We are working our way through the first ten verses of Ephesians chapter two. These ten verses contain three main segments. Verses 1-3, which we looked at three weeks ago, focus on fallen man and his hopeless condition—he is dead as a result of his sin. He is not sick, or mortally ill, he is dead, totally unresponsive to spiritual things. Secondly, verses 4-6, which we looked at two weeks ago, focus on Yahweh and on His mercy, love, and grace in making dead men alive. We were dead, but Yahweh gave us spiritual life as a sovereign act of His will. Thirdly, verses 7-10 focus on the purpose of salvation—it is to the praise of the glory of His grace. We'll look at verses 7-9 this morning. All together, these ten verses spell out the essence of the Gospel of Yeshua Ha'Moshiach. The overarching theme of these verses is that salvation is totally of God; He raises the dead; He does it based on His grace; He gives us faith, our works play no part at all in our salvation, none, zero, zip!
Let me just say that if I wasn't Calvinistic before, I certainly would be now after studying out the first ten verses of chapter two. If you are listening to me and are an Arminian who knows you are right and do not want to change despite the biblical evidence, shut me off now, because Paul, in our text for today, continues to hammer the idea that salvation is all of Yahweh, and so will I. As a matter of fact, Ephesians 2:7-10 is so clear that salvation is totally and completely the work of Yahweh that you have to be hard hearted not to see it.
We ended our study last time with some questions, Why would Yahweh make us alive when we deserve death because we sinned? Why would He raise us to life in His presence instead of leaving us dead since we were His enemies?:
even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Yeshua, Ephesians 2:5-6 NASB
Why would He seat us with Christ in the place of favor when He should have been separated from Him eternally? Paul answers all these question in verse 7:
so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Yeshua. Ephesians 2:7 NASB
"...So that..."—this is the conjunction hina, which indicates the purpose expressed in the three main verbs in verses 5-6. The reason Yahweh quickened, raised, and seated believers together with Christ is that He might demonstrate His grace in the coming ages. Do you know why God saved you? "So that" He could display His kindness to us forever.
"...The ages to come..."—ages here is plural. Paul also uses "ages" in the plural in:
that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, Colossians 1:26 NASB
In Ephesians it is plural speaking of the future, and in Colossians it is plural speaking of the past. How many ages are there? William Barclay says:
Time was divided by the Jews into two great periods— this present age, and the age to come. The present age is wholly bad and beyond all hope of human reformation. It can be mended only by the direct intervention of God. When God does intervene the golden age, the age to come, will arrive. But in between the two ages there will come the Day of the Lord, which will be a time of terrible and fearful upheaval, like the birth-pangs of a new age.
All through the New Testament we see two ages in contrast: "This age" and the "age to come."
"Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:32 NASB
The word "come" at the end of the verse is the Greek word mello, which means: " about to be." We could translate this, the "age about to come" (in the first century). So the Bible only speaks of two ages.
Zechariah 14 teaches us that the "Day of the Lord" and the destruction of Jerusalem were connected. So, the destruction of Jerusalem, which was the Day of the Lord, marked the end of one age, the Jewish age, and the beginning of the new age, the Christian age of the New Covenant.
The "age to come" is an age that has no end! The end of the "this age" came upon the first century believers . The Bible nowhere speaks of an "end" far removed from the first century inspired writers. The end was always at hand, near, about to come. The New Covenant age has no end. Daniel says that Christ's kingdom will never be destroyed:
"In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. Daniel 2:44 NASB
In the days of the Roman Empire, God set up His kingdom, and it stands forever. The Bible doesn't teach about an age future to us. The age in which we live is the everlasting age of the New Covenant. It has no last days, no end, and nothing left to be fulfilled.
Gordon Clark writes, "We can agree that the past ages were the Old Testament dispensation. But that allows us to understand the church age as the "now age," and to leave the ages to come as post-parousian." So Clark sees at least three ages. He doesn't know what time it is. He doesn't realize that we are living post-parousian and are in what was to the New Testament writers, the age to come.
So what does Paul mean in Ephesians 2:7 by "ages to come"? Well Paul makes the typical two-age distinction in 1:21 ("not only in this age, but also in the one to come"), so now he is likely referring to all the coming centuries of time relative to the writing of the letter. He may simply be saying, "God, for all eternity, will be unfolding new revelations to us of the blessings that we have in Christ." Charles Hodge, commenting on "ages to come, writes, "It is better therefore to take it without limitation, for all future time." I agree.
"...He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Yeshua."— The word "show" is from the Greek endeiknumi, which is often translated: "demonstrate." This word is used in Romans 9:17 of Yahweh demonstrating His power in Pharaoh.
