Ephesians 2:1-10:“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 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.
This passage has three of the most familiar verses for any follower of Jesus, verses 8 through 10. “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. As a result, whenever I hear someone referencing the second chapter of Ephesians, I immediately think of those three verses. Those verses contain amazing truth about God and what He has bestowed on us and what we are to do after he saves us. Yet, we can often get lost in those three verses and skim quickly through the previous seven. Imagine if this passage was a painting, and the Apostle Paul was painting for us a word picture; a representation of salvation. No artist throws useless details or images into a painting or a sculpture. Everything has a purpose, a reason for existing in that painting. In the same way, no writer includes useless details. The details included are for the readers benefit; for a more complete grasp of the concept. Therefore, in this painting of Ephesians 2, instead of jumping directly to verses 8-10, this morning we are going to look at the preceding seven verses in order to understand what makes verses 8-10 so glorious. Additionally, we will see the remarkable, spectacular, grandness of this word painting that Paul paints for us, in order that we do not miss or do injustice to any of the truth that God has included in this passage for us to know, through the writing of the Apostle Paul.
This exposition of Ephesians will be under three main headings, covered in three blog posts:
- What We Were
- What God Did
- Why God Did it
The first heading, WHAT WE WERE, was covered in the post, Ephesians 2:1-10 Part 1: What We Were. This post will cover the second point, What God Did. In the last post, we drew from the first 3 verse of this passage that humanity is 1) dead before God, unable to know God, and wrought with imperfection, 2) disobedient; everything we do is sinful, imperfect, rebellious, and in opposition to God; 3) dominated; we are controlled by and enslaved to the world and its lies, Satan and his powers of deception and bondage; ourselves and our desires control us in selfish, rebellious, God-opposed manners, sending us straight to hell. And finally, 4) doomed. As a result of our sinful, imperfect dead, disobedient and dominated lives, we are un the wrath of God, doomed to destruction with no hope in ourselves to save us. There is nothing we can do before God to please Him or remove his wrathful judgment from our lives. One day, when we die will face God in judgment and punishment. We learn we are hopelessly doomed before God, and also that God is wrathful towards sin. He hates sin.
The picture that Paul has painted is dark. There is seemingly no hope in this picture for humanity. So far the only characters in this picture are us, with God and his wrath sure to come very soon. After building a case for humanity’s deserved condemnation and wrath before God, the unexpected happens. In what is quite possibly the greatest transition in all of literature, God enters the picture and acts so out of the ordinary it is mind blowing! What exactly did God do?
God orchestrated a plan to save His people. God, through the working of His Son, Jesus Christ, satisfied the penalty and wrath that is due to every person ever born, for every sin committed by that person. God came to earth in human flesh, John 1:14, and lived perfectly. He never once sinned, always obeying the Father, and then died on the cross for our sins. In Christ’s death, He took the sins of all of his people, those he came to save, taking their sins upon himself, but not just their sins; the penalty as well. Jesus took the sins of His people and faced the eternal, infinite wrath of God, His very own Father, on the cross. As Christ died, he satisfied the just wrath, the righteous judgment of God, thus removing for all eternity the penalty of sin from the lives of His people.
After Christ died, He rose again from the grave, triumphing over death and then ascended into heaven. It is in the life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the Son of God, that we find the salvation that Paul wrote about in Ephesians 2:1-10. Christ came to earth to die to redeem the dead, disobedient, dominated, doomed sinners Paul wrote about in the first three verses of Ephesians 2. In verse 8, Paul mentioned four aspects things God did to and for us when he saved us. These aspects Paul later described in one word, grace. That is the story of our salvation that we, as God’s children, and the people Christ died to save; a story of grace. Grace that is defined in four aspects.
First, God made us alive together with Christ. The dead rebellious sinners were given life by God. We could not attain or gain this life on our own, or by anything we could contrive. This life is purely a gift from God. He removed our dead hearts and spirits, replacing them with hearts that know and love Him, and gave us His own Spirit. This new life is sourced in His Son Jesus Christ. We can now know God, living in communion and intimacy with God. Instead of separation from God because of our sin, the sin and the resulting separation has been removed; God’s holy, just, righteous judgment appeased, and God has drawn His people near to Himself. He has provided life for dead sinners through the death of His own Son. And this life, where death once reigned and ruled, is now reigning and ruling.
Secondly, God raised us up together with Christ. Within this simple phrase, the Apostle Paul packed a large amount of theology. When Jesus became a man, living perfectly how we were created and commanded to live, and then taking sins and our place on the cross, Christ became our representative before God. In the same way that Adam was the representative before God for all humanity as the first human, Christ became our representative before God as our head, our ‘first born’, our older brother so to speak. Therefore, when Christ died, he took away our sins, and the penalty that was due them, pronouncing us not guilty before the holy with and righteous judgment of God. Then when Christ rose from the grave, to new life, He brought His people with Him. The past tense of raised shows the finality,the success, the permanence, the completed salvation that Christ achieved for His people. Paul declares in this short statement the new life that all those who believe in Christ now posses. By rising from the dead, Christ gave new life to His people. When God looked at Christ on the cross, he saw us, and now when God looks at us, His children, all those who believe in Him, He sees His Son. The righteousness and life of Jesus Christ has been placed on us in exchange for our sin and its penalty. In God’s sight we are alive spiritually, no longer dead.
