Read the Passage: Ephesians 2:1-10
The Need of Salvation (2:1–3)
In Eph. 1:3–14 Paul wrote about several themes relating to salvation as he addressed predestination, adoption, redemption, and sealing by the Holy Spirit. Beginning in Eph. 2:1, Paul continues to explain aspects of salvation as he explains to his readers, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Note Paul does not say that man’s trespasses and sins made him dead; rather, Paul writes that man is dead in trespasses and sins. Indeed, man is not a sinner because he sins, but man sins because he is a sinner. This touches upon an important topic—that is, the doctrine of the depravity of mankind. This idea is present all throughout Scripture in verses such as, “Every intent of the thoughts of [man’s] heart [is] only evil continually. . . . The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 6:5; 8:21); “No one is good but One, that is God” (Luke 18:19); “There is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10; cf. Isa. 64:6; John 15:5; Rom. 8:7–8; Eph. 2:3).
In this part of his letter Paul is trying to stir the Ephesian church up to Christian growth, by reminding them about what God has done for them, as well as about their position in Christ Jesus. Toward this end, in Eph. 2:1–3 Paul mentions four facts about the believers’ pre-conversion life and context. First, Paul writes that the Ephesians “once walked” (Eph. 2:2a) in sin. Second, Paul reminds the church that “the course of this world” (Eph. 2:2b) is sloped toward sin. Third, Paul notes that “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2c) is at work in unbelievers. Fourth, Paul reminds his readers “we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh” (Eph. 2:3). Paul’s method here is to prompt the church to recall who they were without Christ—that is, children of wrath—in order that they might remember who they are now in Christ—namely, accepted in the Beloved.
The Reason for Salvation (2:4–7)
In Eph. 2:4–7 Paul discusses three reasons why God chooses to save mankind. The first reason is because “God . . . is rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4). In regard to judgment, mercy can be defined as man not receiving what he deserves. In our natural estate, human beings are “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), deserving of death, judgement, and eternity in hell (Rom. 5:12; 6:23). Yet, because God is merciful, He has redeemed mankind. Second, Paul writes “because of His great love” (Eph. 2:4b) God has redeemed us. Earlier, at Rom. 5:8, Paul wrote, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It is important to note Paul does not teach that God loves us because of Jesus’ atonement. Rather, it was because of God’s love for us that Christ made atonement. God’s love and mercy, then, are foundational reasons for salvation.
In Eph. 2:7 Paul writes that God redeems believers so “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” The idea here is that a third reason why God saves us is in order to show us His grace so that all created things may see God’s kindness and, in turn, glorify Him for it. Observe, in the book of Isaiah, God declared, “I have created [you] for My glory. . . . This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise . . . . I, even I, am He who blots out your transgression for My own sake” (Isa. 43:7, 21, 25). Indeed, in the book of Revelation, there are several narratives where men and angels are praising God on account of His salvation of believers (cf. Rev. 5:8–14; 7:9–17; 19:1). In such passages, multitudes cry out, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:10).
The Means of Salvation (2:8–10)
In Eph. 2:8–10 Paul discusses the means of salvation, which is faith alone in Jesus Christ. The gift of God mentioned at Eph. 2:8 is either a reference to faith itself or to the process of salvation, which includes grace and faith. Either way, Paul’s point is clear: salvation is completely of the Lord—that is, apart from a work of God, no one would believe in His name (cf. John 6:44). Yet, because of God’s mercy, love, and grace, He is pleased to regenerate believers, even giving us the faith that is needed for salvation (cf. Rom. 12:3; 2 Pet. 1:1). Salvation, then, is by faith alone and “not of works” (Eph. 2:9). Yet, at Eph. 2:10, Paul addresses the place for good works in the lives of believers, as he teaches that good works are the necessary result of salvation. Such good works are essential, for we are created for good works and good works have been prepared for believers to complete.
- What is necessary for someone to know in order to be saved? What events, factors, and individuals in your own life led to your salvation?
- What does it mean to be “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1; cf. Col. 2:13)? Is non-redeemed mankind capable of performing any truly good works?
- What practical effect does our pre-conversion condition have upon our post-conversion life? Why do believers continue to sin after their salvation?
- If God’s mercy and love are foundational reasons for our salvation, why does God not save everyone who is ever born (cf. Rom. 9:22–24)?
- Is the category of a carnal Christian a valid concept? Can a person profess to be a follower of Christ, yet live an unchanged life (cf. Matt. 7:15–20)?