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From Death to Life, Saved by Grace

Bible Study of Ephesians
The Reconciliation and Consummation of All Things through Christ

Week Three: From Death to Life, Saved by Grace (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Last week we ended on a high note—a really high note! We read about how the Father displayed His all-surpassing strength when He raised Jesus from the dead and exalted Him far above every other ruling power, both seen and unseen. We also discovered that Jesus isn’t the only one who benefits from this lofty position at the Father’s right hand: the Son of God has been appointed head over all things for the church, which is “His body” and the very presence of God in the world (i.e. His “fullness,” see 1:23).

Therefore, the God who created all things makes this “resurrection/exaltation” power available now, at the present time, for every one of His adopted children who were chosen before the world’s foundation. Amazingly, God had planned their redemption before He spoke the universe into existence and said “Let there be light!” (Eph. 1:3-6; cf. Gen. 1:3).

In this next section, Paul will shift gears and remind his readers of their former existence: they were held captive under hostile powers before God graciously intervened. This mini-narrative in 2:1-10 forms the basis for every believer’s salvation story and can be arranged in three main points of emphasis:

1. Our hopeless condition apart from Christ (2:1-3)
2. God’s grace and the grand purpose of our salvation (2:4-7)
3. God’s grace abounding, even in our good works (2:8-10)

Here in 2:1-10 we’ll get an in-depth look at an integral part of God’s plan to reconcile and consummate all things through Christ (cf. 1:10): We’ll see God turn sinners into saints in order that they might live out a purposeful life complete with tailor-made assignments prepared beforehand by the Father himself. And then, in next week’s section (2:11-22), Paul will cover the corporate aspect of our salvation [Jews + Gentiles united] and the function of Christ’s body as God’s temple on earth.


2:1-3:

And you [He made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, [of] the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”

Paul begins with the bad news: the world is dark, and it appears hopelessly lost. There are casualties everywhere in this ongoing spiritual war, and we shouldn’t be fooled even if we are able to take a breath, think, talk, or travel the world—these activities don’t qualify as being “alive” in any spiritual sense of the term. On the contrary, this world is full of the walking dead, and they don’t even know they’re dead.

Just so we get the full picture, Paul isn’t saying that only really bad people are far from God. He first addresses his readers, saying, “you [plural] were dead in your trespasses and sins,” however, the apostle then includes himself when he says, “we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh.” No one is excluded. All humanity faces a desperate situation in this world without God’s intervention. Warren Wiersbe draws out of the text a four-fold description of who we were before Christ:

1. Dead (“you were dead in trespasses and sins” - 2:1)
2. Disobedient (“the sons of disobedience” - 2:2)
3. Depraved (“the lusts/desires of the flesh/mind” - 2:3)
4. Doomed (“by nature children of wrath” - 2:3)*

*Wiersbe, "Ephesians," in The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2, 17-18.

This isn’t how we like to think of ourselves, but apart from Christ, this is the frightening truth and reality of a fallen human race. Paul also reveals that fallen humanity is overpowered and surrounded by enemy forces—a three-fold enemy, in fact:

1. The world (“according to the course of this world” - 2:2)
2. The devil (“the prince of the power of the air” - 2:2)
3. The flesh (“fulfilling the desires of the flesh” - 2:3)

We saw in 1:19 that God the Father works [Grk. energeia] in believers; conversely, there is another spirit altogether working [energeia] in unbelievers (2:2). Moreover, Christ Jesus is head of His body, the Church, and fills them with His power (1:22-23); conversely, Satan, the prince/power of the air, is head over this world and influences the thoughts and behaviors of his captive subjects (2:2-3).* This stark contrast between two realms relates to our previous discussion at the beginning of the letter concerning those who are “in Ephesus [the world]” and “in Christ Jesus [the heavenly places].” There is no middle ground or grey area: in this current age/dispensation, one is either alive “in Christ,” or dead and “of the world.”**

*The apostle John confirms what Paul says in this letter, "...the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19, ESV). See also Luke 4:5-7; Revelation 13:1-3, etc.

**Jesus prays for his disciples, who later become the apostles, "...protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, as I am not of the world" (John 17:15-16, HCSB).



