Posts tagged ‘Grace’

Ephesians 2:8-10 – Salvation by grace through faith

Paul presents a very clear presentation of the Gospel in these three verses. He include grace, faith, salvation and even good works. He doesn’t leave any doubt that salvation is not anything we can earn but a gift from God.

v.8-9,“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Obvious these are very familiar verses and most believers have memorized them. I prefer the version I memorized as a child NIV: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Paul is repeating himself from v.5 and elaborates on it by adding the two words I underlined. He says “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” “Grace”, again is God’s kindness towards undeserving humanity without them having merited it by their actions. God was not required to offer sinners salvation. He would be justified in condemning all people to eternal separation from himself.Salvation is a personal act from a personal God to sinners. “Grace” is the method by which we are saved. So the means by which salvation is appropriated, the means by which we are brought into a saving relationship to Jesus Christ, is “through faith.” We are save by grace though faith. There is a total absence of any consideration of merit. The source of our salvation is the grace of God. And the instrumental cause by which that salvation is appropriated is faith. “You can’t take credit for it” or in the NIV “this is not from yourselves” is referring to the idea there is nothing we as sinners can do to save ourselves from spiritual death. Another way of saying this is “not on the basis of works you can do.” Paul adds this phrase just incase anyone thought “faith” was a necessary work that people must perform in order to receive salvation. He uses the words “this” and “it” to refer to all of he has just spoken of … “saved”, “grace” and “faith.” They are“not from yourselves” and are a “gift of God.” Paul is very clear that nothing is of our own doing, not salvation, not grace, not even faith that is exercised to receive salvation, everything is a “gift of God.” And to make sure the believers understand what Paul is saying he adds “salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done” or in the NIV “not by works, so that no one can boast.” Paul wants the believers to realize they can do nothing to earn their salvation, and a person’s faith itself is not to be considered a “work” or a reason why anyone “can boast.” Paul was including in the the word “works” the “works of the law” which he refers to in Rom 3:20 and Gal 3:10. The believers needed to know that there was no effort on their part to earn their salvation, even obedience to the law. And if they were successful, their efforts would lead to boasting, bragging and spiritual pride which Paul wanted the praise to only go to God (Jer 9:24) not to man.

v.10,“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Paul doesn’t want there to be any misunderstanding as the believers read these verses so he adds one more affirmation here before moving on to the next topic. Paul has already stated that salvation is not the sinners achievement or a reward for anything we can do or have done. Here he goes one step further to leave no doubt. He states “we are God’s masterpiece”  can be translated “we are the result of God’s activity.” Paul is talking about salvation and new life are God’s work, humans didn’t cause it but are recipients. Salvation is God’s masterpiece, work or art, new creation. If we could earn our own salvation we would not be a work of God, we would be a work of our own selves.“He has created us anew” is important language because only God can create. He created the universe from nothing (Rom 1:20), now he creates old, dead, sinners into new, alive, new creations (2 Cor 5:17). This new creation take place “in Christ Jesus.” This new creation is based in Christ’s resurrection, he is the source of this creation. “So we can do the good things [good works AMP] he planned for us long ago.” Sinners become Christians through God’s undeserved favour (grace), not as a result of any efforts, merit or acts or good deeds. Even though no good work can help us to obtain salvation, God’s wants our salvation to result in acts of “good works”, service or kindness to serve Christ and build up the church (other believers). Good works don’t produce salvation but are the evidence of salvation (Jam 1:22; 2:14-26). “He planned for us long ago” meansGod had prepared a path of good works for Christians to do even before we were born. These good works will be done along life’s way while believers walk by faith. This means that God does a good work through us (not we do it for him) as we are faithful and obedient to him. Everything that is good that is done through us will be recognized as his work and not our own.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? We were sinners, spiritually dead and doomed for eternity without God. God extended his grace toward us to save us from our sins and eternal separation from God. And he accomplish this through his Son Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, without our help. Salvation was a gift from God (including God’s grace, our faith, and Jesus’ sacrifice). There is nothing we can do to save ourselves, not even our own faith—it is also a gift from God. As well Paul wants all sinners to understand that salvation is also not a reward for anything we have done because he doesn’t want us to have pride in any part of our salvation. It is only from God through Christ! Lastly Paul reminds the believers that salvation or new life in Christ is God’s masterpiece, work of art and produces good works in us which God had prepared before we were born. All the good that is done through us will be recognized as his work and not our own.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  There is more to salvation that just “getting saved.” Though accepting Christ into my life is the beginning of my life as a believers, that is not the end. I must realize that God has created me to live a life of faith that is demonstrated in good works. That is serving my fellow believers at church. That is serving those in need, the poor. And being kind, loving, supportive and giving to anyone in need. My good works should be the outcome of my salvation, not they are my salvation!

