For we are His workmanship…

In today’s adult Church School class, we talked about the following selection from Chapter 2 of St. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians:

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (NKJV)

According to St. Theophan the Recluse (as recorded in Archbishop Averky’s commentary on Ephesians), this passage gives us St. Paul’s (and the church’s) answer to the contemporary "faith vs. works" controversy which rages in other christian confessions. We are saved by grace through faith. Nothing we have done or can do can save us.

But that does not mean that good works are not necessary for salvation; St. Paul immediately goes on to say that we are "created in Christ Jesus for good works." So our salvation consists in our resurrection as it were from the dead, and in our new, living state we cannot but do good works out of love and gratitude to Him Who has saved us. Resurrected in His image, we must naturally do His works.

One of the participants in the class pointed out the one of our standard morning prayers more-or-less recapitulates what the Apostle is saying here:

My most merciful and all-merciful God, Lord Jesus Christ, through Thy great love Thou didst come down and take flesh to save all. And again, O Saviour, save me by Thy grace, I pray Thee, for if Thou shouldst save me for my works, this would not be grace or a gift, but rather a duty. Indeed, in Thy infinite compassion and unspeakable mercy, Thou O my Christ hast said: Whoever believes in Me shall live and never see death.

If faith in Thee saves the desperate, save me, for Thou art my God and Creator. Impute my faith instead of deeds, O my God, for Thou wilt find no deeds which could justify me, but may my faith suffice for all my deeds. May it answer for and acquit me, and may it make me a partaker of Thy eternal glory. And may satan not seize me, O Word, and boast that he has torn me from Thy hand and fold. O Christ, my Saviour, whether I will or not, save me. Make haste, quick, quick, for I perish. Thou art my God from my mother’s womb.

Grant me, O Lord, to love Thee now as once I loved sin, and also to work for Thee without idleness, as I worked before for deceptive satan. But supremely shall I work for Thee, my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

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10 Responses to “For we are His workmanship…”

  1. Deborah says:

    I’ve shared this prayer with some of my Protestant friends to reassure them that I have not fallen into a religion based on works. We aren’t saved *by* works, we are created and saved to do good works

    We don’t live simply through breathing or because we are breathing. But if we someone isn’t breathing they are either dead or soon will be. It is not life, itself–but it is inextricably linked to it.

    I’m glad I don’t have to think about or work at breathing. As long as I keep eating and taking care of myself, the breathing part takes care of itself. I have noticed though that when I don’t exercise or when I am iron deficient that my breathing is not as efficient and can become a bit labored with even slight exertion (which discourages me from wanting to exercise). But, if I improve my diet and start moving my lazy carcass I find that my lungs become quiet efficient again. :-)

  2. Deborah says:

    Make that ‘quite efficient’….and I keep forgetting that if I make a smile with a colon and parentheses that it gets turned into the silly yellow smilie. :-( (or frownie?)

  3. a religion without works….seems like dreaming (or exaltation in its high stage). How is it possible to believe without doing? The revelation of any religion is its shriving. and it’s outward. i.e. our deeds, works – of course not just clinching nails etc. a smile, directed to another person to console or reassure him – is really a work, a deed, when you yourself feel far from that, when you feel sad, disappointed, oppressed…This costs a lot!!!

    I have definitely fallen into a religion “based on works”:-) – though I don’t see any:-(. but at least I realize that – that’s smth positive about my “practice”).

    Though, I know there exists (and existed as we know from monastic literature) an “extreme”: fancy of “external deeds/achievements” (or there is another set expression for this in English?), laying much emphasis on this & belief that a person can be saved thought them only. What, as the Holy Fathers teach, lead to “prelestj”, extolling & enormous pride. like everything that is not melted by humility.

    Anyway, I need at least to move “my lazy carcass” to the church today:-) Evidently, the one type of extolling does not threaten me – works:-(

  4. Deborah says:

    >I have definitely fallen into a religion “based on works”:-)

    Good point, Natasha. I should have said “to reassure them that I have not fallen into a religion based on MY works” for “without Him, I can do nothing.”

    (BTW, How do you manage to keep your smilies from being turned into grinning yellow faces? :-))

  5. Deborah says:

    They’re gone! :-)

  6. Deborah says:

    Never mind. :-(

  7. “How do you manage to keep your smilies from being turned into grinning yellow faces? :-))” – I always wondered….no explanation yet found.

    I wanted to find goof poetry quotations for you on the subject, but I fail yet. will try. Russia poet Sergei Esenin & Lord Baron…

  8. Nicholas Park says:

    I think… the smiles will be converted into graphics if they have spaces on either side, like this: :-) . But if they have characters around them, they won’t, like this: (:-)). We’ll see :-).

  9. Nicholas, who would guess? I have to practice it to achieve a desirable result
    : -) .

  10. Deborah says:

    Thank you, Nicholas!:-)

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