2:4-7:

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Paul paints a bleak picture in 2:1-3, but thanks to God it’s not the end of the story. The first two words of 2:4 are full of hope, “But God…,” and make no mistake about it—the Father and Creator of us all is the hero in this high-stakes drama of the ages. He gets all the credit in this work of rescue and redemption.*

*Grammatically speaking, the Father [subject] is the one who is doing all of the action [verbs], "Finally, in 2:4-6 we come to the three main verbs of the single sentence that comprises 2:1-7, describing three divine operations..." (Kuruvilla, 58). The NKJV renders these three main verbs: "made us alive together," "raised us up together," and "made us sit together."

Out of the vast riches of His mercy and grace, and because He loves us so much, the Father grants His children the same position and privilege as His Beloved Son, Jesus.* Wiersbe highlights the subtle distinction between grace and mercy in this way, “In His mercy, He does not give us what we do deserve; and in His grace He gives us what we do not deserve" (Wiersbe, 19).

*Refer back to Eph. 1:20, where the Father raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him far above every other power. The same is said of believers in 2:5-6. "What a shared destiny—what is true of Christ, is now also true of believers! Indeed, it is only because of their identification in Christ that believers in him are enlivened, raised, and seated with him" (Kuruvilla, 59).

And so, if anyone is going to join the Father in His mission to reconcile and consummate all things through His Son, Jesus, then he or she must first be brought to life from spiritual death. For emphasis, Paul reiterates in 2:5 what he already stated in 2:1, except this time with an all-inclusive first-person plural, “even when we were dead in trespasses.” Dead people don’t make any moves toward God; therefore, God must make the first move to bring them to life.

There is an already-but-not-yet aspect to the Father’s co-enlivening, co-raising, and co-seating of believers. Theologians call the present reality of a believer’s exalted status in Christ “positional sanctification” as opposed to full, or final sanctification. However, the Scriptures affirm elsewhere that the entire body of Christ will one day literally and physically rise from the dead, receive incorruptible/glorified bodies, and be taken up to heaven.

Is there a place in the Bible where we can find a fully-glorified body of Christ seated with Jesus in the heavenly places? Yes, there is! Take a look at Revelation 4:4:

Around [God’s] throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads (ESV).*

*Compare with Revelation 5:6, where Jesus (the Head) is pictured with the Church (His body) in glory, "And I looked and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain..." (NKJV).

Paul, writing around three decades before John (circa AD 60), depicts the Church as already raised up and seated with Christ in heaven, although at the present time, we do not see the physical fulfillment of this spiritual reality. Nevertheless, God means what He says, and the book of Revelation confirms that the fullness of Ephesians 2:6 and the complete sanctification/glorification of the body of Christ will come to pass! For a more in-depth look on this subject, please see my third installment of the Church of the Firstborn series, "Raised Up, Seated with Christ, and Ready to Rule."

Next, in Ephesians 2:7, we discover God’s purpose for saving and glorifying believers in the body of Christ. Put in the form of a question, one might ask, “Why is God doing this awe-inspiring work of salvation for people who can’t earn it and don’t deserve it? In answer, Scripture says, “...[so] that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

In other words, the members of Christ’s body are trophies of God’s grace and kindness. We will be on display* for all to see in the ages to come as a testimony and witness to the Father’s true character. He is going to finally and eternally put to rest the lie of the enemy that says God isn’t loving, gracious, good, merciful, or just. Therefore, if you are a member of the body of Christ, then consider yourself blessed—you have been saved by grace!

*The Greek verb translated "He might show" is a compound word, en + deigma, found in early Greek literature (e.g. Plato, Euripedes, Plutarch, etc.), and often used in a legal context; other definitions include: to exhibit, prove or make clear by evidence or reasoning (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd ed., 214-15; Liddell-Scott, An Intermediate Greek Lexicon, 259).



2:8-10:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Paul repeats and further explains what he said in 2:5 (“by grace you have been saved”) in order to drive the point home: those who are saved by God’s grace have no grounds for boasting or any reason to pat themselves on the back once they get to heaven. The complete work of salvation from beginning to end is God’s gift, and this gift is received by means of a person’s faith in Christ Jesus (refer back to Eph. 1:13, “when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him”).

Just to be clear, the act of placing our trust in Christ (i.e. faith, belief) doesn’t even qualify as a “work” that we could boast about. Paul’s grammar gives further proof that the unearned “gift” of 2:8 refers exclusively to the work of God alone:

Much debate has centered around the demonstrative pronoun ‘this’ (touto).* Though some think it refers back to ‘grace’ and others to ‘faith,’ neither of these suggestions is really valid because the demonstrative pronoun is neuter whereas ‘grace’ and ‘faith’ are feminine...the neuter touto, as is common, refers to the preceding phrase or clause. (In Eph. 1:15 and 3:1 touto, ‘this,’ refers back to the preceding section.) Thus it refers back to the concept of salvation (2:4-8a), whose basis is grace and means is faith" (Hoehner, "Ephesians," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, vol. 2, 624).

*The NKJV translates the Greek pronoun touto as "that" in 2:8, "...and that [touto] not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."

“Salvation is from the LORD!” the prophet Jonah exclaimed (Jnh. 2:9; cf. Ps. 3:8; Rev. 7:10), and the name of Jesus means “The LORD [Yahweh] saves” (Matt. 1:21; Acts 4:12). And here in Ephesians, the apostle Paul is in agreement with the rest of Scripture. Salvation is God’s gift, and Jesus, the Savior, is the Father’s gift to the world (John 3:16; cf. Isaiah 9:6).

Finally, in Ephesians 2:10, we come full circle in a passage that began with how believers used to “walk” [Grk. peripateo]: a way of life [more like death] that was according to the course of this world and under the dominion of the flesh and the evil one (Eph. 2:2-3). Now, after being saved by grace, believers are to “walk” [peripateo] in an entirely new and different direction: a path prepared by God that results in “good works.”*

*"...though salvation is not 'of works' (2:9), the outcome is for works (2:10). Works are not the ground of salvation, but the goal thereof—salvation's fruit, not its root" (Kuruvilla, 63).

Paul says that believers are God’s “workmanship,” which in the Greek is the word poiema, a term recognizable in the English language as “poem.” Thus, being “created in Christ Jesus,” implies that God has introduced something new inside the believer (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17); furthermore, the aim of this new creation, “in Christ Jesus,” is a productive and eternally meaningful life that will bud, bloom, and blossom into a beautiful masterpiece—all to the glory and praise of the master Creator, Engineer, and Artist.

Though the believer has to actually perform “good works” as evidence of their salvation, this should not be confused with the disastrous and faith-wrecking mindset of “performance-based acceptance;” i.e. trying to prove to God and/or other people that you’ve got what it takes to be saved. Most assuredly, the fact that God prepares these good works beforehand [Grk. proetoimazo] is further proof of His prevailing grace in our salvation from beginning to end.*

*Paul has already provided a list of things that God has prepared beforehand for the believer [all Greek words have the prefix, "pro," meaning "before"]; for example, we were chosen/elected before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4); predestined to be His adopted children (Eph. 1:5); made aware of His good will and purpose (Eph. 1:9); and predestined to be His inheritance (Eph. 1:11).

Despite all of the disagreement and confusion surrounding faith and works throughout Church history, Scripture affirms both that God saves us by His grace alone (Ephesians 2:4-9; Romans 3:24; 11:6; Galatians 2:21; 5:4; Titus 3:7) and that He graciously empowers us to accomplish good works which were planned and worked out by the Father before we were born (1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; Hebrews 13:20-21; James 1:17-18).

Application to the Body of Christ:

Summary of 2:1-10:

“Believers, sharing Christ’s exaltation, demonstrate to the universe God’s mercy, love, grace, and kindness as they undertake good works" (Kuruvilla, 64).

Every believer needs to allow for Paul’s words in 2:1-3 to sink in—it should be a knockout punch to any pride or boasting in one’s own deeds or accomplishments. Furthermore, we all need to understand the gravity and severity of our situation before we heard and responded favorably to the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ.

