Ephesians

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians

By: Tom Lowe                                           Date: 3/11/17

 

Lesson 8: The Individual Believer’s Present State (2:4-10)

 

Ephesians 2:4-10 (KJV)

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.


Commentary

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

 

“But God, who is rich in mercy”

“Mercy” is a gift of the divine nature, and is essential to God; and may be considered with respect to the objects of it, either as “general,” extending to all men in a beneficial way; or as “special,” extending only to some by way of grace; for though “mercy” is a product of His nature, the display and application of it towards any object is the act of His will. Special mercy, with all the blessings and benefits of it, is only exhibited in Christ Jesus, and God is said to be “rich” in it, because He is free and liberal in dispensing it to a large number of persons, in great abundance and variety, by various ways, and in various instances, for it is present in the covenant of grace, in the mission of Christ, in redemption by him, in regeneration, in pardon of sin, and in eternal salvation; and yet it is inexhaustible and perpetual; and this reveals the excellence and glory of it. The idea of richness in grace, glory, and mercy is especially frequent in this Epistle (See Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8; Ephesians 3:16.) God has a tender, yearning feeling towards men made miserable by their own sins. And this feeling is not trivial or meager―He is rich in mercy. It is an exuberant, full-flowing feeling in God ("Thy mercy ... is in the heavens," Psalm 36:5), and may therefore be sought through prayer.

 

“for his great love wherewith he loved us”

The love of God for His chosen people is very great, if it is considered who it is that has loved them, God and not man; who is an infinite, unchangeable, and sovereign Being; and his love is like himself, for “God is love”; it has immeasurable heights and depths, and lengths and breadths. It allows neither variation nor alteration; and is altogether free, arising from the Lord Himself, and not from any man’s ulterior motives and conditions. And if the persons themselves are considered, who are the objects of it―men, sinful men, unworthy of divine notice―and are loved personally, particularly, and distinctly, but not for anything in them, or done by them, and in spite of their many sins and transgressions. Rather, God’s love is represented here as a past act; and indeed it is from everlasting, and is a precursor to their being quickened (saved), even though they were dead in trespasses and sins. He loves us because of Who He is―“God is love”―and what Jesus has done for us.

 

The love of God, more than anything else, is the one moving cause of salvation. Paul said in Romans 5:8, “God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Love is the one attribute from which the plan of salvation sprang. Love is more than compassion. Compassion may be confined to the heart, but love goes forth in active grace. It makes common cause with its object. It cannot rest till its object is made right. Two expressions are used intensifying this Divine love: (1), His great love; and (2), love with which he loved us.

 

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

 

“Even when we were dead in sins”

These words should be connected, not with “loved us,” (2:4) but with “hath quickened us together with Christ.”It does not mean that he quickened us when we were dead in sin, but that he loved us then, and made provision for our salvation. It was love for the children of wrath; love for those who had no love to return to Him; love for the alienated and the lost. That is true love―the sincerest and the purest compassion―love, not like that of people, but such as only God bestows. Man loves his friend, his benefactor, and his family―God loves his foes, and seeks to do them good.


“Even when we were dead in our sins” is repeated from verse 1, in order to set in its true light the declaration that follows of what God did for us to make more evident the free and sovereign mercy of God. Though sin is the abominable thing which He hates, He did not turn away from us when we were immersed in it; nor did He wait till we began to move towards Him; He began to influence us even when we were dead. He made us alive together with Christ. Made us alive with the life which is in Christ and which flows from Christ.  The Father, having “given to the Son to have life in himself,” and “the Son quickening whom he will,” by God's decree we were first quickened by Him and made partakers of Christ's life―“Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25). All the life we had lost was restored―the life forfeited by transgression, the life of a calm and well-organized heart, the sublime life of fellowship with God. 

 

hath quickened us together with Christ,

All Christians are declared to be quickened (or, raised up from the death of sin) to spiritual life with Christ (the life of righteousness), according to His promise, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). But there is a promise even beyond this one: “I am the life: whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die” (John 11:25). Hence, even more emphatically, and in full accordance with this promise, we have in Colossians 3:4, “Christ who is our life;” and in 2Corinthians 4:10-11, “The life of Jesus is made manifest in us.” What this “life eternal” is He Himself declares in John 17:3—“to know the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent.”

