I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
If you will recall, in our last post we looked at our past before grace in Ephesians 2:1 – 3. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul gives a pretty graphic picture of how all of us lived, to a greater or lesser extent, before grace. If you didn’t see that particular post, I would recommend going back and looking at that one, as it will give you a greater appreciation for where we are going next.
You see, if all we had was our past before grace, we would have no hope whatsoever. We were lost, separated from God, without Christ and without hope in the world. That was our past before grace. But thank God, we also have a future in grace! We continue in our study in Ephesians 2, beginning at verse 4. Paul writes,
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…”. [Eph. 2:4] “But God” makes all of the difference in the world! “But God” makes all of the difference between Heaven and Hell. “But God” makes all of the difference between eternal life, and eternal death, separated from God. “But God” made all of the difference for you and me. Paul goes on to tell us that God is, “rich in mercy.” We have heard a great deal about rich people lately in the Presidential election cycle we are currently in here in the United States.
On the one hand, you have Democratic candidate Senator Bernie Sanders talking about the “evil” banks and corporations, and our “rigged” U.S. Economy where all of the wealth is in the hands of a select few, leaving the rest of us to struggle. On the Republican side, we have been hearing about billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump, and his bid for the Presidency. He reportedly has a net worth of 9 – 10 billion dollars, although recent reports say his tax returns may reveal he is actually worth far less than that. At any rate, Donald Trump is a rich man! He is far from the world’s richest man however.
According to Forbes magazine, the wealthiest man in the world is Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, with a net worth of some $75 billion dollars. Ranking number two is Amanico Ortega of Zara, with a reported net worth of $67 billion dollars. Rounding out the top three is Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, with a net worth of a mere $60.8 billion dollars. These are some very rich men! However, their wealth, as vast as it is, has a limit and could run out at some point. Not so with God. He is rich in mercy.
“Rich” translates the Greek word, plousios. It is, wealthy, abounding in material resources. Metaphorically, it is abounding or abundantly supplied. God is literally rich in mercy. He is not running out of mercy. He has an abundant supply. He has an abundant supply of mercy.
I am so glad that God’s attitude toward you and me as unworthy sinners is mercy. If He didn’t respond to us in mercy, we couldn’t receive all that He has for us in grace. Mercy translates the Greek, eleos, and it speaks of God’s kindness and good will towards the miserable and afflicted. That is us beloved. Can I tell you though? For God to just have kind feelings and good will toward us would not have been enough. Therefore this Greek word also is joined with a desire to help those miserable and afflicted. What was God’s motivation in responding to us in mercy? Paul says, “…because of His great love with which He loved us…”. “Because of”, or “for” (KJV), translates the primary Greek preposition, dia, which describes the channel of an act. The thought is, “in order to satisfy” His great love. Let that sink in for a moment. Even though all of humanity was deserving of judgment, God responded to us in mercy, because of His great love for us.
God loved us. The word for love describes the God-kind of love. It is the distinctive Greek word, agape (pronounced, ah-guh-pay), which describes the love called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the one loved, which in turn moves one to sacrifice one’s self for the benefit of the one loved. This was the love demonstrated at Calvary. [See John 3:16]
In eternity past God saw us in our lost and spiritually dead condition, and moved to do something about it. Paul goes on to say, “ even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”. [Eph. 2:5] We who were spiritually dead, He made alive. The word in the KJV is the old English word, quickened. Both of these words, alive and quickened, translate the Greek, suzopoieo. Actually we have to consider the entire phrase, “… made us alive together with Christ.” This verb, suzopoieo means to, “make one alive together.” So, those of us who were dead have been made alive together with Christ. In other words, when He was made alive or raised from the dead, all of us were made alive with Him. This is the thought Paul expressed in Romans 6:3, 4;
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
I don’t mind telling you that these concepts are a bit difficult to wrap the brain around. The Holy Spirit did something truly amazing at the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and only an Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent God could do this. What the Holy Spirit did at the death of Christ, is that He placed everyone of us who would believe on Him and identify with Christ in Him at His death. He placed us in Christ in the tomb. Then on that glorious third day, you and I were raised in Christ. Our identification with Christ is and must be on two levels. First, we are identified with Christ in His death. In this identification the power of indwelling sin was broken. The victory over sin was won at the Cross. The only way you and I can know victory over sin is by identifying with what Christ Jesus accomplished at Calvary. This is why we must preach the Cross. You won’t know victory through self-help, and self-improvement. Victory over sin only comes through faith in what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. That is not the whole story however. We were also placed by the Holy Spirit into Christ’s resurrection.
