One of the flaws of the religious world today is the constant calling for people to be saved, but no one knows what they are supposed to be saved from. If I ran up to you and told you need to be saved, but never told you why you needed to be saved or what you needed to be saved from, then you are going to ignore my message and consider me to be a lunatic. The scripture are clear about the need for salvation and why we need to be saved. In today’s lesson we are going to look at God’s message to us as to what we need to be saved from, how we are saved, and what we are saved for. Our text for this study will be Ephesians 2.
Saved From What? (2:1-3)
Paul begins by noting that we are dead in our sins. What does this mean? We look at ourselves and think we are alive and doing just fine. But God is trying to teach us that we have a problem, and the problem is sin. In our last lesson from the Concrete series we learned that sin is a breaking of God’s law and is an offense against God. Sin is an offense against God, his character, and his nature. God is insulted by sinful living. Sin brings death. Too often people think of physical death, but that is not the point of the scriptures. The death that God means is what we often call “spiritual death.” This death is the more important death, because it is a separation from God. God is holy and cannot dwell with people who are not holy. This point is the very first lesson God taught the world. When Adam and Eve sin, what must happen? They had to be removed from the presence of God and are cast out of the Garden of Eden. Therefore, when we sin we are separated from God. Paul says here in verse 1 that we are dead because of our disobedience and sins. The picture is hopelessness and helplessness without Christ.
Paul describes the problem further in verse 2. We are enslaved to Satan. Paul says we are following “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” Paul says the problem is that we have been following the wrong person. Rather than seeking and following the Lord, we have been seeking and following Satan. Rather than being concerned about what God wants, we are concerned with the ways of the world. We are not asking what God’s will is for our lives. We are not asking what our Creator who formed us and gave us life wants us to do. We just followed “the course of this world.” Typically, we view the world as morally neutral. We do not see any problem with listening to the world and doing what the rest of the world does. But we are failing to realize that the ways of the world are not morally neutral, but morally sinful. Satan is at work in this world. Satan is at work in the sons of disobedience. The ways of the world is not the ways of God. Therefore we are separating ourselves from God when we walk as the world walks.
Verse 3 amplifies our problem all the more. Not only are we dead in our sins because we have offended God, and we are dead because we are following the wrong person, we are dead because we are obeying the wrong desires. Sprite used to have a commercial that said to, “Obey your thirst.” This is not the slogan to live by. Paul says in verse 3 that we live, “In the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.” Rather than obeying the passions of our Lord and carrying out the desires of God and his kingdom, we are have been fulfilling our own passions and desires. We are living how we want to live and doing what we want to do.
The final words of verse 3 sum up the problem. Because of these things we are people deserving of God’s wrath. Because of these decisions, we are subject to the wrath of God. This is a righteous judgment. We must not think of the wrath of God as the concept that God is mad because we did not do what he said. Rather, we should think in terms of the just judge who must pass the sentence of punishment on those who break the law. The wrath and punishment of the judge is not that he is personally mad, but is the just requirement. Breaking the law requires punishment and we are upset when there is not justice. Paul’s point is that we are deserving of punishment because we have offended the Lord, have followed the wrong person, and have lived how we wanted to live. Eternal punishment separated from God is the righteous requirement of the law and is deserved by every person.
Saved By What? (2:4-9)
This could be the end of the story. God has every right to make verses 1-3 the end of the story. God wants us to be with him but we chose to follow Satan instead. Therefore, since we do not want to be with God but chose to follow Satan, we are all going to receive the just and right punishment eternally separated from God. This is why the first two words of verse 4 are arguably the two best words you can read. “But God…” Those words are so precious and so important. God did not leave us in the condition we are in. He could have left us in our sins and destined to eternal punishment. That is what we deserve. But God stepped in. God has intervened. Listen to why God did intervened, which Paul describes in verse 4. God who is rich in mercy and because of his great love with which he loved us has acted. God did not do this because you have something to offer God. God did not act because you are such a great human being. We are not great human beings. God did not intervene because we are good, moral people. We are not good. We are not moral. We are not upright. We have proven our sinfulness over and over again. We deserve every ounce of punishment coming to us. But God is rich in mercy and loves us with a great love.
