Divine Salvation
Eph. 2:1-10
With thanks to Chris Bullard

By Paul Robison

“Do you have any trophies in your house?  A lot of folks do, and, of course, they love to display them. [They often have an interesting story behind them.]  They speak of accomplishment [perhaps against some stiff competition or challenging obstacles]. They bring honor to the individual who possess them.  Surprising as it may seem, God has His trophies too.  We learn about them in the text that was read today, in Ephesians 2:1-10” (Bullard).  This passage also discusses several interesting phases in Christians lives: our past, our present, and our praise.  Before we examine these more closely, let's quickly notice some background about this great letter.

This letter was written by the apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus.  Acts 19 tells us some interesting facts about how the church was established and about the city itself.  We discover that the church was begun with some Jewish members who received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Jews who rejected the Gospel caused many problems.  Paul continued to teach there in a school, in homes, and in public.  Many people learned about Christ, and Paul did many miracles.  The citizens of Ephesus were very superstitious; they believed in magic, demons, and other spirits.  One of the seven wonders of the ancient world was also there—the temple to the goddess Diana.  This temple was four times larger than the Parthenon, served as a bank, and people came from all over the world to see it.  The worship of the emperor was strong here as well.  There were about 250,000 inhabitants in this city.  A good two word summary of this letter would be “Be consistent!”  The admonitions seen in 4:17-24 sound like they are trying to call those who once had been followers of Diana not to fall back into their pagan lifestyles, but they need to live consistently.  You see, in pagan religions, the big emphasis was on rituals, but Paul wants the Christians to know that a transformed lifestyle on a daily basis was what mattered when it came to following Jesus.  Paul writes while a prisoner in Rome around 60 A.D.  Chapter 4:23-24 gives us the structure of the book in a nutshell: “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (and this is what is stressed in the first three chapters by showing Christians their new identity in Christ through what God has done) “and that you [all] put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (chapters 4-6 then stress the sanctity of life, the divine actions, that must be put into practice as a result of one’s new identity).   “Be consistent: live out your sanctity according to your identity!”  In other words, you all are “in Christ” (that phrase is found around 35 times), so live like Christians (not like followers of Diana or Caesar)!  The book can be outlined in 9 parts: divine kinship (first half of chapter 1), divine comprehension (the last half of chapter 1), divine salvation (the first half of chapter 2), divine unity (the last half of chapter 2), divine mission (the first half of chapter 3), divine strength (the last half of chapter 3), divine life in the church (4:1-5:21), divine life in the family (5:22-6:9), and divine warfare (6:10-18).  Today we want to focus on that third section: divine salvation.  So let's now look at several interesting phases in Christians’ lives, which are part of our new identity as well.

The first phase is our past.  Paul has been writing about what God has done for us, our divine kinship and our divine comprehension with regards to Christ's love.  “But unless we understand our condition before the holy God of Israel, we will never appreciate what God has done.  This is the 'bad news' that prepares us for the 'good news' in Jesus Christ.  As Paul discusses our past, he sets out four characteristics that were true of every one of us” (Bullard).

First of all, we were dead.  Look at verse 1: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, ...”  Paul is not speaking of our physical bodies, but he is referring to our spirits.  Our inner man was dead. ... Because of our sins, all of us were spiritually dead.  [Our sins occurred because we chose to follow our own way, rather than following God's way.]  Now, what does a spiritually dead person need more than anything else? ... He or she needs life!  ... John 17:3 says, 'And this is eternal life that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.'  Life is knowing Jesus Christ and being in a vital relationship with Him.  [In Romans 7:24-25, the apostle Paul cries out: “O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  We can call men who are kind and helpful “good old boys,” but if they don’t know Jesus, they are really “dead ole boys” in God’s eyes.]  Our city is filled with spiritually dead folks—they are dead spiritually because they are out of relationship with Jesus Christ, the only source of [spiritual] life” (Bullard).  We were dead.

Secondly, we were dominated.  Verse 2 says: “in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air ...”  “Once walked” means “formerly lived.”  How did we live in the past?  We lived lives dominated by the world, by the debased ideas of our culture.  “Who is the ruler of the kingdom of the air?  It is the Satan, of course.  [Satan is a real being, and Jesus Himself taught us to pray to be delivered from his powers (Matthew 6:13).]  The devil is the present dictator of men and women who live in spiritual death in our cities.  The average person on the street will argue, 'I am not dominated.  I am free to do whatever I want.'  Well, he is free to do as he wants, but not free to do as he ought [since Satan and his culture control him].  She is free to do whatever she wants, but the problem is that she never wants to do what is right [because she follows values that are alien to God].  [“The culture and forces shaping the conduct of people is evil and separates them from God” (Weed).]  Satan has gained control of the hearts of men and women and deceived them into thinking they are free, when in reality they are most enslaved [and act in very selfish ways]” (Bullard).  We were dominated.

Thirdly, we were disobedient.  Notice our text again in verse 2: “in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.”  “This was man’s original problem in the Garden of Eden.  God gave man a choice, and he chose to disobey God.  Each generation has continued to act in rebellious disobedience ever since [as each person chooses to live wickedly].  God says, ‘Love your neighbor,’ and we hate them.  God says, ‘Be faithful to your own wife or husband,’ and we cheat on them.  God says, ‘Put Me first,’ and we give Him the leftovers.  Over and over, man’s track record is one of disobedience” (Bullard).  We like to think of ourselves as acting on our own, but Paul tells that the reality is we are either being motivated by God’s Holy Spirit or we are being motivated by Satan’s evil spirit.  When “people are surrendered to the power of evil, they become those whose [behaviors are] against God, so they are rightly called ‘the sons of disobedience’” (Foulkes).  We were disobedient.

Fourthly, we were doomed.  Verse 3 plainly states: “Among whom we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”  When Paul says “we all” that includes every one of us, no matter what our ethnic race.  Our unbridled lusts led us to unbelievable debauchery (Coffman)!  “By nature” does not mean by some inborn hereditary sinfulness, but it refers to our own habitual practices of fulfilling our own desires, which rightfully deserve God’s punishment.  “Because of our wicked ways, because we willfully disobeyed what we knew to be right, we came under the wrath of God.  We were guilty without a doubt before the pure and holy God of the universe.  We stood condemned, doomed to an eternity away from God, to satisfy the demands of His justice.  By our own actions and decisions, we were hell-bound, without hope, without excuse, without any way of averting our own awful destiny” (Bullard)!  In short, we were doomed.

That was our past, now let’s look at our present.  “We have just seen the bad news—what we had done for ourselves through our own actions [motivated by Satan and our culture].  Now Paul turns to the good news of what God has done for us to get us out of our dilemma.  Again, there is no emphasis here on what we have done to save ourselves.  It is all of God.  First of all, we have been resurrected and made alive!  Look at verses 4-5: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”  “Never are God’s love and power more clearly demonstrated than in the repeated deliverance of Israel in times of crisis, culminating in the final act of deliverance made possible in the death and resurrection of Christ. … This act of deliverance was totally God’s doing, proclaiming His might in mercy and love [even while we were spiritual dead]” (Weed)!  “When you bring a spiritually dead people back to life, it has to be by grace.  What could they do for themselves?  Nothing.  Someone has to do it for them.  That is why salvation is of grace.  If God had not done it for mankind, it simply would not have gotten done!  Could we have made spiritually dead people alive through education?  “We will give them a private tutor to give 20 lessons on ‘How To Overcome Spiritual Death’.”  No, that will not solve their death problem.  “Well, what is we change their environment?  What if we bus them to where some nice lively folks live!”  But that will not solve their death problem either.  “Well, let’s try encouragement.  We can get a high-powered motivational speaker to really spur them on: ‘Come on now!  Get up!  You can do it!  Think positive!’”  They will still be spiritually dead.  None of these things are going to work, though a society full of spiritual zombies has tried them all.  Spiritually dead people need spiritual life!  And that is why nothing short of a divine miracle can help our real problem.  God must come down and invade our spirits.  Now listen to what Jesus says in John 7:37-38: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  Then John explains, “But He spoke this concerning the [Holy] Spirit, whom those believing on Him would receive.”  Spiritually dead people desperately need Jesus and His Spirit!  You see, Christianity is not a sick people getting well.  It’s spiritually dead people being given life and a new spirit!  By the riches of God’s grace, we have been made alive together with Christ!  We have been resurrected!

Secondly, we have been raised and exalted!  Look at verse 6: “and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  The word for “raised up” is also found in Romans 6:4: “Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised [up] from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so, we also should walk in newness of life.”  The spiritually dead can be raised up together with Christ during baptism!  One good brother has this to say about the later part of this verse: “God causes us share in Christ’s exaltation. … We share in heavenly life now.  We have in Christ a taste of the exaltation of heaven.  This is why salvation by grace is so joyous and fulfilling—it introduces us to abundant living!  … It means that the heavenly order of things is a present reality in our lives.  We are already citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20)” (Hendren)!  You see, we are God's trophies, and we're being displayed right next to His Son at the place of highest honor! 
“A man was having breakfast with two family members at a Café in Michigan. As they were finishing their meal, he noticed that the waitress brought their check, then took it away, then brought it back again.  She placed it on the table, smiled, and said, ‘Somebody in the restaurant paid for your meal. You’re all set.’  Then she walked away.  Then the man said, ‘I had the strangest feeling of helplessness.  There was nothing I could do.  To insist on paying would have been pointless.  All I could do was trust that what she said was actually true — which meant leaving the restaurant.  My acceptance of what she said gave me a choice to live like it was true or to contest it.  That is our invitation — to trust that we don’t owe anything.  To trust that something is already true about us, something has already been done, something has been there all along.  To trust that grace pays the bill [and invites us to enjoy the banquet]” (Bell).  We have been exalted!

