The word “masterpiece” often causes us to think of great works of art. But Ephesians 2 tells us that we are God’s masterpiece!
Scripture: Ecclesiastes, chapters 1-3; Psalm 45; Ephesians, chapter 2
Ephesians 2:1-10 (NLT):
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil – the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his great and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Tradition says that Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, which forms part of our readings for today. A very jaded and world-weary Solomon, to be sure; he begins the book by saying, “Everything is meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). In fact, he uses the word “meaningless” ten times in the first three chapters of Ecclesiastes! That’s not a very hopeful message!
But even in the midst of all that Solomon considered “meaningless,” he still recognizes that God is in control. And that shifts my attention to Ephesians, and Paul’s message for us today. Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. When we strive to control things, and people, we quickly find it to be “meaningless.” That’s because no matter how much we may think that we’re in control, making our own way, in reality we are obeying the devil – the commander of the powers in the unseen world (v 2).
God’s Mercy and Grace
But our rebellion, demonstrated by obeying the devil, does not have to be the last word. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead (v 4-5). God does not give up on us, even when we rebel, because he loved us so much. He loved us too much to force us to love him; instead, he seeks to win our love through his great love for us.
We should not miss the fact that we were dead because of our sins. Not physically dead, of course, though that is our lot. Paul speaks of spiritual death – separation from God. That brings me back to Ecclesiastes, because I think the hopelessness that Solomon describes perfectly captures what life is like without God. There may be pleasure, or fame, or wealth, for a time – but in the end, “everything is meaningless.”
That is not what God planned for us! He created us to be in relationship with him, and to experience the peace and the joy that comes from knowing him. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, because none of us are righteous apart from God. As Jesus once said, “Why ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good” (Matthew 19:17, emphasis added). The things that we do lead to Solomon’s plaint, “Everything is meaningless.” When God directs us – when we follow his way for us – we experience the abundant life that Jesus came to bring (John 10:10).
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (v 10). Think about that: we are God’s masterpiece! He created us with all of the care and love and effort that any artist puts into his or her work. We respond to his great love by doing the good things he planned for us long ago. We are not created for “meaninglessness”; we are created to live forever in God’s Kingdom! The good things he planned are the way that he prepares us for our forever life with him.
What do you think of when you hear the word “masterpiece”? I think of Claude Monet’s Waterlilies. I love the blending of the colors and shades, the depiction of a quiet pond with the lilies floating on the surface. I also think of great pieces of music, like Beethoven’s symphonies. There is something in these “masterpieces” that just draws us in and causes us to recognize the skill, the care, and the devotion that went into them.
We are God’s masterpiece. God put his skill and care and devotion into us! And we have the opportunity to respond in faith to God’s great work. God saved you by his grace when you believed. Unfortunately, not everyone responds to God’s invitation. Some believe; some do not. We can’t take any credit for God’s work, because he has done it all. Our part is simply to recognize God’s greatness, and submit to his sovereignty. Otherwise, we’re obeying the devil – the commander of the powers in the unseen world. We may think that we’re “forging our own path,” but in reality we’re simply following the wrong leader.
How do we know that we are God’s masterpiece? Because of the way he created us. “Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us” (Genesis 1:26). When we deny God, we deny who we are as well. We surrender our status as God’s masterpiece and fall into the meaninglessness of life apart from him.
Father, we thank you that you created us in your image. We are your masterpiece! What an incredible thought! Help us today to recognize the ways that you are at work, and to willingly surrender to that work. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Satan seeks to convince us that we’re in charge, but apart from you we’re slaves to sin. That is not what you want for your masterpiece! Help us to see how you are leading us today. Help us to do your will, on earth as in heaven. Amen.