June 21, 2020 at 6:45 AM Leave a comment

Ephesians 2:4-7 – God’s action plan for humanity

In the first three verses of chapter 2 Paul gives the bad news about humanity. Here in the next few verses he gives the good news which is God’s action plan for humanity.

v.4,“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much.” After what seemed like a hopelessness for all humanity in the first three verses, Paul starts this section with “but God.” With these two simple words Paul lays out an amazing plan that God puts together  how sinful humanity is not left to hopelessness which ended in death. God acted on behalf of humanity because he is “rich in mercy.” “Mercy” is sometimes referred to as God’s compassion or lovingkindness towards people even though they don’t deserve it (ex. Ps 51:1, Jonah 4:2). The word “rich” means that God is bountiful in mercy, he has an inexhaustible storehouse of it. He also acted on behalf of humanity because “he loved us so much.” I love this translation, it really makes us realize that God chose to help sinful humanity because of his deep love for us. “Love” in the Greek is agape it means selfless love that seeks the best for others. Sinful humanity can’t even approach a Holy God, but God extended his love to them because he alone can give them salvation. This love is beyond human understanding. This love was directed toward “us” which means Jews and Gentiles, everyone!

v.5,“That even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead (it is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” Paul repeats himself from v.1 and reminds the believers “even though we were dead because of our sins…” Now Paul finishes his thought from v.1 “…he gave us life.” Another way of saying this is God “made us alive” NIV which means to be “saved.” Unbelievers were dead in their sins, but they were made alive because of what Christ did on the cross, he died for their sins and God “raised Christ from the dead.” The only way spiritually dead people can have a relationship with God is to be made alive. God is the only person who can accomplish this, which he did through his Son, Jesus Christ. Christ defeated sin and death by is death and resurrection to give sinners (spiritually dead) a chance to be made spiritually alive (Rom 6:8-11, 8:10-11, Gal 2:20, Col 3:12-13). “It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!” Paul is going to expand on this phrase in v.8 but here he says a quick thought so that the believers know it is only because of God’s grace (unmerited favour) they are able to be saved. The Greek is only three words “you are saved” in order to convey the idea that salvation is accomplished and its effects are continuous upon the believer. And salvation is by grace alone, not by anything we sinners can do to save ourselves. Paul will explain further in v.8 and v.9.

v.6,“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” From 1:20 we learned Christ was raised from the dead and this was only accomplished by God, himself. As believers, God “raised us from the dead.” Both physical resurrection, in the future, and the new resurrection life from the moment they believe (Col 2:12). As Christ was raised from physical death, believers are raised from spiritual death, and they are assured of resurrection from that death and eternal life with God. Also as believers, God has “seated us with him in the heavenly realms.” Again back to 1:20 God has seated Christ in a place of honour at the right hand of God the Father, indicating Christ’s finished work and his victory over sin and death. Here, Paul makes it clear that “us” believers’ seating in the heavenly realms is not a future event but a here and now. Believers share in the victory now. The best way to describe this is as a statement of God’s purpose for his people (believers). A purpose which is going to happen no matter what, that it can be spoken of as if it has already happened (Rom 8:30). Believers, who are heirs with Christ, are spiritually exalted from the moment of conversion. They (we) have a citizenship in heaven, no longer just the earth (Phil 3:20). The power that raised and exalted Christ to a place of honour, is the same power that works daily in the believers’ lives. Helping believers to live and work for God during this time on this earth. “United with Christ Jesus” refers to the fact that all believers by virtue of their union with Christ actually share in Christ’s resurrection, ascension and exaltation.

v.7,“So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” In v.4 Paul starts simply with because “God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much”, which is the first reason why God put his action plan in place mentioned in my commentary on v.4. Then in v.5-6 he lays out his plan…making us alive, raising us, and seating us along with his Son (Christ) in the heavenly realms. Here in v.7, Paul gives one more reason for God’s action plan on behalf of humanity. God wants to “point to us…as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us.” In the NIV the word “show” is used instead of in the NLT “point to us.” “Show” actually means display. In the same way an artist might display his painting to reveal his skill, so God displays his church (believers) to the universe to demonstrate his grace and kindness. This is the same grace and kindness that is demonstrated in Christ death and resurrection for the whole world. By raising and exalting believers (the church) God displays “the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness towards us” which he will continue to do “in all future ages” and on throughout eternity. Believers are a living evidence of his grace and kindness where believers will point people away from themselves and to him who they owe salvation. And the evidence of his grace and kindness towards us is “as shown in all he has done for us” which is of course he resurrected us and exalted us to the place of honour with his Son.Again this was accomplished only for those “who are united in Christ Jesus.” Without Christ’s sacrifice, there would be no hope for a relationship with God (Jn 3:16).

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? God has put together an action plan because of humanity’s hopelessness. This action plan is done because of his love, mercy, grace and kindness and was done so that we as believers could be a display of God’s grace and kindness to the world. His action plan is to make us alive in Christ, raise us from the dead and exalt us with his Son in heaven.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  I am also thankful because of God’s love, mercy, grace and kindness he put together an action plan for my salvation. I want to point my unsaved friends and family to Christ and be a shining display of God’s grace and kindness no matter how they react to the Gospel and me.

June 14, 2020 at 3:12 PM Leave a comment

Ephesians 1:7-8 – Grace, redemption & forgiveness

Paul continues his lengthy spiritual blessing by writing about God’s grace, redemption and forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice.

v.7,“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” “He is” referring back to verses 3-6 speaking of God. Through God’s riches we receive both his “kindness and grace.” NLT uses the word “kindness” to highlight the kind of grace that was given by God.The “grace” that is mentioned is God doing for us that which we couldn’t do for ourselves and don’t deserve. Another way of putting it is unmerited favour—favour we don’t deserve. Paul uses the word “riches” to show how valuable the kindness and grace are. In the NIV the word “redemption” is used, here in NLT “purchased our freedom” is used. They both are speaking of Christ setting sinners free from slavery of sin. Redeem is the word in the Old Testament (OT) that is referred to when a person is being freed from slavery or prison (Lev 25:47-54). To redeem this person involved paying a price called a ransom which meant buying the person’s freedom. Jesus paid the sinners full ransom. That ransom was done “with the blood of [God’s] Son” which is Jesus Christ. So in Jesus we have redemption or freedom. Jesus became human so that he could free us from slavery to sin. And because of Jesus’ blood sacrifice, Jesus “paid the penalty for our sin and resulted in the forgiveness and complete pardon of our sin” AMP. “Sins” refers to sinful acts (daily sins) or transgressions. God’s forgiveness means that he no longer ever remembers believers’ past sins.

