"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2.10)."
Depravity knows no bounds. It has ever been the inclination of fallen man to deny the sovereign, and at all times effectual, will of God. Lip service may to some degree be paid to the sovereignty of God, yet man will seek out many doctrinal inventions to blunt the force of it. Never has this been more true than in an attempt made recently to interject the supposed free-will of man into the text above.
In this attempt to prove that the children of God may or may not walk in good works; (the same good works Paul said God had ordained that they walk in), a minister of the Diotrephes school of theology has recently announced for all that would listen to him that this word, should in Ephesians 2.10 does not carry the force of a decree from God; he argues that it only means that the children of God have been given the ability to walk in good works, and ought to do so. Simply put, Diotrephes says they may, yet they may not, walk in good works. Thus the intrepretation of this text turns on the meaning of the simple word, should.
The word application of Diotrephes is faulty on several counts, and borders on heresy, if not actually so. The "we" of whom Paul spoke were the direct workmanship of God; mark that well! Are we somehow to suppose that the God of power, of wisdom, and is Himself perfection, has wrought a workmanship which contains so serious a flaw that it may or may not serve the end for which it was worked? Such a muddled view, we think, would make even devils blush. But No! Diotrephes has boldly cast this morsel of his moldy bread upon the waters. He has served it up as if it was manna from heaven. Marvel not, Diotrephes, if we of the Old School reject your offering and eat instead of the true Bread from heaven.
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus." Can this possibly mean anything other than the workmanship of God is the Spiritual birth of those elected unto eternal life? "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1.13)." What else can "created in Christ Jesus" mean to those that fear God? Is this not the new creation; the treasure in an earthen vessel; the setting up of the throne of God in a renewed heart? Are not the "we" of this text such as have been born of the Spirit, and is not that which is born of the Spirit spiritual and not carnal?
Furthermore, this creation in Christ Jesus was "unto good works." Surely "unto" tells us that the end for which they were created in Christ Jesus was just what Paul says it was; good works. We cannot conceive of the possibility that anything created by God; created in Christ Jesus, could possibly fail of that for which it was eternally intended. And since this creation in Christ Jesus was a spiritual creation it also follows that it can only do that which is of a spiritual nature. Should it fail that for which it was "unto" we would have a terrible time reconciling the may or may not failure to the following text: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God (I John 3.9)." Manifestly, it would be sin if a child of God somehow did not walk in the good works which God had before ordained; the very purpose for which it was created. If such occurred then neither Ephesians 2.10, or I John 3.9 mean what they clearly say. We are persuaded that the may or may not contrivance of Diotrephes contains the flaws, and not the two texts alluded to.
Diotrephes, like all the rest of his fellow-Arminians, has contrived this may or may not hypothesis in a futile attempt to secure to himself his golden calf, better known as freedom of the will. We feel sure, however, his sacred cow shall fare no better at the last than did that golden calf which the Israelites lusted after in the wilderness.
"Which God has before ordained that we should walk in them." The brethren of the Old Order have always considered the word "ordained" as used in this text to be of force equal to a decree of God. Thus, God has before decreed that His little children should walk in good works. Before what? Before anything but God Himself. If God has decreed before that we should walk in good works, then praise His holy Name, we shall! If there is the slightest intent in the word should, that means may or may not, then the workmanship of God is suspect; the creation resulting from that workmanship is liable to failure, and the ordination itself is no ordination at all; it is but an offered contingency, subject to the whim of the moment. "But beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak (Hebrews 6.9)."
SHOULD, OR, MAY OR MAY NOT?
Do the words mean the same things throughout the Scriptures?
There are a number of other texts in the Word of God where it would completely falsify the intent of the Spirit if the word, should was translated to somehow mean, may or may not. For the sake of showing the absurdity of this workmongrel interpretation we will omit the word should from each of the following passages and insert in its place [MAY OR MAY NOT]. We feel secure in saying the reader will, if having eyes to see, observe the obvious. We shall offer no comments after each text since the perversion will fully identify itself.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him [MAY OR MAY NOT] not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3.16)."
"And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ [MAY OR MAY NOT] be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judah: for thus it is written by the prophet (Matthew 2.4,5)."
"And being warned of God in a dream that they [MAY OR MAY NOT] not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way (Matthew 2.12)."
"Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that [MAY OR MAY NOT] come, or do we look for another (Matthew 11.2, 3)?"
"And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I [MAY OR MAY NOT] lose nothing, but [MAY OR MAY NOT] raise it up again at the last day (John 6.39)."
"But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who [MAY OR MAY NOT] betray him (John 6.64)."
"He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that [MAY OR MAY NOT] betray him, being one of the twelve (John 6.71)."
"Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid; for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness [MAY OR MAY NOT] have been by the law (Galatians 3.21)."
"Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones [MAY OR MAY NOT] perish (Matthew 18.14)."
"Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they [MAY OR MAY NOT] believe and be saved (Luke 8.12)."
"And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he [MAY OR MAY NOT] not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ (Luke 2.26)."
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God [MAY OR MAY NOT] taste death for every man (Hebrews 2.9)."
"This spake he, signifying by what death he [MAY OR MAY NOT] glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me (John 21.19)."
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any [MAY OR MAY NOT] perish, but that all [MAY OR MAY NOT] come to repentance (II Peter 3.9)."
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we [MAY OR MAY NOT] be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not (I John 3.1)."
"And this is his commandment, That we [MAY OR MAY NOT] believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment (I John 3.23)."
"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world [MAY OR MAY NOT] be taxed (Luke 2.1)."
"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she [MAY OR MAY NOT] be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2.6,7)."
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he [MAY OR MAY NOT] die (John 12.32, 33)."
"For it pleased the Father that in him [MAY OR MAY NOT] all fulness dwell (Colossians 1.19)."
"And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he [MAY OR MAY NOT] smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God (Revelation 19.15)."
God's children need not be scholars nor deep thinkers to see how incongruous the views of free-willers are. These things are hid from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babes. These babes have nursed at the breasts of Mother Jerusalem and even yet desire the sincere milk of the Word. The insincere mutterings of the Diotrephes school is more like clabber to the babes than sincere milk.
We would not have the reader believe that we have given the only meaning of the word "should" in this brief article; far from it. It does seem certain, however, that the interpretation put on the word by free-willers cannot be utilized in the many texts we supplied above.
Volume 10, No. 4