Our identification with Christ in His resurrection imparted divine life. We were risen to walk in “newness of life.” We were “made alive together with Him.” We live “in Him”.
Next Paul interjects, “by grace you have been saved.” Paul uses an interesting writing method here in Greek. He uses a method of writing that a Greek writer would use when they can’t seem to explain the thought they want to get across with one verb form, they use two. The phrase, “by grace you have been saved” is in the perfect tense in Greek. What does that mean? It describes an action that took place in the past, and was completed in the past, that has ongoing results existent in the present. A good literal translation of this would be, “By grace have you been completely saved, with the present result that you are in a saved state of being.” So, our salvation, and all that it entails, was accomplished two-thousand years ago in Jesus’ redemptive work, yet the results and benefits of it are on-going. Thank God for His grace! Everything we as believers possess and enjoy today is made possible because of God’s grace.
Our present state of salvation is dependent on one thing, and one thing only, our past appropriation of Jesus as Savior and Lord. In other words, when we received the anointed Jesus as Savior and Lord we were saved, and we remain in a saved state as we continue to trust in His merits and His merits alone. A believer’s initial act of faith brings him or her salvation in all three of its aspects:
- Justification – The removal of the guilt and penalty of sin and the impartation of the righteousness of Christ, Christ Himself and all of His merits and standing before the Father, which occurs at the moment of believing.
- Sanctification (positional) – the act of the Holy Spirit taking the believing sinner out of the first Adam, with his (Adam’s) sin and death, and placing Him in the Last Adam (Jesus Christ) with His righteousness and life, and this occurs at the moment of believing.
- Sanctification (progressive) – In justification we are saved from the penalty of sin. In progressive sanctification we are being saved from the practice of sin. This is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. This work of the Spirit produces His fruit, and gradually conforms the believer to the image of Christ. This is a work that will continue until we meet the Lord in the air, and to an extent throughout eternity.
- Glorification – The act of the Holy Spirit, transforming the mortal bodies of believers into glorified, perfect bodies at the rapture of the Church.
The believer has had his or her justification, he or she is having their sanctification, and we will have our glorification. You could say we are saved, we are being saved, and we shall be saved. In justification we are saved from the penalty of sin, in sanctification we are being saved from the practice of sin, and at glorification we will be saved from the very presence of sin.
Verse 6 says, “and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s thought here is resurrection, both moral and physical. He views it as one great gift of life. I am so glad beloved that you and I have present blessing, and a future hope in Christ Jesus.
As believers we are seated (or enthroned) with Christ in the heavenly places. Positionally in Christ we are seated with Him in the Heavenlies. This is a present taste of a yet future reality. He doesn’t say we are seated at, “the Right-hand of God”, because that position belongs solely to Christ, be we are seated with Him, and in Him in the heavenly places. This is a place of authority. It is also a place of fellowship. The Pulpit Commentary has a good note on verse 6, “As God placed Jesus at his right hand in heaven, so he has placed his people with him in heavenly places; i.e. places where the privileges of heaven are dispensed, where the air of heaven is breathed, where the fellowship and the enjoyment of heaven are known, where an elevation of spirit is experienced as if heaven were begun. Such was the case of the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration; of the two on the way to Emmaus, when their heart burned within them; of the beloved disciple when he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day;” of many at the Holy Supper, or in fervent communion with brother and sister believers, when they seem at the very gate of heaven. This is sometimes the experience at conversion, but the vividness of the feeling does not always abide. The repetition of “in Christ Jesus” in this connection emphasizes the fact that this gracious proceeding of God towards us is in immediate connection with the work and person of Christ. It is as being one with Christ Jesus that all this raising up comes to us.” Very few believers have dared to believe all that belongs to us in Christ Jesus!
