Question: "What does it mean that we are God's workmanship in Ephesians 2:10?"
Answer: Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (NASB). Other Bible versions use words such as masterpiece or handiwork instead of workmanship. In other words, we are wholly the result of God’s creative, redemptive, and sanctifying work, and we belong to Him.
Workmanship refers to more than the product of creation; it also refers to the degree of skill with which the product is made. That degree of skill imparts value to the thing made. For example, we could say, “That vase is of excellent workmanship.” The vase itself is lovely, but its value is derived from the talents of the one who designed and produced it. With that definition in mind, workmanship may be a more fitting term than either masterpiece or handiwork because of the emphasis it places on the Creator rather than the creation.
We are God’s workmanship in that He created us. Everything God creates is of value, yet nothing in creation compares to His work in creating mankind (Genesis 2:7). From the sky to rivers to frogs, God merely spoke and they were (Genesis 1). For six days, God said, “Let there be,” and it was so. But on the sixth day, He did something different. God reached down into the mud and formed a man. He then breathed “into man’s nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). That breath brought God’s own life into His workmanship. The human being now possessed a spirit unlike the life of animals and plants. Psalm 139:13–16 gives us a peek into God’s workshop, showing us that He is intimately involved in the creation of every human being.
We are God’s workmanship in that He redeemed us. As God knew they would, mankind rebelled against His authority. They defiled God’s workmanship and introduced sin into His perfect world (Genesis 3:11; Romans 5:12). From that very hour, God put into motion His plan to redeem them and restore them to their original design (Genesis 3:21–23). Before the foundation of the world, God had planned this redemption, which would ultimately result in the crucifixion of His Son as a final sacrifice for sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8). His workmanship was costly, as we are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18–19).
We are God’s workmanship in that He sanctifies us and fits us for service. He forms us the way He wants for His own pleasure and purposes (Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:16). Despite the imperfections we find in ourselves and those we love, the clay cannot say to the potter, “Why did you make me like this?” (Romans 9:20; Jeremiah 18:5). God knows what He’s doing. He uses the sculpting tools of adversity, relationships, challenges, and miraculous interventions to mold us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:28). And He promises to finish what He began (Philippians 1:6). The goal is “good works” (Ephesians 2:10).
The truth that we are God’s workmanship is expressed in the context of our salvation: “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship” (Ephesians 2:8–10, NASB). The emphasis is on the grace and gift of God. We are not saved by our own works for the simple fact that we ourselves are God’s work. God is the Designer and Builder of our faith; we cannot save ourselves.
The Church as a whole is also God’s workmanship. He has given us gifts, Scripture, and His Holy Spirit to enable us to carry out His work in the world. (Romans 12:4–7; 1 Corinthians 12:4). As a lantern exists to shed light, so the Church exists to spread the light of the gospel to the lost and dying (Matthew 5:14; Acts 13:47). To the degree that we allow His light to shine through us, we display His workmanship.