Ephesians 2: SAVED by GRACE through FAITH
Three over-used, and under-lived words
I am very fortunate to be able to talk about Ephesians 2. I called dibs on it as soon as I found out we were talking about Ephesians this semester. It’s basically THE home-run message a preacher can ever give. It is THE STORY of the Bible. Has a TON of emotional impact. And over all, is simply an amazing and profound truth.
Let’s get started:
Now that’s an interesting way to start a chapter of a book. “And” is a conjunction that joins 2 thoughts. Perhaps we better review what came before.
Says “in” or “through” Christ 11 times! This is a key thought here
IN CHRIST God Has:
- Blessed us (in Christ) with every spiritual blessing
- Adopted us (through Christ)
- Redeemed us (through Christ’s blood)
- Made known to us the mystery of his will
- Given us an inheritance
- Sealed us with the Holy Spirit, as a guarantee (down payment, deposit) of that inheritance.
But here’s the important part: It’s ALL ABOUT CHRIST. Without Jesus, we’ve got nothing.
aul prays that we would KNOW GOD…
- The hope that He has called us to
- The riches of the inheritance
- The immeasurable greatness of his power
… and God’s power
- aised Christ from the dead
- Seated Christ at His right hand
- Made Him ruler over EVERYTHING
- People, governments, kings, queens, emperors, angels, demons, “heavenly beings”, principles, philosophies, laws of nature, places, blogs
- Gave Him to the church, as it’s direct head!!
- We go straight to the top!
Once again, all about Jesus. In fact, it’s almost like Paul gets sidetracked (or on the RIGHT track) trying to talk about God’s power, and goes on and on about Christ…
So God is: Amazing, All Powerful, Ruler of Everything, Loving, Graceful
So what about us? This is where Ephesians 2 comes in.
"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."
Basically, “All of you” (remember he’s writing to Christians here) “lived sinful, worthless lives, doing whatever the devil, your hormones, or your warped mind told you to do. And you all aroused God’s anger. JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD.”
Ouch! Them’s fightin’ words!
Some of you can really relate to that. You have no problem remembering that description was you, to a “t”. You have a very clear, vivid picture of what your life used to look like, and have no argument with this passage.
Some of you, however, are sitting here, disagreeing with this verse completely. People aren’t “children of wrath.” Humanity is basically good at its core, right?
How can anyone believe that? Honestly. I pulled the top 5 most recent headlines from CNN Saturday night:
- Four roadside bombs shatter Baghdad morning
- U.N. votes to punish North Korea
- Couple, 3 daughters shot to death in Iowa home
- Reporter believed kidnapped in Afghanistan
- FBI investigating lawmaker, daughter
How can anyone believe that people are basically good? If you still don’t believe me, try leaving your CD collection, iPod, PSP, or stuff like that in your car, unlocked overnight for a few nights. If people are basically good, the stuff will be there in the morning, right?
Some of you still aren’t with me. “That’s the world” you say, “the world is a screwed up place, but I’m basically a good person.” Really?
When was the last time you
- Told a lie
- Got impatient/frustrated/angry with someone
- Called them an idiot?
- Thought about what a moron someone was (and thus how much better you are than them)
- Broke the law (speeding? Traffic violations??)
- Looked at porn?
Any of that ring a bell? We’re not so hot, are we?
Some of you are having an even harder time relating. You grew up in a Christian home, or at least in a “good” home, and have always been a basically good, moral person. You’ve been “saved” since age 4 (and the conversion really turned your messed up life around…). You’ve never really done anything “that bad”. You never slept around. You were never a partier. You always went to church. You were a leader in your youth group. You went on mission trips…
Don't make the mistake the Pharisees did.
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
(incidentally, one of my favorite verses in the Bible… â˜º)
10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
(and his disciples all went “awww SNAP!”)
This is actually a very ironic statement here. Were these Pharisees righteous? Of course not, though they probably thought they were.
Did they not know the passage in Hosea that Christ quotes? Of course they did! (Which is why his disciples probably would have said “awww SNAP!”) But they probably didn’t understand it (and neither, probably, did Jesus’ disciples).
It goes like this:
Hosea 6 (God, talking to Israel)
6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
7 But like Adam they transgressed the covenant;
there they dealt faithlessly with me.
What a thing for Jesus to say!!
These were the guys who had it down. These were the guys who went to Promise Keepers™ every year. These guys read their bible every day, several times a day! These guys prayed every day! Out loud! In public! These were the guys who only listened to Christian music, who didn’t date, didn’t drink, were small group leaders, didn’t spend too much time with people of the opposite sex, who weren’t afraid to share their beliefs with anyone and everyone. These were the guys who everyone went to with religious questions. They were THE MOST RELIGIOUS people around. OF COURSE they knew Hosea 6, they PROBABLY HAD IT MEMORIZED.
And Jesus said: “You guys don’t get it.”
If ANYONE had reason to not connect with the first part of Ephesians 2, it was the Pharisees. And they sure didn’t connect. The Pharisees kept the law to the letter! They even had extras laws built around God’s law just to make sure they wouldn’t run the risk of breaking any of the laws.
