In the last post, we began our journey through the book of Ephesians. I titled this series, “Gods Glory Manifest in the Church.” We looked at chapter 1 of Ephesians—a magnificent chapter about all of our blessings in Christ. We saw that God . . .
- Chose us before the foundation of the world.
- Predestined us for adoption as sons.
- Redeemed us through his blood.
- Forgave us all our sins.
- Gave us an inheritance.
- Sealed us for the day of redemption.
Which brings us to chapter 2 for this post. Today, we’ll cover verses 1–10, “Reconciled to God.” Let’s jump right in to this marvelous passage.
Ephesians 2:1-10 1 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— 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.
This chapter deals especially with the relationship between Jews and Gentiles. In fact, you’ll see that Paul uses the pronouns we and us when talking about Jews, and you when talking to the Gentile believers who are hearing this letter.
Man’s Problem: Dead in Sin
First, let’s look at man’s problem. In verses 1–3, Paul diagnoses the human condition. Do you ever wonder why things in the world are so bad? Why are there drug cartels who are unconcerned with the lives that are ruined through addiction and the people that die from overdoses? Why do serial killers and mass shooters take life so casually? Why is there human trafficking at the scale that there is today? And abortion? Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, when we remember the millions killed by abortion and renew our commitment to speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves. But why is that even an issue? Why do we see ethnic cleansing and racism? Not to mention hatred and rebellion and pornography and self-centeredness. I could go on and on.
Well, Paul gives us the answer in verses 1–3. Paul says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (2:1).
Man is born spiritually dead—alienated from God, without life, without hope, without a relationship with God. Yes, they are alive, physically, but dead, spiritually.
Paul says “you were dead.” Then later he says “we also” and then “the rest of mankind.” This describes you Gentiles, we Jews, in fact, everybody—all mankind. And apart from God’s grace, apart from Christ, this is where everyone is.
According to these verses, three opposing forces of evil are responsible for holding man in this state of spiritual death and rebellion against God.
The first of these is the world: in verse two Paul says they were “. . . following the course of this world . . .” Here, the word world (kosmos) means the anti-God system of this age—all that is opposed to God—the world’s values and systems and structures and practices that are opposed to God.
The nature of the unregenerate man is attracted to and responds to the direction of the world; he follows the course of this world. He is enthralled and influenced by the spirit of this age—materialism, humanism, the world’s priorities, its idols, what it promotes and tolerates and says is important.
But, of course, many people are religious—but that’s part of the spirit of the age also. Part of this world is highly organized, false religious systems. The world promotes spirituality and religion, just not true Christianity.
Men and women are dead to God, but quite alive to that world, susceptible to all its influences.
But believers are alive to God and are to be dead to the world. James warns believers not to be friends with the world (James 4:4). John says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15). And Paul in Romans 12 commands us to not be conformed to the world. The world is no friend of grace. This evil world system will never help anyone find their way to God.
The second of the opposing forces responsible for holding man in the state of spiritual death is Satan, or the devil. Paul said that in times past you followed “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (2:2). Satan is called the god of this world. He is the one behind the world system and its values.
You know, people like to talk about being free, doing what they want, doing what feels good. But in reality, no unbeliever is free. He’s captive to the world system; he’s captive to Satan. Paul wrote this to Timothy.
2 Timothy 2:24–26 24 The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, 25 instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. 26 Then they may come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
Unbelievers are not free; they are captives. They are doing the will of the devil even though they don’t know it. They are part of Satan’s kingdom. Our job is to not be quarrelsome, but to be gentle, patient, teaching unbelievers and praying that God will grant them repentance. They are not our enemy; they are victims of the enemy, being held captive by the devil.
But you who have been born again were born anew into God’s kingdom, and you were rescued from the power of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God’s Son.
The unsaved man is still in Satan’s kingdom, and therefore is Satan’s slave Paul says in 2 Corinthians that:
2 Corinthians 4:4 “the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”.
If you are a rebel against God, then you are ruled by Satan, and he will continue his evil work in you to keep you separated from God. It is only Christ who can deliver you from evil.
And then finally, those who are spiritually dead are held in separation from God, not only by the world and the devil but also by the flesh. Verse 3: “. . . among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (2:3).
An unbeliever, a spiritually dead person, is captive to this world system, captive to Satan, and captive to their own fleshly desires. Notice Paul says, not only you, Gentiles, but us Jews, too; we all yielded to the desires of the flesh, doing whatever our body and mind told us to do. Slaves to sin, is another way to put it.
