“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
Lest any man should boast.
God alone is God. As such he must be acknowledged by every creature.
Of him, and through him, and unto him are all things. Never is anything of us and through us. Nor is anything partly of us and through us. Hence his alone is the glory for ever and ever. And this glory must be attributed to him. He will give it to no other.
Therefore salvation is of the Lord.
It is by grace, from beginning to end by grace only; not of works, lest any man should boast.
To boast, to claim part of the glory that belongs to God only, and therefore to claim all the glory that is his alone, is the tendency of sin, the inclination of the sinful heart. “Ye shall be as gods” (Gen. 3:5) is the slogan that expresses the deepest motive of the natural man. He refuses to glorify God as God and to be thankful.
So he is always inclined to deprive God of his glory, to say that salvation is of his own works. It is hard for him to confess that sovereign grace alone is the source and ground and power of salvation. Somehow he always attempts to introduce his work into the work of God, to share in the glory of the divine work that delivers him from guilt and clothes him with an eternal righteousness, that cleanses him from the pollution of sin and sanctifies him unto the service of the living God, that lifts him out of the depth of the misery of death and hell into the glory of eternal life and heavenly bliss.
In various ways he seeks to escape the consequences of salvation by grace and to maintain that he is saved by works. Sometimes he attempts to work out his own righteousness and to make this righteousness of works the basis of his salvation. Sometimes he apparently is willing to confess that he is saved by grace, but he contends that it is works that make him worthy of this grace. But in the measure that he introduces his own works into the wonder of salvation, he deprives the God of salvation of his glory.
Yet no man may boast in the presence of the Most High.
His alone is all the glory. He alone calls the things that are not as if they were, and he alone quickens the dead. He alone is Lord, the creator and the redeemer. Jehovah of hosts is his name.
Therefore all works as a cause, a ground, a reason, a means of salvation, or as contributing anything whatsoever to this divine wonder, must be excluded.
By grace are you saved.
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.
Created unto good works.
This must have all the emphasis.
It is not of works, or by works, or because of works that we are saved, but unto works. Our works are never first, but always last; they are never the cause, but always the result. God is first, and our work cannot begin except where God’s work is finished. We work out our own salvation, but only because God is working within us to do and to will of his own good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).
Created unto good works.
So it was in the beginning: Man was created unto, with a view to, with his purpose in the performance of good works.
He was made a working being. By this he was adapted to reflect the likeness of his creator, to bear the image of his God. He was so created that even as God works, so he might also work. In this he was distinguished from and stood exalted above all the rest of the earthly creation. All the works of God’s hand function, operate, move, each in their own place and with their own purpose. The sun, moon, and stars move in their orbs and fill the universe with their light and energy and glory; the clouds gather and empty themselves upon the thirsty land; the lightning flashes and the thunder roars, the tempest rages and mighty waves of the ocean rise mountain high, rivers flow and brooks murmur; the beasts of the field rejoice and the birds of the air sing their songs of gladness and cheer; the earth yields its increase and the trees bear their fruit. All things move and operate and function in their place and according to their purpose.
But man works.
He was made a rational, living soul, a being capable of reflecting the virtues of God, with mind and will and heart. Consciously and willingly he performs his deeds. He labors and toils and exercises dominion over the various aspects of the earthly creation, subjecting them unto himself and employing them as his servants; he beholds all the works of God in the light of his rational eye; he ponders them and interprets them and reads the word of God in them; he loves and hates, he rejoices and grieves, he sings and prays as a rational and moral being that is related to the world and to God.
A working being he was created in the beginning. And he was made capable of performing good works.
Good works are those, and those only, that serve their proper purpose, God’s purpose: the glory of his name. For that glory man had to work. From a heart moved by the love of God he was to reach out for that glory of his creator, to behold it with his eye, to perceive it with his ear, to know it with his mind, to desire it with his will, to speak of it with his mouth, to work for it with his hands, to devote himself unto that sole purpose, to consecrate all things unto it, and thus to declare the praises of the Most High before all creation and before his face—such was man’s purpose, the purpose of creation. Only those works that are performed with that purpose in view are good.
But man fell.
He became evil, dead through trespasses and sins, darkened in his understanding, perverse of will and heart, impure in all his desires and longings and aspirations. An enemy of God he became, motivated by hatred against the Lord of heaven and earth, incapable of doing anything that is pleasing to God, seeking to destroy the glory of God and to exalt himself as the god of the universe.
His nature is corrupt, wholly in the power of sin and death.
His works are evil.
For still he works. Work he must inevitably. Work he does with all his soul and mind and power. But the works he performs are evil, always evil, ever coming short of the glory of God.
God, who is rich in mercy, according to the great love wherewith he loved us, freely, divinely, sovereignly…God, who calls the things that are not as if they were, and who quickens the dead…God, who creates, always creates; who creates when he calls out of nothing, and who creates when he calls out of death…God created us, his people, his church, once again.
For we are his workmanship, created unto good works.
Adorable wisdom of God.
For his workmanship we are created unto good works that he before ordained. The works of the church as a whole and of believers individually are ordained for them, predestinated in infinite wisdom from before the foundation of the world.
But of course.
Does not even man ordain beforehand the work that a certain mechanism that he constructs is to perform for him? Does he not adapt each part of the mechanism to the function of the whole?
Does not a great composer, creating a grand oratorio, ordain beforehand the parts that the various voices of a mighty choir are to sing, in order to attain the beautiful harmony he has in mind?
