moral, nor godly. We know these things, we attest to the validity of them, we know that the hour has come when neither in this mountain, nor that mountain, nor at Jerusalem is the Father worshipped, for God is a Spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth – we know these things and yet we still allow ourselves to believe that He can only be found, only be worshipped, only be encountered, only be glorified in a building made by the hands of men. Oh yes, there is such a thing as the house of God, He will have His habitation, His dwelling place; but it is not an inanimate structure, the handiwork of skilled architects and designers – it is so much more for it is a living and spiritual temple, in whom, that is Christ, we are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. Let us do away with, once and for all, the childish notion of holiness being connected with anything except with a living, eternal, God; let us be rid of the superstitious concepts we embrace with regard to a place, to a physical edifice. The house of the living God, the church, is built with the living stones of converted, born-again men and women. The church of God, His bride, that which Christ hath died for and purchased with His precious blood – this is the Divine Edifice, the structure wherein God dwelleth. He alone created it by His death and resurrection and is now building it stone by stone. It is His church, it belongs to none of us, and we dare not act as though it does. It consists of those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, who were purchased by Christ, hanging upon that tree, of the men and women who are called of God by His Holy Spirit, filled with His Holy Spirit and are being quickened by that same Spirit to partake of the life of Christ, who are members in particular, and partakers of His body and blood.
And never forget that God’s church is not just a heap of living stones, randomly piled together without purpose or design – for the divine Creator is her Architect. He has appointed her very length and breadth and has left nothing to chance. He has determined the eternal position every living stone shall occupy. And He has set Jesus Christ Himself as the cornerstone, the foundation stone that will support all the weight of the building, for on that stone every other one must lean. And it was necessary that He, the foundation stone of the church, be taken out of the same quarry as the rest of the stones, be made like them. And so, God became man, very man, of the same substance as the other stones of the temple, yet He is also God and able to bear all the weight of this mighty structure throughout eternity.
The 57th chapter of Isaiah reminds us that God inhabits eternity, that is, He dwells in perpetuity, lives eternally, without beginning or end, moves freely within it, that any period of time is accessible to Him. He made it and has power over it and thereby He works out His divine design, His mystery, His eternal plan of redemption, over the whole expanse of time. From the most remote past He has planned, created and is fulfilling each step of His purpose to bring about His ultimate goal, the building of His spiritual temple, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance.
I asked you at the outset, and I pray that you continually consider the implications, the magnificence of this truth that you are His workmanship in Christ Jesus.