"WE ARE GOD'S WORKMANSHIP."
A great and important truth is contained in this declaration, and one which practically most Christians deny. Perhaps this statement may seem too strong to some; but I think that I can show that it is correct. Theoretically all Christians believe that, in a sense, "we are God's workmanship." But in practice most of them deny it, and act just as though they must make themselves, and (in some cases) everybody else. In other words, most Christians live as though the responsibility of their own development and perfection rested entirely upon themselves: and in addition to this they oft-times act as though the responsibility of the world's salvation also rested upon them. Understand, that I am not speaking of the expressed belief of Christians, but of their practice. Now I desire to show in this article, from the Bible, that the declaration-"we are God's workmanship"-is most absolute and literal and that we do not have anything to do with our own manufacture, so to speak, excepting to "yield ourselves unto God." Rom. 6:13; also, remainder of the chapter.
In the first place we must understand God's plan of creation. We must know something of what "our Lord is doing" (John 15:15). God's great work according to the scripture is the creation of a race of beings in his own image and likeness. When God said, "Let us make man in our image," he meant not the first man only, but the race of man. I think it was made clear in the preceding paper that God was speaking prophetically here. He was speaking of things that were not as though they were. We have seen that Adam was not created in the image of God at that time, hence we are sure that the race is referred to when God says, "Let us make man in our image." The second account gives us the history of the creation at that stage, and in that account nothing is said of man created in the image of God. This work then of creating a race of beings in God's image began in Eden, and has been steadily carried on ever since and will be carried on to its completion, without any check, hindrance, interruption or delay. The idea that most Christians have is that God created a perfect man and woman to begin with, intending that this perfect pair should be the progenitors of a perfect race. But Satan comes in and spoils God's work at the outset, he contaminates the fountain head, and the whole stream is befouled, and God must delay his originally intended work until he repairs damages, so to speak-until he has counteracted and undone the Devil's evil work; in which endeavor he will only partially succeed according to the common view, and thus Satan will succeed in marring God's original plan eternally. Of course we cannot suppose that when God created man innocent in Eden, he intended that any of his descendants should be eternally tormented; and yet some of them will be eternally tormented according to the so called orthodox view; hence the conclusion necessarily follows that Satan has succeeded in permanently disarranging God's plan and has compelled him to take a course that he would not have taken had it not been for the so called "fall of man." But how can we accept such an idea as this? Thus we make God to be "altogether such an one as ourselves" (Psa. 50:21). I for one could never accept such a view. What is the alternative then? The orthodox view must be wrong. Satan did not disarrange God's plan, or compel him to change it in the least; hence the "fall" was a part of the plan, and a necessary step toward its accomplishment. I want each one to see this point clearly and positively; for unless we thus understand God's relation to the race as a whole we cannot understand his relation to us as individuals. I want each one to see that the above reasoning is absolutely inevitable. Either Satan, by the introduction of evil into the world with all its consequences, disarranged God's plan, and partially, at least, thwarted it; or else the fall of man was a part of God's plan, prearranged, provided for; and tending to the advancement of his purposes of grace and love. To my mind the former supposition is impossible; the latter one must be true. Do not stop now to think whether the Scripture is in harmony with this view or not. We will examine that by and by. Just use your own reasoning faculties and common sense and every one must see that, if God is supreme, the introduction of evil into the world with all its consequences must be a part of the plan of God.
Perhaps I ought to say right here for the benefit of some of my readers, that the idea that God has a plan may be to them a new one. According to the view of most Christians, God has no definite, prearranged plan, but is simply endeavoring to do the best he can through human instrumentality to repair the ruin that sin has made, and, though thus far the majority of the race has been overwhelmed in that ruin, yet in the end truth will triumph and sin will be destroyed, or at least confined in an eternal prison house. To my mind such a view of God is very belittling and dishonorable. I cannot entertain it for a moment. The God of the Bible, the God that we can worship, and adore, and trust in, is Almighty and Supreme-"He worketh all things after the council of his own will"-"He doeth all these things, and known unto Him are all his works from the beginning of the world." Acts 15:17,18. "He doeth according to his will, in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what doest thou?" Dan. 4:35. God has a perfect, definite plan, embracing all the details and particulars of his work, and including in its sweep ages and worlds, past and to come. Paul announces this fact directly in Eph. 3:11. "According to His purpose of the ages;" see the margin of the New Version. Rotherham renders it, the "plan of the ages." There can be no doubt that God has a perfect, exact, prearranged, and absolutely changeless plan of creation.
I will notice also in this connection why I speak of the plan of creation, and not the plan of redemption, as Christians commonly speak. The view presented above makes this change necessary. When we speak of God's plan of redemption, we seem to imply that redemption was an afterthought with God-that it is simply a means of remedying an unforeseen, or at least an unintentional and undesirable contingency; and that while redemption is being worked out, God's original purpose must be delayed. We have already shown that this view cannot be accepted by anyone who believes in a supreme and all-wise God; the so called fall of man and redemption as its consequent, are a part of the original plan of God-they are steps in the carrying out of that plan; in fact God controls and directs "all things" to the furtherance of his own councils, and hence all things are tending toward the completion of the purpose announced in Eden-the creation of the race in the image and likeness of God. Therefore we speak of God's plan of creation, not of redemption. Redemption is only one of the steps in the process whereby man is ultimately to reach the divine image. To speak of the plan of redemption is to take a narrow, unscriptural, ungodlike view of the situation. God's Plan of Creation covers the whole ground from the commencement of the work in Eden according to the second account, to the completion of it in Eden restored, in the New Heaven and New Earth.
