by Mike Ratliff
We are his masterpiece, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God previously prepared that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
The second chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians can be divided into two sections of emphasis. As we shall see, Paul makes it abundantly clear in vv1-9 that our salvation is by grace through faith and this it is God’s work in which he lavishes his grace on Christians through his saving initiative alone. Paul uses v10 to introduce the next section that is based on what he introduced in vv1-9, that believers are new creations. In vv10-22 we learn that our new life in Christ is unto good works in him and that all of this unto the glory of Christ as we walk in obedience and unity.
1 Καὶ ὑμᾶς ὄντας νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν, 2 ἐν αἷς ποτε περιεπατήσατε κατὰ τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, κατὰ τὸν ἄρχοντα τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος, τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ νῦν ἐνεργοῦντος ἐν τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς ἀπειθείας· 3 ἐν οἷς καὶ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἀνεστράφημέν ποτε ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν ποιοῦντες τὰ θελήματα τῆς σαρκὸς καὶ τῶν διανοιῶν, καὶ ἤμεθα τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποί· (Ephesians 2:1-3 NA27)
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom we all conducted ourselves once in the lusts of our flesh, performing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and we were by nature children of wrath just as the rest. (Ephesians 2:1-3 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
All believers were once dead in their sins separated from God. This includes you and I. We were blinded by the fact that our flesh controlled us and our minds were blinded to the truth because of being spiritually dead. This means that we were completely incapable of doing one thing to be anything other than among the sons of disobedience. That is a bleak picture, but that is what God’s Word says. There are no exceptions.
4 ὁ δὲ θεὸς πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ ἣν ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, 5 καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ, – χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι – 6 καὶ συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 7 ἵνα ἐνδείξηται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις τὸ ὑπερβάλλον πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφ᾽ ἡμᾶς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. 8 Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον· 9 οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται. (Ephesians 2:4-9 NA27)
4 But God being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and he raised us with him and seated us with him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus 7 that he might display in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in his kindness towards us in Christ Jesus 8 for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is God’s gift, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
Now, for those in Christ, the bleak picture is gone. Is it gone because of something they did? Is it gone because of some quality they possessed that others do not have? Paul goes out of his way here to tell us that we are saved by grace, that is God’s work not ours and why God did it this way. First, God did it this way so that he might display in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in his kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. Second, the only way this would work is that there be no possibility that those whom he saves could take any credit whatsoever for it. Therefore, the faith through which we are saved, and proven in the way the Greek is structured in v8, is part of God’s gift. Remember, those whom he is saving here were spiritually dead, but made alive. It is in this making alive that enables them to believe the Gospel and so, by grace through faith, as God’s gift, not of works, they are saved. The words “have been saved” translate σεσῳσμένοι or sesōsmenoi, which is a passive, perfect, participle of σῴζω or sōzō, “save, deliver, restore to health, rescue.” This verb form stresses the state brought about by the finished results of the action. Since the “voice” is passive, this should make it clear that those who are saved are not in any way the producers of that salvation.
10 αὐτοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν ποίημα, κτισθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἐπὶ ἔργοις ἀγαθοῖς οἷς προητοίμασεν ὁ θεός, ἵνα ἐν αὐτοῖς περιπατήσωμεν. 11 Διὸ μνημονεύετε ὅτι ποτὲ ὑμεῖς τὰ ἔθνη ἐν σαρκί, οἱ λεγόμενοι ἀκροβυστία ὑπὸ τῆς λεγομένης περιτομῆς ἐν σαρκὶ χειροποιήτου, 12 ὅτι ἦτε τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ χωρὶς Χριστοῦ, ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι τῆς πολιτείας τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ καὶ ξένοι τῶν διαθηκῶν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας, ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες καὶ ἄθεοι ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ. 13 νυνὶ δὲ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ὑμεῖς οἵ ποτε ὄντες μακρὰν ἐγενήθητε ἐγγὺς ἐν τῷ αἵματι τοῦ Χριστοῦ. (Ephesians 2:10-13 NA27)
10 We are his masterpiece, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God previously prepared that we should walk in them. 11 Therefore, remember that you once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by the ones called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—12 that you were at that time without Christ, having been alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers of the Covenants of the Promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus, you, the ones once being far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:10-13 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
Again, Christians are saved, that is, resurrected from spiritual death unto eternal life in Christ by God not according to anything we did nor according to any quality we possessed. We are his masterpiece and we are new creations in Christ Jesus unto good works that God previously prepared that we should walk in them. What does that mean? These good works do not, nor can they, produce salvation, but are subsequent and resultant God-empowered fruits and evidences of it (John 15:8; Philippians 2:12,13; 2 Timothy 3:17; Titus 2:14; James 2:16-26). Just as out salvation was predestined before time began, so is our sanctification and good works.