What is it that Yahweh is going to demonstrate throughout eternity? His kindness toward us, but he expands on this by adding, "...His grace in His kindness toward us." But then he again expands on this by adding, "...the riches of His grace in His kindness toward us." Which is still not enough, so He expands it again by adding, "...the surpassing riches of His grace in His kindness toward us." God's chosen ones are seated with Christ so that He might demonstrate His grace and kindness to us throughout eternity.
Just as God has demonstrated "...the surpassing greatness of His power" (1:19) in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ, He now demonstrates "...the surpassing riches of His grace" (2:7) in the raising and seating of Christians with Christ.
The ultimate purpose of our salvation is to show the surpassing riches of God's grace in kindness toward us in Christ. Our salvation is first and foremost a demonstration of the glory of God. As Jonathan Edwards astutely argued, "God created the world and put us here to further His glory." God's purpose in saving us is bound up with His glory and thus extends throughout eternity, which He calls, "the ages to come."
We have already seen in the opening b'rakhah of 1:3-14 that the ultimate goal of salvation was seen to be the glory of God. Paul said, "to the praise of the glory of His grace" three times in verses 6,12 and 14.
Why did God save us? Because we were desirable? No. Because He saw some merit or potential in us? No. Because we did our part, and He was just doing His? No. The reason that God chose to save us was so that His grace would be demonstrated in the coming ages bringing Him glory.
"...In Christ Yeshua."—the only reason that we are shown kindness or love or mercy or grace is because of the Father's love for the Son. We, the elect, are the gift of the Father to the Son. Christ identified with us—He bore our sin and gave us His righteousness—and the Father now shows us the same kindness that He showed the Son from eternity past.
Now if salvation exhibits grace, then salvation must be free. How could God exhibit the exceeding riches of His grace and His kindness toward us if we did things in order to merit His salvation?
Charles Hodge writes, "From this it follows that whatever clouds the grace of God, or clashes with the gratuitous nature of the blessings promised in the Gospel, must be inconsistent with its nature and design. If the salvation of sinners be intended as an exhibition of the grace of God, it must of necessity be gratuitous."
Now verses 8-9, confirm the preceding declaration. The manifestation of the grace of God is the great end of redemption:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; Ephesians 2:8 NASB
Paul gives two lines of supporting evidence for his statement that God has saved us for the demonstration of the riches of His grace. Each of these begin with the word "for." The first is found in verses 8 and 9, the second in verse 10.
"For by grace..." —the word "grace" is: "chen" in Hebrew, and "charis" in Greek. The definite article appears before the word "grace" here, pointing us back to the same statement in verse 5:
even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), Ephesians 2:5 NASB
Paul is now expanding on this parenthetical outburst. So what is grace? From a concrete Hebraic perspective, chen means "providing protection" (see 1:2). How does Yahweh provide us protection? In Yeshua Ha'Moshiach, He is our wall of protection that continues. From a Greek perspective grace is God's unmerited favor. So grace is Yahweh providing protection that is totally unmerited. If you did anything to earn it or deserve it, it is not grace. If God owes it to you because you're a pretty good person or you've tried to do the best you can, it is not grace. If God gives it to you because He foresaw that you would believe in Him of your own free will, it is not grace. Grace means that you get the opposite of what you deserve. You deserve God's wrath because you have sinned against Him. Instead, He saves you by His grace.
Grace cuts directly against the grain of human thinking, because it is not fair. We value fairness. If someone does wrong, he should get what he has coming. If someone does right, he should be rewarded. But if someone does wrong and gets rewarded in spite of it, we protest, "That's not fair!"
If God were fair, we'd all be objects of His wrath, because we all have sinned. God did not compromise His righteousness or justice to forgive us. His justice demands that the penalty be paid. Yeshua paid the penalty on the cross for all that trust in Him. In that way, God can be both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Yeshua (Rom. 3:26). Trust me, you don't want fair.
"...You have been saved..."—and we have to ask, saved from what? The wrath of God. If we were not under God's wrath, then Yeshua didn't need to go to the cross and we don't need to be saved. But He did, and we do. To be saved means that the Yeshua has rescued us from God's wrath and judgment. As we saw in 2:1-3, we were formerly dead in our trespasses and sins, and "were by nature children of wrath."
The Greek word that was translated "saved" is sozo and it is in the perfect tense; this means that something was done and completed in the past yet continues to have present results. The Greek scholar Kenneth S. Wuest translated this verse, "For by grace have you been saved in time past completely, through faith, with the result that your salvation persists through present time; and this (salvation) is not from you as a source."
