Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 2:10f “. . .which God hath before ordained. . .”
Good works yield no merit before God, and thus cannot produce salvation (2:9a). Instead, salvation produces good works (2:10e). Even as a pear tree is ordained to bear fruit, believers are ordained to produce good works.
To perform good works believers were created, and God does not misfire. God’s creations achieve their ordained purposes. Otherwise, God is a weak and unwise Creator. When God makes a bird, it is the best flying-machine which can be produced. When God creates a worm, it is the best fertilizer and tiller of the soil imaginable. If birds and worms have purposes, and fulfill them, we can be sure those for whom Jesus shed His blood shall be enabled to accomplish the purpose for which they were created.
A Christian will live a Godly life. In this life, sinless perfection will never be our attainment, but must ever be our aspiration. Holy living, outward righteousness–this is our purpose, our ordained reason for being.
Let no wimpy pulpit lull you into a sissy salvation. “Awake to righteousness, and sin not” (1 C 15:34a). Believers, “you are foreordained to behave yourself” (Ironside). The saints have a prearranged sphere to live in. We are not free to determine our conduct on the basis of situation ethics or our own personal judgments. The good works we are to do are products, not of our own hunches and guesses, but of God’s fiat.
Long before time began, God ordained the life-style His followers would have. He determined believers would be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ (RM 8:29). This dictated life-style was not only exhibited in His Son, but also detailed in a Book. The Father now empowers us to live this exemplified, written life through His Holy Spirit.
God ordained believers, and also ordained the works toward which He fashions us. We were created for good works, good works were created for us. “Christian”–“good works”–the two go together, like a hand in a glove.
Dear believers, due to God’s sovereign purpose regarding us, we are capable of good works. Each saint is “equipped for every good work” (2 TM 3:17). God is at work in us, “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (PH 2:13). “The path and the power will always correspond. God does not lead us on roads that are too steep for our weakness, and too long for our strength. What He bids us do He fits us for; what He fits us for He thereby bids us do” (Maclaren). Thus, every command of Scripture is also a promise of God’s strength to empower us to obey it.
A believer can live the Christian life wherever he is and whatever the circumstances. There is a time and place to “flee fornication” (1 C 6:18). Sometimes we do need to re-locate, but we must be careful not to place a hyper-emphasis on surroundings and outward circumstances. Wherever we are, until God opens a door for us to leave, we can please God. Daniel brought as much glory to God in Babylon as Jeremiah did in Jerusalem.
Understand our position. Know what is ours. Before the foundation of the world, we were equipped for whatever a day might bring forth.
Eph. 2:10g “. . .that we should walk in them.”
“Walk” is a Hebraism denoting habit, the regulating of one’s life, the ordering of one’s behavior. God ordained good works as the highway in which His saints are to “walk” habitually.
“Walk” denotes perseverance. A walker is not one who takes a step or two, but one who continues in steady motion. A Christian is not one who takes to godly living in spurts, “here yesterday, gone today, return tomorrow.” Christian living is the ongoing commitment of a life-time.
Evil men can do good works by spurts and at times. Judas showed remorse for his betrayal, Cain offered a sacrifice to God, Pharisees fasted and prayed. Even the darkest lives manifest an occasional ray of light.
On the other hand, even the brightest lights in the kingdom cast an occasional dreary shadow. Abraham lied, Noah became drunk, Gideon made an idol, Samuel failed miserably in child-rearing, David committed adultery and murder, Peter denied knowing Jesus.
Nevertheless, the men of this latter group, though not perfect, persevered, they carried on. The bent of their lives was unto the Lord. Christians stumble, but rise again to continue their walk in good works. Our falls may be great, but the way we walk is straight.
In addition to perseverance, “walk” also denotes progress. A walker neither regresses nor stands still. A Christian makes headway, advancing to ever higher levels of achievement.
A caterpillar begins to achieve its ordained purpose in creation by spinning a cocoon. By setting itself to its God-given task, and doing what it was created to do, the caterpillar begins to make progress toward its intended beauty. However, if it decides to be content with the progress it makes in spinning its cocoon, the silken ball will become its tomb. The caterpillar becomes beautiful, not by resting in the deeds of a given phase, but by pressing through and beyond its earlier accomplishment. It attains beauty by deciding to press on to another phase of deeds. Even so the believer must never be content with any accomplished level in life.
Seek higher ground. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (PH 3:13-14). Celebrate your victories, but do not rest on them. Strive for “a higher plane than I have found. Lord, plant my feet on higher ground” (Oatman).
Persevere. Progress. We are never allowed to sit on the sidelines here. Ours is a “walk” upward to the end.
Eph. 2:11a “Wherefore remember,. . .”
To walk in good works is no easy task, “wherefore remember” what God has already wrought in your life. Consider not only your foreordained position in creation (2:10f), but also your already accomplished past. Paul urged his Gentile readers to recall their condition before Christ came.
He who is capable of raising the Gentiles of Ephesus, and us, from the dead can also enable us to walk. Helping us do good works is nothing compared to the fact we are saved in the first place. We conceptualize the huge quantity of God’s power available to us today by calling to mind the vast obstacles His power has already overcome in our lives yesterday.
Compare what you are now with what you have been. A proper use of memory will facilitate our walk in good works in two ways: by crushing pride in ourselves and by exalting confidence in God.
Remembering what God has done evokes lively sentiments of gratitude, thereby keeping us always humble. Memory provides our rouge of spiritual beauty. It keeps forever on our faces “a holy blush” (Bayne). To remember aright will strip away our pride.
Often our problem is not too little faith in God, but rather too much faith in ourselves. “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 P 5:5b-6). Remember what you were when God found you–lost, undone, dead. Let memory strip away your pride.
Considering our present height in light of our former low position not only drags down pride, but at the same time exalts confidence. A proper remembrance encourages us.
A correct use of memory helps us begin our battles from the premise of victory, which is essential to be an overcomer. If told I am to box a ninety-pound weakling, I assure you I will enter the boxing ring confident of victory. If told I am to box the heavy-weight champion of the world, the bout will last ten seconds–when the bell rings to begin the bout, I will immediately fall to the mat and let the referee count me out. In the latter case, I am defeated before the fight begins.
Many Christians are approaching some of their most difficult spiritual battles the same way. They have given up. They have quit. Talk of victory seems laughable to them. To such ones I cry out, “Call in the reinforcements of the past. Summon yesterday to help today.”
I hasten to caution you to keep memory in the right place. Some things need to be forgotten. Sins of which you have repented, and God has forgiven–do not resurrect them in memory to haunt yourself. Leave them buried. Anything from the past which haunts you and depresses you, forget.
Constantly dwelling on a sin-filled past can cripple you. It is possible to become so disheartened that you no longer try to overcome. You can be so obsessed with past evils that you actually begin to think the door of heaven has been slammed against you. Oh, dear child of God, if the door of heaven is closed to your prayers, your hand, not God’s, has locked the door. Jesus is always at the door knocking, seeking entrance.
On Memory Lane, never stop by our little muddy pool of sins. Press on to God’s ocean of loving forgiveness. Forge ahead to things which should never be forgotten, the mighty acts of God in our behalf. “Do not let yesterday escape without record. . .recall it, interrogate it, consider exactly what it is and what is its relation to your present condition” (Parker).
What do you need to remember? “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (RM 5:20). “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (JN 9:25). This one “was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (LK 15:24). The God who did these great things for you can enable you to walk in good works. “Wherefore remember.”