In Chapter 1 we discussed 4 key points:
- How great our Father in heaven is and how He has blessed us through Christ
- How we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing and have had His rich grace lavished upon us
- That we have been redeemed through Christ’s blood and adopted as children of God
- That we have hope through the Spirit who was given to us as a seal or mark that we belong to the Lord
Paul then proceeds to encourage or exhort the body of believers (the church) through his thankfulness and requests that he makes on behalf of the body in prayer. Paul asks that all believers may be enlightened (have the eyes of their hearts enlightened) to the wisdom and revelation (revealing) of Jesus so that we may know the infinite greatness of God’s power towards us. This power that He works towards us is the work the He did raising Jesus from the dead and seating Him at His right hand so that all things (good or evil and great or small) are subject to Him…and most importantly placing Jesus at the head of the church, which is described as the fullness of His body. May all glory be to God for what He has done for us!
Now we enter into chapter 2, which makes a slight change in course focusing not on the Trinity but on us.
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
It seems like an abrupt change to go straight from describing the greatness of God’s power towards mankind through Jesus Christ to us who were dead in our sins. This is the greatness of God juxtaposed with the weakness of man. However, this makes more sense as we read through all of Ephesians. It is God’s greatness, His mercy, and His grace that Paul is glorifying throughout Ephesians. At no time does Paul glorify people, even the people of God. This juxtaposition of God and man together shows us at a deeper level how wonderful God really is towards us. And knowing this, we should strive to bless God more and more through our worship, praise, and obedience.
Here in these opening verses, Paul is describing all believers before they were believers. We were dead in our sins; that is, we could do nothing in our own power to pick ourselves up and remove our sins before a holy God. We had no power of righteousness of our own to make ourselves holy.
Verses 2 and 3 describe our state of being before we were believers. Notice the word “walked” in verse 2, that we walked according to the evils of this period of time in the world. The word “walked” is an active verb showing that we willingly participated in the evils of this world. It wasn’t that we were somehow passively carried along unwillingly or unwittingly by the evils of this world but that we were active participants. Keep this word “walk” in mind as we will encounter it again in verse 10 in a totally different context.
Paul goes on to expound on our depravity while we were still sinners. We lived in the lusts of the flesh. Being dead in our sins there was nothing we could do but to behave according to our sinful flesh. This behavior caused us to indulge in the desires of both our flesh and our mind. The word for “indulge” in the Greek is a verb that is conjugated in such a way as to express an ongoing and continuous action. Essentially, we wallowed in our sin without end while we were sinners. There was nothing we could do but be sinners. That is, until grace came and we were lifted out of our sin by Christ. Christ changed everything for us. As it says in Ephesians 1:3, He choose us before time began so that we would be holy and blameless before Him. And our holiness reflects the merciful God that chose us and gave us salvation. So God’s actions to save sinners are to His own glory…His glory in grace, His glory in mercy, and His glory in infinite power. May all glory be to God!
Paul causes us to remember our pre-salvation days here. It is a good thing for us to consider how depraved and unlovable we were before we were saved. Remember that there is a whole world out there still dead in their sins who are acting just as the prince of the power of the air wants them to act, just as we used to be. They are following the world’s idea of what righteousness and justice are. And the world’s idea of righteousness and justice are ever changing according to the prince of the power of the air. Knowing this should spur us on to boldly speak God’s truth in love. But never forget that last part…”in love”.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, 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 ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Now in verse 4 Paul contrasts our sinful state before we believed to what God did for us out of mercy and grace. In other words, Paul contrasts our depravity with God’s mercy. Verses 4 and 5 mirror John 3:16–17 beautifully:
16 For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.
Grace is defined simply as withholding what one deserves. In God’s compassionate and full love (agape) for us, He withholds the punishment we deserve, eternal separation from Him. Notice the adjectives here, God’s “great” love and God’s “rich” mercy (more precisely, God is described as richly having mercy). The overwhelming, infinite mercy and love of God towards sinners is why we are made alive (or saved). This salvation is described as a union with Christ (i.e., “together with Christ). As the words of verses 2:1-3 echo in our heads, Paul describes here how truly powerful, loving, and merciful He truly is towards us that don’t have a word of defense to stand on. What wonderful news that should be to us and to unbelievers. May all glory be to God!