Result: Children of Wrath
Then Paul ends this rather depressing section by saying that what all of this means is that all people, apart from Christ, are by nature “children of wrath” (v. 3). That means that they are characterized by those who deserve wrath. They are under God’s wrath. The very nature of unredeemed people is opposed to God, enslaved to Satan, and under God’s judgment. Jesus said,
John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Those are sobering verses—things we’d probably rather not talk about. If you are here this morning and you don’t know Christ, you’ve never repented of your sin and rebellion and asked him to save you from your sin, to give you new life, to rescue you from the punishment you deserve, then these verses describe you. In fact, they describe everyone in this room before we came to faith.
When a person enters this world, they are spiritually dead, cut off from the life of God. They don’t need reformation; they don’t need more education; they don’t need better self-esteem; they don’t need a class on moral living; they don’t need cleaner air and water. What they need is new life; they need resurrection.
And that’s what Paul now comes to in verses 4 to 6.
God’s Provision: Alive in Christ
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.
The transition from these forces of evil that separate us from God and hold us in spiritual death, to the redemption and rescue of God is marked in verse 4 with two of the greatest words in the entire Bible: “But God.” We were separated from God by the world, the devil, and the flesh, “but God!” But God intervened. Were it not for his divine intervention, all of us would still be dead in our sins and separated from him.
Set in contrast to these three forces of evil that hold us in spiritual death, Paul revels in three attributes of God that are exhibited in our salvation. First is God’s mercy: “But God, being rich in mercy . . .” (2:4). Praise God for his mercy, for it was mercy that we needed. What is mercy? Mercy is not giving sinners what they deserve. Psalm 103:10 is probably as good a definition of this anywhere.
Psalm 103:10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
Mercy speaks of what God doesn’t do to us even though we deserve it.
When the holy and eternal God who hates sin, loves and saves the sinner, that is mercy. In chapter one we saw “the riches of his grace” (1:7) and “the riches of his glory” (1:18), and here we see the riches of his mercy. Peter says:
1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
And Paul wrote to Titus:
Titus 3:5 He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy . . .
We have a merciful God. Amen?! We would still be dead in our trespasses and sins if it were not for God’s mercy.
Not only did God show great mercy in saving us, but next Paul mentions God’s love: “. . . because of the great love with which he loved us” (2:4). Rich in mercy and great in love! Where would we be without the love of God? Scripture says that it was because of God’s love that he gave his Son for us.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
I love the words to the hymn, “The Love of God”:
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
Where would be without God’s mercy and love? But Paul’s not done yet.
Finally, Paul speaks of God’s grace. Verses 5: “By grace you have been saved.” And he’ll repeat that again in verse 8. While mercy is not giving us what we deserve, grace is giving us what we don’t deserve. And Scripture is full of God’s grace toward us.
2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
Titus 3:7 . . . so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
God’s mercy delivers me from the punishment my sins deserve; God’s grace gives me an inheritance in heaven. God’s mercy sets aside my unrighteousness; God’s grace gives me the righteousness of Christ. God’s mercy frees me from slavery to sin and Satan; God’s grace makes me his son.
God owes me nothing, but he offers me everything. That is grace. Aren’t you grateful for God’s mercy, love, and grace this morning?
Made Alive, Raised Up, Seated
But what did God’s mercy, love and grace accomplish for me? What did I desperately need, being dead in trespasses and sins? God made us alive. We were spiritually dead; now we have been made spiritually alive.
When you were saved, your old man died with Christ, and God’s Spirit gave you new life—it’s called being born again, becoming a new creation. You were given a life you never possessed before. The life-giving power that God demonstrated when he raised Jesus from the dead is the same power at work in giving new life to the sinner who is spiritually dead.
The second miracle of God’s mercy, love, and grace is that he “raised us up with Christ” (2:6). He raised us from the dead, then he raised us up. Just as Christ was made alive and then ascended to heaven, God has given to us new life and a new position.
And then the third miracle of God’s mercy, love, and grace is that he “seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (2:6). Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven where God has highly exalted him and where he sits at God’s right hand. And because we are “in Christ,” those things happened to us, too, spiritually. Because we are “in Christ,” all that Jesus experienced, we experienced in a spiritual sense. Aren’t you grateful for God’s mercy, love, and grace?!
God’s Purpose: The Praise of His Grace
So, what was God’s purpose in making dead people alive, in rescuing us from the world, the devil, and our flesh? Remember last week, that repeated phrase: “To the praise of his grace”? Paul says that same thing here, but puts it this way in verse 7: “. . . so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
God’s ultimate purpose in our salvation is to magnify his grace. In fact, he did all that he did for us so that in the ages to come—for millions and millions of years—the vast and immeasurable riches of God’s grace and kindness to us might be displayed. Wow.
