by Mike Ratliff
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as 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 so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NASB)
What is it that causes God to justify believers? What is justification? I heard a definition a long time ago where the preacher said something like this, “Justification is what happens when we are born again, it is ‘Just as if I had never sinned’” Of course, those of us who are Reformed in our Theology believe that our regeneration, our quickening, our New Birth takes place prior to belief because that is what enables ungodly, spiritually dead people to repent and believe. Justification follows that. Let’s look at an example.
1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:1-3 (NASB)
Our justification then is God counting us as righteousness. This is God declaring us righteous. Therefore, Justification is God imputing Righteousness to our account. It is Jesus Christ’s Righteousness that God imputes to us. Why does He do it? Abraham believed God. For this reason he is called the Father of Faith. Notice it doesn’t say that he believed in God, but that he believed God. God had covenanted with him, making several wonderful promises. Abraham believed Him and God justified him. This is justification by faith. Now let’s look at what God does to bring us to this point.
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:1-7 (NASB)
What is our condition before salvation? We are dead in our trespasses and sins. Dead is dead. It isn’t sick or weak. It is dead. All people before salvation are spiritually dead. They walk according to the ways of the world following the prince of the power of the air. This is Satan. All people who are not believers are in this state. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ. Salvation then involves becoming alive with Christ because God had mercy on us when we deserved none. When we are regenerated by God we are made spiritually alive with Christ. That means that we now have spiritual life like Jesus Christ.
What is missing from those 7 verses? Is there any mention of faith? No there isn’t. But in v8, which is at the top of this post and below, we see that we are saved by grace through faith. In other words, those verses prior to v8 are describing how wonderful our salvation is because of what we were like before we were saved. Then in vv8-9 we see that, like Abraham, we are saved through faith by believing God.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)
In these verses we see that our salvation, our justification, comes to us by grace through faith. It is God’s grace that we are saved through the conduit of our faith, but that is all a gift of God. It is our regeneration which enables us to believe God and it is as we believe Him that we exhibit the same saving faith that Abraham had. As a result, we are saved.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)
Verse 10 tells us that our salvation is God’s good work. We are newly born in Christ Jesus. Why? We are newly created for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. That means that Christians are new creations and not simply religious people who have made some decision to do religious things. NO! We who were formally dead in our trespasses and sins are now alive in Christ, reborn, remade, quickened, Born Again so that we can now obey our Lord in all things to walk according to His will for His glory alone.
Soli Deo Gloria!