- Religion and Philosophy
Interpretive Study and Analysis of Ephesians 2:1-10
What we were then vs. Who we are now
Most Christians are familiar with the last three verses of this passage study:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)
However, the context prior to these verses are vital and important to the Christian faith, because it helps illustrate what God so graciously delivered us from. So let's break this passage apart and analyze it verse by verse to see what God has to say through Paul.
A good Bible study will consist of analyzing the passage verse by verse and applying it to evryday life. A great Bible study will do just that but also provide the contextual analysis. Who wrote the epistle of Ephesians? What is the book of Ephesians about as whole? How does this passage fit into the book of Ephesians.
So before we get ahead of ourselves and dive into this vital passage of scripture, lets take a brief moment to answer these questions.
- Who wrote the book of Ephesians? Paul wrote this epistle as he was in prison in Rome to the church of Ephesus. So we can glean from this that he probably yearned to go see them, but since he was unable, he gathered up everything the church needed to hear and conveyed it to them in this letter. Paul had ministered in this church several years prior to his imprisonment, so this was basically a follow up to see how they were doing.
- What is the book of Ephesians about? Many scholars will divide this epistle into sections(I tend to do the same) First, the doctrinal part(chapeters 1-3), and secondly the practical part(chapters 4-6).
- How does this passage fit into the book of Ephesians? Since our passage of study is in chapter two, it would fall into the doctrinal section.
So why does this matter? Well, we know that this is important because Paul wanted the Ephesians to understand their origins. The first three chapters convey how God graciously saved them. Because of this knowledge, they then were to live out their lives to the fullest. The first three chapters are the reason why the next three chapters exist. It sure is hard to do something when there is no why. Ephesians 1-3 are the why, or the reason for living out what is contained in Ephesians 4-6.
"1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
LET'S DIVE IN!
This passage can be divided into three sections, bad news, good news, and so what?
Let's look at the bad news first, which can be found in verses 1-3.
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins"
Before salvation, the Christian was dead, not literally, but spiritually. He was a slave to his sin. This is the spiritual condition everyone is born with. (Dead to sin and on the "one way" road to hell).
"in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience"
The unbeliever follows the course of this world, being led by the Father of lies and sin ,the devil himself. All he can do is sin, for he knows nothing else. This is the inheritance he has received from Adam. Romans 5:13-19 states,
"... through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- 14 ... death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 ... by the transgression of the one the many died, ... 16 The gift [of salvation] is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, ... 17 ... by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, ... 18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, ... 19 ... through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, ..."
The unbeliever can only sin. Some people say it like this: The unbeliever does not have the ability to sin.(a double negative meaning he can do nothing righteous.)
"among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind"
Before salvation, one is referred to as the children of wrath, driving the point home again that all the unbeliever can do is sin, he is in fact the embodiment of sin. Think about it like this. Did you parents have to teach you to lie? Or take your siblings' toys? Of course not. It is habitual, rooted within our very nature, as sinners.
So, in a nutshell, the bad news is that the unbeliever is totally depraved, meaning there is no good in him whatsoever. He can do no righteous thing. Now, you might say that there are some genuinely good unsaved people out there. But in reality, although it may seem like a very good thing, he/she is doing it with wrong motives. This is the bad news, that is before salvation. Aren't you glad for the good news? (I mean it certainly can not get much worse than this).
As mentioned above, before salvation, the unbeliever can only sin, there is nothing righteous within. What seems to be righteous is actually evil motives disguised as good deeds. This is before God's grace intervenes.
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us"
This first word but is the kicker. Before the but there is no way off that "one way" road to hell. This verse is the reason for what is about to follow. God is going to do what follows this verse because of "the great love with which he loved us" God's love is insurmountable, unfathomable, and indescribable. "Being rich in mercy" Mercy is not giving what to someone what is deserved. The unbeliever deserves death in hell for eternity.
'even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved"
When the unbeliever was dead, without the capacity to do anything righteous, God gave him a way out. This aspect of being made alive is the process we refer to as salvation. It is that process of reviving that which is dead or making new that which is old. II Corinthians 5:17-19 states,
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation."
This passage speaks of that transformation, the unbeliever is transformed from that dead being into a new creature. A new creature who now has the ability not to sin. This is all because of God's grace.
"and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus"
This passage beautifully illustrates the believers identity with Christ. It speaks to our spiritual resurection, being raised up with him. The believer now has Christ's resurrection power living in him. Think about it, the power of the one who rose his very own self from the grave. The believer now has that power! Is that not amazing news? We are now seated with him in the heavenly places. If you like me, you are probably wondering what that could possibly mean. Thanks to John Piper, I think we can find a good working definition or explanation.
Piper states, Now what does that mean? We are all right here in this room, aren't we. Or are we? What did Tony Bennet mean twenty years ago when he sang, "I left my heart in San Francisco"? Well, he meant that San Francisco still holds his affections. San Francisco is always pulling him back. San Francisco governs his tastes. He may look like he is in Chicago. But Chicago has no claim on his affections. It's a foreign land. He is not interested in being like the natives of the windy city. That is the way it is with us when we are converted. God takes our heart and puts it in heaven with Christ. Colossians 3:3 says, "For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God." So just like it is with Tony Bennet and San Francisco, so it is with us and heaven. It's heaven that holds our affections. It's heaven that's always pulling us upwards, its heaven that governs our tastes. We may look like we are in the world. But the world has no claim on our affections. It's a foreign land. We are exiles and aliens.
The believer is of this world, but his affections and desires are heaven bound and that is how ought to live and what should ever thrive him towards the end, the return of Christ.
The bad news and good news have been explained, so we all done, and we can go on our merry ways, right? Of course not. Because of the knowledge of what God has brought us out of, we should be thankful. we need to give Him thanks every day, without ceasing!
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast"
This act of salvation was by grace, God;s grace. We had no role in this process. Nothing we did nor could do could ever save us. It was and is only by God's grace, giving us what we do not deserve. The believer has no right to boast! It is all because of God; and He should be constantly be receiving our praise. But, is that it? No, it most certainly is not. There is still one more verse in this passage to look at. Another verse seemingly placed on the dusty shelf.
Ephesians 2:8-9 are amazing verses, but what about verse ten? The verse that gives the believer his so what answer? Shouldn't that also be just as important?
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
Some people think of salvation as their "get out of jail free card". Rather, salvation is a life the believer is called to; a life of sanctification. Sanctification a process of a never ending molding into God's image, or Christ-likeness. The believer is created to do good works. These good works do not save , but they do prove ones faith, as seen in James 2.
So what? If you are saved, are you constantly thanking God for the destruction He so graciously brought you out of? Are you producing good works for Him? Or rather, are you becoming complacent in your life? Study this passage, live this passage out!
JUST A GLIMPSE...
I know this is just a glimpse into this passage. There are books written on this passage alone. I just wanted to share a little bit of what God has been teaching me lately. I know I oftentimes take for granted what He has done for me and what He has so graciously delivered me from.
What are your thoughts? Please share!