While visiting the national Gallery of Art a few years ago, my family and I had the opportunity to see an original DaVinci painting. Although only a small painting, it was protected by a locked glass case, special lighting to prevent fading and an armed security guard. As we gazed at the painting, we overheard a woman nearby enthusiastically praising the unique qualities and superior workmanship that were characteristic of this well known artist’s work.
Workmanship may be defined as the art or skill of a workman and the quality of the execution of his work as seen in that which is made. As illustrated above, DaVinci’s fame is closely associated with praise that reflects his workmanship.
His Workmanship – For His Glory Alone
In Ephesians 2:10 the Apostle Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works…” This image conveys the amazing truth that God, like a workman, actively engages in fashioning and shaping vessels of grace according to His master design and purpose… glory and honor.
Consider the workmanship of God in creating the heavens and the earth. The psalmist reveals in Psalm 19 that the heavens and firmament declare His glory and handiwork so fluently that there is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. The wonder of distant galaxies and star systems are but the finger work of God (Psalm 8). The worlds were framed by the spoken word of God and the Living Word who is God. All things created by Christ, for Christ, and sustained through Christ (Colossians 1:16) to reflect God’s glory. But when it comes to good works, we were created in Christ Jesus.
While creation unveils the glory of His omnipotence, God’s design in salvation is to draw attention to the glory of His saving grace. Like the workman, God has chosen the purpose, means and instruments of His work specifically so that all boasting belongs to the workman and not the vessel. “For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God not of works lest any man should boast, for we are His workmanship…” The aim of God’s grace is boasting in God alone (Galatians 6:10). Similar to the refrain of a triumphant song, “to the praise of the glory of His grace” is repeated in Ephesians chapter 1 to place the spotlight on God’s great purpose to exalt the freedom and sufficiency of His amazing grace (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). The glory of His workmanship is made known or reflected in some way by the object that was made.
His Workmanship – In Christ Jesus Alone
The great central truth of scripture is that God’s workmanship begins, continues and ends in Christ Jesus alone. This is critical for us to understand. Consider only a small sampling of scripture concerning this truth. We were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). God’s eternal purpose is in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:11). It is of God that we are in Christ Jesus (I Corinthians 1:30). We sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). We have been justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23). There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:39).
The end for which God intends to display the glory of His grace is a life that is being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Everything is hanging on being in Christ alone, even our good works.
His Workmanship – Grace through Faith Alone
We were not created in Christ and left alone nor is it possible to do good works in our own strength. When Paul writes “We are His workmanship” he uses a present tense verb which simply means that God’s participation in this work is active and ongoing. In other words, He will never give up this work to another nor will quit the work He began in you (Philippians 1:6, 2:13, Hebrews 13:20). This is indeed good news if you know yourself to be like Paul in Romans 7:18 where he cried, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” Although he couldn’t find how to perform that which is good in himself, he discovered it in Christ alone (Philippians 4:13).
Faith gives God the glory because it always looks away from one’s own ability and resources and looks to the sufficiency of God in Christ (Romans 3:27, Romans 4:19, Hebrews 11:6). Jesus taught his own disciples in John 15:5, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” Consequently, we simply cannot do good or bear fruit without Christ and the strength that is found by the indwelling Spirit.
Many years ago my dad taught me how to ride a bike. In order to help me, he would hold onto the back of my seat while I gained practice at balance and pedaling. Each day I would improve just a bit more until the day came when I cried out, “OK dad you can let go of the bike.” I had reached the place that I no longer needed my father’s help or the strength that he was supplying. I could now do the work of pedaling all by myself. As believers, you will never graduate from your father’s help and supply of grace to do all that he commands you to do. Please don’t be mistaken, if the father says get on the bike and pedal, to do otherwise is disobedience. Likewise, if you get on that bike and try to pedal without faith in the father’s steady hand of promise, you sin against him and you fail to glorify his name.
His Workmanship – For Good Works
God has ordained that we should walk in good works so that His glory as the workman might be reflected in them. Scripture reveals a vertical and horizontal dimension to good works. Vertically, good works reflect God’s glory as the workman and horizontally, they benefit people for which they are targeted. These two dimensions are seen in Matthew 5:16 where the Lord taught, “Let your light so shine before men that others may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.” While there may be a myriad of ways to do good deeds, when done by faith we will seek the good of others and the glory of God in them.
Scripture is abundant in proof that good works involve meeting the needs of others who are poor, hungry, thirsty, naked, hurting, etc. However, there is a greater reality that exists in the soul regarding need. It is spiritual. According to Jesus, food and drink cannot enter into the heart of men (Mark 7). Therefore, food and drink cannot possibly satisfy the soul of man. But God, who is a Spirit, has entered our souls like living water where a well of spiritual water springs up into everlasting life.
This is what sets apart the good works of Christianity from the “good deeds” of this world. We praise and thank God for the humanitarian efforts and aid to hurting people during earthquakes and other disasters. However, as a believer in Jesus Christ, only you can reflect the glory of God’s abundant grace by drinking from that continuous well of salvation that has been given you by grace. According to John 7:37 – 38, “…If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” The water that flows from your life to others in good works is only found when you drink (believe) and find Christ to be your fulfillment. How can we as His workmanship reflect the glory of the cool refreshing water of God when we are drinking from some other fountain (Jeremiah 2:13)?
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 25:25, As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. Good news brings delight to the ears and joy to the heart like cold waters do for the thirst. Simply put, it satisfies. While food and water can’t satisfy the soul, Christ can and does. The gospel is good news from a transcendent God that has been made nigh by the blood of Christ.
May God bless us to give water for the thirsty, food for the hungry and clothing for the naked. However, may we seek to address the need of the heart by doing so in the name of Christ, with the word of God, for the glory of God. Will the humanitarians of this world bring this good news of God’s word with their aid? Can the philanthropists comfort the hurting with the supremacy of God? Does our government or the United Nations have the power to bring relief to hurting souls with the glory of God? Only those that have found Christ to be a well for the soul can reflect this truth in doing good works. Are you joyfully drawing water out of the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3)?