Why did Jesus have to shed his blood in order for my sins to be forgiven? In Heb 9:22 God made it clear that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” In the OT forgiveness of sin was granted on the basis of the shedding of an animals’ blood (Lev 17:11). In order for sinful people to be spared, an innocent life (animal) had to be sacrificed in their place. The OT believers symbolically transferred their sins to an animal, which then was sacrificed. The animal died in their place (or made atonement for the sinner) to pay for their sins and to allow them to continue to live in God’s favour. God graciously forgave them because of this sacrifice. But it wasn’t until Jesus came to the earth and died for the sins of the world that real cleansing from sin happened. And these animal sacrifices were stopped because Jesus was the final and ultimate sacrifice, the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29). Unlike the animal sacrifices, Jesus’s sacrifice paid the penalty of the sins of the world once and for all. And all who believe in Christ receive redemption and forgiveness.

v.8,“He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” This verse is a continuation of v.7, with Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice “He has showered his kindness on us.” The NIV says he “lavished on us” meaning there was no holding back (given in abundance) his kindness (or grace). Rom 5:20 emphasizes this well “people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.” Sin was no match for grace, even as we sin more and more God’s grace abounds even more! Along with God’s grace, believers are given two more gifts “wisdom” and “understanding.” “Wisdom” is the ability to see life from God’s perspective (the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Prov 9:10). “Understanding” is translated “practical insight” AMP. Referring to the ability to discern the right action to take in any given situation. To understand God’s will, people need both wisdom and understanding directly from God. So along with God’s grace we as believers are also given wisdom to see life from God’s perspective and practical insight to discern the right decision to make as they come along.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? Because of God’s grace my sins have been forgiven and I have been redeemed through Christ’s sacrifice. Along with God’s grace I am also given two very important gifts of discernment: wisdom and practical insight.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  God’s grace is a theme in Ephesians. I need to remember because of God’s grace I am forgiven and redeemed. Also I am given wisdom and understand along with God’s grace. No matter what circumstance comes my way (good or bad) I need to see them from God’s perspective and choose to follow God’s lead in making a wise decision in that circumstance.

June 1, 2020 at 1:15 PM Leave a comment

Ephesians 1:3-6 – Election, adoption & God’s grace

From v.3 to v.14 Paul begins a lengthy passage that praises God for what he has done for us in Jesus Christ. This section forms a spiritual blessing or in the Greek referred to as a doxology and in the Hebrew berakah. In it Paul summarizes the Trinity’s plan for the church.

v.3,“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” Paul starts this spiritual blessing by giving God (the Father) “all praise” which means “to speak well of.” God alone is worthy of our praise and worship. Paul specifically mentions the God is the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” so that we remember the unity between God and Jesus. Now Paul gives the reason why God is worthy to receive all of our praise, because he has “blessed us.” God has blessed us by allowing us to receive the benefit of Christ’s death on the cross on our behalf and his resurrection. “Every spiritual blessing” refers to every benefit of knowing God and everything we need to grow spiritually. We don’t have to ask for these blessings, we receive them at conversion, we just need to accept them and apply them to our lives. These blessings are given because “we are untied with Christ.” Because of ourrelationship with Christ we can enjoy them for eternity. “In the heavenly realms” refers to the spiritual world where there is a conflict between good and evil where that battle has already been won by Christ’s death and resurrection. This means that our spiritual blessings come from heaven, where Christ now lives. Paul was making a point that these blessing are spiritual, not material (eternal, not temporal).

v.4,“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” Verse 4 is a continuation of v.3. Paul says that we are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing because God “chose us in Christ.” God gives us spiritual blessings because of the saving work of the Trinity (God chose us, Christ died for us and the Holy Spirit sealed us). 

