The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
June 10, 2012
1) Ephesians 2:6-10 (Tom Edwards)
by Tom Edwards
In Ephesians 2:6, Paul points out that Christians have been "raised"
up with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly places. But
when and how does this occur? The Bible shows that this takes
place for the penitent believer in baptism. For instance,
Colossians 2:12 states, "having been buried with Him in baptism, in
which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working
of God, who raised Him from the dead." So baptism is the "in
which" that one is raised up from -- and raised up to "walk in
newness of life," according to Romans 6:4, which Paul shows to be
one of the purposes for baptism. Baptism, therefore, is
part of God's plan of salvation. For baptism puts one into
Christ (Gal. 3:26,27), where one obtains redemption and forgiveness
of sins (v. 7; Col. 1:14), along with all other spiritual blessings
We noted in an earlier lesson that the phrase "heavenly places,"
which is used five times exclusively in the Ephesian letter, is not
always standing for the same thing. One of the definitions for
"heavenly" is "of a heavenly origin or nature." And, in this
passage, that can pertain to the church or the kingdom; for it has
been established by Christ Himself (Matt. 16:18,19). In
addition, when we think of God's word that directs our service and
worship, we are made aware of the spiritual or heavenly atmosphere
that will be developed, if we follow it. So being in the
church is one sense in which we are in a heavenly place.
Another thought on Ephesians 2:6, however, is that we who truly
belong to the Lord have been blessed with special rights and
privileges of heaven. Corresponding to that is what Paul
declares in Philippians 3:20: "For our citizenship is in heaven,
from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus
Christ." Though we are still striving for heaven and are here
on earth as aliens, strangers, or pilgrims (cf. 1 Pet. 2:11), our
citizenship in heaven gives us certain rights and privileges that
far exceed that of any earthly citizenship, such as the Roman
citizenship of Paul's day that did provide some special
benefits. So those greater benefits acquired through Christ
are some of the blessings the Christian receives when raised up with
Him through baptism.
Paul then says in Ephesians 2:7, "so that in the ages to come He
might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us
in Christ Jesus." We often think of "ages," from the Greek
word "aion," as referring to dispensations or long periods of
time. So as time goes on and until it ceases, God's grace will
still be available for all who will meet the Lord's conditions to
We can also infer from this passage that the Lord's second coming
was not merely days nor weeks away, as some of the early Christians
apparently thought. But, of course, even if His return is
still a long time off, that might not be the case for our final day
on this planet. So we must always be ready for His return by
being loyal citizens in His kingdom.
Paul then declares in Ephesians 2:8,9, "For by grace you have been
saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of
God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." We
saw that Paul had also parenthetically mentioned this in verse 5,
that "by grace you have been saved." Here, in verse 8,
however, we learn that it is not by mere grace alone; but, rather,
"grace through faith." That very phrase, "grace through
faith," indicates to us that one's salvation is not totally up to
God; but, rather, involves God and man. For the Lord extends
His grace, but man has the responsibility toward acquiring that
through faith. If, however, man were saved by mere grace
alone, then every lost soul would be saved; for God's grace has
appeared to all men, according to Titus 2:11; and the Lord wants
none to perish (2 Pet. 3:9).
In addition, we then learn in James 2 about the type of faith that
saves; and it is an obedient faith. For James warns that
"faith without works is dead" (v. 26). So we can conclude that
salvation by grace does not eliminate man's need to obey. Nor
does that obedient faith nullify the grace of God, as many people
think. Rather, obedience makes faith effectual (cf. James
2:20-24). Ironically, James 2:24 is the only verse in all the
Bible that uses the phrase "faith only" or "faith alone," which so
many people often speak of as being all that is necessary for
salvation; yet the very verse shows the exact opposite: "You see
that a man is justified by works and not by faith
Actually, there are many things that the Bible shows that work
together for our salvation; and we could place them all in one of
two categories: One pertaining to God's part, and the other
pertaining to man's. But all working together for the
salvation of one's soul, such as God's lovingkindness; Jesus'
atonement; the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God; the gospel; and
other things as well, pertaining to what God has done and will
do. And then there are those things that fall upon our
individual responsibility, such as in hearing the gospel and
believing in Jesus, repenting of sins, confessing faith in Christ,
being baptized, living faithfully (which involves many things in
itself) in order to obtain heaven.