A healthy dose of reality (a hard pill to swallow, for sure), should help us to stay alert in our own walk with Christ and be sensitive to others who are still labeled as “children of disobedience,” those who are under the influence of their own sin nature, the evil one, and the wrath of God.

Also, Ephesians 2:1-10 will help to sharpen our understanding and clear up any confusion about our message to the world. As believers, we need to live lives that are marked by grace, not fear, legalism, or self-righteousness. We will not attract non-believers or gain a hearing of the gospel if we are communicating, in word or deed, that God is harsh, exacting, ready-to-punish, distant, unrelatable, unpredictable, etc.

On the contrary, as we have seen from this current study, God’s grace takes center stage and should influence everything about us. When it comes to our salvation, It is grace from start to finish—even in our good works. So then, let your light shine before men (Matt. 5:16), but don’t let yourself or your neighbor down by failing to live in light of God’s grace.


Post A Comment

16 comments :

  1. was lost but now i'm found, was blind but now i see - what it means to 'walk by Faith and not by sight

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bought a small stone cross that has that verse on it (2 Cor. 5:7) at a low point in my life (it was roughly 12 years ago).

      Unbeknownst to me until days ago was the context of 2 Cor. 5:1-10, which is longing for the rapture.

      Delete
    2. Another great study brother. While there are dozens and dozens of passages upholding justification by faith, Ephesians 2:8-9 has become a rallying cry in the Church because it so succinctly defines the truth.

      Delete
    3. Yes, I love those places in Scripture where you find a distillation of several passages into one or two verses. Ephesians 2:8-9 should be a given for believers to internalize, especially those new to the faith.

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  2. Wonderful testimony Gary, God's calling for your Life! Hallelujah!!!Rock On brother, He has rolled away the stone! Amen

    ReplyDelete
  3. Document of Human Fraternity: A document made by Pope Francis - ZERO Mention of JESUS CHRIST. But 16 times for word GOD....sounds good. But read and understand the context... it is having GOD with the same GOD as the Muslim.

    http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/travels/2019/outside/documents/papa-francesco_20190204_documento-fratellanza-umana.html


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wo6tnuFfUTE Watch - historic visit. One World Religion in quick and unfolding right before our eyes.

    ReplyDelete
  4. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2019-02/pope-francis-uae-declaration-with-al-azhar-grand-imam.html


    It is just amazing that we see these things unfold

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for posting, Ryan. You're right. The pieces just keep falling into place.

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    2. Hi Jeff, i do see the high value in Paul's writing here and the absolute priceless, preciousness of the message - like nothing the world can offer. i am soaking it up and i am quite thankful for this, your time and your skill in bringing this to us here and now. Thank you and Bless You brother. Shalom always

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    3. Thank you, Ozark. I'm appreciating this study too. Glad you are along for the journey.

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    4. This presentation read in its entire w/the song and video to boot, is way off the charts bother Jeff, Shalom! Man my dogs are gonna be there plumb full of spirit and youthful exuberance w/ Jesus*

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    5. In my country I saw Orthodox priests preaching in evangelical churches and evangelical pastors who preach in Orthodox churches. In our parliament united the Orthodox with the evangelical.
      Including Orthodox prayer breakfast with the Patriarch and all cults including Evangelical..
      Also, many Christians (Orthodox, Evangelical ..) have come to say that all religions go to heaven. As they practice yoga and alternative medicine that in time can open doors as the enemy attacks in spirit, body, mind heart …

      http://www.pawcreek.org/alternative-medicine-and-demon-spirits/

      God bless you !!!


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    6. Sad to see so many fulfilling 2 Tim. 4:3-4. But! You are evidence that there is always a remnant who still have an appetite for the truth!

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  5. Great joy is coming!,...also wanted to say Thanks to Greg for the awesome links in connection w/ Migdal Eder Tower and pod casts at Planobible Chapel site on Daniel 8 etc. Them Jacob Sheep are Amazing and more,...very enriching to take this in!

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  6. Having my coffee this morning and reading through all three weeks of Ephesians studies - thank you so much for blessing us with His encouraging Words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, BC! Glad you are going through this study with me. I'm encouraged too!

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