Drinking Deeply

Thursday, January 05, 2006 at 10:42 PM

Ephesians 2:1-10

I bring this passage up in conversations alot. Might as well give an explanation of it. It ties in nicely with "my" (hah, as if I was coming with anything new) ideas on spiritual warfare. I'll get to that... eventually.

Ephesians 2:1-10

1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in 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-- 3among 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. 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Throughout the Bible there are many places where the Gospel is pretty explicit (and I would claim that the Gospel is implicit pretty much everywhere). This is one of my favorites and I used it for the small group.

The context is relevant, but we can get a basic understanding of this passage without examining it.

1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in 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—3among 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.

The Gospel always starts out with the bad news: We are sinners. Without that, we cannot possibly understand what the good news is: We are saved.

In Ephesians 2, we start by learning that we are dead. What does it mean that we are dead? It surly does not mean that we are physically dead, for we live and breathe. We can walk around. But what it does mean is that we are spiritually dead. This has two possible meanings. One: We deserve death, for the wages of sin is death. We have sinned. We deserve death. This is certainly true, but I would argue that the verse does not limit itself to that context, but rather it is talking about an active spiritual deadness. We are dead in trespasses and sins, not dead because of trespasses and sins. We followed the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air. We sinned because we were dead.

We followed Satan (well, presumably that’s who the prince of the power of the air is, since he is now at work in the sons of disobedience). We followed the course of this world. Notice as well the strong dichotomy (clear line) being drawn between those who have been saved (presumably the readers of the letter), and those who have not. Follow the world. Sinned. Trespasses. Followed Satan. Sons of disobedience. By nature, children of wrath. We carried out our fleshly desires (our sinful nature). We followed body and mind in sin.

As a side note, I don’t believe the Bible teaches 3 parts to man: head/heart/body but rather two: body and mind aka the physical and the spiritual. This is pretty explicit in many places, but feel free to ask me to defend it.

Notice as well the strong line being drawn. We either are dead or we’re alive. We’re either following Satan or we’re following God. We’re either children of wrath or we’re sons of God.

One final thing this text tells us is that we are not all “sons of God.” In some senses, because God created us all, we are “creations of God.” But the title “son” includes the inheritance, the promises of eternity. In that sense we are either sons of God, or we’re sons of disobedience, and Satan is still at work in those sons of disobedience.

4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Now here is one of the most beautiful “but”s in Scripture. We were dead. We sinned. We were by nature children of wrath. But God. What happened? God happened! We didn’t suddenly choose to come to life. God, because of His love, saved us and made us alive. God has saved us by grace. This is a gift. Now, some may argue that one must accept the gift in order for it to have any benefit. I will address that later on.

Now, God could have made us alive and then left us on our own. He doesn’t owe us anything. He doesn’t have to give us life in the first place. (And in fact, he doesn’t give some people life. We’ll talk about that in Romans 9.) But God, because of His love, being rich in mercy, he not only gives us life in Christ, but “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Not only are we saved from death, but we are granted life. We are raised with him and seated with him. Now, I didn’t talk much about the elevation of Christ which concludes Ephesians 1, but suffice to say that as God is placing (or has placed, depending on your view on the end times) all things under Christ’s control and reign. And we are promised to be with Him. We are adopted as Sons. This is what saves us from being a son of disobedience, but now we are sons of obedience. Not because we obey, but because Christ did.

Why did this happen? So that God might show his grace in kindness toward us in Christ. Ultimately it boils down to being about God again. It is all God. All the time.

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Paul hammers home the truth. There is nothing to boast about. By grace (alone, since we are dead) you have been saved through faith (alone, since we are dead). What is this? Not of our own doing (we were dead). It is a gift. We do not earn this thing. There is nothing to boast about.

Now, to address the issue of “needing to accept the gift.” A few points that I think sufficiently refute that argument from this text. 1) We were dead and we followed Satan. If that is true, then if the gift was one we needed to accept, then our spiritual deadness and desire to follow Satan would prevent us from accepting it. 2) There is nothing to boast about. If it is true that we need to accept this gift (and presumably there are people who are given it and reject it), then it would seem that there was something in us to boast about. We were somehow smarter, better-looking, or whatever. Absolutely not. It is clear that in order so that no one may boast, this gift includes the hand that accepts it. Faith is a gift here, which grammatically is defensible from the passage (though I’ll admit it’s ambiguous), as well as explicit in other passages (Acts 16:14, 2 Timothy 2:25 as examples).

10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

This is another one of God’s purposes. We were “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Now, we must be clear that it is not the works that makes us righteous before God. It is Christ alone who makes us righteous before God, and it is God who gives that righteousness as a free gift, which includes the faith that takes hold of it. Yet at the same time, good works is the fruit of salvation. If we were saved, then we will produce good works. Not all the time, because we’re still sinners, but there are good works prepared beforehand by God for us to walk in them (do them). The distinction must be made between the fruit (good works) and the cause (faith). To say otherwise would be to retreat to earning God’s good graces. That somehow we had done well enough to please God, that we have something to boast about.

Once again, even with these good works, there is nothing to boast about. We are created for them, they are prepared in advance for us, and it is only by God who saves us by Jesus Christ that we are able to do them at all. When all is said and done, all we can say is “we are but unworthy servants, for we have only done our duty.” But at the same time, God will invite us in to share a meal and His joy for His servants because of His grace.


Are you boasting in your salvation? Are you boasting in your knowledge? Are you boasting in your gifts? Are you boasting that you are better than a non-believer on your own? Don’t, for you were just like them, deserving of wrath. The only reason you’re different is because God did something to you, you didn’t do something for God. There is nothing to boast about and nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. It is one given by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, so that God alone would be glorified.

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