The doctrine of election: God chose believers before the creation of the world for a specific purpose or destiny. We are saved only because of God’s grace and mercy, not because of our own merit. God doesn’t save us because we deserve it but because he graciously and freely gives salvation. Paul gives specific components of election: it’s “in Christ” (because of his sacrifice on our behalf). It is “before he made the world” (God’s plan was in place from the beginning (it was not an afterthought) to give eternal salvation to those who would believe on his Son because he knew sin would occur and their was a penalty that needed to be paid, and he knew in his Son it would be paid). It is done for a specific purpose, for us “to be holy and without fault [blameless] in his eyes” (believers are not just chosen to be saved but also to live changed lives during their remaining time on the earth. “Holy” means to be set apart for God, to be used by God for a new life. This new life is to be lived “without fault” or blameless, without defect like the animal sacrifices to God in the OT. It is only because of Christ’s holy and faultless sacrifice on the cross that we are made holy and faultless in God’s eyes—as believers we know when we stand before God on judgment day, we will be accepted because of Christ’s sacrifice). Final component is election is an act of God’s “love”. The emphasis on adoption in v.5 shows that the purpose of election is relational. God for no reason than that he is a loving God, chose to adopt people into his own family “through Jesus Christ.”

Individual vs Group election: Usually people think of election as an individual benefit. But Biblical text emphasis election as a corporate term, NOT individual. Ephesians 1 focuses on those who are “in Christ.” People (sinners) only become elect in the elect one (Christ). Israel was chosen to bring the blessings of God to the world, now Christ has taken on that task. Election takes place in Christ (1:4) and through him (1:5). Sinners are NOT elected and then put in Christ, No, they are in Christ and therefore elect.

Why would God choose some and not others? A better question is, why would God choose anyone at all? He elected believers before the creation of the world—before we had done anything to demonstrate our own worthiness or lack thereof—God shows that his decision has nothing to do with our righteousness, and everything to do with his grace and compassion.

v.5,“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” God chose believers in advance of the creation of the world to adopt us as his own children, into his own family. AMP says “he predestined and lovingly planned for us to be adopted to himself as [his own] children…” God in his infinite love “predestined” which means to “mark us out beforehand” to be adopted into his family. God did this, we didn’t have anything to do with it. The believers’ adoption is only possible because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. The end of v.5 is very important. “This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” or “in accordance with the kind intention and good pleasure of His will” AMP. “Pleasure” can be translated “purpose” and “will” can be translated “God’s heart’s desire.” So election, predestination and adoption are all part of God’s purpose and God’s heart’s desire for all believers and it is a magnificent expression of God’s character as a loving, saving God.

An Illustration of our adoption: our relationship with God is like one  of a judge with a lawbreaker. First he “throws the book at him”, then he comes down off the bench and pays the penalty for the guilty lawbreaker. But he does much more than that, he then takes the offender into his home and adopts him / her into his family. The lawbreaker has all the rights and privileges of the judges’ own children. This is exactly what God did for us. We are guilty before God because of our sin, he charges us and convicts us. Then because of Christ’s sacrifice we are “pardoned” and declared not guilty and set free. But God doesn’t just set us free he takes us into his family and we become one of his children. We are adopted into his family for eternity! Amazing Love!

v.6,“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.” As the elect our purpose is to “praise God.” Why? For his “glorious grace.” Grace is the unmerited favour he shows his chosen ones and it is glorious because without it we would have no hope and our lives would be only the time we spend here on the earth—no eternity with him. Instead because of this glorious grace we have a purpose for living and the hope eternal life with him. AMP says “he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved [His Son, Jesus Christ].” I like this translation because the grace is “freely” given to us as a free gift, not something we had to earn or deserved. Also God’s grace was given a name: “the Beloved [His Son, Jesus Christ].” When Jesus came to the earth and died for our sins God graciously accepted us even though we didn’t deserve it, we now belong to his Son. By being in his Son we are being conformed to his image. So God accepts believers because of his Son.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? Even before the creation of the world God chose us to be his children (the elect). Because of his grace as a believer I have been given a free gift of eternal life with God. I praise him for this glorious grace. I am now one of his sons because he chose to adopt me into his family. I have be forgiven of my sins because of his Son.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  I learned that election and adoption are not bad words but something to rejoice in. God chose me, he chose to adopt me into his family but not because I am good or I deserve it but because of his grace. Each day I wake up I am going to praise God for his glorious grace. Wow, I am blessed!

May 31, 2020 at 10:00 AM Leave a comment

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