- The Explore the Bible lesson for Sept. 15 focuses on Ephesians 2:1-10.
One of the most popular genres of TV show over the last decade has been the home makeover shows. The concept is simple. A crew comes to a rundown, dilapidated house, guts its insides, removes the damaged outside and then proceeds to build an amazingly beautiful home. The responses from the owner often include the phrase, “It doesn’t even look like the same house.”
Over the years in my ministry I have seen the Lord do a similar, though far more dramatic and important, work in the lives of many people. A life ruined and damaged by sin is surrendered to God, and he comes in and begins a work of transformation. It is a work that is more than we expected and greater than we could have imagined. C.S. Lewis beautifully summed up the result of the process when he wrote in Mere Christianity, “You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but [Christ] is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
Paul explains this process of transformation—resurrection—in Ephesians 2:1-10. He relates how every believer once was dead in sin, but are is alive to the glory of God because it was by his grace alone that it happened. This work of God grants us power for living and leads us to humble service to him because of the deep gratitude we have for all he has done.
Once Dead (2:-1-3)
Relative to the life in Christ that we now enjoy, our life before knowing him is appropriately described as death. This death is a status of powerlessness and corruption, devoid of a relationship with God. As Paul continues in verse 2, the word commonly translated “live” is actually the word for “walk,” suggesting a pattern of living and an ethical concern. Paul describes the previous life as a sphere of operation dominated by darkness and ruled by “the ruler of the kingdom of the air.” Instead of living in God’s domain, we have chosen a habitat directly opposed to him.
As Paul wraps up his argument, he changes pronouns from second person “you” to first person “us.” His purpose here seems to be to communicate the idea that his readers were not the only individuals in this predicament. He highlights that all of us have sought to feed our “flesh.” This is one of Paul’s favorite terms and usually carries the idea of that part of who we are that omits God from the decision-making process. Instead of God leading us, we were driven by our cravings. The result is that we were deserving of wrath.
Even as Paul outlines the depravity to which all humanity has succumbed, he still has set up the conversation so that readers are expecting a shift to take place. He is building an anticipation that though we deserve wrath, something has happened to change the direction we are on. This careful balance of building hope even as he speaks of hopeless things grows out of his theology of man as all created in the image of God, and therefore, all having some intrinsic worth. There is no reveling in the judgment of the sinner, because we are all sinners. There is, however, a felt hope because God has not abandoned his creation. Such is implicit in the tone and direction of the argument and gives an urgency to us to share the life giving message of salvation with those we meet.
What are the variety of ways you can say you have changed since following Christ? How does the intrinsic worth of every human change our perspective of evangelism?
Now Alive (2:4-7)
As Paul shifts focus to our present status in Christ, he breaks out in song. Many scholars believe that beginning in verse 4 and continuing through verse 10, Paul is quoting an early Christian hymn that probably was sung in connection with a person’s baptism. In the original, the sentence starts with the striking “But God… .” The future was dark, but God has acted. We are deserving of wrath, but God has given us love. We were dead, but God has brought us to life. Paul stacks the words love, mercy, grace, kindness and gift as he describes God’s kind work to us and says that “God raised us up with Christ” (2:6). The resurrection and exaltation that God granted the Son are also ours to share. Paul even mentions us being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. We are truly alive in Christ!
What feelings and actions are you led to when you stop to consider “but God” moment in this passage?
Through Grace Alone (2:8-10)
Grace is the centerpiece of Paul’s theology of salvation. It communicates that salvation is completely undeserved. For some reason, beyond our comprehension, God takes those who are his enemy and who have told him that they neither want nor need him, and he turns them into his children. He connects us to himself in a bond stronger than any opposition. Because it is so inconceivable, there is no room for boasting on our part.
Paul says that we are saved by Grace through faith. Faith is not what saves us, God’s grace is. Faith is simply the means by which that grace is comprehended, responded to or received. Faith is more than just thinking correctly, it is trusting, relying upon and acting upon what God. The “this” in the middle of verse 8 is neuter, so it can’t refer solely to “faith” which is feminine. Instead, it seems to refer to the whole process of salvation. God gets all the credit!
Why is it so important that our boasting not take place in regard to salvation?
Timothy Pierce, Ph.D., is assistant professor of religion at East Texas Baptist University.