Therefore, to say that one is "saved by the blood of Jesus only," or
"saved by faith only," or "saved by grace only" will automatically
eliminate everything else the Bible says that one is saved by.
So that wouldn't be right. For man is not saved by only one
thing, as we just saw; but a plurality of things. Consider,
for instance, Luke 6:46: "And why do you call me, Lord, Lord, and do
not do the THINGS which I say?" (emphasis mine).
We can liken this to the things which keep our physical bodies
alive: food, water, air, the sunlight, to name a few. Is it
wrong to say that food keeps us alive? Or water keeps us
alive? Or the air, etc.? No. But what if we say "food
only keeps us alive" or "water only"? Or "the air only"? Then
that would no longer be true. For all these sources work
together to sustain our physical existence, just as various things
are necessary for our soul's salvation.
Paul also brings to the attention of the Ephesians that their
salvation is "not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph.
2:8). The grace God shows to man, and even the faith that man
acquires, are gained through the gospel, which the Lord has
freely given. And because this salvation is a gift from God then it
is "not as a result of works," as Paul shows in verse 9. In
other words, though there are necessary conditions that must be met
for salvation, it cannot be said that salvation is ever earned or
merited as a result. So "not as a result of works" does not
exclude the fact that there is a plan of salvation that must be
submitted to in order to benefit from the grace of God. And
since salvation is not earned nor merited, then there is no room for
boasting in ourselves, as verse 9 also points out.
"Works" in the gospel is often referring to "the works of the Law"
of Moses (cf. Rom. 3:20). No one can be saved by those
works. Jesus abolished that Law by His death on the cross
(Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:14). But this is not to say that
Christians are not under any law today -- for they are. Though
Paul was not under the Law of Moses, he also acknowledged that he
was not "without the law of God but under the law of Christ" (1 Cor.
9:21). James refers to the gospel as being "the perfect law,
the law of liberty" (Jms. 1:25) and implies that there could be no
true spiritual freedom without it. Clearly, we are to be under
laws of God in our time. So though we are no longer under the
works of the Law of Moses, there are other "works" for our
dispensation that we must submit to. For example, Jesus refers
to even believing in Him as being "the work of God" that we must do
(John 6:28,29). Paul also couples faith and work in the phrase
"work of faith," along with "labor of love," in 1 Thessalonians
1:3. In Romans 15:25,26, Paul speaks of the gospel as being
that which "...has been made known to all the nations, leading to
OBEDIENCE OF FAITH" (emphasis mine).
Repentance is that which should follow the one who truly believes in
Jesus; and Paul, by the Holy Spirit, had instructed others to
"...repent and turn to God, PERFORMING DEEDS appropriate to
repentance" (Acts 26:20, emphasis mine).
Prior to baptism, there is also a need for an individual
acknowledging his or her faith in Christ. Confessing is an
action. Paul shows that it is made "unto salvation" (Rom.
10:10). But it is not merely a one-time thing. Rather,
it is to be "held fast to," according to Hebrews 4:14: "Therefore,
since we have a great high priest who has passed through the
heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our
confession." In confessing Christ as Lord, wouldn't that be an
empty confession unless one has truly accepted Jesus as Lord over
one's life? For "Lord" means "ruler." So would it
not be hypocritical to acknowledge Him as Lord, but to then reject
His commands and rulership? In the context, these who "hold
fast" to their "confession" are those who have truly given
themselves over to Jesus Christ. For notice what the following
verses go on to say: "For we do not have a high priest who cannot
sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all
things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near
with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15,16).
