In Ephesians 2:4-10, the apostle Paul says this:
“. . . but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.”
In this passage, Paul explains how the Ephesians and the Jewish Christians, including himself, were made spiritually alive because of their union with Christ, and on the basis of God’s grace, or undeserved favor. It is this last part of the passage that I want to focus on:
“. . . for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.”
Why does Paul begin this passage with the word, “for”? Because he’s showing that he’s about to explain why it is that the fact that the Ephesians and the Jews have been resurrected, lifted up, and seated in heaven with Christ is how God will “show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward [them] in Christ Jesus”. So, why?
First, because “by grace have ye been saved”. What does it mean that the Ephesians have been “saved by grace”? Paul actually begins with the cause of their salvation — grace. Grace basically means “undeserved favor”. And how has God shown his undeserved favor? By loving His people, even when they were dead in their transgressions; by making them alive together with Christ; by raising them up with Him; and by making them sit with Him in the heavenly places; all in Christ Jesus. This is the salvation that Paul is speaking of.
And what were the Ephesians saved from?
- Their spiritual death in their trespasses and sins (v. 1)
- their walk according to the course of this world (v. 2)
- their slavery to the prince of the powers of the air (v. 2)
- their sonship to disobedience to God (v. 2)
- their life in the lusts of their flesh (v. 3)
- enslavement to the desires of the flesh and the mind (v. 3)
- their nature as children of wrath (v. 3)
- the wrath of God (v. 3)
Now, grace is the cause of their salvation, but faith is the means:
“. . . by grace have ye been saved THROUGH FAITH . . .”
What does Paul mean by faith here? The same thing that he means when he explains the Ephesians’ faith in Ephesians 1:13:
“. . . in whom [Christ] ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation,—in whom, having also believed . . .”
What did the Ephesians believe, or put their faith in? The word, or message, of the truth, the gospel, or good news, of their salvation. And what is this gospel?
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8:
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also.”
It is faith in the good news that Christ, the Anointed One, or Supreme Prophet, High Priest, and King, and Son of God, died for our sins, or crimes against God, and was physically raised from the dead as the Lord of the universe. But it’s not just faith in historical facts, but Christ Himself, just as Paul says in Ephesians 1:15a:
“For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you . . .”
Thus, the Greek word that is translated “faith” might be better translated “trust”.
So, faith is the means by which the Ephesians have been saved, but are they ultimately responsible for this faith? Paul answers:
“. . . and that [salvation by grace through faith] not of yourselves, it is the gift of God . . .”
Why do I say that Paul is saying that their faith is not from themselves? Because the faith that he mentions is integrally connected to the salvation that he mentions, since it is through faith that they are saved, just as the grace is integrally connected to salvation, since it’s by grace that they’re saved. There is no separating faith or grace from salvation — it’s a package. There is no salvation unless it’s through faith, just as there’s no salvation unless it’s by grace. Therefore, when Paul says “that” is “not of yourselves”, he means that the whole salvation, including the grace and the faith, is not from themselves. Besides, what other question could Paul be answering than that if salvation and faith are from ourselves, since Paul clearly established just before that salvation is by undeserved favor, and can’t possibly be from ourselves?
So, if salvation, including faith, isn’t from ourselves, than who’s it from? “It is the gift of God.” That is, it is a freely bestowed blessing to God’s people, that can’t be earned, and doesn’t originate in the people who receive it.
Well, if salvation is not from ourselves, does it result from what we do? Paul answers:
“. . . not of works, that no man should glory.”
So, salvation doesn’t result from what we do. But what’s the reason he gives? So that no one will glory, or boast. There is no room for boasting in one’s salvation if one was saved by God’s undeserved favor and through faith that was part of the gift of God.
And how does Paul know that salvation is not a result of works, and is the gift of God?
“For we are his workmanship . . .”
Rather than God’s people working for salvation, God worked in them to bring salvation about. The Greek word translated “workmanship” literally means “fabric”, so Paul is depicting God knitting His people into who they are as those who have been saved through faith.
But not only are they His workmanship, but they were “created in Christ Jesus for good works”. How does God’s workmanship manifest itself in salvation? By His people being created in Christ Jesus, or because they share in His resurrected, glorified, and exalted life, for good works, or works that glorify God and Christ Jesus. In other words, God’s people don’t do good works to be saved — they are saved to do good works.
And what are these good works? Paul describes them as those “which God afore [beforehand] prepared . . .”
What does this mean? Before what did God prepare these good works? Before the Ephesians were God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus”. In fact, Paul implies that God prepared them even before the foundation of the world in Ephesians 1:4:
“. . . even as he [God the Father] chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him . . .”
This isn’t saying that God chose them, so that they would have an obligation to be holy and blameless before Him, but that they would be holy and without blemish before Him.
This is the case in God’s reason for preparing His people’s good works before they do them: “. . . that we should walk in them.”
What does this mean? The word “walk” is a description of a way, or style, of life — like walking around. So, Paul is saying that God prepared His people’s good works before their salvation so that they would live lives of good works — that their lifestyles would be lifestyles of good works. This isn’t the ideal — this is the inevitable result of God saving someone.
So, if you have faith in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, since you’ve been saved from your transgressions, and created in Christ Jesus to do good works, how does this passage apply to you?
- You have been saved by God’s undeserved favor, not by your faith.
- You have been saved through your faith, but that faith wasn’t from you, it is part of the gift of God.
- You weren’t saved because of anything you’ve ever done, or ever will do, so you can’t boast about your salvation, or your faith.
- You are God’s workmanship.
- God created you in Christ Jesus for good works.
- God prepared your good works beforehand, so that you would walk in them. Every good work you’ve ever done, are doing, or ever will do is done by you because God prepared those good works already. You have no reason to boast, even in your good works, since they were already determined to be done by God. Are you passionate about doing things that glorify God and Christ, since you were created for them?
If you haven’t been saved by grace through faith, and created in Christ Jesus to do good works, then you are under the wrath of God. God promises salvation from His wrath for all who will change their minds and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for our sins, and His physical resurrection from the dead as the only grounds of His forgiveness of their sins. Please obey God’s command to change your mind and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for God’s forgiveness of all of your sins because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through Jesus, having proven it by raising Him from the dead. Be reconciled to God through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for our sins, and His resurrection alone, and you will be reconciled.
Chris, are you giving us something NCT for the New Year’s edition?
I would if I only had an idea for something.