By His Matchless Grace are We Saved
OUR SALVATION IS STRICTLY GIVEN BY THE GRACE OF GOD
Ephesians 2: 1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Unregenerate people are dead spiritually and therefore like the physically dead are unable to communicate with the living God. The spiritually living are those who have been born again and are connected to God. They have been made alive by believing the gospel and receiving the Holy Spirit. Interestingly God says, “You will seek Me and find Me when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13; Psalm 14:2; Isaiah 55:6-7 and 51 other verses). Those who are not born again are separated from God and their sins keep them in the “dead” state. The spiritually dead cannot experience the full life that God gives those of us who have truly received Christ and become regenerated (Matthew 19: 28; Titus 3: 5). They cannot connect to God and without His Holy Spirit they cannot understand Scripture. Christ affirmed the state of the spiritually dead quite clearly in the gospels (Matthew 8:22; Luke 9:60).
Matthew 8:22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead
Luke 9:60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
Ephesians 2: 2-3 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
Prior to regeneration people live in their sins, which reveals their spiritually dead condition even though they are physically alive. They could not and didn’t follow God. Paul marks three characteristics of the unbeliever.
- They live like people in the rest of the world. This means that whatever segment of society they are participating in they may have godless motives and, from God’s view, live immoral lives that are full of sin. The people who are without God may think they have high morals but God views them as sinners needing His Savior Jesus the Christ (Romans 2: 1-16).
- They follow Satan even if they don’t realize what they are doing. Satan is also called the ruler of the kingdom of the air. His domain is the gaseous envelope of the earth. “The whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), also called “the god of this Age” (2 Cor. 4:4). In the middle of the Tribulation he will be cast down to the earth, no longer to rule the world or have access to God’s presence (Rev. 12:9). The unsaved are now in the clutches of this “ruler” and follow in his opposition to God. He cannot harm believers who have been washed in the blood of Christ. He and his demons can cause believers irritation but not harm. If the believer dabbles in the occult, drug use, sexual immorality or drunkenness then he or she enters the demonic realm and the exposure can cause major harm. The power of the evil Satan is seen in the unbelievers who reject the gospel and actively disobey God in both faith and action. They live in constant rebellion and opposition to God.
- The additional description, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient, refers to “the ruler,” meaning that Satan personally works in sons of disobedience. This “spirit” refers to the seemingly impersonal force or atmosphere, which is controlled and directed by Satan (1 John 5:19). This spirit is presently “at work” in unbelievers. “In those who are disobedient” is literally, “in the sons of disobedience. The Greek word translated “disobedience” and “disobedient” is used several times in the New Testament (Rom. 11:30, 32; Eph. 2:2; 5:6; Heb. 4:6, 11). It suggests conscious, active rebellion and opposition against God. However, the unconverted not only are under pressure to conform to the world system and Satan’s control but they also enjoy it. We now refer to this as “political correctness” or having “situational ethics.” When Paul says “all of us also lived among them at one time” is his reminder to his Gentile readers that the Jews (“all of us”) also joined in this disobedience. The conduct of the unsaved is in the sphere of the cravings of their sinful nature, in which they follow the desires and the thoughts of the flesh. The Bible clearly explains what the sins of the flesh are:
Galatians 5: 19-22 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
This nature can manifest itself in a respectable form as well as in disreputable pursuits. Unbelievers have a close relationship, not with God, but with His wrath! Disobedience and unbelief lead to the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18-2:29; John 3:36). Ephesians 2:1-3 presents a hopeless picture of an unregenerate person who deserves nothing but God’s wrath.
God’s Rich Mercy
Ephesians 2: 4-5 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
The conjunction but introduces God’s actions toward sinners, in contrast with their condition as expressed in verses 1-3 “God” is the subject of the whole passage. Great differences are suggested by the words “But God”! He is described as rich in mercy. God’s mercy is seen through the fact that He has a plan, which is confirmation of the pathway He has created for the world to escape to Heaven. His plan is perfect. (the “riches” of God’s grace [1:7; 2:7], of God’s glorious inheritance [1:18], of Christ [3:8], and of His glory [3:16]). God, who is rich in exhibiting this undeserved kindness, acts on behalf of sinners because of His great love for us. His love and mercy are inexhaustible. Since sinners are spiritually dead toward God, they have nothing to commend them to God. This is why Paul described this love as being “great.” God’s love has done three things: (a) made us alive with Christ, (b) “raised us up with Christ” (2:6), and (c) “seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (v. 6). An unbeliever, spiritually dead, is “made . . . alive” by God “with (in association with) Christ” (Col. 2:13). The “us” includes both Jews and Gentiles (“us” in Eph. 2:3-4). The only way a spiritually dead person can communicate with God is to be made alive, and the One who is Himself alive must do that. He is the living God, “who gives life to the dead” (Rom. 4:17). God knows the unbelievers’ state. He clearly described it in Ephesians 2:1-3 and He repeats it here through the apostle Paul, even when we were dead in transgressions. This act of God in making the unregenerate alive is an act of grace; it is by grace you have been saved. Because believers have been “made alive” spiritually with Christ, they have been and are saved.