Would not God, then, who is infinite in wisdom and might, when he chose unto himself a church that would be to the praise of the glory of his grace in the beloved and that would forever declare his glorious virtues, ordain the good works that church would perform before his face and before all the world? Would he not ordain in minutest detail each part of the grand oratorio that is to sing his praises and assign to each voice its own place in the mighty chorus that will forever cause the new creation to rebound with glad hallelujahs? If the church is to reflect the fullness of his own glory in Christ, then must not God ordain just how the whole and each member are to serve that purpose?
But of course.
We are created unto good works, but lest any man should boast at all, even these works are not of our creation, of our conception, of our determination, but of God’s ordination and predestination. We do not invent them, but he ordained them. We do not bring them to him, but he brings them to us. He does not become obliged to us when we perform them, but we owe him our everlasting gratitude for the part we perform.
He ordained it all.
All the good works the church performs in this world, as she is redeemed from sin and guilt by the blood of Christ, as she is raised from death to life and called from darkness into his marvelous light, as she becomes his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, are ordained by him. All the praises her members sing, all the prayers they utter, all the glories of God they confess, all the suffering and death they endure, all their patience and tribulations, all their expressions of faith and trust and love of God in this world—these are all ordained of God from before the foundation of the world. There is a fullness of good works the church must perform even in this present time and in this present evil world, a fullness of testimony that she must bear, a fullness of suffering she must endure, according to God’s eternal counsel. So the part each individual believer is to perform in the realization of this fullness of good works is ordained by infinite wisdom.
Which he before ordained.
Yes, even the good works that the glorified church must perform in the new heavens and the new earth unto the everlasting ages have been ordained by the all-wise artificer and builder of the new Jerusalem.
He designed it all.
He chose his church and predestinated her to be conformed according to the image of his Son.
He ordained before the good works by means of which that church should show forth the praises of her God.
Oh, depth of wisdom!
Created in Christ Jesus.
For he not only predestinated his church and ordained her good works, but he also forms his people and enables them for the good works he ordained for them.
In the good works he ordained they must walk. He did not ordain a mechanism that would function according to his design and purpose, but a church of living believers, a living organism of rational and moral beings who would willingly perform the good works he ordained for them, sing his praises, and show forth the glory of his infinite virtues from the love of their hearts.
That is to walk in good works.
To be busy in the works God prepared for his people, ordained for them from eternity, each in his own place, willingly, consciously, motivated by the love of God in the heart, and with the avowed purpose to glorify the God of his salvation—that is to walk in his good works.
Unto this end he created us in Christ Jesus.
It is evident that the term “created” does not refer to our original creation in the beginning. Originally we were not created in Christ Jesus, but in the first man Adam. The apostle is not speaking of the human race, but of the church, saved by grace. Nor is this term “created” to be considered as a hyperbole, exaggerating what actually is accomplished when God forms his people unto the good works he ordained for them. Rather is this work of God to be considered a creation that is more wonderful still, a more marvelous revelation of his divine power than that whereby he called into existence the first world. Then he called the things that were not as if they were; but in the work of salvation he calls life out of death, light out of darkness, righteousness out of corruption, heavenly glory out of the depth of hell. Those who are capable of bringing forth only fruit unto death he forms into willing agents of the good works he ordained for them.
Yes, his workmanship we are, created, re-created out of death into life.
Created in Christ Jesus.
Christ he ordained to be the firstborn of every creature and the first begotten of the dead, the head of the church. In Christ he chose us, making us one with him forever. One we are with Christ, by his eternal election, both juridically and organically. In Christ, and in him only, he gives us all the blessings of salvation and makes us a new creation, fit unto all the good works he ordained for us.
In Christ he gives us the right to become new creatures, for by our sin we forfeited the right of the unspeakable blessing to walk in his good works. But through the blood of Christ he cleanses us from the guilt of sin and clothes us with an eternal righteousness.
In Christ he makes us partakers of all the wonders of his grace and makes us new creatures. In Christ he gives us new life, the eternal life of his resurrection; in Christ he calls us out of darkness into his marvelous light; in Christ he gives us living faith, so that we may be rooted in him and draw our all from him; in Christ he justifies and sanctifies us and makes us willing to walk in his good works.
Presently he will give us the eternal glory of his heavenly covenant in Christ.
Created in Christ Jesus.
Glorious work of God!
This article was reprinted from Chapter 26 in the book All Glory to the Only Good God, written by Herman Hoeksema.
It was reproduced on the RFPA blog here.
Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965) was born in Groningen, the Netherlands on March 13, 1886 and passed away in Grand Rapids, MI on September 2, 1965. He attended the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Church and was ordained into the minitry in September of 1915.
"H.H." is considered one of the founding "fathers" of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. He and his consistory (Eastern Ave. Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI) were suspended and deposed from their offices in 1924-1925 because of their opposition to the "Three Points of Common Grace" adopted by the Christian Reformed Church in the Synod of Kalamazoo, MI in 1924. He, together with Rev. George M. Ophoff, Rev. H. Danhof and their consistories continued in office in the "Protesting Christian Reformed Church" which shortly thereafter were named the "Protestant Reformed Churches in America."
Herman Hoeksema served as pastor in the 14th Street Christian Reformed Church in Holland, MI (1915-1920), Eastern Ave. Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI (1920-1924), and First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI (1924-1964), He taught in the Seminary of the Protestant Reformed Churches from its founding and retired in 1964.
For an enlarged biography, see: Herman Hoeksema: Theologian and Reformer