Ephesians Study 7: By Grace

Hello, TYM! Last time we had the downer lesson about sin but this time we get to follow that up with how God has conquered sin.

Teaching Text: Ephesians 2:4-10

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— 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. 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. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 2:4–10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

“By grace you have been saved” ends verse 5 and is possibly the most succinct summary of the gospel you can get. However, just as I mentioned in the last lesson that we can take the severity of sin for granted, we can also take grace for granted. Paul gives us three important considerations about grace with this next chunk of Scripture.

Rich in Mercy

The reason I focused so much on the severity of sin and its consequences in the last lesson is because in order to truly appreciate the gift of grace, we have to realize where we’ve been. We deserved death. But God offers an avenue away from that death.

We can probably think about situations where we saw someone “get what they deserve.”

  • The kid who isn’t paying attention in class who then gets called on by the teacher. Now slightly embarrassed, they got what they deserved.
  • An older sibling is picking on their younger sibling. Eventually it gets bad enough that a parent steps in and grounds the older child. They got what they deserved.
  • The driver who is tailgating you then finally passes you going 60 in a 30 zone. When you eventually meet back up with them and see they have been pulled over to receive a ticket from the police, they are getting what they deserved.

These are minor examples, and possibly you could think of a time where you got what you deserved. Because of sin, we deserve death. But God has such great mercy and love that he offers grace to pull us out of death and into life with him.

It doesn’t stop with just the gift of grace. He wants to not just save us from death but show us immeasurable riches. Do you know how many riches that is? You don’t because it can’t be measured.

Not Your Own Doing

Paul is sure to make the point that grace is a gift from God and that salvation does not come as a result of our own doing.

If you haven’t yet, you will eventually find yourself filling out applications as you move forward in life. It might be so you can be part of a program at school. You will have to fill out an application for any education you do after high school. And certainly you will in order to be considered for a job. On these applications, you share your accomplishments, experience references. Your own merit (although there are other factors at play, too) is what determines your success in these endeavors.

Grace wasn’t something we applied for. We don’t list out our own experience and successes in not sinning and hope we get in. In fact, none of our own successes ultimately matter. We are not to be able to boast. 

Paul makes a little sidebar in the first part of Philippians 3.

4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Php 3:4–9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Here, Paul lists out his qualifications; the things one might put on an “application for grace.” He’s followed the Law, but ultimately counts all that as rubbish or trash because only Christ matters.

Boasting was an issue at the church of Corinth. In the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, divisions had formed based on who had baptized the Christians there. There was seemingly a level of “bragging rights” based on whether Paul, Peter, Apollos, or perhaps others had baptized them. Paul calls them out for this attitude of boasting. For further study, read the first chapter of 1 Corinthians.

Workmanship

Though working does not save us, we are created in Christ Jesus for good works. Think back to lesson 4 when we talked about faith and love on display by the church at Ephesus. Those actions spurred Paul to pray for the experiential spiritual knowledge (lesson 5). That knowledge leads to faith, either a new faith or one that is always growing. And that faith leads to God transforming us.

The word used here is “workmanship” which has a “work of art” connotation. This is reminiscent of the passage in Jeremiah 18 where God refers to Israel as clay in his hands. God is a great creator. You can see that in the vast wonders of the universe. And so are we one of his works of art.

We are art with purpose though. We are created in Christ Jesus for good works. What might those works be? As we move deeper into Ephesians, we will get more into some practical application of the works that Paul was talking about. However, we can look at two things to give us some insight now.

First, the last part of 2 Corinthians 5 gives us a similar passage:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 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. 

6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 5:17–6:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

We are a new creation in Christ and we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We are delivering the gospel message to others who have not heard it. We do that through our actions of faith and love. Which I referred to in lesson 4. Which now creates a loop.

The righteous actions of the Ephesians spurred Paul to pray that they know what is the hope and would have wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of God. This knowledge was a deeper, experiential knowledge. Now this spiritual experience bolstered their faith and through that allowed access to grace-fueled transformation. Once transformed, they were to walk in love (Eph 5:2) and were ready for new righteous actions which leads to new spiritual experiences which leads to further grace-fueled transformation which leads to…well, just look at the graphic.

As I mentioned earlier, whenever I think of this idea of being a new creation, the potter and clay imagery from Jeremiah 18 comes to mind. While not a direct reference that, the old hymn from 1902, Have Thine Own Way, uses the potter and clay analogy. I leave you with the lyrics from this song as a wrap up for this lesson.

Have Thine own way, Lord,
  Have Thine own way;
Thou art the Potter,
  I am the clay.
Mould me and make me
  After Thy will,
While I am waiting,
  Yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord,
  Have Thine own way;
Search me and try me,
  Master, today.
Whiter than snow, Lord,
  Wash me just now,
As in Thy presence
  Humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord,
  Have Thine own way;
Wounded and weary,
  Help me, I pray.
Power, all power,
  Surely is Thine,
Touch me and heal me,
  Savior divine.

Have Thine own way, Lord,
  Have Thine own way;
Hold o’er my being
  Absolute sway.
Fill with Thy Spirit
  Till all shall see
Christ only, always,
  Living in me.

Carlin