This is when Paul can use this great word and apply to us: grace. We are receiving something that we do not deserve. Notice what we are receiving: “But God…made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” We are dead in our sins because we have been following the wrong person and obeying the wrong passions. But God has made us alive. The death that we have been speaking about is spiritual death, that is, eternal separation from God. To be made alive is speaking about spiritual life, that is, eternal reconciliation with God. Now we are no longer separated (dead) but are able to be in a relationship with the Father (life). We have been brought back into the presence of God. We no longer need to be separated. We no longer have to receive the due punishment for our sins. We no longer need to expect to receive the wrath that is due to us. We no longer have to be destined to eternal punishment because God has acted.
How did God do this? Ephesians 2:13 gives the short answer: “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Allow me to bring in Paul’s words to the Romans which gives greater clarity to what God did.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23–26 ESV)
God put forward Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins (propitiation). The death of Jesus is the means by which God can forgive sins. Please notice that the word used is redemption. We still use redemption today. It means to buy something back. We have redemption prices on our various bottles and cans. The company will redeem the bottle for the price printed on that bottle. Jesus is the redemption price to buy us back from the eternal punishment we deserve so that we can be made alive and placed back into the presence of God, having a relationship with him.
Paul again emphasizes here in Romans that we are saved by grace as a gift. Paul makes the point repeatedly in Ephesians 2. “By grace you have been saved” (2:5), “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (2:8), “This is not your own doing” (2:8), “It is the gift of God,” (2:8), and “Not the result of works” (2:9). We do not get to take credit for any of this. There is nothing in ourselves that we can point to as the reason why God did this. God did this because he is rich in mercy, because of the great love he has for us, and because he does not want any to perish in eternal punishment (2 Peter 3:9). Notice that Paul states another reason why God did this in verse 7. God did this to display his own glory. “So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Paul makes the same point in Ephesians 3:10 that through God’s salvation of people (the church), the vast wisdom of God would be put on display to rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. God is showing how glorious and how terrific he is. He is showing why he is worthy of our worship, worthy of our praise, worthy of our devotion, and worthy of our passionate love.
Saved For What? (2:10)
What does God want us to do? Look at verse 10. We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works. God has done all of this for us so that we would be his creation. God did not do this so that we would continue to follow the wrong person and follow our own passions and desires. God did this so that we would be his new creation. Now we will live for Jesus. Now we will follow the right person and follow the right desires, because we have been created for good works. This is why we are here. If you are looking for the meaning of life and looking for purpose in your life, the apostle Paul gave it to you in verse 10. God planned long ago for us to be saved so that we would be a new creation walking in good works.
What you must do is place your faith in Jesus to receive this great grace so that you are no longer destined to the punishment you deserve, but will be made alive and raised up into the presence of God. Faith in Jesus means you are going to follow and obey what he says to do. You are going to belong to him. You are going to stop following the wrong person and start following the right person. You are going to stop following your passions and desires and start following God’s passions and desires. This is what the scriptures mean when God calls for us to repent. Stop following the wrong person and wrong desires and start following the right person and the right desires. Faith in Jesus means that we are will proclaim this Jesus who has saved us. We will tell people about the God who saves through the blood of Jesus. We will confess that Jesus is God who died for us and we will confess that we are servants of his. Faith in Jesus means that we will submit ourselves to being immersed in water. Paul describes in Romans 6 that we are joining ourselves to Jesus in immersion because he died, was buried, and was raised from the dead, so we in this symbol are dying to sin, are buried in the water, and raising from being dead in sins and alive to God, now in a relationship with him, forgiven of our sins, and placed back in his presence. Faith in Jesus means we will continue to love him, serve him, and obey him, always seeking the Lord with all our heart. We will turn away from sin and we will confess our sins to him when we fall short so that he will forgive us. We are dead. But God has made us alive. Turn to God and be made alive and walk in good works as a new creation because of what God has done for us.