Christian, you are part of something much larger than yourself, or this church. You are an integral part of God’s cosmic plan for the ages. And what this verse says is that God wants to continue to show you the riches of his kindness and grace throughout eternity.
Saved by Grace
Then comes the famous verses that I’m sure all of you know, or at least you should know: “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.”
God’s grace will be demonstrated for all eternity, because you were saved by grace, not by works. If you had been saved by your works, then you could boast, then you could detract from the riches of God’s grace. But Paul says you can’t boast—you didn’t have anything to do with your salvation—you were dead, lifeless. It was all of grace; you contribute nothing.
Unto Good Works
But lest we think that works have nothing to do with salvation, Paul pens verse 10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
You are a piece of work—God’s work. When Paul says that you are God’s “workmanship,” the Greek word he chose is poiema. It means creation, work, and we get the English word poem from it. What Paul had in mind is a work of masterful creativity. Paul selected this word carefully.
Think of some of the great poets—Keats, Wordsworth, Dickinson, Dante, Milton, Homer—their works are nothing compared to God’s poetry. You are an epic poem, written by God himself. Like all good poetry, your poem contains both comedy and tragedy and drama. All of it written by God himself for the praise of his grace!
Next Paul says, yes, you are saved by grace through faith, but true faith always produces good works.
When God made you alive in Christ—when he re-created you in Christ Jesus—it was to result in good works. But notice that even these good works are a result of God’s prior work; he’s the one who prepared them for us to walk in them. And he’s the one that enables us to do them. You can’t take credit for any works that led to your salvation, and you can’t take credit for any good works that follow your salvation.
Just as a great poem shows the creativity and intellect and skill of the poet, so your life is to demonstrate the one who created you and is crafting you into his image.
I want to highlight one more Greek word that Paul uses both at the beginning and at the end of this passage. It’s the Greek word peripateō. It literally means “to walk around” or “to walk through.” It is translated as “walk,” but it has to do with our lifestyle, our conduct, the path that we are walking.
At the beginning of this passage, Paul said: “you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” That was the path we were on; that was our lifestyle. And then at the end, in verse 10, he says God prepared good works beforehand, “that we should walk in them.” That’s our new path, our new lifestyle.
Just as a spiritually dead person who is captive to Satan will live a lifestyle characterized by trespasses and sins, because that’s their nature, so a saved person who is “created in Christ,” a person who is God’s workmanship, will live a lifestyle characterized by good works, because that’s their nature.
Our identity, our nature, determines our conduct. Or to reverse it, our conduct reveals our identity, or our nature.
Unbelievers walk in trespasses and sins—that’s what they do. Believers walk in good works—that’s what we do. If you’ve been born again, if you are a new creation in Christ, your conduct will show it.
Jesus told his followers that all men would know they are his disciples—how? If they have love for one another. John said that no one who is born of God can hate his brother. James says that a faith without good works is a dead faith.
It is our walk—our conduct, our lifestyle, and especially our unity (as we’ll see later in Ephesians)—that shows to a watching world that we are Christians. They don’t care about our slogans, our statements of faith, our nice church buildings, or even our great apologetic arguments. They want to see the reality of a new life.
I’m sure that God’s Holy Spirit can take these truths and impress them on your heart and your life. But let me just state two things by way of application.
- Where are you in this passage? Are you in verses 1–3? Dead in trespasses and sins? Captive to this world system? Enslaved and blinded by Satan? Following after your lusts? If you want true freedom, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, then I urge you to come to Christ. Call on God today and ask him to save you. And he will, because he’s a God rich in mercy, abounding in love, and full of grace. He will give you new life and begin to remake you into his image.
- If you are a believer, do you realize that you are God’s workmanship? He is writing your life as an epic poem to give him glory and praise. And he doesn’t make mistakes. All the drama, all the tragedy, all the comedy—it’s his work to bring himself glory and praise.
So, let me ask you: are you walking a different path than before? Is there evidence of Christ’s new life in you? Is your lifestyle characterized by good works? Are you extending the mercy, love, and grace to others that God has shown to you?
As believers, we have much to be grateful for: new life, forgiveness of sins, God’s ongoing mercy, love, and grace in our lives. He has put us on a new path, a path that he is writing.
But it is not for ourselves. It is for his glory, to magnify his grace. Our lives are to demonstrate the grace of God and the gospel. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”