Ephesians 2:8-9 says,
For by grace you have been saved by faith through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (NASB).
We are saved by grace through faith. We are not saved by our own works. If we were, we would be given credit towards our own salvation; then we would be saved by a combination of Jesus' works with our works. But the Bible is clear: we are saved by Jesus and because of Jesus. The merit, credit, work-earned part of our Salvation is 100% from Jesus and zero percent from ourselves.
This is vitally important truth. But there is more, and it's all good! These verses are part of a larger passage: Ephesians 2:1-10. Today we look at how we are saved and for what?
Ephesians 2:1-10 in Outline
We can outline the thought in this passage as proceeding in four sections:
Outline Ephesians 2:1-10
- 1-2 walking in sin means being dead in sin
- 3 living this way means we are worthy of God's wrath
- 4-7 In spite of our hostility toward God, He restores us through Christ
- 8-10 Salvation is God's gift to us, and we are recreated in Jesus to do goodness
To understand 2:8-9 we need to understand the other parts. Let's survey the four sections in turn, starting with verses one and two.
In verses one and two Paul tells the Ephesians that they had been doing evil. They had been intentionally choosing to sin; it's not a surprise. It is true of us all. We are all subject to the three influences he names:
- the course of the world or age
- the prince of the power of the air
- the spirit of evil which works in those who choose disobedience
All people are subject to influences present in the culture and age in which they live. You and I are subject to very evil influences. Then there is the influence of Satan and his demons--personal beings bent on our destruction. Finally, there is the spirit of evil which works in us. Each of us have a developed love of self, a habit of self-service. We learn to put what we want first, to be selfish, to be evil. And this influence in ourselves is continually recycled in our behaviors, continually strengthened. But hopefully we choose to come to Jesus, who He gives the gift of enmity towards sin. We commence the warfare in His strength in earnest.
Coming to the third verse, Paul groups the Ephesians with the condemned. He doesn't want them to forget where they came from. We have all been sons or daughters of disobedience. Look how we used to live, indulging bodily desires. All rooted in the mind. Without conversion, we are children of wrath, wholly committed to evil and subject to condemnation in the judgment.
Our actions make us what we are. Do we cleave to our old unconverted habits or change masters to become followers of Jesus? Without Him we are children of wrath.
The solution is in verses 4-7. It is not in us! God reaches out for us. He gives us opportunity to receive Jesus. It is not because of any goodness in us. We are poor, in need, condemned by the evil we have done. But God makes us alive together with Christ, raises us up with Christ, and seats us with Christ in heavenly places.
We'll consider that miracle more closely in a moment.
Ephesians 2:8-10 makes clear that our salvation comes from a source external to ourselves. Let's pause for one moment and make sure we are using the ideas of "grace" and "faith" as the Bible presents them.
"Grace" includes two necessary parts: Grace is both, God's unmerited favor toward us, and, His power to overcome in us. The word literally means, favor which is given, God's influence upon people, as in the Holy Spirit anointing with power.
"Faith" is God's gift to us to enable us to reach up to Him. Without God there would be no faith. Faith is not innate to us but faith also is God's gift to us. He has given to each person the measure of faith (Romans 12:3). We can only exercise faith because God has given it to us to exercise. Faith earns us nothing. The source of faith is divinity not humanity.
Those points in mind, we now read verse eight. We are saved by grace which God grants us, gifts to us. It originates in Him, not in us. There is faith which we exercise and yet faith is not our Savior, Jesus is. Our faith does not earn us salvation, but works with His grace. He gives grace. He gives faith. We exercise the faith He gives us and by it receive His grace.
The result of grace through faith is seen in verse 10. We--the converted we--are His workmanship. In Christ we are created all new for good works, good doing.
In 2:1-2 there is a way we walked before we came to Jesus, a way we lived and acted, filling the world with evil. In 2:10 there is a different way we walk, filling the world with good.
Let's look more closely now at this miracle God does in us at the three "with Christ" statements. He makes us alive together with Christ.
We were dead in our sins. The Bible tells us there is no good in us. Only God is good (Mark 10:18). But the goodness of God draws us toward repentance (Romans 2:4). If there is nothing good in us, how can His goodness draw us? How would His goodness not instead repel us?
God takes the soul dead in his chosen trespasses and sins, and brings that fallen human to a spiritual situation where he can rise above his darkened nature and be enabled to see the beauty of holiness. He is enabled to see and understand in some measure, thus to desire the goodness of God. He may not understand all things but he is enabled to taste and determine for himself whether he will align with God's goodness. God puts upon him the spiritual influence he needs which he never could earn. He does not force him to choose right. He gives him enough spiritual life to receive the fullness of His spiritual life if he will. He makes him alive together with Christ. He opens to him the hope of salvation.
