“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…at the time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:10–13

God’s grace is usually considered from the standpoint of its present manifestation in our day-to-day life. We acknowledge the theological truth that God’s grace was active in behalf of each believer from before time began (2 Timothy 1:9). We also know that it is God’s grace that will carry us through to eternity (2 Timothy 1:12). But our primary focus is on the here and now.

God’s grace is essentially the fact that He bears Himself toward His chosen ones with favor. Therefore, all that transpires in each believer’s life flows from the fountain of the grace of God, as Romans 8 clearly illustrates. We all take much-needed practical perspective and comfort from the present expectation of God’s grace.

The first two chapters of Ephesians teach precious theological truths about God’s grace. Chapter 1 details God’s gracious blessings poured out on each believer that would be otherwise unknown to us. Chapter 2 begins by explaining that God’s grace overcomes the spiritual death and obstinacy that afflicts everyone before He saves. His gracious salvation rescues believers from the worst possible loss unto the greatest possible blessing (verses 1–7).

Then, in chapter 2:8–10, Paul explains that God’s grace effectively rescues His own. Each believer is saved by grace through faith; the whole process of salvation is not out of ourselves, it is the gift of God! Grace truly is God’s bearing of Himself with favor toward those who once were unworthy, but are made worthy through His effectual grace!

No more perfect word could have been chosen than the word workmanship, to describe God’s exertion of His grace on us. The Greek word is poema, the word from which we get our word poem. His workmanship is divine Craftsmanship expertly applied with power, wisdom, forethought, personal sacrifice, and investment. The Greek word order declares, “His workmanship are we.”

The passage that follows helps us see that His grace does so much more than rescue and implant faith. He elevates those who believe to a new position, not just elevating Gentiles to the level of His chosen people, but He elevates believing Jew and Gentile to an even higher position. Verse 11 begins the explanation by recounting the difference between Jew and Gentile. Just as we were subject to Satan’s domain, we also were outside the Old Testament covenant of the Law, the outward sign of which was circumcision.

Paul uses six phrases to show how far out of reach it was for Gentiles to be among the chosen. We were without Christ (literally, a Christ). There was no hope of a Messiah, the Anointed One, for the Gentiles. The Messiah was to come only through the Jewish nation.

We were aliens, strangers with no rights of citizenship. Being Jewish and among the chosen was very exclusive. There were borders and boundaries which were impossible to step across. We were born from a different lineage. There were no constitutional rights to our benefit.

We were strangers from the covenants of promise. We had no claim on all the glorious Old Testament promises to the descendants of Abraham of land, seed, and blessing. There was no right to the promised land and to the blessings from God for obedience. There was no expectation of the coming Messiah and kingdom which would benefit Israel, first and foremost.

We were without hope of any kind. Mankind can endure much, but men do not do well when all hope is extinguished. Hope of kindness from Heaven appeared more of a desperation in pagan religion. They had no inkling of what God’s people knew of a God who bears Himself toward His own with favor!

We were without God. The Greek word is atheioi, the word we get atheist from. The meaning is quite plain, we were God-forsaken.

We were in the world. You get the haunting sensation from Paul’s words that we were adrift, friendless, surrounded, and darkness abounded since we were dead in trespasses and sins (2:1–3). We were “far off,” as the text says. Verse 14 also adds that there is a wall of partition, a middle wall of separation between God’s chosen nation and all the rest of mankind.

Within Jerusalem’s temple complex there was the Court of the Gentiles with a wall that kept Gentiles from coming any nearer to the inner court. There was a sign affixed to the gate of the inner wall which read, “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death….” An illustration of the reality of the threat is found in Acts 21:29.

The point Paul makes is that the grace of God is not just grace to get through today. The masterpiece of God’s grace is so much more! Through faith in Christ we have been brought near in the blood of Christ. We are in spiritual union with God. This is the great work of grace, from eternity past to eternity future, intimacy with the Almighty. That is workmanship indeed! Trust and obey.