This post continues our Bible Study series on Ephesians 2:1-10 exploring the Gospel. Thus far we’ve seen that prior to conversion we were spiritual corpses. But we’ve also seen God’s mercy to give us life. Let’s continue studying that gift of life today.
Again, we’ll only get through one verse in our study today. But, like verse 4, verse 5 overflows with so much doctrinal content that we really need to spend time making sure we have a concrete understanding of Paul’s terminology so that we can apply the principles in our daily lives. So let’s go back to the text, this time adding verse 5.
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— ~~Ephesians 2:1-5 (ESV)
In our study last Thursday. we watched the spotlight move from our deadness of spirit to the riches of His mercy as motivated by His great love in sending His Son to die for our sin. Verse 5 continues the Gospel message by triumphantly declaring that God raised us from death (verse 1) to new life with Christ.
Here, Paul brings in the resurrection. We could not have life apart from Christ’s resurrection. (1Corinthians 15:20-23). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is as essential to the Gospel as His shed blood on the cross. And it is much more than the greatest event in human history. It carries a personal application for regenerate believers! Without compromising the literal facts of the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection, Paul demonstrates in Romans 6:5-11 (which I hope you’ll read) that believers die with Christ to our sin natures and now live in His righteousness.
As Adam Clarke writes:
God has given us as complete a resurrection from the death of sin to a life of righteousness, as the body of Christ has had from the grave. And as this quickening, or making alive, was most gratuitous on God’s part, the apostle, with great propriety, says; By grace ye are saved.
With that thought, Clarke takes us to the first of two mentions in Ephesians 2:1-10 that salvation is by grace. Sadly, many professing Christians in our century often throw the word “grace” around with the assumption that everyone understands its theological meaning. Some even confuse grace with moral license, living as if it frees them to live in the very sin that once held them in death. Clearly then, we need a solid definition of grace.
I consulted a few Bible dictionaries, and found the most comprehensive explanation of grace in The Complete WordStudy Dictionary, which says,
Grace, particularly that which causes joy, pleasure, gratification, favor, acceptance, for a kindness granted or desired, a benefit, thanks, gratitude. A favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor. Cháris stands in direct antithesis to érga (G2041), works, the two being mutually exclusive. God’s grace affects man’s sinfulness and not only forgives the repentant sinner, but brings joy and thankfulness to him. It changes the individual to a new creature without destroying his individuality (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Grace necessarily implies dependence on the Person bestowing the grace. Unable to effect our own conversion to Christianity because we are dead in sin, we must rely only on what Jesus did on our behalf. The Amplified Bible offers a helpful rendering of “by grace you have been saved.” It reads, “it is by grace (His favor and mercy which you did not deserve) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation).”
Verse 5 therefore reinforces the idea that the new life of salvation comes, not from anything we do, but as a result of God’s great mercy. His grace transforms us from senseless followers of Satan into His holy children who desire to honor and obey Him. We enter into His life. What a glorious metamorphosis!
So, bit by bit, Ephesians 2:1-10 gives us a handle on the Gospel. Halfway through, we already see why the Gospel is such good news! But even more good news awaits us in the next five verses, so don’t miss next week’s installment.