◄ Ephesians 2 ►
Robin Aylor December 2018
In Ephesians chapter 1 Paul shared how God loves us and gives us all things. We are to share in his glory forever. These are all unmerited gifts. We deserved eternal separation from God in hell, but God pre-adopted us and gave us an inheritance choosing us even before the foundation of the world that we might delight in walking with him. We also saw how all this and, in fact all things are from, through, and to God; all for his glory.
Now Paul reminds us what God has delivered us from. It is important that we never fall back into believing we rescued ourselves or we somehow deserve all these blessings in any way. How can we love and minister the amazing news of Jesus to others if we believe we in some context our insight or will or deeds played a part in his “unmerited” grace? Lets begin Ephesians chapter 2.
Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
The word “Dead” is reserved for things that have no life in them. Plants stop their growth. They no longer bear fruit. They dry up becoming brittle and eventually become compost and return to dirt.
Dead people stop… Yes, scientists tell us their fingernails and hair may continue to grow for a short time but they have no substantial actuality of life in them any more. There is no self conscious awareness nor any other awareness contained within them any longer. Who they were is no longer contained anywhere within the corporeal sack of skin they once inhabited. As with plants, we also return to the dust.
But in verse one Paul is clearly not speaking physical but Spiritual death. We know this because he is writing to and about people who are physically still alive. He is also referring to them in the past tense saying they “were dead”.
To better conceptualize Spiritual death lets look closer at physical death. When a man or woman dies physically their person, or who they are… their spirit leaves the body they once occupied. There is no brain activity and so no consciousness.
Spiritual death (notice capital letter I have intentionally given it) is not referring to our spirit but the Spirit of God. It started with the first man Adam and his wife Eve. They called God a liar and sided with the devil thereby disobeying God and sinning. They then hid from God and it was then that God separated himself from them. The sweet fellowship they once knew was severed. Our Righteous and Holy Creator does not show solidarity or support for sin. The only fellowship he will give is in his justice. True and full judgment was now set in stone but would be fulfilled at a later time. However as God foretold, Adam and Eve would die on the day they ate of the fruit and their death was the worst death of all… They died Spiritually.
Adam and Eve became dead Spiritually in that; as a man dies physically when his own spirit leaves his body, Adam and Eve died Spiritually when Gods Spirit left them. Their fellowship with God was severed.
The Ephesians were dead Spiritually because as descendants of Adam they were born out of fellowship with God. It should be clear to all people that we are selfish and not in sync with God from the word go. We learn when and how to cry and fuss to get our way early on more and more as our consciousness develops. We don’t know God. In that sense what was true for the Ephesians and even Paul himself is true for us. We were dead in our 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.
Paul does not want us to forget the state of self centeredness God rescued us from. When Paul refers to “the course of this world” I don’t think he is pointing to the course around the Sun the earth follows but rather the path of sinfulness it follows. The atmosphere of those in the world is one that is comfortable with sin. Underneath mans exterior our drive is fueled by things like selfishness and pride. Lurking under our self righteous acts, sin is sparking our motives. It gets millions of people out of bed in the morning and motivates them throughout the day, even singing them to sleep at night. This was us… we were there… not seeking after God in any true sense. That is… until… God let light of his glory shine down into the eyes of our heart.
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—
Paul not only doesn’t want us to forget where God rescued us from (a life of willful sin) but he reminds us we were raised from this spiritual deadness not by our strength (a dead man has no strength), but 100% by Gods grace because of the great love with which he loved us.
We also see how Peter agrees with Paul and weaves into only a couple verses the helplessness we had in our deadness without Christ and how God caused us to have this new life with all its blessings. This is a pretty good summery text I think for the main focus in Ephesians so far. In fact, just as Ephesian 1:3 begins so 1st Peter 1:3 speaks exactly the same way: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”… We didn’t earn any of it… None of these amazing blessings were brought about by us… They were all gifts from God… It was because of Gods rich mercy and grace. Here’s what Peter says:
1st Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
And so Paul has reminded us that our salvation is not of ourselves. This is very important to remember because Satan has a way of gradually re-indoctrinating believers over a period of years even to the point of subconsciously conditioning us to believe our own goodness and will and decision and person sought out truth when in fact it was Jesus who sought us out and caused us to believe and be born again.
As Paul writes to the Ephesians he seems to go back and forth between reminding us it was not our own doing and then he expounds more details about the inheritance of grace God lavishes upon us… He is braiding a strong cord whereby we can be confident and victorious and joyful in all circumstances while at the same time giving all the glory to God.
Paul just told us how God made us alive with Christ by grace and now continues:
Ephesians 2:6 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.