At the end of verse 5 Paul brings in the word “grace”…by grace you have been saved. Now mercy (the withholding of punishment) must be inextricably bound to grace. Grace is defined as the giving of something to one that is undeserving. Think of it like this, God gave us salvation in His grace, but in order to give us this salvation He must also withhold His punishment towards us. Conversely, withholding His punishment is pointless without His loving grace to save us and join us in union with Christ. Mercy and grace go together like interlocking puzzle pieces. Apart, they wouldn’t have the full saving effect of joining us to Christ as one body…the church.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9 not as 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 so that we would walk in them.
Verses 8 through 10 sum up the entire book of Ephesians and can also act to sum up the basis of Paul’s theology. We could summarize these three verses as: God saves and we serve God through our good works, which He also gave us. Earlier I summed up the book of Ephesians as: “What God has done for me motivates me to walk in a way worthy of the Lord”. These are both very similar and capture what the book of Ephesians is about. Also, you may notice that verses 8 and 9 sum up the first three chapters of Ephesians and verse 10 is a generalization of the last three chapters of Ephesians. So, verses 8 through 10 are very important to keep in mind as you read through Ephesians.
Verse 8 begins with the conjunction “For”. This conjunction acts to connect the previous verses (4-7) with the following verses 8 through 9. Essentially, verses 8 and 9 expound and explain verses 4-7. Verse 8 explains very simply what God has done for us. He has shown us the surpassing (other translations use exceeding, immeasurable, or incomparable) riches of His grace through our salvation. However, salvation comes through faith in Jesus. It is this faith that is also given to us through His great grace. This is followed by the statement that none of these things: grace, salvation, or faith are things we can achieve. These are gifts from God the Father. Verse 9 follows up with and emphasis on our works having nothing to do with this great gift from God. We did nothing to be deserving of this great gift. The reason that our works are not required nor are able to save us is so that we do not get the glory (i.e., we cannot boast), but rather all the glory goes to God. You probably know what I’m about to say yet again. May all glory be to God!
As a note, there has been much debate on what exactly the gift of God is in verse 8. That is, what is the antecedent for “it” in “it is the gift of God”? You may say that faith would be the gift of God, but there are three possible antecedents: grace, salvation, and faith. While it is true that faith is a gift from God, most Biblical scholars believe that all of the phrase “by grace you have been saved through faith” is the antecedent of “it”. This makes sense if you take this whole phrase as a single idea. That is, the gift of God is salvation that comes through faith and is given to us by His great grace.
Finally, we get to verse 10, which shows us the causal relationship (through the word “For”) between verses 8-9 and verse 10. That is, our lives should display our joy through the works that God has prepared for us because of the salvation we enjoy. We are God’s creation and as His creation our purpose is to bless and glorify the creator first through the unmerited gift of God, which we have previously discussed, and secondly through the good and useful works God gave us.
These works that were created for us were also prepared beforehand. Just like it says in verse 1:4 that God choose us before the foundations of the world were created, so He has also appointed good works for us before time began. This is in agreement with Romans 8:29–30:
29 For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.
30 And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.
God not only foreknew those who are saved, but He also predestined them to be conformed to the image of Jesus. It’s this predestination for believers to be made like Jesus where the works that God has prepared for us come into play. These works are not only an outward expression of the joy of knowing our Lord and Savior, but they are also transforming us more and more into the likeness of Christ. One can think of the good works that we walk in as part of the process of sanctification.
Lastly in verse 10 we see that word “walk” again. Remember in verse 1 that we formerly “walked” in sin. Now in verse 10 we are called to “walk” in the good works that God has also given us. To “walk” in something is to behave accordingly. It’s not just a one time action or something we do occasionally. It is to live our lives joyfully doing the good works that God has given us. It’s not that we need to quit our jobs and find something to do in the church, since God also gave us our jobs. Instead, we should look for ways that God wants us to do good in our jobs for Him. But there are also many other ways that we can live out these good works in our church as well (that don’t require us to quit our jobs). One good work that comes to mind is the prayer life of our church. We should all be praying individually and together. To that end, one way to step into God’s good work in our church is to begin to pray with others. Bridget Marchetti runs the prayer group at our church and I know she’d love to have more people praying together in earnest not only for our church as a whole but for the sick, the needy, the lost, and of course our country. Our church uses the GroupMe app to keep us all apprised of those needing prayer. Ask Bridget about how you can get plugged into the church prayer group. This is just one of the many ways you can walk in God’s good works that He prepared for us so long ago.
May all glory be to God!