Being Saved By Grace
[Ephesians chapter two]
When we left off last week at the end of chapter one, the apostle Paul is imploring the church at Ephesus to take their faith to a higher level by recognizing the supreme authority of Christ Jesus. As he begins what later became chapter two of this epistle, Paul spells out what maintaining this 1-on-1 relationship with Jesus does for us and how it derives its power. This bears close reading because there is a lot of important information here that anyone, Christian or not, can utilize to their benefit.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit that is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2, verses 1-5, NIV)
The “ruler of the kingdom of the air” is another name for Satan, who is complete evil personified and the father of all lies, the Prince of Darkness. Before we come to faith in Christ, which is always followed by obedience to His commandments, we were all like that to one degree or another. The Bible reminds us that everyone has a sinful nature, and without Jesus Christ we are in complete submission to that which separates us from God. We can only submit to one or the other, but never to both, which is a Spiritual impossibility for those whose faith and steadfast belief is genuine. Those who behave to the contrary know who they are, and I warn them all that the time for making a decision is getting very short in light of His impending Second Coming. Yet the limitless and unfathomable love, mercy and goodness of Almighty God reached out and snatched each of us back from the brink of eternal destruction. “It is by grace you have been saved”, Paul wrote, and then he elaborates beginning at verse 6.
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms of Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is a gift from God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians chapter 2, verses 6-10, NIV)
It is precisely at this point in Ephesians that the apostle Paul puts forth one of the most important definitions in the entire Bible, that of the nature of the Grace of God. Grace is a “gift from God” – nothing more and nothing less. Faith in Christ – not just himself as a historical figure and a great teacher, but as the Son of God – is the source of Grace as Paul defines it. It does not come through our works no matter what or how much we say and do. By doing this as he did, God took away all the bragging rights of humankind about how much good stuff we did during our lives, and reserves it for Himself, as well he should since He is God. Do you give to your church, or to a favorite charity? Did you ever become a foster parent or adoptive parent and take in an orphaned kid? How about some even more serious giving than that, such as being an organ donor or saving someone’s life? If the answer to any of these questions is a yes, and especially if you have done some seemingly small things like buying a Christmas toy for a needy kid, all that is very good indeed. There’s only one problem: Good works in and of themselves will not get us saved from the impending wrath of God. It most definitely will not save us for eternity. Only an absolute and unshakable faith in the saving power of Jesus Christ can insure our spending eternity with Jesus in Paradise. Otherwise, how could any of us be “God’s workmanship”? Let’s take up where we left off now, beginning at verse 11.
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who were Gentiles by birth and are called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men) – remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenant of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandment and its regulations. His purpose was to create one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and to those of you who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Ephesians chapter 2, verses 11-18, NIV)
Circumcision, which is an ancient rite dating back to the days of Moses, is a synonym for religiosity (among other things), “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof” as Jesus once said. So now we can see that Paul’s warning to those who are so excessively heavenly that they can do no earthly good is as blunt and direct as one can get. We’ve all met or known these kinds of people, so there is no need for any explanation. The bottom line here is that being a religious person in and of itself will not guarantee you a place in God’s kingdom which is to come, and which is very likely sooner than most people think. “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” It is by the blood of Christ which he shed on the cross for each of us that we will spend an eternity with Him, and by no other means! In so doing, Jesus abolished the Old Law or Old Testament and replaced it with the New Law, that of the singular and supreme sacrifice on the cross at Golgotha by none other than the Son of God himself. It is a gift of God “so that no one can boast”. So instead of being proud of ourselves, which would be very nonspiritual, we can dedicate all praise, glory and honor to Jesus exclusively, because “through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Bearing that in mind, let’s now conclude our study starting at verse 19.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple to the Lord. And in Him you too are being are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians chapter 2, verses 19-22, NIV)
In the same way that immigrants become naturalized citizens after a preset period of time living in their new land, all Christians become fellow citizens in the kingdom of God. And in the same way that adopted children take their adoptive parents last name and so become permanent family members, it is much the same with all God’s children who have become members of His household, a household that will stand for eternity beyond the scope of space and time as we currently understand them. The entire Family of God, the complete household of Christ, with God as the Patriarch, “is joined together and rises to become a holy temple to the Lord.” In the same way, we are all also being carefully and lovingly constructed to fulfill our ultimate purpose in life, which is to not just please God, but to become a powerful asset to Him. Everyone has this capability, not in and of ourselves, but only with the Holy Spirit living within us. For those who are reading this and who have not yet asked Jesus into their heart, now is a very good time. Simply ask Jesus to come and dwell inside of you, turning yourself into a worthy place for Jesus to live. Become a part of His family today. Only by asking Jesus into our hearts – and then learning to yield ourselves to him – can we truly be saved from the awful wrath that is soon to come. Ask him today and you’ll be glad you did. Just tell Him the door is open, and that he can come on in anytime, and he will.