But here’s the kicker, that’s not what God cares about! Why were they unrighteous? Why did Adam break the covenant? Because of what they did? NO! Because they didn’t have faith.
"Being good" in God’s eyes has very little to do with what you do, or don’t do. It has to do with faith.
11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (or another way to render that is “those who by faith are righteous will live”, which says the same thing, but a little more clearly.)
"Those who by faith are righteous… shall live." How does that work?
Well, I have some good news for you.
"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"
(ouu… now there’s a fun word)
"—6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus..."
Men and Women: GOD. LOVES. YOU.
God Loves You! Let that sink in.
God loves YOU! And not in some general sense, but in a very specific, profound, personal way! Amen?
Can you feel this!? Can you?
od loves you! He loves you so much that he lifted you up out of the crap you used to walk around in. He saved you! From what? From the evil world? Not yet, we’re still here! He saved you from yourself! From all the junk you’ve done… from all the junk you WOULD have done… From that nagging sense of emptiness, that homesickness, that hole that’s right in the center if your chest, do you know what that is? That is death. God saved us from that! Amen?
God loves ALL of you despicable, miserable, helpless failures! If you are a Christian, you are no longer despicable and miserable. You are now seated in the heavenly places right next to, actually IN, Jesus Christ. That is why that hole is gone, that is why the homesickness is gone, that is why the emptiness is gone, you are no longer dead!
That’s half of what saved means! (The other half comes when Christ comes to judge the world and we don’t have to worry about it, because we will be SAVED then.)
That’s why we sing these ridiculous, incomprehensible songs! That’s why we can say: “I love Jesus!” without being girly, or feeling like a kindergartener in Sunday school! That’s why we are so annoying in wanting to tell everyone we come across about Jesus!
This has nothing to do with self-worth. We are worthless. This has nothing to do with the good life. We are dead to that stuff. This has nothing to do with being happy. Happiness is an emotion that comes and goes. This is about Joy, which is a state of mind. This has nothing to do with self-esteem, we are nothing. It is all about Jesus. Jesus loves you!
Interesting though, that God didn’t save us just because He loves us. Why else?
7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
God is proving something to the universe. He is showing off something about who he is to anyone who is paying attention (which is, or will be soon, EVERYONE and EVERYTHING).
He is showing off “the immeasurable riches of his grace”
“LOOK and how AMAZING is my GRACE! Look at how Gracious I am! See how forgiving, how merciful, selfless I am. I love Matt Heerema, for Christ’s sake!! (see, God can say that and not be swearing…) I love that despicable, self-centered, fool so much that I picked him up, dusted him off, and made him a prized possession.”
I am a GRACE TROPHY. God has set me, and all of you Christians in the room, on his mantle (the heavenly places?) as a TROPHY of his greatness. I would not be alive, much less standing here tonight, if God were not outstandingly merciful.
There is a common objection: “God could never forgive MY sins… they are far too many…” or, “You don’t’ know what I’ve done, I don’t deserve to be forgiven…”
That is precisely the point. You DON’T deserve it. There is no sin that is two great to forgive because GOD’S forgiveness has nothing to do with the size, nature, or circumstance of your sin. God’s loving us, and saving us, really has very little to do with us at all. It’s all about HIM. It’s about Him showing eternity just how amazing He is. And He is infinitely amazing.
“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.
"Ah, here it is finally, what I have to DO to be forgiven. Have Faith…"
No, no, no, no, no!! There is nothing you can DO to be forgiven, because, you see, God is already offering you forgiveness. God already loves you. You just have to believe it. Just have to believe this amazing reality that Paul is unfolding for us in Ephesians 1 and 2. (God has already done what is necessary for you to be forgiven.)
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
And belief is so much more than an “intellectual assent”… it is a confidence in reality. It is a whole-hearted, every-fiber-of-your-being proclamation that “YES! IT’S TRUE!” So much so that we VERBALLY… OUT LOUD… confess/proclaim/say “JESUS IS LORD! HALLELUJAH!”
Have you said that before?! Say it with me now! “JESUS IS LORD!” Do you believe it!? Then you will be saved!
The first half of Ephesians 2 is summarized extremely well by Brennan Manning.
"You have My love. You don’t have to pay for it. You didn’t earn it and can’t deserve it. You only have to open to it and receive it. You only have to say yes to My love – a love beyond anything you can intellectualize or image.” – God to Brennan Manning
There is nothing we can “do” to make God love us. He already loves us. There is nothing we can “do” to get God’s grace. We already have it. We just have to believe Him.
So what now?
…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.”
That’s what we will be unpacking for the rest of the semester. Paul goes on to lay out these good works.
- Know God, continue to learn about him and seek him
- Love each other, put up with each other
- Grow together as a church, “build the body of Christ”
- Renew your mind, put on the “new self” (we’ll talk about what that means)
- Speak the truth to each other (cut out the worthless chit-chat, and encourage each other)
- Forgive each other
- Imitate God, walk in love
- Make the best use of the time
- Submit to one another
- Pray, a lot
Some bonus verses for application for those of you that read this far :)
3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
1 Peter 2:9
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.] 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.