 “Together with Christ”—We are already seated there IN Him (“in Christ Jesus,” Eph 2:6), and henceforth shall be seated by Him. We are IN Him already for He is our Head, which is the ground of our hope; and we are by Him henceforth, for hope shall be swallowed up in fulfillment. We are, and always shall be, “together with Christ,” that is, connected with him by virtue of His being raised up from the grave. The meaning is that there was such a connection between Christ and those whom the Father hath given to Him, that his resurrection from the grave involved their resurrection to spiritual life. It was like raising up the head and the members, the whole body together. Everywhere in the New Testament, the close connection of the believer with Christ is affirmed. We are crucified with Him. We die with Him. We rise with Him. We live with Him. We reign with Him. We are joint heirs with Him. We share His sufferings on earth (1 Peter 4:13) and we share His glory with Him on His throne (Revelation 3:21).

(by grace ye are saved;)

This clause gives the impression of having been thrown in here abruptly by the apostle in order to throw light on this great wonder―that Christ would be willing to impart his own life to souls dead in sin. Grace as opposed to human merit is at the root of the whole arrangement; free, undeserved mercy. It is not anything that God is bound to by His nature. It is the result of His will, not of his nature. Had it not been for His good pleasure, salvation would be impossible. "Saved" is the past tense denoting, not the act of being saved, but the fact of having been saved. Salvation in a real sense is a present possession. When we are one with Christ we are justified freely by God's grace, our trespasses are all forgiven. The spirit of new moral life has been given to us; we are made alive to God. But while salvation is a present attainment in a real sense, its full realization is future, for that includes perfect holiness, and also the glorification of the body. In this sense salvation is to come―“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? (Romans 8:24); “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).

 

And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

 

“And hath raised us up together,”

…so that we no longer walk “according to the course of this world,” but according to the life of Christ; we walk "in newness of life." That is, we are raised from the death of sin to the life of religion, in connection with the resurrection of Jesus, and by virtue of that. So close is the connection between Him and His people, that His resurrection made theirs certain―“having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:5).

 

This “newness of life” is the effect of almighty power, and of rich grace and mercy, and Christ is the cause of it, for He raises the dead in sin, and quickens whom He will. We are examples of the exceeding greatness of God's power, because when Christ rose from the dead, all his people rose in Him, and with Him. “Raised us up together” may be understood either as a further degree of spiritual life in the progress of sanctification granted to believers in this world; or rather, of the resurrection of the body, which is said to be raised together with Christ, because it is to be raised by the same power that raised him up.

“And made us sit together,” together with him, that is, we share his honors. So close is our connection with Him, that we shall partake of His glory, and in some measure do now; compare Matthew 9:28, and Romans 8:17.

―“Jesus said to them, Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 9:28).

―“Now if we are children, then we are heirs―heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17).

 

Just as God placed Jesus at His right hand in heaven, so He has placed His people with Him in heavenly places; i.e. places where the privileges of heaven are dispensed, where the air of heaven is breathed, where the fellowship and the enjoyment of heaven are known, where an elevation of spirit is experienced, as if we were already in heaven.We have not only our spiritual enlivening in Christ when restored to life, but actually begun in ourselves in our effectual calling; but the resurrection of our bodies, and our sitting in heaven, has not as yet actually been fulfilled in ourselves, yet we have it in Christ our Head, who rose for us and we in Him, and sits in heaven for us, and we in Him may be said to sit there too, by reason of our union with Him, and being members of Him

 

“In heavenly places”

See the notes at Ephesians 1:3. The meaning is that He has gone to the heavenly world as our Head and Representative. His entrance there is a pledge that we shall also enter there. Even here we have the anticipation of glory, and are admitted to exalted honors, as if we sat in heavenly places, by virtue of our connection with Him.

