“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)
Everything in the biblical narrative stories of faith has something to do with relationships…our relationships with other people…and our relationship to God.
The proverbial valley girl here might say: “dah!”…implying there is nothing profound or particularly insightful in this statement. In normal-speak someone might reasonably ask me: “Did you just discover this?”
But this realization about personal relationships goes much deeper than what obviously first appears on the surface. This basic observation about the Bible, its God, the people of faith, and their God-scripted journeys through exploits large and small…enters squarely into the fundamental questions of why we are here…why we are alive…what does it all mean…and why we should even care to know more about it?
The apostle Paul was not able to write his world-famous 13th chapter of First Corinthians on the subject of love…verses 4 through 8 being the most well-known and often quoted…from any insight gained through persecuting the early Christian church (Acts 9:1). Paul wrote these beautiful and universally inspiring words as a result of riding atop an adventure of faith designed by God to open-up and reveal to Paul the core truths of life…both for his personal benefit and so that he could pass along these truths to the first-century Greco-Roman world…and to us.
If indeed the Bible has a divine origin…if brilliant adventures of faith like Paul’s are crafted by God to reveal to humans “the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10)…then these are not optional, take-it-or-leave-it truths we can lightly push aside or ignore by making up our own rules or truths to suit ourselves…they exist in fixed reality at the very pinnacle of moral right and wrong…at the highest peak of spiritual light and absolute goodness.
These truths are obtained through relationships…and for relationships…now and in the future. In the case of the Ephesians 2:10 verse cited above…the personal relationships are with the living God…in the intimacy of being His workmanship…and with the people who will benefit from our good works…which God ordained that we should walk in.
Paul here is writing from the testimony of personal experience. If anyone can speak from first-hand experience about the grace and the power of God to completely transform a person from misguided self-direction to becoming a new person created in Christ Jesus unto good works to benefit other people…it is the missionary evangelist the apostle Paul through a personal encounter and lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ.
Way above the narrow theological and cultural worldview Saul/Paul was initially stuck in as he traveled…that fateful day in his life…toward the city of Damascus…Paul would in due time write to the new Christians in Corinth with firm confidence and authority…what he had discovered from God about the topic of love…by walking with God through the relationship of an adventure of faith.
The missionary evangelist Paul would someday in the future have the “chief of Asia, which were his friends” (Acts 19:31)…come to warn him not to enter into the stadium during the uproar in Ephesus…an illuminating statement on the positive personal impact of Paul’s evangelical missionary ministry to a broad range of people across the social strata.
Paul would…toward the end of his missionary journeys…tearfully depart from the Ephesus elders in Acts 20:36-38…”Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more.”
Sometime along this faith-journey of character growth, Paul composed the closing chapter 16 in his letter to the Romans that gives us a glimpse into the breadth and depth of the personal friendships Paul had probably developed…across-the-board…within all of the new Christian churches he founded in the Greco-Roman world in the first-century.
The totally unconventional and tumultuous life-script (Acts 14:22) crafted by God for Paul…took Paul to a place in experiential reality he could never have discovered within his own original plan…before Damascus…to destroy the early Christian church.
That place is one of the reasons why we are here, why we have the capacity for moral reasoning and judgment, what it all means, and why we should and already do care. That place is the unequaled-in-importance zone of right and positive personal relationships.