Friday, May 4, 2007

Created for a Purpose

My son likes racing. That is not unusual among six year old boys, but what is unusual is that he lives in a NASCAR-free household. We watch formula 1, champ car, the paris-dakar rally, LeMans and the odd miscellaneous race now and then. Jacob likes to ask daddy about racing and think through theoretical situations involving cars from different series.

A couple of weeks ago while we were watching an F1 race he asked me what the fastest cars in the world are. I told him that in a straight line it was a Top Fuel dragster, and if there are turns involved it is Formula 1. Having never seen a drag race, he was curious about Top Fuel, so we tivoed a drag race for him to watch.

Jacob began asking questions. Which would win, an F1 car or a Top Fuel Dragster? What if the race didn’t have any turns? What if the race was a mile long instead of a quarter mile? I told him the F1 car would win because a dragster blows up after 1/4 mile.

That got me thinking. Put an F1 car in one lane and a Dragster in the other, and the Dragster will win every single time, no contest. But extend the race to 1/2 mile and the dragster will never even make the finish line. Why? Because a top fuel dragster is a very precise piece of equipment, designed to do one thing extremely well.

As if on cue, they ran a video of a driver whose throttle stuck open. The engine of the dragster exploded about 100 feet past the finish line. Dragsters define the term “purpose built machine” and if they are not being used for that purpose, there is no more useless piece of machinery on the planet.

That got me thinking about our relationship to God.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

God designed us to glorify Him, and we do that by doing good works. What does Paul mean by good works? This is one of those verses where studying the Greek can really help us understand what Paul is saying. The ESV translation above is a good one, but it fails to capture some of the subtleties of Greek that really bring out the meaning in this passage. Let's take a look:

The phrase Paul uses that is often translated "good works" is ergois agathois. A look at the UBS Greek Lexicon on the word agathois (here translated good) is very illuminating. The Greek term applied in this manner means "good, useful, satisfactory for one's purpose, fitting, beneficial."

Now let's look at the word used for "workmanship" which is poiema. This word means "That which has been made" or "a work of the creator." Certainly workmanship is a good translation, but it's not a word that we use often. This might better understood as creation, although the phrasing in English gets a little awkward with "creation created" back to back. Still, we aren't translating for posterity, only for understanding, so we'll use the awkward phrasing.

The last word we need to look at is peripatesomen. This is translated "we should walk" by the ESV. This word can also be used to indicate "to live or behave in a customary manner, with possible focus on continuity of action"

Thus if we think about this verse with the Greek in mind, we see what Paul is saying "For we are his creation, created in christ Jesus to do things that fulfill our purpose, which God prepared beforehand, that we should live doing these things regularly"

When we are done we have a very message-esque translation, in that you cannot pin the words back to the Greek very easily, but we have unpacked this passage and have a much clearer picture of what Paul is trying to communicate. God created us with things in mind for us to do. These things are predetermined and they are our purpose in life.

A quick look at Romans gives us a picture of what that means for us:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,* for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV)

God created us for a purpose, which he has pre-ordained for us. When we live for that purpose, when we love God and seek to do His will, he promises that he will work things out for us. On the other hand, when we deviate from that purpose we become as effective as a top fuel dragster trying to take the famous corkscrew at Laguna Seca. The end result is disaster.

You are made for a purpose. Are you living for it, or are you doing something else?


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