Devotional # 98. 8/18/14. Ephesians 2:1-10.
Intro. I am really excited about today’s Devotional because I think God has spoken this teaching into my life, literally today. I won’t waste time with a lengthy intro…read Ephesians 2:1-10!
vv. 1-3. Christians need to hear this because sometimes we forget what it was like when we were in sin. Sometimes the memories fade of what hopelessness and depravity we lived in. In other cases some of us never lived horrible lives, maybe we grew up in the church but this section shows us what the sin we were in was like. Even if we never did anything horrific we were still in opposition to God and this section helps us understand exactly what we have been saved from.
vv. 4-7. The first two words here are some of the most important in the Bible! “But God”. John R.W. Stott says, “these two monosyllables set against the desperate condition of fallen mankind the gracious initiative and sovereign action of God” (Source 1, pp. 79-80). Basically now that Paul has reminded us of our sin he turns to the hope only God can provide!
Notice in this section that both “mercy” and “grace” are mentioned. We need to know the difference between the two. “To summarize the difference: mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve, and grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it. Mercy is deliverance from judgment. Grace is extending kindness to the unworthy” (Source 2). This is so important that I am going to replace the words “mercy” and “grace” with their definitions and give you this section from the NKJV:
“But God, who is rich in [not punishing us as our sins deserves], because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by [extending kindness to the unworthy] you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His [extending kindness to the unworthy] in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
This is exciting! Not only do we not pay for our sins but we are given riches. The more time we spend serving the Lord we see His will become our will, we see our daily, habitual sin grow less and less, we are loving and kind to others because our Master was first that way towards us.
One part that I didn’t quite understand when I read this was that we Christians would be sitting “together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Stott explains that the thing that makes Christians different in Jesus’ new society isn’t that they worship Jesus, not that they live by the rules of the church, and not even that they have good morals. It’s actually that they are now a people who are “in Christ.” He says, “by virtue of their union with Christ they have actually shared in his resurrection [and] ascension…” So the “heavenly places” is the unseen spiritual reality where Jesus reigns supreme and we are seated on what must be thrones! This isn’t just weird magical stuff. This shows us “a living experience, that Christ has given us on the one hand a new life (with a sensitive awareness of the reality of God, and a love for Him and for His people) and on the other a new victory (with evil increasingly under our feet). We were dead, but have been made spiritually alive and alert. We were in captivity, but have been enthroned” (Source 1, p. 81).
vv. 8-10. There is so much here, we could have an entire Devotional on just these 3 verses! Basically: 1. we did nothing to receive our salvation from sin. 2. Salvation has nothing to do with doing good things. 3. We have been created in and by Jesus. 4. Jesus created us to do good things. 5. The Father made these opportunities before we were born so we could do these good things.
Let’s look at vv. 8-9 again replacing “grace” with its definition:
“For by [God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it] you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
MacArthur explains it well, “good works cannot produce salvation but are subsequent and resultant God-empowered fruits and evidences of it (cf. John 15:8; Phil. 2:12, 13; 2 Tim. 3:17; Titus 2:14; James 2:16-26)” (Source 3).
Conclusion. Something that hit me today was why God said ‘if I was a man, I would be David’ (paraphrasing 1 Samuel 3:14). What an amazing statement!! What did David do? Was he super holy? No, he murdered and committed adultery! So what was it? In David’s heart he knew two things: 1. When He sinned it wasn’t against anyone but God (Psalm 51:4) and 2. When he had confessed sin he was able to continue with life (Psalms 32 & 51, etc). Here in Ephesians we have come to the difficult truths of God’s “mercy” and “grace.” It’s like we were drowning with the surf driving us straight towards a rock cliff and Jesus jumped into the water, pushed us ashore and died in the process. Then His Dad didn’t just dry us off with a towel but put a robe around us, paid all our bills, gave us early retirement and gave us His house in Malibu! We don’t deserve this and some of us will spend our whole life coming to terms with that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to be in awe of the “mercy” and “grace” God has extended to us, but we also should act on it. Now the opposite way are those who think grace means they can keep sinning because they have been forgiven. Bonhoeffer calls this “cheap grace”* stating, “cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate” (Source 4).
So we must find the middle of the road, the King David way, the godly disciple route! For me it has taken a long time (and I’m not there yet). I know that if I sin, I must confess it to God. It must be a heartfelt. And just as quickly He has “forgotten” it. So why can’t I? Because I feel I have failed. I feel that I deserve a period of time where I don’t get His love. But I never deserved it in the first place so I should just move on. I have seen that when I move on I more quickly allow myself to be used by God. Do you get it? By dwelling in your sin you actually can hurt others! Didn’t God put “good works” in your path before you were born? What if someone needs your help but you don’t notice because you are so depressed or immersed in your self-pity? When we confess and move on we can truly admit that “by grace we have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Lord, help us to praise You for your unreasonable love. Help us to accept your forgiveness and extend that love and forgiveness to others, in Your name. Help them to cling to Your salvation and experience Your riches as we do. We are undeserving yet determined to acknowledge your “costly grace” if for nothing else to put others needs ahead of our own. AMEN.
*Cheap Grace: Read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book “The Cost of Discipleship.”
Source 1: John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, 1979
Source 2: S. Michael Houdmann, http://www.gotquestions.org/mercy-grace.html
Source 3: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, 1997, p. 1805.
Source 4: Bonhoeffer, quoted from: http://www.crossroad.to/Persecution/Bonhoffer.html