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Ephesians 2 Study Notes

2:1-6 Paul’s point in these verses was to draw contrasts between the human condition described in vv. 1-3 and the new life pictured in vv. 4-6.

OLD LIFE (VV. 1-3) NEW LIFE (VV. 4-6)
We were dead Now we are alive
We were enslaved Now we are enthroned
We were objects of wrath Now we are objects of grace
We walked among the disobedient Now we fellowship with Christ
We were under Satan’s dominion Now we are in union with Christ

2:1 Dead in your trespasses and sins: Apart from Christ, people are without authentic spiritual life. In this state the most vital part of the human personality is dead; thus people cannot by their own efforts or ingenuity experience fellowship with God or meet his requirements.

2:2 Lived according to the ways of this world: “This world” is associated with the realm of Satan. The way of life without Christ is in accordance with Satan’s ways.

2:3 Previously lived among them in our fleshly desires: “Lived” means turned to and fro and behaved in accordance with certain principles. Apart from Christ, people are dominated by “fleshly desires,” which refers to an orientation away from God toward selfish concerns. The plural suggests multiple unredeemed urges in our life apart from Christ. The unredeemed person is completely at the mercy of the tyrannical self and its lustful impulses. By nature children under wrath: The fall into sin described in Gn 3 was not merely a moral lapse but a deliberate turning away from God in rejection of him. Sin’s entrance brought about a sinful nature in all humanity. Men and women are “by nature” hostile to God and estranged from him. While functioning as free moral agents, sin always negatively influences human decisions and actions. People do not genuinely repent or turn to God apart from divine enablement (Eph 2:5).

2:4 But God: Over against the human rejection of God, Paul painted a picture of the new life manifested in God’s gracious acceptance of sinners because of Christ. The strong contrast points to God’s answer to people’s dreadful situation. Rich in mercy: “Mercy” is God’s compassion for the helpless that relieves their situation. While grace involves God giving believers what they do not deserve, mercy means that God does not give what is deserved.

2:5 Made us alive . . . even though we were dead is Paul’s extension of his thoughts in v. 1, which are viewed in retrospect from the vantage point of redemptive history. Because of God’s great love, he “made us alive” with Christ.

2:6 With him God’s loving mercy not only makes new life possible, but by it God has made us alive, raised us up, and seated us with Christ. God’s great power has enthroned us with Christ in the heavenly places, even as Christ was exalted to God’s right hand following the resurrection.

2:7-10 The work of reconciliation in these verses is described with four key terms:

(1) kindness God’s loving tender action;
(2) grace God’s free favor toward ill-deserving people (a favorite term of the apostle, used over hundred times in his letters);
(3) faith the instrument that brings us empty-handed to God (see Rm 10:12); and
(4) saved equated with new life, forgiveness of sins, deliverance from the plight described in vv. 1-3, liberation, and resurrection

2:7 The salvation of men and women is a display of divine grace. God did all of this in Christ with a single goal in view: to display the immeasurable riches of his grace, the exhibition of his divine favor for all of history to see, including angels as well as people (1Pt 1:10-12).

ergon

Greek pronunciation [EHR gahn]
CSB translation work
Uses in Ephesians 4
Uses in the NT 169
Focus passage Ephesians 2:9-10

Ergon (work) is related to the verbs energeo and ergazomai, both meaning to work or accomplish. Other related terms include katergazomai (to effect or achieve) and energeia (working, action, or activity). Ergon appears several hundred times in the Greek OT and is found in every NT book except Philemon. Paul used ergon in two primary ways in relation to salvation: to deny that works or human effort contributes to salvation (Rm 3:20,27-28; 4:2,6; 11:6; Gl 2:16; 3:2,5,10; 2Tm 1:9) and to affirm that those who are saved will manifest good works (1Co 15:58; 2Co 9:8; Col 1:10; 2Th 2:17; 1Tm 2:10; 6:18; 2Tm 2:21; 3:17; Ti 2:7,14). Salvation is “not from works, so that no one can boast,” but God created us “in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do” (Eph 2:9-10).

2:8-9 The work of salvation is for God’s glory and is not accomplished by human works. The whole process of salvation is not a human achievement, but is an act of God’s goodness. The emphasis is always on Christ, the object of faith, not on the amount of faith. Salvation is by God’s completely unmerited favor. In the Greek text, the grammatical construction of the entire phrase by grace through faith serves as the antecedent of the phrase it is God’s gift. We must not portray grace as God’s part and faith as our part, for all of salvation is a gift from God.

The work of reconciliation is not from yourselves and not from works, so that no one can boast. This prevents the slightest self-congratulation or boasting in the believer. God alone saves.