So we are saved by grace "...Through faith..."—when he says "though faith," he's talking about the instrumentality of our salvation. The biblical ordo salutis is that Yahweh in His grace gives us life, then we hear and respond to theGgospel by faith and are then saved. We believe, that is our response, God doesn't believe. We believe. But that response is something created in us by God. By grace are ye saved through the instrumentality of faith.
What is faith? Faith is a very important subject. Is faith abstract or concrete? Can you taste, touch, hear, smell, or see it? No, so our term faith is abstract. In Hebraic thought what does faith mean? It means: "to give support to," an "object of total trust ." We think of faith as simply believing certain things, but that is not Hebraic.
If someone asked you, "What is faith?" Could you explain it to them? Most Christians couldn't. John MacArthur in his commentary on Ephesians writes, "We're all creatures of faith. You live by faith everyday of your life. Every time you pop a lid off a Coca Cola and drink it, it's an act of faith. You don't have any idea what is in there." Drinking a Coke is not an act of faith, it is an act of foolishness because we do know what is in there. That Coke is loaded with genetically modified fructose corn syrup, which is very destructive to your health.
Some say that we live by faith every day. You turn on your faucet, fill a glass of water, and drink it—that's faith. You open a can of food, and you eat it—that's faith. Or you fly in an airplane— that's faith. Those things are not faith! That is simply putting into practice what is called the law of mathematical probability. You are saying to yourself, "Well, thousands of people do this everyday and everything is all right, so I'll do the same." I've grown up seeing people drink out of the faucet—that is not faith. I am not trusting the water that comes out of the faucet.
Trusting is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 CJB
When I come to the living God as a guilty sinner, who deserves wrath, trusting in Yeshua and Him alone for my redemption, I am engaged in an act of faith. I've never seen God. I've never seen this place called "heaven." I've never seen Yeshua the Christ. But by faith, those things which I cannot see become realities to me. They take on substance for me, and by faith, I gain assurance and conviction about things that my eyes cannot behold. That is what faith is all about.
For us to have faith we must first have knowledge. There is content that must be understood and believed. Some say, "It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere." That's like saying, "It doesn't matter what medicine you take, as long as you're sincere." It matters greatly that you take the right medicine in the right dose, or you could die!
To have faith in Christ we must first know something about Him. We cannot trust who we do not know. The question is what do we have to know about Him? Or to put it another way, what do we have to believe? This is where there are a multitude of answers. The list can become quite long. One commentator writes, "You must know that Yeshua is the eternal Son of God, who took on human flesh, born of the virgin Mary. He lived a perfect life and died on the cross as the substitute for sinners, paying on their behalf the penalty that God demands. But God raised Him from the dead and He ascended into heaven. He will return bodily to judge the living and the dead, but also to save all that have trusted in Him. These are basic facts, revealed in the Bible, that you must know to be saved."
So these are the "basic facts" that I have to believe? Do I have to understand and believe in the virgin birth to be saved? Where does the Bible say that? Do I have to believe in the future bodily return of Christ to be saved?
In Acts 11 Peter arrived back in Jerusalem from Caesarea and the Jews were upset because Peter ate with the uncircumcised Gentiles in Caesarea. So Peter describes to them what happened in Caesarea at the house of Cornelius:
"And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, 'Send to Joppa, and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; 14 and he shall speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.' Acts 11:13-14 NASB
In this account we have Peter's side of the story, rather than that of Cornelius. Peter furnishes us with one very important detail of the angel's message to Cornelius, which is not mentioned in the previous chapter. Notice what Peter adds that the angel tells Cornelius, "He shall speak words to you by which you will be saved." Peter is going to speak words, the Gospel, by which they will be saved. Peter announced to them all the doctrine of salvation. This reminds me of Romans 10:
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 NASB
Here, and in Acts 11, we see that men are saved by believing the words of the Gospel. We also learn exactly what is involved in the Gospel. What is it that a person has to believe in order to be saved? This is an important question. Is it not? Preterists have been labeled as non-Christians because of our view of eschatology. Is eschatology part of the Gospel. This question is easily answered by going to the words that Peter preached to Cornelius, since Cornelius was saved by these words, we know that they contain the Gospel. Let's look at Peter's words, keeping in mind that believing these words is what saves a person:
"The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Yeshua the Christ (He is Lord of all)— Acts 10:36 NASB
Peter's sermon begins here and ends in verse 43 with God as a Peacemaker through Yeshua the Christ. Peter lifts up Yeshua as the One through Whom God makes peace with His rebellious creation.
