Summary: 14th in a series from Ephesians. Those who have been created as new creations by God are His masterpieces.
Although most artists create many different works, it seems that for most of them, they come to be identified primarily with one particular work. Let’s see if you can identify the artists who created each of these works that I’ll display on the screen. Since, as you know, I’m not very cultured, I’ve tried to keep this pretty simple and limit it to some pretty readily identifiable works.
• Mona Lisa – Leonardo da Vinci
• The Starry Night – Vincent van Gogh
• The Thinker – Rodin
• The Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel – Michelangelo
For each of these artists, the works we just looked at would definitely be referred to as their masterpieces, or at least one of their masterpieces.
So let me ask you a question this morning: “What is God’s greatest masterpiece?” Is it what I see each morning when I look out at the Catalina Mountains and Pusch Ridge? Or how about the Grand Canyon? That’s certainly a masterpiece. Or maybe it’s Mount Everest or Niagara Falls.
The Psalmist tells us that the heavens declare the glory of God. I love to sit out in our backyard on a clear night and just marvel at the moon and stars I can see. And from my very limited knowledge of astronomy I know that I can only see a miniscule part of the immensity of the heavens. So is that God’s masterpiece?
The Psalmist also reveals that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Our bodies are intricately designed. My body contains about 75 trillion cells, each made up of 50 billion atoms. Every 4-5 seconds 50,000 of my cells die and are replaced by 50,000 new cells. So while you listen to this message this morning, your body is going to produce somewhere between 15 and 25 million new cells, depending on how long I preach. That really makes the sermon sound long doesn’t it? There are 75,000 miles of arteries, veins and capillaries in my body – enough to circle the earth 3 times! Surely the human body must be God’s masterpiece.
God’s creation, the heavens and our human bodies all reveal the glory of God, but none of them is truly God’s masterpiece. But as we continue our journey through Ephesians, Paul describes God’s masterpiece for us:
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
The word translated “workmanship” in this verse is the Greek word “poeima”, from which we get our English word “poem.” But the word means much more than a poem. It is a word that indicates a work of art or a masterpiece.
1. The preparation of God’s masterpieces
There are several characteristics of a masterpiece that are evident in Paul’s description of how God prepared us to be His masterpieces:
• Each masterpiece is completely the work of its creator
Not one of the art masterpieces that we’ve looked at this morning created itself or even participated in its creation in any way. It is the artist that does all the work, from the formulation of the concept to the planning to the actual creation of the work of art.
As we’ve seen so far in our study of the Book of Ephesians, the same thing is true when God creates His masterpieces. It is God who chose us before the creation of the world to be His masterpieces. It is God who created the plan to redeem us and make us His masterpieces through His Son. And it is God who has done all the work necessary to make us into His masterpieces. Perhaps Paul was thinking back to the words of Jesus, with which he was certainly familiar:
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit…
John 15:16 (NIV)
I know that I’ve emphasized that point over and over in our journey through Ephesians, but like Paul, I think that the point can never be emphasized too much. In fact, the English translation of this verse cannot adequately capture the extent to which Paul emphasizes once again that the work of salvation is all God’s work, apart from anything that we can do or offer to God.
First, in Greek, this sentence begins with the word “His”. Since in Greek the words in a sentence can be in almost any order, placing the word “His” at the beginning of the sentence gives it added emphasis. Literally we could translate the first phrase of this verse:
His [God’s] masterpiece we are…
Secondly, when Paul writes that we were “created in Christ Jesus”, he uses a verb that means to create something new that has never existed before. In other words, when God makes us His masterpieces, he doesn’t just change us, He makes us into something completely new and different. He doesn’t just remodel or restore some existing work of art; He creates us as a completely new masterpiece. I think that’s what Jesus meant when He told Nicodemus that he must be “born again.”