Following the initial confession, baptism is the next step. It
is commanded by God and for the remission of sins: "...'Repent, and
each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the
forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy
Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
There is only one plan of salvation. Therefore, everyone must
do the same things to be saved; but these conditions are not all
laid out in just one passage. Note, for instance, Acts 3:19,
"Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away,
in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the
Lord[.]" When we parallel this passage with Acts 2:38, what is
at least one of the things that would be involved in the returning
that Peter speaks of in Acts 3:19? It would be baptism:
"repent, and be baptized" (Acts 2:38); "repent and return" (Acts
Through faith in Christ, repentance, confession of one's faith in
Jesus, and water baptism, one does return to the Lord and receive
the forgiveness of all past sins, thus becoming a Christian, a new
creature in Christ. And even after doing all those things, one
still has not earned or merited salvation. Rather, it remains
a gift from God by His grace; and, therefore, there is no room for
boasting in oneself.
Some people today might wonder what God's will is for them.
This is summed up in Ephesians 2:10: "For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared
beforehand so that we would walk in them." Commenting on this,
J.W. Shepherd writes, "When men hear of salvation irrespective of
works, they are apt to fancy that works are of little use, and do
not need to be carefully done. On the contrary, they are part of the
divine decree, and if professed believers, are not living a life of
good works, they have no reason to believe that they have been saved
by grace." Going along with this, the Bible shows that we as
Christians are to be holy, and without that holiness "no man shall
see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). So holiness is a way of
life. It involves our thoughts, our speech, our conduct; and
its importance can also be seen in Romans 2:5-11. For God
"...will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who
by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and
immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious
and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and
The good works that the Lord has planned for each of us to do are
those works that find authority in God's word. For, as Paul
declares, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for
teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in
righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for
every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16,17).
So these are just some of the many passages that make it clear that
it is God's will for the Christian to engage in good works -- and
this principle has always been so. Even back in the Old
Testament period, God's people were to "diligently keep the
commandments of the Lord" (Deut. 6:17). And that, along with
fearing God, summed up the whole duty of man, according to
Ecclesiastes 12:13. So when people wonder why they are here on
earth, that passage really puts it all in a nutshell: We are all
here to reverence God and to obey Him.
And why is this all important? First of all, because it is
what the Lord commands; and obeying Him is always the right thing to
do. And also because "... we must all appear before the
judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his
deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or
bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).
Since we are the Lord's workmanship and created for good works, then
to not do those good works makes us like "defective products," not
doing what we were designed to do. Of course, the fault is not
with God, for He has given to each of us a free will. Therefore, it
is up to each one to choose whether he or she will obey the Lord or
E.M. Zerr also used a similar analogy with God being like a man who
makes a mechanism that is designed to do certain things. It is
not the mechanism that receives the credit for what it does, but
rather the one who made it. Even so, the Lord should receive
the credit for any good that we can do. For when you think
about it, are there not various ways in which He helps us in
that? First, man is born with an innate sense of some things
that are right and wrong, which the Lord made possible.
Secondly, to really clarify it and improve man's discernment between
right and wrong, the Lord has given us His word that declares these
things. Thirdly, the Lord also provides us through His word
with plenty of incentive or motivation to do what is right.
And, fourthly, our very existence (which, of course, is required for
us to do what is right) would not even be possible without the
Lord. He not only enabled our conception, birth, and
development; but also has maintained our existence by providing the
necessities of life: food, water, air, the sunlight, etc. -- those
things that help us keep alive. So when we look "behind the
scenes" to see what all goes in to our being able to do a good deed,
we can see how dependent we really are on God -- though many of
these things we might just wrongly take for granted. Let us,
therefore, be mindful of God and of His ways, and do our part in
carrying out our main purpose for being here: to reverence God and
faithfully serve Him! For He has created us to do so and has
brought the redeemed into a special relationship, by His grace and
through saving faith, so that they can.
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in
Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
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evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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