Key text: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Lesson objective: To understand that this world apart from God is under its own self-inflicted judgment of unbelief and our only ticket out is the way God planned it: salvation by God’s merciful divine grace through faith alone in the full merits of Christ.
Introduction: When one takes into account the world history of this present age, it can be summed up into the words “aggression and strife for survival!” Once we have experienced biological life, we can be certain that death will mark the next phase. At some point in the beginning, sin entered the world, and death has accompanied it ever since. Our physical and psychological natures have carried the infection from one generation to another and passed it on like a virus. The symptoms of a sinful nature are pride, self-centeredness, the inclination to esteem ourselves better than others, despising the imposition of God’s authority, and the inner drive to satisfy illicit passions and lust at the expense of ourselves and others. And, the most damaging tool of all is our deceptive ability to be in denial of our sinful ways and thus to rationalize our thoughts and behavior as appropriate and politically correct!
The consequences of sin are that the world (not God) views itself as severed in its relationship to God: 1) God has condemned the world for its rebellion. 2) Both Jews and Gentiles are today condemned to death on the account of sin, having been found worthy to receive God’s divine judgment. And 3), they are still legally and spiritually dead as far as God is concerned.
However, God in his love planned a way to save the world that "was" condemned (2:1-3). He has done so by providing atonement through his only Son and thus redeeming you and me. In this way, God declares us just, pardons our sins and grants us life on the basis of the righteousness of the One who died and rose on our behalf. The riches of God’s mercy and divine grace are shown in raising the spiritually dead to new life in Christ. Also, we will not only share in Christ’s heavenly enthronement in the future, but through our spiritual union we are already seated with him in the heavens (vv. 4-7)!
Salvation is a gift of God and appropriated by faith alone (vv. 8-9). In other words, the fact of a person being saved does not depend on what merits or works he or she has done, but by God freely giving salvation on account of the grace he gives to everyone, especially those who are willing to believe via the Holy Spirit. Salvation is a God-human relationship. God provides the personal and cognitive content of faith, as well as the will to believe, as a gift. Faith is not a work, but the God-sought response of accepting and receiving what God provides (Romans 4). What is meant by faith alone is simply believing that Christ’s redemption is more than enough for our salvation, without the need to add our own obedience or religious rituals.
This new relationship with God produces a new creation in us, that is, new life in Christ (v. 10). Our old sinful nature has been subdued by an all-new outlook on life with Jesus at the center of it. As a result of our new relationship with Jesus, we are to produce good works that are in accordance with God’s character and design. Although good works are never the basis or cause of our salvation (for the root is Christ), yet they are the fruit or result of our new covenant relationship with the risen Lord.
Questions for Bible Study
Read the following verses and respond to the questions:
1. Ephesians 2:1-3
a. In this letter, who is Paul addressing? v. 1a. Note: Paul often distinguishes between himself and other Jews from Gentiles by the use of “we” and “you,” respectively.
b. What was the condition of the addressees at one time? v. 1b. Why was this so? What does Paul mean by “dead”? In what sense: 1) spiritually dead (meaning the annihilation of human free will); or 2) spiritually dead (meaning the corruption of free will, with a legal sentence of death imposed on account of sin)? Explain. See Colossians 2:13-14.
c. What manner of life did these Gentiles lead in the past? v. 2a. Who is this ruler that they followed? See 2 Corinthians 4:3-6.
d. Among whom does this “spirit” work? v. 2b. Do you think that the majority of his followers are consciously aware that they follow him? What do they think?
e. What does Paul mean by “all of us”? v. 3a. See Romans 3:9-10. Note: Here Paul is all-inclusive and means both Jews and Gentiles. In what manner did they once live? v. 3b. See Galatians 5:19-21. What about you? How did you once live?
f. What was their common lot with the rest of humanity? v. 3c. Why? See Romans 3:19-20.
2. Ephesians 2:4-7
a. What attribute within God moved him toward us? v. 4a. What other attribute of God do we desperately need? v. 4b. How much of this attribute does God have?
b. What has God done for us? v. 5a. See Luke 15:24; John 5:24. When did God bring us to life in Christ: when we are made ourselves perfect, or when we were yet sinners? See Romans 5:8.
c. How or through what means have we been saved? v. 5b. Explain and illustrate this great concept. Note: Even the most religious persons often fail to grasp its meaning!
d. What has God done for us in Christ? v. 6. How have we become partakers of his resurrection, ascension and session? Explain each of the three in theological terms. Can you grasp the enormity of our position in Christ? Explain what this means in our Christian walk.
e. What is it that God wants to demonstrate from this present age to the age to come (the resurrection age)? v. 7a. How has this been expressed, and through whom? v. 7b.
3. Ephesians 2:8-10
a. What emphasis regarding salvation is given here again? v. 8a. The grammatical tense of the word “saved” is in the past. Can you explain?
b. If God’s salvation is by grace, what is the human response to it called? v. 8b. What is “not of ourselves” — salvation itself or the response of faith? Note: The answer is salvation itself. Although faith is not a meritorious work, it is “our” response to God’s saving act in Christ. We do the believing. Yet even that is a gift of God. See Romans 4:1-7.
c. What is salvation called? v. 8c. Why? See Romans 3:22-24.
d. What is salvation definitely not by? v. 9a. See Acts 13:38-39; Galatians 2:16; Philippians 3:7-9; Titus 3:5. For what reason? v. 9b. See Romans 3:27-28.
e. As a result of God’s saving grace, what are we now? v. 10a. In whom are we newly created, and for what reason? v. 10b. Explain, and consult the Introduction. See 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:14-15.
Respond to the following questions:
1. Describe to what depth human depravity can sink. Take into account some of humanity’s recent history: The Nazi-Jewish problem; Marxism in Central America; death squads in Latin America; Jewish-Palestinian conflict; genocide in Africa; the World Trade Center attack; wars in the Middle East; and Muslim terrorist organizations on a global scale.
2. As Christians with a higher calling and indebted to God’s saving grace, what do you think is the role of the church in today’s world? How do we reach out to a world in conflict?
This world seems to be spinning as fast as it can away from God and toward its own destruction. Nevertheless, God’s love has found a way from the despair of death to the joy of the gift of life in Christ. Saved by divine grace!