 

“In Christ Jesus”

Through our connection with Him we are exalted, and filled with joy and peace. The meaning of the compete verse is this: “We are united to Christ. We die with Him, and live with Him. We share His sufferings, and we share His joys. We become dead to the world in virtue of His death; we become alive unto God in virtue of his resurrection. On earth we are exalted to honor, peace, and hope, in virtue of His resurrection; in heaven we shall share His glory and partake of His triumphs.”

 

That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

 

“That in the ages to come”

 “In the ages” which are beginning," that is, the blessed ages of the Gospel which supersede "the age of this world" (*Eph 2:2), and the past "ages" from which the mystery was hidden (Col 1:26, 27). “The age of this world” (literally, "the age," compare Galatians 1:4), or present system of this world (1Co 2:6, 12; 3:18, 19, as opposed to "the ages to come") is alienated from God, and loyal to the wicked one (1Jo 5:19). These good ages, though beginning with the first preaching of the Gospel, and thereafter continually succeeding one another, are not consummated till the Lord's coming again (compare Eph 1:21; Heb 6:5). The words, "to come," do not exclude the time then present, but imply simply the ages following Christ's “raising them up together” spiritually (Eph 2:6). This is the end of God's permitting sin, in which men are morally dead; and of His permitting them to go on in sin, in a state of unregeneracy; and of his quickening them with Christ, and raising them up, and causing them to sit together with Him.

 

“he might show the exceeding riches of his grace”

“Riches” added to “grace,” denote the great value of it, as well as its abundance; and also the freeness and liberality of God in giving it; and likewise the enriching nature of it; and these riches are “exceeding”; they exceed the “riches” of this world, in the immensity of them, being unsearchable; and in the inexhaustible supply of them, for though such large treasures have been expended upon such a huge number of persons, yet there is still the same quantity remaining. As for the duration of them, they last forever; and in the profit and satisfaction they yield, when other riches fade away, are not profitable or satisfying; and they exceed the conception, knowledge, and comprehension of men.

 

“in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus”

He has been very kind to us; let me count the ways: in providing Jesus Christ as a Savior for His people; in His mission into this world; in not sparing Him, but giving Him up as a sacrifice to justice for their sins; and blessing them with all spiritual blessings in Him. All this was designed by God to be the  message in the ages to come; meaning either the ages following to the end of time, and not from the ages that were past: hence it appears, that the world was not expected to immediately come to an end; and that the writings of the New Testament were to be continued, and the Gospel preached unto the end of time, for a day of grace will never be over, as long as the Gospel of grace is preached; and that the instances of grace through Christ in the times of the apostles, are encouraging to men in succeeding ages; and that the same grace that was displayed then, is shown us today. He has appointed ages enough for them to enjoy it in; but their riches lie in another world, and are in some measure hid. They are the product of the grace of God, and these exceeding riches will become discernible, when it will appear that God's giving grace to men, is not only with a view to His own glory, but is an act of kindness to them; and that eternal happiness will be heartily and freely bestowed upon them through Jesus Christ their Lord:

 

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

 

“For by grace are ye saved”

In the New Testament, “grace” (156 times) takes on a special redemptive sense in which God makes available His favor on behalf of sinners, who actually do not deserve it. There is tremendous emphasis in the New Testament upon the fact that human salvation is the result of Heaven’s grace. This beautiful truth should never be minimized. At the same time, it must not be perverted. Grace is a mere favor. It is not given because you deserve it; it is not because you have any legitimate claim on it. It is not because you belong to a certain church and not because you do good deeds and are a good person. This is a favorite doctrine of Paul, as it is with all who love the Lord Jesus; compare *Romans 1:7; *Romans 3:24.

 

More on Grace

 

Grace occurs when God gives somebody something they don’t deserve; something unmerited. So what is it that you receive that is unmerited?  According to our basic definition of grace, you receive unmerited “favor.”  Favor is something good being given to you or an act of kindness, like someone helping you.  To be favored by someone means that someone likes you or helps you.  The word “favorite” comes from the word “favored” and it means “the one you favor the most.”  To favor someone means to like or help him or her.  Grace then is getting something nice that you have not earned or deserve.  When you receive grace you are given something better than what you deserve.