I am well aware that the foregoing view involves several very startling and we might even say staggering conclusions; such, for instance as that Satan is one of God's servants to help on his plan, and that all evil, under God, shall eventuate in good, and that God in some sense is responsible for the introduction of evil into the world, etc. I cannot now stop to notice these points in detail; I have done so in other writings. I will now simply say that there is nothing in any of these conclusions contrary to the Scripture; indeed, they harmonize and make plain the Word. The great principle set forth in the article in 1-1-7 that "all things are of God" makes this whole subject clear, and fully prepares us for all these otherwise startling conclusions. Let us not fear conclusions so long as we can feel the solid bed rock of truth under our feet at every step of our reasoning. Many a one has been enamored of the truth for a season, and gone a little way in the ever brightening pathway, but suddenly perceiving how far away from the old ruts they were diverging, and that they must diverge still further if they kept on, they have become frightened and turned back again to the orthodox thoroughfare. Such a timorous, cowardly spirit will not be found among those who climb the highest peaks of inspiration to catch the first glimpse of the coming dawn. "Ye are bought with a price be not ye the servants of men." "Then shall ye know if ye follow on to know." God has his "friends" to whom he tells his "secrets" (John 15:15; Psa. 25:14). But if we would be "the Friend of God," we must he willing, like Abraham, the great pattern friend, to leave home, kindred, and country if need be, and go forth "not knowing whither," alone with Him who is the source of all truth and who will surely bring us into the Canaan of rest, if we only follow on. (See 2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8; and Jas. 2:23, with Gen. 18:7; also Amos 3:7).
We start out then in our investigation concerning how we are God's workmanship, with this truth, that God is creating a race of beings like himself; this work began in Eden and has been steadily progressing ever since; Christ is the only human being thus far that has been finished-He alone has reached the goal, likeness to God; the rest of the race are unfinished; the mass of them being in the crude, rough, "natural" state (1-1-4), having lived and died in this condition; a few in the past have had some finishing (i.e. spiritual) work done for them; and during this gospel age a class, "they that are Christ's" (1 Cor. 15:23 and John 17:9) are being finished off, so to speak; and during the "ages to come" "all shall be made alive in Christ," or finished, "but every man in his own order" (band or class). All this is entirely the work of the Father and the Son-Let us make man-and man has no more to do with it than Adam had to do with his own creation, or Eve with her's. What man has to do, and the purpose of it, we will notice presently; but now we are speaking of the carrying out of the original purpose announced in Eden-"Let us make man in our image."
Now if we consider man in this light, as unfinished, half made-"Ephraim is a cake not turned'` Hos. 7:8-then we shall be able to understand the true condition of things. We shall see how thoroughly and absolutely he is God's workmanship. "If any man be in Christ he is a new creation." "We are God's husbandry (farm, see margin) ye are God's building." 1 Cor. 3:9. Surely the man cannot recreate himself any more than he could create himself in the first place. The beginning, continuance, and completion of the process of creation is entirely of God. Read Rom. 9:9-33. See how absolute is God's sovereignty. "The purpose of God according to election stands not of works but of Him that calleth." He raised up Pharaoh for the very purpose for which he used him, and "He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." "Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?" Are there not "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction," and "vessels of mercy before prepared unto glory?" No stronger language than the above could be used to show how absolutely man is God's workmanship,-clay in the hands of the potter. And this view clashes not with the true idea of man's freedom as we have seen in the preceding paper (1-1-10). But everything is harmonized and made clear and plain when we thus see the truth. God is man's proprietor, and will surely make the best of his property. This view is full of hope and comfort. If we are God's workmanship, the work will surely be done, and done well. He speaks with the simplicity and quietness of conscious power,- "Let us make man in our image," as though it were the easiest thing imaginable to make a man in the image of God, and "hath he said and shall he not do it? hath he spoken and shall he not make it good?" God's own veracity is at stake here; his own reputation and credit, so to speak, is involved. For His own sake, he will complete and perfect his work; and so He speaks by His prophets. "I even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions FOR MY OWN SAKE, and will not remember thy sins." Moreover, mark these blessed words -"Remember these; O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant; I have formed thee; thou art my servant. O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me. I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins. Return unto me for I have redeemed thee." Take notice that it does not read return unto me and I will redeem thee, and blot out thy sins, but, return unto me because I have redeemed thee and blotted out thy sins. O blessed grace! that reconciles a world unto God, not imputing their trespasses unto them, (2 Cor. 5:18-21), "while they are yet sinners," and "before they call," and so is able to preface the invitation to come to God by the declaration of his finished work! Surely this is a gospel,-glad tidings. No wonder that the prophet breaks out,-"Sing, O ye heavens, for the Lord hath done it; shout, ye lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein, for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself [mark it-glorified Himself-made His own word good] in Israel. Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and He that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh ALL things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself. Isa. 44:21-24. Read in the same line, Ezek. 36:16, to the end of the chapter. First God charges Israel with their perversity and corruption and yet he has pity (verse 21), and makes them great promises (verses 25-30). Why? On what ground? Not for their sake; not because they deserved it; but for His holy name's sake." See verses 21-23, 31, 32, 36. See also Ezek. 20-whole chapter; especially verses 9, 14, 22, 41-44. If we can only see this truth, and get it well in mind we shall have no fear of the final result of God's creative plan. God's own honor is at stake. His declared purpose-"Let us make man in our image "cannot fail." For His own sake, if not for man's, He will bring the work to a perfect completion, a faultless consummation; and a godlike race shall yet people the earth to the universal praise of God's workmanship, and the honor and glory of the Christ, God's co-laborer.
The above blessed truth explains also why man is so imperfect, and full of defects, flaws, and failures. He is only half made. He is "a cake not turned." What can you expect of man in this crude, rough state? "He remembereth our frame, he knoweth that we are dust." And now we are prepared to answer an oft-repeated Bible question, which we will take as the title of the next article; "What is Man?"