John T. Willis

Friday, April 30, 2010

Saved by Grace through Faith--Ephesians 2:1-10

A new subject begins with Ephesians 2:1, so Ephesians 2:1-10 is a new paragraph in this letter. This paragraph clearly falls into two parts: (1) The way human beings lived before God changed their lives--2:1-3; (2) God's magnificent transformational work in the lives of human beings--2:4-10. This is a powerful text, because it is the story of every human being.

I. The Way Human Beings Lived before God changed their Lives. Ephesians 2:1-3. This little section contains the same thought as Colossians 1:21. In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul enumerates FIVE characteristics of human beings living before God changed their lives.
a. We were "dead through the trespasses and sins in which we once lived"--2:1-2a. The word "dead" here refers to spiritual [not physical] death, as often in scripture
--see Psalms 30:3; 33:19; Jonah 2:6; Job 5:20; Luke 15:24, 32; 1 John 3:14; John 5:24; Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; Colossians 2:13; Revelation 3:1-2. The phrase "in which we once lived" portrays life as a journey. To live a life is to follows a path. There are two possible ways: to death or to life--see Psalms 1:1-2; 34:12-22; Matthew 7:13-14.
b. We "followed the course of this world"--2:2b. Here there is a distinct contrast between "heaven" and "this world"--see Colossians 3:1-2.
c. We "followed the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient"--2:2c-d. The "ruler" or "spirit" at work is the devil. He constantly seeks to lead human beings away from God. See Ephesians 6:11;
1 Peter 5:8-9. The "disobedient" are not merely those who lack compliance to God, but actively rebel against God. See Isaiah 30:9; 1 Peter 2:8; 4:17.
d. We "ALL once lived among the disobedient in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses"--2:3a. "All" here includes all human beings--Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free--everyone. Passages like Colossians 3:5-7; Galatians 5:19-21; Romans 1:18-2:24 describe in detail these passions and desires.
e. We "were by nature children of wrath, like everyone"--2:3b. To be "by nature" does not mean that all human beings receive the "original sin" of Adam which is destined to hand down from generation to generation. The idea that there was a "FALL" in Genesis 3 is unfounded biblically. Rather, all human beings receive a strong influence from their parents and society and traditions, many of which are sinful; and so, each person is surrounded with sin. And thus, we all deserve God's wrath.

II. God's Magnificent Transformational Work in the Lives of Human Beings. Ephesians 2:4-10. Verses 4-10 are a Christian hymn much like Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 3:16; etc. First, Paul proclaims God's true nature (2:4); then Paul declares what God does for lost human beings (2:5-10).
a. God saves human beings, not because they do anything at all, but because of WHO GOD IS. God, BY NATURE, is "rich in mercy" (2:4, 7), which the Bible declares repeatedly throughout--see Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18-19; Psalms 86:5, 15; 103:8; 145:8; Nehemiah 9:17, 27; Joel 2:12-13; Jonah 4:2; and often. God has "great love with which he loved us"--see Deuteronomy 7:7-9; Lamentations 3:22-23, 31-33; Hosea
11:1-4; and often. God is a God of "grace"--2:8. See Exodus 34:6-7; etc.
b. As a result of God's mercy and love, God does several important things for human beings.
1. God makes us alive together with Christ--2:5. Previously, we were "dead" spiritually. We had no hope. BUT, God "MADE US ALIVE" spiritually by his miraculous power just as He made Jesus Christ alive in his resurrection from the dead--see John 5:21; 6:63; Romans 4:17; 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:15, 22, 36, 44-45; 2 Corinthians
3:6; 1 Peter 3:18.
2. God "raises us up with Christ"--2:6a. This is the same language in Romans 6:1-11; Colossians 2:11-13 in baptism.
3. God "seats us with Christ in the heavenly places"--2:6b, just as Christ "seated" with Jesus Christ on God the Father's right hand--see Acts 2:32-26; Hebrews 1:3; 10:12; and often.
4. God "saves" us, "not the result of works," but by God's wonderful grace. If we could save ourselves by our good works, we could boast before God and to others. But we have nothing about to boast. We are lost, and in need of mercy and love and grace. Salvation is a "gift of God," not good achievements or moral superiority. Good works are not a basis or means of salvation, nor a desirable goal, but God's gift bestowed on all who are lost. 2:8-9.
c. As Christians, God has miraculously "created" us spiritually in Christ Jesus. AS A NATURAL RESULT of God's previous gift of salvation, we do good works, not to save us, but as the thankful "overflow" of God's salvation for us. 2:10. See Philippians 2:12-14.

As all know, Ephesians 2:1-10 is one of the most important texts in the entire Bible. Here Paul emphasizes God, not human beings; salvation as a gift of God, not human good works; the freedom of doing good works are the natural outflow of God's prior salvation of human beings.

I hope YOU appreciate this wonderful text. Share YOUR thoughts and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

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