Ephesians 2:4-10: 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
The greatest artist Michelangelo Buonarroti produced masterpieces that are among the finest works of art in the world. None can compare to his sculpture of David or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Since he often worked at the bidding of the Pope, nearly all of his subject matter was religious. We should not be surprised that he took appropriate pride in what he was doing for God, but he did so with the problematic perspective of hoping that his work would earn Godís favor.
Toward the end of his life, Michelangelo became intrigued with what the Reformers were teaching about making peace with God through faith apart from works. Accepting the reality that all of his good works could do nothing to remove his sin, he embraced Jesus as his Savior. He realized that what he had supposedly done for God actually eclipsed God in his life. In a sonnet titled ďOn the Brink of Death,Ē he confessed:
Now know I well how that fond fantasy
Which made my soul
The worshipper and thrall
Of earthly art is vain; . . .
Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest
My soul that turns
To his great love on high,
Whose arms to clasp us
On the cross were spread
Until his dying day, Michelangelo never stopped expressing himself through art Ė no longer for merit, but for love.
This is a lesson for those of us who have believed with all of our hearts that our salvation is based by Godís grace alone. Far too often we have been guilty of doing good works in an effort to impress others and gain favor with God. No matter how hard we try, we canít do anything to earn Godís favor, and we certainly canít outdo his workmanship. All that we do for him should overflow from a heart of love and gratitude for all that he has done for us.
We are trophies of his grace! At the cross he extended to us his favor. Letís live to express our loving gratitude to him.
- Joe Stowell, 2006, Our Journey: A Daily Walk in the Word.
RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI