Amazing Grace

Ephesians 2

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
February 2019

We are studying the book of Ephesians.  We come today to a classic passage.  It is one of the most famous verses in the Bible.  Most of us are familiar with this passage.  We have read it many times and probably could quote it.  It is one of the clearest statements on salvation in the Bible.

If you want to know how to be saved, this passage tells you.  If you are saved, it also contains a very powerful application to your life.  This passage could change your life.  This passage answers two basic questions, as Chuck Swindoll points out:  How are we saved? and What difference does salvation make in our life?

So far in Ephesians 2 we have seen three topics.  Ephesians 2:1-3 deals with MAN.  It is all about human depravity and sinfulness (sons of disobedience, living in lusts).  Ephesians 2:4-7 deals with GOD (God’s kindness, God’s mercy, God’s love).  In fact, those verse start with the words ‘but God.”  Ephesians 2:8-10 deals with SALVATION.  It tells us how we are saved.  It also tells us how we are not saved.

Myths about Salvation

There are a lot of myths in the world today that people believe about salvation.  Many of these myths are common.  Every one of them are false but many people believe them. Two of these myths are refuted in our passage in Ephesians.

1) Everyone goes to heaven

Some think that everyone is going to heaven.  It is called universalism.  Of course, if everyone goes to heaven, there would be no heaven.  If everyone goes to heaven, that would mean that Hitler would be in heaven.  it would mean that Charles Manson would be in heaven.  It would mean that the devil would be in heaven and that would not be heaven.  The truth is that everyone does not go to heaven.  How do we know?

The Bible says that many are excluded.  There are many passages which tell you who will not be in heaven.  Revelation 21:27 says that some will be outside of heaven.  The Bible teaches that there is a heaven and a hell.  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV).  The Bible teaches that those who reject Christ, do perish.

2) There is more than one way to get to heaven

That is the common view in society (religious pluralism).  Jesus answered, “I am THE way and THE truth and THE life. NO ONE comes to the Father except THROUGH ME. (John 14:6 NIV).  Jesus didn’t say that there are many ways to the Father.  You can come through me.  You can come to the Father through Muhammad or Buddha.

He said that no one can come through the Father, except through Him.  He is “the way,” not one of many ways.  Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  There are many ways to hell but only one way to heaven.

3) Salvation can be earned

This is what most people believe.  If your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, you get in.  We will see in this passage that salvation is NOT by works.  Paul could not have said it any clear than he did.  This is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast (NIV).

There is nothing you can do to contribute to your salvation.  Living a moral life will not save you.  Tring to be a good neighbor will not save you.  Going to church will not save you.  Getting baptized will not save you.  Giving to the church or tithing will not save you.  Going on mission trips will not save you.  Giving to the poor will not save you.  Reading your Bible and praying every day will not save you.  There is absolutely nothing you can do to earn salvation.  Only Jesus can save you.

If salvation were by works, we would be able to boast.  We earned our way into heaven.  Paul specifically says that we are not saved by works “lest any man should boast.”  No one in heaven will be boasting or bragging about their accomplishments or their spirituality.  In fact, Paul says if we could earn our salvation, then Jesus would not have had to die. If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21 NIV)

4) Salvation can be lost

If salvation is a gift, can God take the gift back?  Can salvation be lost?  If you could earn salvation by good works, then you could lose it by bad works.  We do not save ourselves and we do not keep ourselves saved.  We are kept by the power of God (I Peter 1:5).  Ephesians 4:30 says that at salvation we are sealed until the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30).

5) Everyone who claims to be saved is saved

Many who think they are going to heaven will actually end up in hell and they will be surprised.  Jesus said so.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)

Many people think they are saved just because they go to church or just because they have been baptized or just because they have made an outward profession of faith or are outwardly moral or just because they feel saved.  That is a troubling verse.  Sadly, this does not just describe a few people in the church.  It describes many people (Matthew 7:22).

6) Some people are born saved

Many think that if they are born in a Christian family that they are saved.  They believe in salvation by heritage.  The Jews thought they were saved because they had Abraham as their father.  They were related to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born NOT OF NATURAL DESCENT, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:11-13 NIV)

7) If you attend a particular church you are saved

Many think if you are Baptist, you are going to heaven.  Becoming a member of a local church, even a good one does not guarantee that you are going to heaven.  The only name under heaven by which we must be saved is not the name of the Baptists or the Presbyterians or the Pentecostals but the name of Jesus.

8) If you are saved, you cannot know it

Many believe that there is no way to know for sure if you will go to heaven.  You just have to wait until you die.  In fact, if you claim to know now, you are simply arrogant.  God is the only one who knows but that is not what the Bible teaches.  The Bible teaches that you can know for sure if you are going to heaven.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13 NIV).  He does not write so people will hope to have eternal life or wish to have but so that people will know if they have it.  It is possible to have an assurance of salvation.

9) All good people go to heaven

Most people think if you are a moral person and live a decent life, you will be in heaven.  The Pharisees were outwardly moral people.  They were religious.  Nicodemus was one of them.  Jesus said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV).  The Bible says that in one sense none of us are good.  In God’s eyes of absolute perfection, we are all sinners and there is “none that does good” (Romans 3:12).  All our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6 NIV).

10) If you are saved, works do not matter

Some actually teach this.  It is a form of heresy called antinomianism.  They teach that you can live any way you want.  You can be rapist or murderer but as long as you believe in Jesus, you will go to heaven.  The Bible does not teach that and Paul does not teach that here in Ephesians 2.  Notice what Paul says.  Salvation is NOT by works (Ephesians 2:9) but it is UNTO good works (Ephesians 2:10).  God is not against good works, but works are not the CAUSE of salvation.  They are the RESULT of salvation.  Good works come after salvation, not before it.

Four Important Truths about Salvation

1. The SOURCE of salvation is God

That is the first lesson from this passage.  The picture is not of man reaching up to God but of God reaching down to man in mercy and grace.  Salvation was not man’s idea.  It was God’s idea. The Bible says that Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9).  It does not originate with man. It originates with God’s kindness, mercy and love.   Man was dead in transgressions and sins in slave to lusts, following Satan and then we see the two words “but God.”

2. The CAUSE of salvation is grace

It is BY GRACE you have been saved.  Paul says that twice in this chapter (Ephesians 2:5, 8).  We are not saved by faith.  We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8).  We are justified by grace (Titus 3:7). That is the difference between Christianity and every other religion.  Christianity is the only religion based on the concept of pure grace.

God is a god of grace.  He does not just have a little grace.  He has a lot of it.  Ephesians 2:7 says, “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (NIV). God wants to display His grace for all eternity. We will be trophies of grace.  He saves people by grace.

What is Grace?

What does grace mean?  Many people do not understand grace. Paul says what grace is and what it is not.  How does Paul describe grace?

For it is by grace you have been saved….and this is NOT from yourselves, it is the gift of God-NOT by works

Catholics believe that grace is connected to works. We must activate it through our effort and our good works.  We are told in this passage that it is the OPPOSITE of works.  Salvation is BY grace and NOT by works.  It is NOT by ourselves.  Grace and works are mutually exclusive.  They are complete opposites. Works-based grace is an oxymoron.  Paul does not just say that salvation is not by works of the law.  It is not by any kind of works.

And if by grace, then it CANNOT be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:6 NIV).

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:4 NIV)

Grace is the opposite of works.  It is the opposite of merit.  It is unearned.  It is free.  It is “to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has FREELY given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:6 NIV).

Paul calls salvation in our passage a gift.  He calls salvation ‘the gift of God” in Ephesians 2:8. Salvation is a gift, not a reward.  You do not work for a gift.  It is not just a gift, it is a free gift. We are all are justified FREELY by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24 NIV)

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. (Isaiah 55:1 NIV)

What have we learned about grace?  It is the way God saves us.  Grace is UNEARNED.  It is UNMERITED.  You can’t work for it.  It is FREE.  It is also UNDESERVED.  Salvation is not just a gift.  It is a gift given to people who do not deserve it.  Salvation is for people who do not deserve it.

Salvation is by grace.  Grace needs to be distinguished from justice and mercy.  JUSTICE is getting what you deserve.  MERCY is not getting what you deserve.  GRACE is getting what you don’t deserve.

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 NIV)

This is grace for people who are dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).  It is grace for people who are sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2;2).  It is grace who people who are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).  They deserve God’s wrath for their sins.  This grace is for people who are living in sins, following various lusts and for people who had been under the control of Satan.

3. The MEANS of salvation is faith

We are not saved until we believe, and God does not believe for us.  We are saved by grace, but God does not force His grace on anyone.  Salvation is a gift, but you have to accept the gift.  Someone could offer you a gift.  It may be a good gift.  It may be a gift that you really need but people decline gifts all of the time.  They say, “Thanks but no thanks.  I don’t want the gift.  I do not need the gift.  You take it.”

There is a famous story that many preachers have told.  It is a true story about a man named George Wilson.  In 1829, he committed a crime and was tried and found guilty.  He was sentenced to death.  President Andrew Jackson pardoned him, but he rejected the pardon.  In 1833, the case went before the Supreme Court (United States v. Wilson).  The Supreme Court said that a pardon is an act of grace and cannot be forced on anyone.

George Wilson refused a presidential pardon and chose to die instead.  Many today are just like him.  Jesus died for the sins of the world.  He offers a full pardon of all of our sins.  Though our sins are red as crimson, they can become as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18), yet many refuse that pardon today.  They reject the offer and choose to die in their own sins.

What happens when you believe?  You are saved.  Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31 ESV).  What does it mean to be saved in the context of Ephesians?  it means that you are forgiven all of your trespasses (Ephesians 1:7). It means that souls which are completely dead in trespasses and sins become alive and are raised form the dead (Ephesians 2:5).  It means that we are given the Holy Spirit inside us (Ephesians 1:13-14).

4. The PURPOSE of salvation is good works

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

Two Powerful Truths

1) We are God’s workmanship

We are His workmanship.  He is the artist.  The Greek word for workmanship is ποιημα.  We get the words “poem” and “poetry” from this word but the Greek word does not mean poem. It means handiwork.  it is used two times in the NT, both times by Paul.

The word ποιημα is used in Romans 1:20 of the physical universe.  It is used of CREATION.  It is also used of CHRISTIANS.  It is used of believers. It is used in Ephesians 2:10 of sinners who have been redeemed.  God did not just make the the sunset, the Grand Canyon and the Alps. He made us.  We are his greatest work of art.  Salvation is not a masterpiece we produced.  Believers are a masterpiece God has produced.[1]

2) We have works to do

God did not just save us to take us to heaven.  He did not just save us to keep us out of hell. That is how many Christian view salvation.  This verse says that we were created in Christ Jesus FOR GOOD WORKS.  Some think that if you believe in grace, you can live any way you want.  That is an ancient heresy.

For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 4 NIV)

Some use the concept of grace to justify sin.  The more sin, the more grace.  The Bible rejects that philosophy.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2 NIV)

Grace actually encourages good works, not bad works.  It teaches us to be holy and godly.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:1-12, 14 ESV)

We should not only do good works, we should be ZEALOUS to do good works.  This has completely changed my life.  It has changed the way I am at work.  Every day in the school where I work, I ask God to show me what good work He wants me to do today and what I can do to go out of my way to help someone.  if a student needs a pencil, lunch money, clothes to wear, a belt or even a computer, I do what I can to help them.

God not only saved us to do good works, he planned for us to do these good works long before we were even born.  What did God say to Jeremiah?  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV).

Here is the cool thing about this truth! God had our ministries planned before He saved us.  He had a ministry in mind for us.  He knew what He wanted us to achieve.  He did not just have a ministry planed for great men like the prophet Jeremiah.  He had a ministry planned for every single Christian.  He did not save us to put us on the shelf.  Do you know what your ministry is which was prepared forehand?  Are you doing it?

[1] Thomas Constable on Ephesians 2:10 (https://planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/pdf/ephesians.pdf)

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