2:10 Created in Christ Jesus for good works: The work of salvation is a display of divine handiwork. Good works are the fruit of our salvation, not the cause of it. Also, good works are not incidental to God’s plan; they are instead an essential part of his redemption plan for each believer. Good works are demonstrated in gratitude, character, and actions.

2:11-22 This section of Paul’s letter touches on three states of being for the recipients: (1) their former corporate condition apart from Christ (vv. 11-13); (2) their corporate reconciliation in Christ (vv. 14-18); and (3) their new standing as members of God’s new humanity (vv. 19-22). The theme of this entire section is reconciliation, which involves bringing fallen humanity out of alienation into a state of peace and harmony with God. Jesus, as Reconciler, heals the separation and brokenness created by sin and restores communion between God and people. Reconciliation is not a process by which people gradually become more acceptable to God but a decisive act (like a legal verdict) by which believers are delivered from estrangement to fellowship with God.

2:11-12 Gentiles in the flesh: Not only were the Gentiles morally separated from God (vv. 1-3), but they were also separated from God’s covenant people. They were without any knowledge of Christ. They had no rights in God’s family and were not recipients of God’s covenants. They were without hope and ultimately without God. Paul did not reproach the Gentiles for their plight; he merely recorded the sad truth of the matter.

2:13 Paul used the strong transitional phrase But now in Christ Jesus to point to the Gentiles’ new relationship in Christ. The Gentile believers no longer were in their alienated state. They knew Christ, took part in God’s covenant blessings, and had hope and fellowship with God. This remarkable turnaround took place “in Christ Jesus.” Those who trust in him have a present salvation and a future hope.

2:14-16 Who made both groups one: These verses emphasize the centrality of Jesus Christ in bringing Gentiles and Jews together, not only with one another but also with God. Christ is both our peace and our peacemaker. His reconciling death on the cross has made the two—Jews and Gentiles—into one. Gentiles do not become Jews, but the two groups become one at a deeper level than ethnicity, forming Christ’s church. The new humanity is greater than the former humanity; God has torn down the dividing wall of hostility and removed the hatred forever. By “dividing wall” Paul likely had in mind the area in the Jerusalem temple (see p. 1958) that separated the court of the Gentiles from the temple. The temple was constructed on an elevated platform. Around it was the court of priests. East of this was the court of Israel. Farther east was the court of women. These three courts were all on the same elevation as the temple. From here a walled platform was five steps away. Fourteen steps away was another wall, which was the outer court of the Gentiles. There was an inscription on this wall warning Gentiles of their ensuing death if they entered the enclosure around the temple. In Christ this dividing wall was broken down, thus banishing the specific commandments that separated Jews from Gentiles because Gentiles did not observe the Jewish law. The burden of the commandments was taken away at the cross in our Lord’s crucified body.

2:16 Reconcile both to God: The phrase extends the concept of “peace” and involves the idea of restoration to a unity. The goal was not merely to reconcile two groups but to reconcile them to God. The one body is the church, the new humanity, the place of peace. At the cross, everything that caused the disunion was destroyed.

2:17 Far away and near refer to Gentiles and Jews and derives from Is 57:19.

2:18 Access to the Father is available to all who come to Christ. The imagery is of a court official who escorts visitors into the king’s presence. Through Christ’s reconciling work we have been ushered into God’s presence.

2:19 Foreigners means short-term transients, nonresidents with no rights. Strangers is a similar word, pointing to resident foreigners who had settled permanently in the country of their choice but who nevertheless had only limited rights. These terms described the Gentiles’ position before Christ. Fellow citizens . . . and members are terms that picture the Gentiles’ new position. Now they enjoy all the privileges of God’s household, where “household” describes their togetherness and inclusion. Believers are adopted into God’s family and are united with the saints of every era—past, present, and future.

2:20 God’s new family is not only a new nation, but also a new building with a distinctive foundation. The apostles and prophets in their unique relationship to Christ, exemplified by the authoritative teachings they communicated to the church, are the foundation. Paul proclaimed Christ Jesus as the cornerstone of the foundation. “Cornerstone” holds an entire structure together. In ancient structures it was placed at a right angle joining two walls, with the royal name inscribed on it to signify the ruler who took credit for the building’s erection.

2:21 “By virtue of its connection to the Lord Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, the universal church as a whole is in the process of becoming the holy dwelling place of God. The passive being put together indicates this is not being accomplished by us, but by God himself” (Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians).

2:22 You are also being built together: The description of a building under construction is indicated by the word “grows” (v. 21). It conveys the idea of a dynamic church in the process of expansion. The major theme of union with Christ reappears in Paul’s conclusion to this chapter. Paul declared that God’s abode is not in the Jerusalem temple but in the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in the community of believers.

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