IV. Saved to Serve (Ephesians 2:1-10)
IV. Saved to Serve (2:1-10)
When displaying diamonds, a jeweler places them against a black cloth because diamonds shine more brilliantly against a dark backdrop. Before he describes God’s grace, Paul wants the Ephesian Christians to know how dark things were without it. Paul thus places the diamond of grace against the backdrop of sin so that grace will glitter even more.
2:1-3 He begins with a coroner’s report. Every person outside of Jesus Christ is spiritually dead—separated from God—and the name of the graveyard is trespasses and sins (2:1). In verses 2-3, Paul describes the three locks on the coffins that keep people there: the world (the ways of this world), the devil (the ruler of the power of the air), and the flesh (our fleshly desires). Our situation in that cemetery was so grim that there was no way we could create or find a way of escape. We were children under wrath (2:3)—subjects of Satan’s kingdom and under God’s judgment.
Being in Satan’s kingdom is like being the living dead. In it, we had mobility, but no life—that is, no spiritual life. Indeed, those who are spiritually dead are unable to respond to spiritual stimuli. There is no capacity to relate to the spiritual realm. So while outside of Christ, you may have been pretty, educated, and rich, you were alienated from the life of God. No clever arrangement of bad eggs can result in a good omelet.
2:4 Then Paul introduces two words that change everything: but God. They remind us that salvation came at God’s initiative. And why did he act? Because he is rich in mercy and because of his great love that he had for us. The reason God shows grace is because of how much he loves us. Motivated by love, he extends grace. And that’s the gospel message.
2:5 What did God do? He made us alive with Christ; he gave us spiritual life. When you are dead, only a resurrection can help you. God thus intervened at our gravesites and resurrected our corpses. Against the dark backdrop of death is the glory of resurrection life. You are saved by grace! Grace is the unmerited favor of God. It is the inexhaustible supply of God’s goodness, based on the work of Christ, whereby he does for us what we do not deserve, could never earn, and would never be able to repay.
2:6 But that’s not all. When God saved you, he relocated you: He . . . raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens. Paul said previously that Jesus was seated in the heavenly places with resurrection power and dominion (1:20-21). Now he says God relocated us there too in Christ Jesus. Believers are participants with Christ in this spiritual reality. We are linked with him, in union with him. This is how you have access to your spiritual privileges—to “every spiritual blessing” (1:3)—that God has placed in your account.
2:7 It is grace that makes Christianity different from every other religion. Other religions tell you what you must do to get to God. Christianity tells you what God has done to get to you. For all eternity God will display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Or, to put it another way, you haven’t seen anything yet! Eternity with God will be a nonstop, never-ending, blow-your-mind experience.
2:8-9 This grace is only available through faith (2:8). If grace is what God deposited for you, faith is the way you make a withdrawal. It is the means of withdrawing God’s grace so that it is made manifest in history. Grace is God’s gift (2:8)—received, not earned (see Rom 4:4-5; 11:6). It doesn’t come by means of works, so that no one can boast (2:9). In other words, there will be no strutting like peacocks in heaven. You will only be able to brag about the magnificent grace of God. You are saved by grace (2:8).
2:10 Although you’re not saved by good works, you are saved for good works. We are his workmanship, Paul says, created in Christ Jesus for good works. When it comes to your salvation, God is crafting your life into a piece of art. He is working on you and doing something with you. You are being re-created to do good works. A good work is a divinely prescribed action that benefits others in such a way that God is glorified (see Matt 5:16).
God saved you for his purposes and pleasure. Many Christians are unfulfilled and miserable because they’ve never gotten around to the work God has for them. When you understand the grace with which God saved you, gratitude will drive your response to it. The purpose for your life has already been designed. You don’t have to come up with it. God prepared ahead of time for us to do good works. He will give you the desire for them and the ability to pull them off, but you must live them out. Remember, the canvas does not dictate to the painter; the painter dictates to the canvas.