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Bible: What Does Ephesians 2 Teach Us About Salvation by Grace Through Faith Alone?
The Apostle Paul
The Fall Brought Spiritual Death to All Mankind
By Grace Through Faith Alone
Grace Alone and Faith Alone?
Do you think that you can contribute anything to your salvation?
Salvation from Spiritual Death
After a short excursion into Christology, Paul returns to soteriology and specifically to his discussion of the Ephesians’ salvation.
He reminds them of their spiritually dead status prior to that remarkable regenerative experience.
The apostle discloses that “trespasses and sins” once separated them from God (that is, they were spiritually “dead”) [v. 1].
Before salvation, they lived just like the rest of the disobedient people in the human “rat race” (namely, “according to the course of this world”).
Existing according to the “rules” of Satan (“the prince of the power of the air”), they, as well as all unregenerate people, sought to satisfy physical and intellectual desires that naturally rebel against God, dooming them to His eternal wrath one day unless the Lord intervened (vv. 2-3).
The apostle, however, does not end his message there, but introduces a mega-shift that invaded their spiritual space-time history.
By employing the words “But God” (v. 4a), Paul indicates that the Lord, who possesses abundant mercy, exercised His agape toward these spiritually dead sinners, graciously bringing them into a position of spiritual life through the finished work (the death and resurrection merits) of His Son (vv. 4-5).
Not only has God regenerated believers, but He has also positionally resurrected and enthroned them in the heavenly environment in Christ (v. 6).
The Lord redeemed sinners so that He might demonstrate His gracious kindness to them throughout all eternity (v. 7).
Paul points out that God graciously rescued the Ephesian believers from His wrath through the instrumentality of faith.
They did not earn salvation by performing works of righteousness—works to which they might point as their contribution to salvation and therefore their reason to boast before God (at least to some degree).
On the contrary, they received God’s gift through saving faith—a faith that did not arise out their own hearts, but that God bestowed upon them (vv. 8-9).
[God’s gift is salvation, grace, faith-- the whole soteric package.]
The apostle reveals that the Lord made them new creations in Christ, so that they would perform the specific good works that He prepared from eternity past for them to do (v. 10).
The Sacrificial Death of Jesus Christ
The Work of Reconciliation
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The Place Where the Church Meets For Worship
Next, Paul reminds the Ephesians of their prior status as Gentiles (designated “the Uncircumcision” by those who experienced the religious ceremonial rite—the “Circumcision”) in which they possessed absolutely no spiritually redeeming elements: no relationship to Christ or the Father; no share with Israel in the covenant promises with God; no hope of a future inheritance (vv. 11-12).
Again, the apostle introduces (with the contrastive conjunction “But”) a discussion of a monumental reversal in their spiritual fortunes in the present time (v. 13a; cf. v. 4a).
Through the merits of Christ’s “blood”—His finished work of redemption— on their behalf, God brought the once-distant Ephesians into a close relationship to Himself (v. 13).
Christ made reconciliation (peace) between the two parties, having figuratively torn down the wall dividing pious Gentiles from the Jews in the Temple (v. 14; see Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 344).
Jesus eliminated the cause of racial hatred—the whole Jewish legal system—by offering His body as a sacrifice that propitiated God’s wrath, thus paving the way for the creation of spiritual unity between believing Gentiles and Jews (v. 15).
The Lord used His cross work to “execute” the legal system (so to speak), enabling Him to reconcile both peoples to God (v. 16).
Jesus proclaimed the restoration of right relations with God to both Gentiles (“you who were afar off”) and Jews (“those who were near”) [v. 17].
Verse eighteen demonstrates how both Gentiles and Jews can now relate to the divine: they can have fellowship with God the Father through the merits of the death and resurrection of God the Son by the power of God the Holy Spirit (v. 18); the legal system no longer stands in the way between them.
Paul informs the Ephesians of their changed relationship.
No longer outsiders (“strangers and foreigners”), they reside with the saints of old in the heavenly city and belong to the family of God (v. 19).
They comprise part of the superstructure of the “holy temple,” being divinely assembled on top of the chief cornerstone, Christ, and the foundation, the apostles and prophets (vv. 20-21a).
God is growing them up so that they may become an adequate place in which the Holy Spirit may dwell (vv. 21b-22).
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