And so God made us alive Spiritually and raised us up seating us with God in heavenly places in Christ. When we obey Jesus command that believers be baptized we are bearing witness that this has already happened in our life. Just as Paul has said, we were dead Spiritually in our trespasses and sins but God in love and mercy made us alive with Christ by grace. He raised us up.
Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Ephesians 2:6 says how God seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. What does that entail? I believe it means God gave us a chair; a place to sit… to live; a home with him in Heaven. That is a part of our inheritance. However, I believe this text implies more. You see heavenly places in Christ is not all reserved for the heavenly places in heaven, but Christ enables us to walk in newness of life here on earth. The text structure shows us that he has already “raised” us and already “seated” us with him. Its a done deal! The heavenly places in Christ has come down into our hearts. Christ is with us. And now it’s us living daily in that Spiritual kingdom Jesus told Nicodemus about. Remember he said: …“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Since we have been raised up and given an inheritance we can now see and know and walk in that Spiritual Kingdom of God that the worlds eyes are closed to.
In verse 7 Paul tells us that Gods grace is not only a grace for the here and now but his riches are immeasurable and they will continue for the coming ages.
Again, the Apostle continues intertwining and weaving the strong cord of Gods blessings with threads of unmerited amazing grace God has towards us:
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.
So far we have heard Paul speak of Gods grace over and over. It was not because of our will or our works but God chose us and loved us and imparted his grace to us.
But now we hear Paul mention something along side of grace… namely “faith” saying “saved through faith”. So if we are saved by grace through faith, is faith something other than grace or is faith also an unmerited gift of grace?
After all, faith does seem like something one does… One might say “I put my faith in God”.
However, Paul clears any misconceptions up seemingly in the same breath. In the very same verse he says: “8 …And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,”
Faith is a gift from God. We mentioned this in the Ephesians 1 study when we looked at verse 4: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. For review, here’s a few of the supporting scriptures we looked at:
Romans 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
We even see this emphasized again in verse 10 saying: …which God prepared beforehand…
Knowing Christ is not caused by us.
1st Peter 1:3 …he has caused us to be born again…
We did not conjure up faith, nor do we improve on what God gives us.
Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…
Man does not have it in himself to seek God until God shows him his glory in Jesus.
Romans 3:11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Romans 10:20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
God chose us before we had faith in him. For more scriptures on this, look back to the Ephesians 1 Bible study.
In our text, Ephesians 2:8-10 notice the short and clear and direct statements Paul uses as he fastens unmerited grace to our salvation.
“No one may boast."
“It is the gift of God."
“This is not your own doing."
“We are his workmanship.”
Lets look again at Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
God is telling us some about the purpose he has for us as believers. I suspect most have asked the question “Why am I here”. Gods word is answering.
We’re here for good works. That's a part of the reason God chose us. What does that mean?
Well, truly good works have never been seen in mankind without God dwelling within him. Since Adam sinned all our works or doings in the flesh… everything we think with our hearts and minds and do in our bodies have been tainted with sin and brokenness.
Peter again seems to summarize Pauls words well and with some good insight:
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.
The good works that Ephesians 2;10 speaks of are intended to do the same thing Peter says our life should proclaim: “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”. We were chosen to be the Lords and to be holy which I believe means for our characteristics and attributes to become like his in love and patience with peace and joy and so on; that we may have his holiness and proclaim his glory.
Remember how man was made in the image of God and God told Adam to go forth into all the earth and multiply. The image of God would portray not what God looks like because he is Spirit, but rather the attributes and character of God. In the physical, an image or picture of a loved one we may carry on our phone, though not them looks just like them. So, though we are not God we should resemble Him in heart and spirit, character and attributes. We were created in the image of God and were made to proclaim the beauty of who he is unto all the earth.
However there seems to be a problem; since sin entered the earth through Adam, and we're sinners all out of Gods fellowship, we could only bear Gods image if we had the righteousness of Jesus who lived perfectly and without sin. Gods only Son was paid the wages of our sin on the Cross that we might have life in him. He gave us who believe his righteousness that we might glorify God and proclaim his beauty and the image of his holiness unto all the earth.
And so our purpose is to glorify God. Glorifying God does not mean we make him more glorious than he is. He is already unsearchable and unending and eternal in glory.
Glorifying God means that as we see his glory we are transformed to internalize his image in his character and attributes. Then as his image bearers we proclaim his glory to the ends of the earth.
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—
All who are not Jews in the physical lineage of Abraham are known as Gentiles. God commanded Abraham and his descendants to be circumcised that they might be known as distinct from other people in the world. Some peoples other than Jews did things that showed they worshiped other gods and portrayed that were different as well. Some cut their hair and beards a certain way. Others wore tattoos. The Jews were to be circumcised. This was to signify the cutting away of sinful fleshly worldly values which worshipers of other gods followed. God wanted his people to be pure and holy finding satisfaction in being his people, following his word and seeing his awesome glory.
In the New Testament we are told circumcision of the flesh pointed to something Spiritual; namely, circumcision of the heart. Jesus made us righteous by becoming sin for us and being paid the wages of our sin which is death and then even defeating it. And so, believers are righteous before God positionally. Practically though, until we are raised up and defeat death like Jesus, we are a work in progress, as the Holy Spirit works in our lives cutting away at sin.
12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
And so we see our new Spiritual position before God as being circumcised because Jesus was cut and crucified and circumcised for us upon the Cross when he became sin that we might become his righteousness.
Romans 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Through Jesus we are now made to be Jews… we are Gods people Spiritually… We have fellowship and good standing with God… We are now the Spiritual Israel.
Paul expounds this truth nicely here: Romans 2:28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
Again how has Jesus made us both one?
Jesus was circumcised for us. Its through his righteousness we can now go in the holy of holies or rather come before the throne of God for mercy without having to go through a priest. It is because we have his righteousness that now we can even get closer to God than that. He comes and abides within us.
Remember when Adam and Eve sinned that dividing wall of hostility went up immediately. They wanted separation and so hid from God. And God agreed they could not abide in the presence of his glory and so placed them out of the Garden. Because of Sin there is a dividing wall of hostility that separates us from God.
Ephesians 2:15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
Because of this dividing wall of hostility, sinful Man could not keep the commandments God had given. God wanted a people who would serve him from the heart but down deep they wanted to follow their own sinful heart. Jesus was circumcised on the Cross for us that he might give us a circumcised heart which he would quicken to actually do good works spurred by his Holy Spirit abiding in us. His commandments are placed upon our hearts.
Hebrews 8: 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Ephesians 2:17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
Maybe you are a physical Jew in the lineage of Abraham and your ancestors have had the truth of the coming Messiah for hundreds of years. Your families were taught the scriptures and told the stories and heard the prophecies over and over. They memorized the sacred texts and taught them to their children who taught them to their own. You and your ancestors were close to the good news of the only hope for sinful man. Somehow many of them missed how God wanted a people who had a heart to serve God and instead became a people who went to establish their own righteousness by keeping rules while having a dividing wall of hostility toward God in their heart. Maybe they or you missed the fact that since Adam sinned all his descendants can only have fellowship with God by accepting the gift of righteousness given through the long awaited Messiah.
Or it could be that like me, your family tree is composed of a non-Jewish lineage or rather Gentiles. Your ancestors did not have the Holy Oracles of God to look at and study. Though they may have heard of the glories of the God of Israel they did not have access to all of the examples of his goodness and holiness. Many times though they heard prophecies and saw Gods hand bring about his word keep his promises with great and mighty miracles. And though all who look to God in accordance with the scriptures are shown mercy; many gentiles of your ancestors would not trust in the God of Israel or hope in the coming Messiah as good news for their sin.
Jesus came down to earth as a man and preached good news to those who were close to Gods word (Israel) and those who were far off (the Gentiles). Through Jesus we both have access to the Father by the Holy Spirit.
God brought us all together as adopted children with an inheritance through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Because of Jesus death and resurrection, the dividing wall of hostility built by sin no longer keeps us from God. We are citizens of the kingdom, we are now saints with a new homeland. Because of Jesus, peoples both Jew and Gentile from every tribe and tongue will come to be a part of the same family of God.
Ephesians 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
In the next chapter Paul makes a similar comparison with us being of the same body. Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
But here the spiritual comparison is the building of a temple and he teaches how both Jew and Gentile, are a part of the same building meant for unified worship of God. We are one body in Christ and with Christ. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6 the example he gave contained words like “our” and “us” which indicate we should not only pray for ourselves but our family in Christ:
Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
God laid the foundation in Christ Jesus with Jesus himself being the cornerstone. The apostles and the prophets were placed in the foundation by God to be in sync with the cornerstone so that everything that laid on the foundation will be plum and in perfect unity as we grow into a holy temple in the Lord to glorify him in harmony.
Ephesians 2:22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Our participation of worship toward God cannot be a part of his unified family temple unless we are first his temple personally.
2nd Corinthians 6:16 ...For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
The reason we can identify and have so many things in common with our Christians brothers and sisters is because God is doing a work in us just as he is doing a work in other believers, bringing us both to internalize his attributes and character personally and practically.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.