Ephesians 2:1-10 CEB At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. 2 You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience.3 At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else.
4-5 However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! 6 And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. 7 God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.
8 You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith.[a] This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. 9 It’s not something you did that you can be proud of.10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.
In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul insists that it is by grace that we are saved. We have not earned salvation nor could we have earned it. It is the gift of God and our part is simply to accept it. Paul’s point of view is undeniably true; and for two reasons.
a) God is perfection; and, therefore, only perfection is good enough for God. Humans by nature cannot bring perfection to God; and so, if we are ever to be reconciled to God, it must always be God who gives and humans who receive.
b) God is love; sin is therefore a crime, not against law, but against love. Now it is possible to make atonement for a broken law, but it is impossible to make atonement for a broken heart; and sin is not so much breaking God’s law as it is breaking God’s heart. And therefore only an act of free forgiveness of the grace of God can put us back into the right relationship with him, not any number of our good deeds.
So in summary, our deeds or works have nothing to do with earning salvation. That said, it is neither right nor possible to leave the teaching of Paul here – and yet that is where it is so often left. Paul goes on to say that we are recreated by God for good works. Here is the Pauline paradox. All the good works in the world cannot put us right with God; but there is something radically wrong with the Christianity which does not issue in good works. When one is loved so deeply by God, the human heart is be transformed, and love in deed is the supernatural by-product.
–Adapted from the Daily Study Bible Series, Galatians and Ephesians, pp. 104-05. William Barclay.
Questions about the Scripture
1. Much of classical Hinduism sees the human problem as primarily rooted in our ignorance of our unity with God. How does the letter to the Ephesians diagnose the human problem in verses 1-4 above?
2. According to v. 4-5 above, what did God do for us and why? How might that ‘great love’ be best expressed by recipients of that great love toward people of different religions? Have Christians consistently lived out God’s great love toward those who were on a different path? Why or Why not?
3. Verses 8-9 stress that salvation is completely and totally a gift from God, not something we achieved or an accomplishment we can be proud of. Contrast a ‘proud’ heart with a humble heart. How would leading with a grace-filled, humble heart change the tone of dialogue today, whether that dialogue was about religious differences, political differences, or other differences?
Community & Personal Action Items
Over the course of this week together, let’s challenge ourselves to do one (or both) of the following actions:
1.Invite someone to have coffee or dinner with you who is from a different culture or religion. In a spirit of openness and humility, seek to get to know what is important to them and how their faith helps them. Be in prayer about continued opportunities for dialogue and friendship.
2. Sign up for the “Christianity and World Religions Class” that begins Wednesday, November 7 at 10:30 am or 6:30 pm.
org/grow/welcome-to-adult-ministries/studies-2/ (scroll down to register)
3. Recite and reflect on the following verse this week. Then discuss its meaning and application with your family, friends, or small group.
MEMORY VERSE: “8 You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. 9 It’s not something you did that you can be proud of.10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives. – Ephesians 2: 8-10