That was our present, now look at our praise.  Our praise must be given to God for His grace!  God is the hero in the next few verses.  First of all, we know the revelation of God's grace!  Verse 7 explains: “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  “Paul's vision of the church's function goes beyond this present order: as age succeeds age, the crowning display of God's grace will ever be His kindness to His redeemed people ...” (Bruce).  This next idea is just my opinion.  You see, when other believers hear the Gospel, are exalted with Christ, and learn about God's trophies on display from previous generations, they will realize: “They did not get there through their own accomplishments.  They got there as a result of the extraordinary greatness of God's grace and the merciful abundance of God's kindness all manifested in the gift of His Son for all people!”  In fact, “they will stand in complete awe that the Holy God could find a way to save those as unholy as we were” (Bullard)!  We praise God because we know the revelation of God's grace, and other generations will come to know it as well when the Gospel is proclaimed!

Secondly, we know the reality of God's grace!  Verses 8-9 affirm: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  One brother offers this commentary: “Rather than stressing the human response, Paul praises God's initiative in making faith possible.  Paul says that everything about Christianity has its ultimate source in God.  We could have no faith unless Christ had come to die for us, and that was God's act.  By sending Christ, God is ultimately responsible for our faith possibilities. ... We truly bring nothing to God except our need” (Hendren)!  Another brother puts it this way: “What does it mean to be saved by grace?  It means that God did not have to save anyone.  He could have allowed all of us to die and go to an eternal hell, and He would have been holy still.  But because He loves, He freely chose to do for us what He was not obligated to do.  Grace is God freely deciding to do for man what man could not do for himself.  After all, what can [spiritually dead people] do for [themselves]” (Bullard)?  A third brother points out that the word “works” might be better comprehended by thinking “works of the law”: “This refers to the works of the Law of Moses, to nothing else; ... It is simply outrageous that a scholar will ignore this and apply verse 9 to mean that God rejects every work of man” (Coffman).  Thus, we see that faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are not works of the Law nor are they actions in which any of us can boast.  They are just parts of God's process for helping spiritually dead people to put on Christ and His Spirit!  “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).  Eternal salvation is God's free gift!  He has paid the bill and is inviting us to enjoy the banquet!  We know the reality of God's grace!

Thirdly, we know the result of God's grace!  Verse 10 says: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  Remember Demetrius and those silversmiths who made souvenirs of the goddess Diana and caused Paul problems in Ephesus?  Note here how Paul tells these Christians that they are the living God's souvenirs or trophies.  They have been brought into existence by their relationship with Jesus for a specific purpose—not to sit on a shelf, but to do good works!  “In chapters 4-6, Paul tells us about the good works that we should be doing to set us apart from the walking dead in our community.  God did not give you new life so that you could live any way that you please.  He gave you new life to live a lifestyle that will bring Him glory” (Bullard).  There's also something else very important here: “We do not work to gain God's acceptance.  We work out of gratitude because He has already accepted us through Christ” (Hendren).  This was all God's doing; it was His prepared plan.  We know the result of God's grace—our good work done out of thankful hearts to God's glory!  This is our praise.

 “Be consistent!”  You have been saved by grace, so live like it!  In our past, we were dead, dominated, disobedient, and doomed.  But God intervened, and now we have been made alive, raised, and exalted with Christ!  We give God praise for His grace has been and will continue to be revealed!  We have known its reality and our good works are its result!  Discipleship is not about ritual, but it is all about transformation!  Our sanctity flows out of our identity!  “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind and … put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”  God pays the bill and invites you to enjoy the banquet!  “Ultimately, everyone will end up being someone's trophy.  If you persist in rebellion against God and leave this life spiritually dead in sin, you will spend an eternity in hell as a trophy to Satan's deceptions.  But if you respond in faith to Christ, you will become an eternal trophy of God's saving grace!  Whose trophy will you be?” (Bullard)  That’s the question that you are challenged to answer.  Become God’s trophy today!