Notice in v11 that Paul makes it clear that those who insist on salvation by works are those who are the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands, that is, they believe it their own works that set them apart before God. They actually believe that salvation by grace through faith is not sufficient, works must be added, law keeping, et cetera. Legalism abounds in this. Who is it that has been brought near to God? It is those who are in Christ through His blood, not those who attempt to earn their way to God in and of themselves. Of course, many Jews in Paul’s day, like himself, became believers. In these verse, he talks about how they can have unity in Christ.
14 Αὐτὸς γάρ ἐστιν ἡ εἰρήνη ἡμῶν, ὁ ποιήσας τὰ ἀμφότερα ἓν καὶ τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ λύσας, τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ, 15 τὸν νόμον τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν καταργήσας, ἵνα τοὺς δύο κτίσῃ ἐν αὐτῷ εἰς ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον ποιῶν εἰρήνην 16 καὶ ἀποκαταλλάξῃ τοὺς ἀμφοτέρους ἐν ἑνὶ σώματι τῷ θεῷ διὰ τοῦ σταυροῦ, ἀποκτείνας τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν αὐτῷ. 17 καὶ ἐλθὼν εὐηγγελίσατο εἰρήνην ὑμῖν τοῖς μακρὰν καὶ εἰρήνην τοῖς ἐγγύς· 18 ὅτι δι᾽ αὐτοῦ ἔχομεν τὴν προσαγωγὴν οἱ ἀμφότεροι ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι πρὸς τὸν πατέρα. (Ephesians 2:14-18 NA27)
14 For he is our peace, who has made both one, and having broken the middle wall of the partition, breaking the hostility in his flesh 15 having annulled the law of commandments in ordinances that he might create in himself the two into one new man making peace 16 and he might reconcile the two in one body to God through the cross having killed the hostility by it. 17 And having come, he preached peace to you, the ones far off, and peace to the ones near 18 because; through him, we have the access both in one spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:14-18 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
Jews and Gentiles in Christ have the same access to God, that is, in one spirit to the Father. Notice, please notice how Christ annulled the law of commandments, et cetera. He kept the Law perfectly so we do not have to. His perfect obedience is imputed to our account at our salvation. This is good news for these Jews as well for if they were honest, they could not keep it perfectly either.
19 Ἄρα οὖν οὐκέτι ἐστὲ ξένοι καὶ πάροικοι ἀλλὰ ἐστὲ συμπολῖται τῶν ἁγίων καὶ οἰκεῖοι τοῦ θεοῦ, 20 ἐποικοδομηθέντες ἐπὶ τῷ θεμελίῳ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ προφητῶν, ὄντος ἀκρογωνιαίου αὐτοῦ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, 21 ἐν ᾧ πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ συναρμολογουμένη αὔξει εἰς ναὸν ἅγιον ἐν κυρίῳ, 22 ἐν ᾧ καὶ ὑμεῖς συνοικοδομεῖσθε εἰς κατοικητήριον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν πνεύματι. (Ephesians 2:19-22 NA27)
19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God. 20 Having been built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the Cornerstone 21 in whom all the building being fitly joined together grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 Possessing the Treasure V1)
All in Christ are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God regardless of whether they are Jews or Gentiles or what nationality or background or any other thing that people can come up with to divide from one another. If God saves a person, he or she is my brother or sister in Christ. We are all part of this holy sanctuary (the Church) that our Lord is building. It is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets with Christ himself being the Cornerstone holding it all together correctly. In each of us, we are a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. How awesome is that?
Think and mediate on these things my brethren.
Soli Deo Gloria!