While not all of God’s people have believed yet, in the eye of God, our salvation is complete, because Christ’s sacrifice was perfect, and satisfied God’s judgment. Therefore, Paul was able to write with utter confidence that God, ” raised us up with together within….” Furthermore, when Christ rose from the grave, he rose in victory over death, to glory and honor and authority. If we are raised with Christ, as our representative, from the grave, then we also receive honor as God’s people, his sons and daughters. We receive all the blessings and benefits that Christ receives as the Son of God. when Christ raised us from the grave along with himself.The completion of our salvation and bestowing of blessing upon God’s people is highlighted further by the third aspect of God saving us.
God seated us in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus, verse 6. This third aspect of salvation demonstrates the finished, effectual work of Christ on the cross. When Christ rose from the grave, he was victorious over our sin, death, and Satan. When Christ ascended to heaven, He was given honor and authority by the Father. Therefore, with Christ as our representative before God, as stated in the second aspect of salvation, we are given the blessings that Christ is given. Just as Christ is exalted to the Father’s right hand in heaven, we are also exalted to rule with Christ, in heaven. We receive honor and blessings because Christ was successful, completing the work of saving His people. The rebellious sinners in the first three verses of this passage have been changed from enemies, into friends and brothers of Christ, sons and daughters of God, sitting with Christ, present and residing in the victory He achieved on our behalf.
This statement in verse six, displays how complete our salvation is, that Christ left nothing undone, completing and accomplishing all that is required to make dead sinners alive in Christ, to God. His work is so complete, that even though God’s people are not all physically in heaven with Christ, in God’s eyes, our salvation is complete, and we are as good as there in heaven. Additionally, since God is outside of time, He knows the end from the beginning of our salvation and we are in heaven with Him right now, resting in Christ’s finished atoning work.
The first three aspects of salvation that Paul wrote about in this passage were done deals, nothing could be added to them, nor taken away. In God’s eyes, which is how we are to view our salvation, making us alive, raising us up, and seating us with Christ in the heavenly places illustrate the complete satisfactory work of Christ on the cross for our salvation, that Christ did everything necessary and his sacrifice was sufficient for all of His people, for all time, in every way. The fourth aspect of salvation on the other hand deals with our present circumstances in life. This fourth aspect of our salvation is found at the end of the passage, in verse 10. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Our salvation is completely achieved and finished in the Person and work of Christ. we are alive to God, raised up with Christ to begin living new lives, as God’s people, and have access to all the blessings and benefits of Christ because he is our older brother and representative before God. We are seated with Christ in heaven, with honor and blessing. When Christ saved us, we are made alive, able now to know God, bestowing grace upon us to live for Him for the duration of our life on earth. The process of living for God, instead of how the rest of the world lives is called sanctification. This term means we are a work in progress, becoming more like Christ Jesus, as God works in our hearts, minds, and lives, conforming us to the image and likeness of Jesus.
God began the work in us, through the saving work of Christ, and the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. God continues to work in us throughout our lives, bringing us to completion when Christ returns in judgment. (Philippians 1:6) At that point, we will be made like Christ, perfect and free from the presence of sin. God is the one working in us, as He pleases, Philippians 2:12-13. It is our job to strive to know Him, working out our salvation in humility, not forgetting who and what we were before Christ saved us, and who God is in every aspect of our salvation, namely the agent, founder and source.
If there has been one idea made clear from this exposition of Ephesians 2:6 & 10, about what God did for and to us, it is that our entire salvation, standing before God, relationship with Him, the blessings we receive; it all is dependent on God, on Christ and His work. Paul makes this illustrates this point in verses eight and nine,, “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.” every aspect of our salvation, including the faith that it takes to believe in Jesus, to access the grace the God offers in Jesus, is given to us by God. We are hopeless without him. There is nothing attractive in us, that God would desire us. Paul explained the amazing grace that saved us, and then reminds us in verse 8 and 9, that it was all God, giving us cause to praise Him and thank him in all humility and gratitude.
Considering the natural state of humanity that was covered in the blog post, What We Were, there is no reason God should have done this for us, saving us, bringing the rebellious, dead, disobedient, dominated and doomed sinners into His presence, forgiving and removing their sins, and bestowing upon them blessing and honor as His children and people. God made us alive in Christ, giving us new hearts and spirits that know Him, and love Him, raising us up in victory over our sin and death, and to power ad blessing with Christ and bestowing honor and blessings to us with Christ in the heavenly places. Why God did this for us is an amazing idea to ponder and comprehend. This aspect will be covered in the third and final blog Post, Why God did it.