Verse 6 really wasn’t a complete thought, and it is separated by a comma in our Bibles. In verse 7 the Holy Spirit through Paul lets us in on why God did all of this, and His eternal intentions for His people throughout eternity. He writes, “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
One thing this verse tells us is that there will be the passage of time, time measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years; with the addition of ages and ages of time, throughout eternity. Why do I say that? Because the thought in Greek in, “ages to come” is, “in the ages that are coming one upon another.” In other words, the ages that roll in, one after another in the future eternity after the Earth is returned to it’s former pristine glory. For all of the time through all eternity God is going to be showing and revealing the grace of His ways with those (all of us), who were once dead in sin the wonder and grandeur of its exceeding riches. Wow! It is going to take all eternity beloved for God to reveal the depth and the riches of His grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus!
Yet people say, “Give us something deep preacher!” You can’t get any deeper than the grace and love of God friend. After all, it is going to take all of eternity to reveal it.
Lets take a look at no doubt the two best known verses in this chapter, verses 8 and 9. Paul writes,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Here in verse 8 the article appears before the word, “grace”, making it, “the grace.” It points us back to what was said in verse 5. By the grace previously mentioned, salvation is effected. Salvation could never be offered apart from grace. It is important to understand that faith is not the cause of salvation, but rather the vehicle through which it is received. Salvation is a gift. Its source is God. It does not originate with us. Salvation was God’s idea, and it is God’s gift; received by faith. God offers mankind salvation by grace, and then gives us the faith to receive it. This makes salvation wholly the work of God, we contribute nothing to it. It is not through our works, as good and noble as they may be. Why? So no person could ever boast before God about how good and worthy they are. No beloved, none of us deserved this wonderful gift of salvation! It is the work of God. It is a gift of grace.
If we stopped at verses 8 and 9 we wouldn’t have the full story. A lot of grace teaching today stops at these verses making it appear that believers have no responsibility at all in grace. This is not true, and has led to a great deal of abhorrent teaching. Man has been responsible to God in all of the Dispensations. For example, in the Dispensation of Innocence man was responsible to God for the one prohibition of not eating of the tree of good and evil. In the Dispensation of Conscience, man was responsible to God on the basis of conscience. Noah and his descendants were responsible to God in the Dispensation of Human Government. Abraham and his descendants were responsible to God in the Dispensation of Promise. Man was responsible to God on the basis of the Law in the Dispensation of Law; and believers are responsible to God today, in this Dispensation of Grace, on the basis of Grace.
While there is nothing you or I could contribute to our salvation, that does not absolve us from responsibility to God. Verse 10 sets this responsibility forth,
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
First, “workmanship” is the Greek, poiema, and it speaks of that which has been made, fashioned, or created. This word refers to believers as, “new creations” in Christ Jesus. In the inner man, in our spirit, when we were born-again we were made brand-new. This Greek word is from the old word, poieo, with the ending, mat, making it the result of God’s workmanship. The Lexham English Bible translates this word, creation, and that is a good translation. We are God’s creation as believers. We were created in Christ Jesus for a purpose, however. What is that purpose? Paul writes and says that we were created in Christ Jesus, “for good works.”
This is the purpose of our new creation in Christ Jesus. We were created in Christ Jesus for good works. We don’t have to wonder what these “good works” are, because as we get to the second half of the epistle, chapters 4 – 6 in our Bibles, we are told how we are to walk (I.E. live our lives), in a manner that is creditable and acceptable to God. Yes my friends, it matters how we live our lives in this world. It matters to God. He created us as believers in Christ Jesus to walk in newness of life, and to do good works. We are not saved by good works, but we are saved to good works. We are saved to do the things pleasing to the Father, to obey Him. Grace empowers us to do good works. This is the part of the grace message that is not often taught today, but it is vitally important that we understand this.
These works, Paul concludes this section, were “prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God prepared beforehand, or prearranged a sphere of moral action for us to walk in. So, in eternity past, when God crafted and determined the salvation plan, He included good works for believers in that plan. So, any teaching that might suggest that our freedom in Christ gives us the freedom to live any old way we might want to, or that in grace obedience is not required for believers, know that you are hearing false teaching and know to turn it off or put it down!
Well, we have given you a lot to think about this time. I will close for now, and we will pick up our teaching on the Dispensation of Grace next time, Lord willing.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson