Weds 5th July - Ephesians 2:1-10
Meditation on Ephesians 2:1-10
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
YOU WERE…YOU ARE…
I remember going up Snowdon many, many years ago. As we climbed towards the top, the view got bigger and better and the wow factor kept on increasing.
That’s a picture of these verses. We start at the bottom, floundering in our situation and then as we keep reading, we marvel in our new situation. That’s because…
- We had a past…Verses 1-3
- We have a future…Verses 4-10
- We had a past…Verses 1-3
Paul has already outlined the great salvation that we have in Christ and how he prays into that continuing journey.
He doesn’t hold back on how he describes the past and looks ahead to the future.
- We were dead. He is not talking about physical death but spiritual death. We were dead because of our ‘transgressions and sins’. One dictionary defines transgressions as ‘crossing a known boundary’ or ‘deviation from the right path’. Wikipedia defines sin as ‘a transgression against divine law or a law of God. While sins are generally considered actions, any thought, word or deed considered immoral, selfish, shameful, harmful or alienating might be termed sinful.’
In the Bible sin is described as ‘transgression of the law of God’ (1 John 3:4) or ‘you have been rebellious against the LORD’ (Deuteronomy 9:7).
Basically, we are rebels and failures. As Paul writes further in this letter, ‘we are separated from the life of God.’ (4:18)
- We were trapped. We ‘followed the ways of this world’. The Living Bible says, ‘you went along with the crowd and were just like all the others, full of sin.’
J B Philips says, ‘you drifted along on the stream of this world’s ideas of living.’
We are reminded of the ‘ways of this world’ when we read other passages – e.g. Romans 1:18-32; Romans 3:9-18. Paul comes to this conclusion… Romans 3:19 ‘Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God’.
- We were under the wrong influence. We ‘followed the…ruler of the kingdom of the air’. Paul knows that Satan, the enemy of God, is at work as he has been since the creation of the heavens and the earth. The question he is always asking of us is “Did God say…?”
Michael Green, in his commentary, writes…the titles of Satan, the great accuser, give us some clue as to his character. Subtle as the servant, violent as the dragon, ruthless as the lion, deceptive as the angel of light, he is the destroyer, the enemy, the murderer of men’s spirits. He is the usurper prince of this world and his writ runs over it. But he is the worthless one, the evil one, the antichrist’.
- We followed our own passions. We were ‘gratifying the cravings of our flesh’. Other translations may be helpful.
Living Bible: ‘our lives expressing the evil within us, doing every wicked thing that our passions or our evil thoughts might lead us into’.
J B Philips: ‘followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature’.
Good News Bible: ‘lived according to our natural desires, doing whatever suited the wishes of our own bodies and minds’.
- We were condemned. We were ‘deserving of wrath’.
This was not anger at or with each other. It was God’s wrath on us as individuals.
What is God’s wrath?
John Stott, in his commentary, says, ‘the wrath of God is God’s personal, righteous, constant hostility to evil, His settled refusal to compromise with it and His resolve to condemn it.’
Could three verses carry as much doom and gloom as these first three verses?
But remember that Paul uses the past tense. He doesn’t say ‘you are…’
He says ‘you were…’
Therefore, there is better news to come at the end of this solemn judgment on all people.
- We have a future…Verses 4-10
Notice the contrasts between what was and what is and what will be.
‘under the wrong influences…’
‘followed our own passions…’
‘seated in the heavenlies…’
And the future we can look forward to is ‘in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace’.
What a change.
What a contrast.
What a complete transformation.
And the turning point in these ten verses is at the beginning of verse 4.
Paul tells us of the character of God that has led to this transformation.
‘His great love’
‘rich in mercy’
How has this transformed us?
‘He made us alive in Christ’
He has saved us by His grace
He has given us the gift of faith whereby we believe in Him and we trust Him.
These are, indeed, the ‘incomparable riches of His grace.’
What a beautiful thought that Paul ends with when he says, ‘we are His handiwork’. The Greek word for this invokes the thought of a work of art. We are God’s work of art. What a transformation. What a God.
But this is to be shared with others. We have not been saved just to rejoice in that transformation.
No, the outcome of this amazing grace is that we are actively engaged in ‘doing good works.’
And these are not just any good works. God has planned and prepared for us to be involved in His mission to the world.
But it is not the doing of good works that saves us. It is the doing of good works because we have been saved.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour.