I am an amateur gardener. I like to work in the dirt, but not too much. I love to plant a cucumber or tomato plant, watch it take root, shoot up, blossom, and bear fruit. The first year Mary Beth and I started our vegetable garden, we were infested with vegetables. I realize this is an uncommon expression for new gardeners. Yet, we couldn’t contain the vast number of cucumbers and cherry tomatos our garden produced. We would give away 15 cucumbers on Sunday and by Saturday our counter would be covered in 2o. We had to blend and freeze cherry tomatos (we had a fajita dish I loved eating that required blended tomatos). Yet, by year three, all of our plants are riddled with disease. The plant still grows, puts out its leaves, starts to bloom, but the bloom dies and nothing is produced.
I can’t help but reflect on this as an image of Ephesians 2:8-10. In this passage Paul says,
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
There seems to be a subtle contradiction. Paul says that salvation is not of works in verse 9. Yet, verse 1o claims that the Christian has been re-created in order that he might do good deeds. We are left wondering what good deeds have to do with anything. After all, they were not of any use before salvation, what do they matter now?
This objection suffers in that it fails to understand that the soul, the man, the nature of man is like my blight stricken cucumber plant. The blossoms on my cucumber plant will always wilt and die if the disease is not remedied.
Last year (my second year of gardening) blight hit the cucumber crop later in the season. The plant was still capable of producing fruit. But the crop was inedible.
So also the untreated soul. No matter how hard it tries to please God by producing good fruit, the efforts will always be spoiled by wilt, rot, or corruption. A bad tree/cucumber plant/or soul can only produce bad fruit/cucumbers/deeds.