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)


Ephesians 2:6-10
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 (Eph. 1:3).  

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 receive it.  

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 alone."    

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 3:19).

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 indignation...."

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 not.  

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. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
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Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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