The fact that Christ preached peace implies that there is hostility and alienation between sinful men and the holy God. Many people are oblivious to such hostility. They do not understand God's absolute holiness and His hatred of all sin. While they admit that they aren't perfect, they see themselves as basically good. I think we must understand that God is angry with us, and therefore, we need a Savior.
Peter goes on:
"You know of Yeshua of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him. Acts 10:38 NASB
Yeshua of Nazareth tells us that Yeshua was true man Who existed in the flesh as a human being in a Galilean town, but One Whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power, so that in Him God walked on earth. The Lord of all had become a human like you and me (only without sin).
"And we are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. And they also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. Acts 10:39 NASB
Yeshua was put to death through crucifixion.
"God raised Him up on the third day, and granted that He should become visible, Acts 10:40 NASB
Yeshua is alive. He is alive because God did not abandon His Peacemaker in death. He raised Him from the dead. He vindicated Him and gave Him a name above every name.
The resurrection then becomes the heart of apostolic preaching, the heart of the Gospel, the heart of the "Good News."
"Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." Acts 10:43 NASB
"...Through His name..."—the name of Yeshua refers to His character, all that He is. and all that He did. Forgiveness is ONLY through Yeshua.
Now watch what happens next:
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. Acts 10:44 NASB
To have the Holy Spirit fall on them is to have salvation. To have the Spirit is to have life.
To believe in Yeshua means that I believe He is the Lord who gave Himself on the cross for my sins. I believe the promise of God, that whoever believes on Him receives eternal life as God's gift, not based on any human merit, but only on God's free grace. To believe in Yeshua means that I no longer rely on anything in myself to commend myself to God. Rather, I trust only in what Yeshua did on the cross as my hope for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
This is Peter's message, and this is the Gospel. Do you see anything in this Gospel message about works, or repentance, or eschatology? No, we see that Yeshua is the Peacemaker who reconciles us to Yahweh through His death and resurrection. God accepts Yeshua's sinless life and substitutionary death on my behalf. You have to believe that Yeshua can do for you what you cannot do for yourself. You have to believe that He overcame death, and He can do the same for you. Faith is trusting in Yeshua, and Him alone, for your salvation. You must know Him in order to trust Him, and you can only know Him as He is revealed in the Word.
To make sure that we don't make the mistake of thinking that God does the grace, and then we need to work up the faith within us to believe what God is saying, Paul says, and repeats in verse 8— look at it: "...And that not of yourselves..."—and what not of ourselves? What does "that" refer to? Is it the faith that is not of ourselves? Stay with me here we need to get technical with the Greek grammar for a minute. The demonstrative pronoun, "that," is neuter in gender and the words grace and faith are feminine. And some contend that the neuter pronoun cannot refer to the feminine noun. So they say it can't be referring to faith. Some jump on this to try to prove that faith is not something sovereignly given by God, but that it is something men decide to have by their free will.
First of all, it is wrong to assume that a neuter pronoun can never refer to a feminine noun in Greek. There are illustrations in Classical Greek in which demonstrative pronouns in the neuter gender may refer to feminine antecedents. So it is possible to interpret this, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that, faith, is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." But that is not how it would ordinary be translated. Generally, when a neuter pronoun refers to something in the preceding context, if there is not something neuter, specifically, some noun, it usually refers to a statement. That is most likely what we have here. He may be referring to the whole statement: "For by grace you have been saved through faith and that, that by grace through faith salvation is not of yourselves.
So even if "that" does not strictly refer to "faith" in this case, but to the whole idea of salvation by grace, this would not exclude faith it would refer to something more than faith, but would include faith.
Now if this "by grace through faith salvation" is not of ourselves, it's obvious that the grace is not of ourselves, by definition. Since the "grace" in salvation is by definition something that God gives and exercises, and not something produced or exercised by men, it would appear redundant and unnecessary to say that the "grace" is "not from yourselves." And faith is not of ourselves either, because the "by grace through faith salvation" is not of ourselves. If faith were of ourselves, he couldn't say, "by grace through faith salvation" is not of ourselves." So, when he says, that, not of ourselves, he means that our salvation is not of ourselves, faith included. Faith is the product of the working of God.
But since faith is something that we do, we believe, Yahweh doesn't believe, we do, there are those who mistake it as a product of our own will and power, thinking that we have faith because we decide to believe by our "free will." So it makes sense for Paul to clarify the matter, so that we would not conclude that grace comes from God, but faith comes from ourselves. The "by grace through faith salvation" is all of God!
