What does it mean that we are God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)?

Ephesians 2:10 says "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." The word for workmanship is the Greek word poeima from which we get our word for poem. Poeima means "something made." It is also used in Romans 1:20 to describe how "the things that have been made" demonstrate God's eternal power and divine nature. Where the ESV, KJV, and NASB use "workmanship" in Ephesians 2:10, other translations use "handiwork" or "masterpiece" or "creation." The Amplified Bible says, "For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art] …"

Think of some of the great poems in literature and how painstakingly each word, each line break, each period and comma were chosen by the author. Similarly, God has labored over us. God's plan for us as His workmanship extends over the span of our lives: "he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). It can be easy to be discouraged during the process of sanctification and challenge God for creating us the way we are (Romans 9:20), but God has designed each part of our story to come together into a work of art that shows off His handiwork and brings Him glory (Romans 8:28–30).

The extent of God's creativity and redemption comes to light when you consider the paragraph that comes before Ephesians 2:10. The beginning of the second chapter in Ephesians describes how we were dead in our trespasses and sins, how we were children of wrath controlled by our desires (Ephesians 2:1–3), but God, "being rich in mercy" chose us and raised us up and sat us in the heavenly places next to His Son so that He could continue to show us the riches of His grace through kindness (Ephesians 2:4–7). God's workmanship is marvelous in that He took us when we were broken and ugly and living evil lives and decided that we would be His poeima. No longer controlled by our flesh, we now walk in the good works that God designed for us to complete. We can take no credit for this work that God has done.

Unlike a painting or a poem that is static and sits and waits to be observed to show its beauty, we are an active workmanship that is designed to complete good works. God has given us a role to play, participating in His work on earth, to walk in love and kindness and to share the truth about who He is and the good news of salvation. These good works were not something that we can take credit for because it was God's workmanship in our lives that gives us the desire to walk in good works, and it is by His power that we can complete the works He has laid out for us (Philippians 2:12–13).

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