Jesus chose to be faithful unto death, and God raised Him up again. If we choose to receive Jesus, His resurrection becomes our resurrection. Then the power that raised Jesus from the dead becomes our power. The power is in Him and if He is in us then His power is in us. We lack power to overcome, but Jesus has all power to overcome. If He is in us, His overcoming is in us.
If we are raised with Him then we have been crucified with Him. Then we are accepted in the Beloved. Being raised with Him means we have power to live the Christian life now. Then we have have all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
In Ephesians you might have noticed a certain phrase several times, the "heavenlies."
In 1:3 Paul speaks to believers, telling them that God the Father has blessed them with "every spiritual blessing" in the heavenly places in Christ. In 1:20, the risen Christ ascends to be enthroned at the right hand of the Father in the heavenlies. In 3:10, God's wisdom is made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenlies. This describes created beings in heaven especially observing the progress of the Great Controversy War. In 6:12 Paul wants the believer to put on the whole armor of God to stand against the darkness in the heavenlies, apparently demonic forces poised to enslave and destroy humans.
In other words, "the heavenlies" is another way of referring to spiritual, supernatural realities, the Great Controversy War. We are either aligned with the forces of darkness in the heavenlies, or the forces of light in the heavenlies. To be with Jesus in the heavenlies is to be aligned with Jesus and His power.
Then we have access to all power in Him. Through Jesus and only because of Jesus, we have this spiritual life and hope.
For by Grace you are Saved Through Faith
We return now to the popular eighth and ninth verses. We've looked at enough context to more correctly understand what is being said.
Some have labored to represent this passage as teaching that we are saved apart from our works, and that is true. But preachers have often gone beyond that to say that somehow human works are legalistic, suspicious, even dangerous. But verses nine and ten actually contrast two kinds of works. Verse nine warns us about thinking we can add to our salvation through Christ by adding our own works. We can't. We do not dare. We can never improve on the salvation that Jesus has brought to us and given to us as a gift. If we did we would begin to boast, we would begin to claim our own small portion of the totality. We would be pointing out that while Jesus did 99% of saving us, we did 1%. Then it would not be all of grace.
Notice the climax of the passage at verse ten:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Verse two shows that as unconverted people, we walked in darkness and sin. Verse ten shows that as converted people, made alive, raised, and seated in the heavenlies with Christ, we walk in good works. We are not saved by walking in good works, but being connected to Jesus, having Jesus living in us, indwelling us, empowering us, restoring in us enmity toward sin, good works are the inevitable, unstoppable result. The Christian person is a changed person, and Jesus in me means there is overflow of His goodness into the world.
The word "grace" comes three times in the passage (verses 5, 7, 8). Notice closely in the fifth verse that being saved by grace means being made alive together with Christ. We must have Jesus. He is our salvation. But He is victorious over death and the grave, He is victorious over sin. When He comes to live inside of me, He comes as Conqueror of sin.
So we are not our own marred workmanship anymore, now we are His workmanship.
A saved person has different influences. He has Christ and holy angels for companions, the Holy Spirit for an indwelling Friend. He continues to have free choice, and there will be mistakes, when he steps backwards into nonsense and evil. Those never need be, but frequently come. Withdrawing our affections from self, being recreated, is a battle and a march.
In her classic Christian book Steps to Christ, Ellen White writes,
We shall often have to bow down and weep at the feet of Jesus because of our shortcomings and mistakes, but we are not to be discouraged. Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, not forsaken and rejected by God. No; Christ is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Said the beloved John, 'These things I write unto you that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous' (1 John 2:1)" (Steps to Christ, p. 64).
Sin is not inevitable. God's love is inevitable. If we want Jesus we can have Him, and He will remove guilt, He will remove sin. He is a Savior close by, both God and Friend. He forgives and empowers. He gives us the gift of holiness.
Everything for salvation in Ephesians two is given us by God. What do we bring to the mix? Sin that will destroy us unless forgiven. We bring death, our active rebellion against God manifest in our sins and trespasses against Him.
What does God bring? He makes us alive through Christ, raises us with Christ, seats us in the heavenlies with Christ. The gospel changes the world. The gospel is not the good news about man so that God should rise and give us a standing ovation. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. Our response is to bow down to Him and speak to Him our praise and thanksgiving. He gives us Jesus.
To be saved by grace through faith is to let Jesus live out His life within us. It is to enlist in His army, subscribe to His kingdom, receive His forgiveness, live by His power. It is to abandon hopelessness and death for hope and joy and life because now we are united with Jesus.
How we are saved is through Jesus. What we are saved for is to serve Him. We are created in Him for good works. We are His invasion force against the kingdom of evil, turning darkness to light, manifesting good when faced with evil.
Jesus is the answer.
Deer Park WA SDA 2018-10-20
Chewelah WA SDA Spanish Section 2018-10-27