Ephesians 2: 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
Believers have been raised up from the spiritually dead. Christ was raised up from the dead by the power of God. We who have been spiritually born again have been raised up to life by God’s power too. This speaks of being positionally resurrected. Christ’s post-resurrection state was new, powerful, and unique. So too Christians, in whom Christ dwells, have a new, powerful, and unique life and position. Believers are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms spiritually. This divine power that can make an unbeliever have life, be raised, and exalted with Christ is the same power that presently operates in believers. A believer can then be found to no longer follow the world but truly desire the things of Christ. As Paul said in Colossians:
Colossians 3: 1-2 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
God’s Glorious Purposes
Ephesians 2: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
We the redeemed become the examples on display of His kindness to the world in Christ Jesus. The Church could only exist by God’s love. The fact that we exist is evidence of God’s unmerited grace toward this world. Without Christ’s sacrifice there could be no hope for any relationship with God and our future would be hopeless.
I Corinthians 15: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins
Ephesians 2: 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
These verses explain, “the incomparable riches of His grace” expanding the parenthetical statement in verse 5, “It is by grace you have been saved”, and adding that the means of this salvation is through faith. Hence the basis is grace and the means is faith alone (Rom. 3:22, 25; Gal. 2:16; 1 Peter 1:5). Faith is not a “work.” It does not merit salvation; it is only the means by which one accepts God’s free salvation.
Then God says “And this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Thus it refers back to the concept of salvation (2:4-8a), whose basis is grace and the means by which it is accomplished is faith. Faith is the conduit or pipeline through which the grace of God comes to a repentant sinner who is receiving God’s grace. This salvation does not have its source in man (it is “not from yourselves”), but rather, its source is God’s grace for “it is the gift of God.” Verse 9 reinforces this by showing that the means is not by works since its basis is grace (Rom. 3:20, 28; 4:1-5; 11:6; Gal. 2:16; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5), and its means is faith (Rom. 4:5). Therefore since no person can bring salvation to himself by his own efforts, no one can boast (Rom. 3:27; 1 Cor. 1:29). Their boasting can only be in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31). God alone provides the salvation and even the faith through which the salvation enters us. We are completely in debt to God for His rich mercy. This is a complete gift of God. This is totally, completely and without any human effort.
IT IS ALL THROUGH HIM AND BY HIM
Ephesians 2: 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Paul finally tells why this salvation is not from man or by his works. The reason is that salvation is God’s workmanship. The word “workmanship” (poiēma), used only here and in Romans 1:20 denotes a work of art or a masterpiece. It differs from human “works” (ergōn) in Ephesians 2:9. Believers are God’s workmanship because they have been created (a work only God can do) in Christ Jesus. The purpose of this creation is that believers will do good works. God’s workmanship is not achieved by good works, but it is to result in good works (Titus 2:14; 3:8). Meaning we are not saved by any good works but after salvation we will do good works.
In the clause, “which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” the word “which” refers back to the “works” in the previous clause. “For us to do” is literally “in order that we might walk in them.” The purpose of these prepared-in-advance works is not “to work in them” but “to walk in them.” In other words, God has prepared a path of good works for believers, which He will perform in and through them as they walk by faith. This does not mean doing a work for God; instead it is God’s performing His work in and through believers (Phil. 2:13). Paul in Ephesians 4:6 discusses this path of good works.
Therefore Ephesians 2:1-10 demonstrates that though people were spiritually dead and deserving only God’s wrath, God, in His wonderful grace, has provided salvation through faith. Believers are God’s workmanship in whom and through whom He performs good works.
Daniel E. Woodhead
By His Grace.