 

So what is it that you receive that is unmerited?  According to our basic definition of grace, you receive unmerited “favor.”  Favor is something good being given to you or an act of kindness, like someone helping you.  To be favored by someone means that someone likes you or helps you.  The word “favorite” comes from the word “favored” and it means “the one you favor the most.”  To favor someone means to like or help him or her.  Grace then is getting something nice that you have not earned or deserve.  When you receive grace you are given something better than what you deserve.

 

So how does God show grace to us?  God shows grace to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  When He was on the cross, Jesus took all the punishment that we deserved and placed it on Himself. On the cross, Jesus gave us the gift of a relationship with God, something that we cannot earn by ourselves nor do we deserve it.  God loves His children so much that He shows them grace by Christ taking away all of the punishment that we get for disobeying God and giving us good gifts instead.

 

 “through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God”

It will help us to understand this clause if we break it into three pieces:

  1. “Through faith”―Grace bestowed through faith, or in connection with believing.“Faith,” as understood by St. Paul, is not merely head-belief, a purely intellectual process such as that of which St. James spoke when he said “the devils also believe and tremble”; neither is it merely “trust,” a passive dependence upon an Unseen Power; but it is a further stage of feeling developed out of these, a current of emotion setting strongly in the direction of its object, an ardent and vital apprehension of that object, and a firm and loyal attachment to it. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; also see Romans 4:16). In the Book of Hebrews Paul wrote: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
  2. “And that not of yourselves”―That is, salvation does not proceed from yourselves. The word rendered “that” is in the neuter gender, and the word “faith” is in the feminine. The word “that,” therefore, does not refer particularly to faith, as being the gift of God, but to "the salvation by grace" of which he had been speaking. This is the interpretation of the passage which is the most obvious, and which is now generally conceded to be the true one. Many critics, however, maintain that the word "that" refers to “faith” and that such a use is common in the New Testament. As a matter of grammar this opinion is certainly doubtful, if not invalid; but as a matter of theology it is a question of very little importance.
  3. “It is the gift of God”Whether this passage proves it or not, it is certainly true that faith “is the gift of God.” It exists in the mind only when the Holy Spirit produces it there. Salvation is through faith, but faith is not a cause or condition of salvation, nor does it add anything to the blessing itself; but it is the way, or means, or instrument, which God has appointed, for receiving and enjoying it, so that it might appear to be all of grace; and this faith is not the product of man’s free will and power, but it is the free gift of God; and therefore salvation through faith is consistent with salvation by grace; since that itself is of grace, lies entirely in receiving grace and gives all the glory to the grace of God. The sense of this last clause may be, that salvation is not of ourselves; it is not of our desiring nor of our deserving, nor of our performing, but is of the free grace of God: though faith is elsewhere represented as the gift of God―“He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” (John 6:5).

 

Not of works, lest any man should boast.

 

“Not of works”

“Are you saved?” So many reply to my question with, “I try to do the right things; I think I am a good person; I give to my church; etc.” These are all “works,” things you do; but the Holy Spirit says through the Apostle Paul, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works”―“Not of works” of any kind, moral or ceremonial, before or after conversion, done without faith or in it, none of these in any sense. Works are neither the motivating causes, nor the acquiring causes, nor the helping causes, or conditions of salvation. The best works that are done by men are not done of themselves, but by the grace of God, and therefore, they can never merit His favor; and salvation stands firmly upon such a footing. We are saved unto “good works;” that is, we do good works, because we are saved, not because of some ulterior motive, such as drawing attention and praise to ourselves.

 

“lest any man should boast”

 God has denied works any place in justification and salvation, in order to exclude all boasting by men; and has declared in His word that salvation is all of God and He freely gives it by way of grace to those He has chosen and called; poor sinful worthless creatures, so that whoever glories, may glory in the Lord. God who knows the heart of all men, knows that they are highly likely to glory in their own works or worth, as men are apt to do when they think they have anything of their own which contributes to their salvation (see Romans *3:27; 4:2). Can you imagine boasting to God of anything good you have done; and especially boasting that you should be saved because of those good deeds.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 

The suppression of boasting was a purpose of God in His scheme of salvation; not the chief or final purpose, any more than the manifestation of His grace in coming ages was His chief or final purpose in showing mercy to the Ephesians, but it was inseparable from the nature of His plan. The spirit of glorying is essentially unsuited to the relations between the creature and the Creator, between the Redeemer and the redeemed.

