For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.
The doctrine of the text is, That those who are renewed and recovered out of the apostasy of mankind, are, as it were, created anew through the power of God and grace of the Redeemer.
I. EXPLAIN THE TEXT.
1. Our relation to God. "We are His workmanship."(1) By natural creation, which gives us some kind of interest in Him, and hope of grace from Him.
(2) By regeneration, or renovation, which is called a second or new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
(a) A change wrought in us, so that we are other persons than we were before, as if another kind of soul came to dwell in our bodies.
(b) This change is such as must amount to a new creation. Nor merely a moral change, from profaneness and gross sins to a more sober course of life; nor a temporary change, which soon wears off; nor a change of outward form, which does not affect the heart; nor a partial change. The renewed are "holy in all manner of conversation." They drive a new trade for another world, and set upon another work to which they were strangers before; must have new solaces, new comforts, new motives. The new creature is entire, not half new half old; but with many the heart is like "a cake not turned."(c) When thus new framed and fashioned, it belongeth to God; it hath special relation to Him (James 1:18). It must needs be so; they have God's nature and life.
(d) This workmanship on us as new creatures far surpasses that which makes us creatures only.
2. God's way of concurrence to establish this relation. It is a "creation."(1) This shows the greatness of the disease; in that so great a remedy is needed.
(2) It teaches us to magnify this renewing work. if you think the cure is no great matter, it will necessarily follow that it deserves no great praise, and so God will be robbed of the honour of our recovery.
3. How far the mediation of Christ is concerned in this effect. We are renewed by God's creating power, but through the intervening mediation of Christ.
(1) This creating power is set forth with respect to His merit. The life of grace is purchased by His death, "God sent His only-begotten Son into the world that we might live by Him" (1 John 4:9); here spiritually, hereafter eternally; life opposite to the death incurred by sin. And how by Him? By His being a propitiation.
(2) In regard of efficacy. Christ is a quickening Head, or a life-making Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45). Whatever grace we have comes from God, through Christ as Mediator; and from Him we have it by virtue of our union with Him (2 Corinthians 5:17).
(3) With respect to Christ: "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus," who is the Head of the new world, or renewed estate.
(4) With respect to the use for which this new creation serveth. One is mentioned in the text: "Created unto good works"; but other things must be taken in.
(a) In order to our present communion with God. Till we are created anew, we are not fit to converse with a holy and invisible God earnestly, frequently, reverently, and delightfully, which is our daily work and business.
(b) In order to our service and obedience to God. Man is unfit for God's use till he be new moulded and framed again.
(c) In order to our future enjoyment of God, and that glory and blessedness which we expect in His heavenly kingdom; none but new creatures can enter into the new Jerusalem. Application: Use.
1. Of information.
(1) That there is such a thing as the new nature, regeneration, or the new birth, and the new creature. It is one thing to make us men, another to make us saints or Christians.
(2) That by this new nature a man is distinguished from himself as carnal; he hath somewhat which he had not before, something that may be called a new life and nature; a new heart that is created (Psalm 51:10), and may be increased (2 Peter 3:18). In the first conversion we are mere objects of grace, but afterwards instruments of grace. First God worketh upon us, then by us.
(3) How little they can make out their recovery to God, and interest in Christ, who are not sensible of any change wrought in them. This is a change indeed, but in many that profess Christ, and pretend to an interest in Him, there is no such change to be sensibly seen; their old sins, and their old lusts, and the old things of ungodliness are not yet cast off. Surely so much old rubbish and rotten building should not be left standing with the new. Old leaves in autumn fall off in the spring, if they continue so long; so old things should pass away, and all become new.
(4) It informeth us in what manner we should check sin, by remembering it is an old thing to be done away, and ill becoming our new estate by Christ (2 Peter 1:9).
2. To put us upon self-reflection; are we the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus? that is, are we made new creatures? It will be known by these things — a new mind, a new heart, and a new life.
3. To exhort you to look after this, that you be the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus. You will say, "What can we do? This is God's work in which we are merely passive." I answer — It is certainly an abuse of this doctrine if it lull us asleep in the lap of idleness; and we think that because God doth all in framing us for the new life, we must do nothing. The Spirit of God reasoneth otherwise, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12, 13). This principle can neither be a ground of looseness nor laziness. You are under an obligation both to return to God and to use the means whereby you may return. Your impotency doth not dissolve your obligation. A drunken servant is a servant, and bound to do his work; his master loseth not his right by his default. An insolvent debtor is a debtor, and if he cannot pay all, he is bound to pay as much as he can. Besides, you are creatures in misery; if you be sensible of it, your interest will teach you to do what you can to come out of it; and God's doing all is an engagement to wait upon Him in the use of means, that we may meet with God in His way, and He may meet with us in our way.
II. THE END why we are brought into this estate. Not to live idly or walk loosely, but holily and according to the will of God.
1. The object: good works; that is, works becoming the new creature; in short, we should live Christianly.
2. God's act about it.
(1) God has prepared these works for us.
(2) God has prepared us for them.
3. Our duty: that we should walk in them. Walking denotes both a way and an action.
(1) Good works are the way to obtain salvation, purchased and granted to us by Jesus Christ. Unless we walk in the path of good works we cannot come to eternal life.
(2) An action. Walking denotes —
(a) Spontaneity in the principle; not drawn or driven, but walk — set ourselves a-going.
(b) Progress m the motion.
(T. Manton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.