Also the immediate context of the verse 1-10 of chapter 2, forbids the idea that man has any role in his own salvation. Verses 1-3 describe our spiritual depravity before conversion, saying that we were dead in sins. Then, verses 4-6 teach that it is by God's initiative—His love, grace, and kindness—that He has raised us from the dead and seated us with Christ. Verses 7-10 continue the above idea and are clearly intended to ascribe all the power and initiative to God in our salvation. These verses include expressions like, "by grace you have been saved," "this not from yourselves," "it is the gift of God," "not by works," "so that no one can boast," "we are God's workmanship."
The whole passage emphasizes our depravity and inability, and then God's grace and God's work. We were spiritually dead, and so every spiritual good produced in us comes from God's sovereign grace and power. So if you have a faith that comes from "free will" it contradicts the content and the intent of this entire section.
Charles Hodge writes, "The object of the apostle is to show the gratuitous nature of salvation. This is most effectually done by saying, 'Ye are not only saved by faith in opposition to works, but your very faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.'"
Paul goes on to say of salvation that, "...It is the gift of God"—salvation and everything involved in it is a gift of God. Although our faith is rightly said to be "our" faith, in the sense that it happens in our minds, it is in fact a gift from God— He is the one who produces this faith in us. Think back to the picture of a dead man. Can a dead man ask to be raised? Can he seek to ascend and be seated with Christ? Can he even believe it would be possible? No. He is dead. If we seek to add our faith to God's work, then salvation is a joint effort. And we share the glory with God.
When someone gives you a gift, you don't ask "How much do I owe you?" Your only response should be "Thank you very much." And if you need to pay them then it is not a gift, you bought it or earned it.
The word "gift" here is from the Greek word doron, which is very often used of sacrifices in the cultic system. It is often translated "offering." This word is used in:
For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. Hebrews 8:3 NASB
The word "gifts" here is doron. So what is Yahweh's gift? It is the Lord Yeshua the Christ Who was an offering for our salvation. Our salvation is a gift paid for by the sacrifice of Yeshua.
Paul goes on to say:
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:9 NASB
"Not as a result of works..."—it is by grace, it is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, and now he adds that it is not as a result of works. He is at pains to show that the entire process of salvation comes to us apart from anything in us or anything that we do.
Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. Romans 4:4 NASB
This verse teaches that had Abraham done some work to become saved, then his salvation would have been a reward, not the grace of God; God would have been indebted to Abraham to provide salvation. Later in Romans Paul writes:
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. Romans 11:6 NASB
The point here is that if election is based on anything we do, it is no longer grace. If we provide the decisive act in causing our election, it is no longer an "election of grace."
The Roman Catholic Church muddies the grace of God by teaching that we are saved by grace through faith, but not by grace through faith alone. Rather, we must cooperate by adding our works. And they are not alone in this. That's the Gospel of so many of our churches today: "Try your best! Work for God! Keep the commandments! Go to your church! Give to the poor! Do all you can! Be nice to your neighbor!"—but Yahweh our God says: "Not of works, lest any man should boast." Not of works. Listen to it! It's emphatic! No buts about it! You can't water it down! You'll never get into heaven by works!
Then Paul tells us why works play no part, "...So that no one may boast."—you can't boast because you didn't do anything. Paul tells the Corinthians:
but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise...so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Yeshua... 1 Corinthians 1:27-30 NASB
If any part of salvation, including the faith that saves, comes from us, then we have some grounds for boasting. No, Paul says, if salvation is totally of the Lord, then He gets all the glory.
"I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images. Isaiah 42:8 NASB
People don't want a Gospel of grace where they don't do anything. They want to add something even if it is just a little bit. They want, at the end of the day, for there to be a brass plaque where, at least, it says: This person added a little bit to his salvation. They want some of the glory.
Ephesians 2:1-10 presents us with the Gospel as a God-centered Gospel. It contains no opportunity for human boasting, but only the grace of God, resulting in the glory of God. If there's the least bit of you that thinks you're going to get to heaven by anything to do with you—you, my friend, are in trouble.
The Bible gives no one the right to claim "I was wiser than you and more spiritually minded than you, for I exercised my free will and believed." No, belief is a gift and not a cause for boasting.
Believer, understanding that your salvation is all of grace should greatly humble you. You were dead in sin, blind, rebellious. And then, by grace alone, you were awakened to the beauty of Christ crucified for sinners. And, by grace alone, you believed. And when asked, "Why are you saved and others are not?", Your answer is not, I'm smarter, or it's not even I believed and they didn't. Your answer with tears streaming down your face is, "Because of the gracious choice of my loving God."
|Continue the Series|