 

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

 

“For we are his workmanship”

 We are His “making,” that is, we are “created or formed” by Him, not only in the general sense in which all things are made by Him, but in that special sense which is referred to as “the new creation”―“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  There is a new creation in the soul of that man. His understanding is enlightened, his judgment corrected, and he has new ideas and perceptions of things. His conscience is informed, awakened, and purged from guilt by the blood of Jesus (*Hebrews 9:14). His will is subjected to the will of God, his affections drawn from earth to heaven, and his dispositions, words, and actions, his cares, labors, and pursuits, are all changed.  Whatever of peace, or hope, or purity we have has been produced by Him acting upon the soul? There cannot be conceived to be a stronger expression to denote the handiwork of God in the conversion of people, or the fact that salvation is entirely of grace.

 

“Created in Christ Jesus”

The phrase “Created in Christ Jesus,” evidently means to be united to Christ by faith; or to be in Him as the branch is in the vine―that is, so united to the vine, or so in it, that it derives all its nourishment and support from it, and to be sustained entirely by it. John 15:2, "every branch in me." John 15:4 "abide in me, and I in you." "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine; no more can ye except ye abide in me." See also John 15:5-7. To be “in Christ” denotes a more tender and close union; and implies that all our support is from Him. All our strength is derived from Him; and denotes further that we shall partake of His fullness, and share in His bliss and glory, as the branch partakes of the strength and vigor of the parent vine. The pronouncement here is universal, “if any man be in Christ;” that is, all who become true Christians undergo such a change in their point of view and feelings that it becomes proper to say of them that they are new creatures. No matter what they have been before, whether moral or immoral; whether infidels or tentative believers; whether good-natured, or disagreeable, sensual and polluted; yet if they become Christians they all experience such a change as to make it proper to say they are a new creation.

 

“Unto good works”

 This clause is a reference to living a holy life; or, the propose for which we have been created in Christ is, that we should lead a holy life. The primary object was not to bring us to heaven. It was that we should be "holy." Paul held perhaps more firmly than any other man, to the position that people are saved by the mere grace of God, and by a divine force acting upon the soul; but it is certain that no man ever held more firmly to the view that people must lead holy lives, or they could have no evidence that they were the children of God.

 

“Which God hath before ordained”

The words “before ordained” as they are used here, means to "prepare beforehand," then to predestinate, or appoint before. It follows then that the proper meaning of this clause is, “God has predestinated us, or appointed us beforehand, “to perform good works”; “that we should walk in them.” The word used here occurs in the New Testament nowhere else except in *Romans 9:23, where it is rendered “prepared in advance.” It involves the idea of a previous determination, or an arrangement made beforehand for securing a certain result. The previous preparation referred to here, was the divine intention; and the meaning is, that God had predetermined that we should lead holy lives. It agrees, therefore, with the declaration in *Ephesians 1:4, that he had chosen his people before the foundation of the world and that they should be holy: see the notes at that verse.

 

“That we should walk in them”

 The word “walk” is often used in the Scriptures to denote the course of life or the manner of conduct; Romans 4:12; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 10:3; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:1―“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

 

“In them” refers to that which Paul has been talking about, “good works.”The Apostle John (the beloved disciple) gave us this information about Jesus―“Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do you stone me?”(John 10:32).Jesus did many good works, such as healing the sick, and all manner of diseases; dispossessing devils, cleansing lepers, giving sight to the blind, causing the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear, and the lame to walk; which were not only works of power, but of mercy and grace; and therefore are called good works, as well as great and miraculous.

 

 

 

Scripture References

*Romans 1:7―“To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

*Romans 3:24―“and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

*Romans 3:27―“Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith.”

*Romans 4:17―“(as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU") in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.”

*Romans 9:23―“What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory.”

*Ephesians 1:4― “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”

*Ephesians 2:2―“Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.”

*Hebrews 9:14―“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

 

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