An Exposition on Ephesians 2:1-10

Ephesians 2:1-10
An Exposition

For us evangelical Christians, Ephesians 2:8-10 is probably the first of the bible verses we learned when we were still growing. We use it to defend a diluted version of sola fide–the doctrine which, in its fullness, proclaims that a man is forgiven of his sins and accepted into God’s sight by faith alone. However, while the truth of being saved by grace through faith and not by works is found in the text, I charge that the first ten verses of the second chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians are more than just a prooftext for sola fide. Ephesians 2:1-10 is a summative description of God’s sovereign work in saving depraved sinners by uniting them to Christ.

Let’s divide this exposition into three parts, all of which are paraphrased from Sovereign Grace Music’s All I Have is Christ:

  1. We were lost in darkest night
  2. But as we ran our hellbound race
  3. Let my song forever be: “My only boast is You!”

We were lost in darkest night…

Verses 1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air; the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

  1. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked,
      • Paul is painting a picture of our spiritual deadness. Our deadness comes from the trespasses and sins that we walked. Spiritual deadness is not a mere aspect but the totality of one’s being, as seen in this verse and the next verses.
        Observe that this rebellion is the path we once walked on, but not anymore, hence the usage of the word “once”.
  2. following the course of this world,
      • Paul expounds on spiritual deadness. We who are dead in the trespasses and sins in which we once walked also  followed the course of this world (kosmos)that is, the world of rebellious mankind.
  3. following the prince of the power of the air; the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind. 
      • The prince of the air–Satan, the Devil
      • The spirit that is now at work in the sins of disobedience — Paul mentions that the same spirit-captor we were once captured by now works in the sons of disobedience.
      • Among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind-Paul once again calls back to the time of our total depravity. We lived for our flesh, carrying out bodily desires and the desires of our minds–we lived not under the Lordship of God but under the desires of our sinful nature. We did not want to know God or seek for Him. See Romans 3:10-20.
  4. and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

      • Recap: we know that we were in rebellion, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and following the prince of the power of the air.
        Romans 1:18 reveals a lot about this verse:
        The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. For what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse.
      • By nature, due to our open rebellion against God, who is wholly deserving of our praise and honor, God’s wrath is revealed on us, and we are subject to it and are certain to be repaid for our dues in the age to come.
      • Paul concludes this first part by showing us the eventual judgment of God on our sin–we were to be judged in wrath because of it.
  5. SUMMARY: Paul, in these three verses, is summarizing our spiritual death:
    we were:

    • Following the course of this world (in sin)
    • Following the prince of the power of the air in rebellion
    • Living in the passions of our flesh carrying out the desires of the body and the mind
    • Children–that is, subject–of God’s judicial wrath against our sin.

But as we ran our hell-bound race…

Verses 4-7 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

  1. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses,
      • Paul starts the whole chapter with a reminder of our depravity and our sorrowful state– the wrath of Almighty God is upon us because we walked in sin and rebellion! But Paul then speaks of a light shining in darkness: But God–who was, as we saw earlier, wrathful against the sinner–was also rich in mercy.
      • Because of the great love with which He had loved us,– while we were objects of His wrath, He had a great love with which He had loved us.
      • Even when we were dead in our tresspasses–even when we were spiritually dead, children of wrath, and following the course of this world!
  2. made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with Him
      • God, loving us greatly while we were still under His wrath, made us alive together with Christ–who was the wrath-satisfying sacrifice for our sin (Romans 3:25-26). There is an underlying theme of union with Christ that is shown through this passage, for Paul doesn’t merely state God’s objective substitutionary work on the cross but rather, the sinner’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection. And this is God’s work! 
      • by grace you have been saved–Paul interjects, saying this, pointing to the fact that we were made alive with Christ by God’s unmerited grace. It is a gift from God! (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 2:8-9)
      • And raised us up with Him–continuing the flow of the idea, Paul says that we who were dead, are now, in Christ, raised with Him–reborn, regenerated, renewed. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come.”(2 Cor 5:17)
  3. and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
    • Seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus —Though we live in the body, we who have been made alive by God are seated with Him in Christ Jesus already. There is a sense that this refers to justification–that is, the declaration that a sinner is righteous because he is in Christ and is imputed with His righteousness. According to the Christian Crier:

      “Now we are told that we are seated “with him in the heavenly places” meaning that, like Christ, our works are done.  We are not saved by works but saved for works but our works had nothing to do with our being saved.” 

    • So that in the coming ages [God] might show us the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. —This is the purpose of all salvation: so that God might show us the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness in Christ Jesus. The purpose of our salvation is that God might show us–and all of creation–His immeasurable kindness!
  4. Where is faith here? 
    The interesting about this verse is that it is focused on God’s perspective. There is no verse within 2:4-7 that states that the sinner believed. Paul cuts straight from spiritual deadness to union with Christ in His death.

      • However, we can infer from places like John 6:44-46 that God grants even belief to the unwilling sinner:

        No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the prophets: ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him comes to Me—not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God; only He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I tell you, he who believes has eternal life.
        (John 6:44-46 BSB)

      • This will be elaborated more later in verses 8-10.
  5. Summary
    • Even when we deserved God’s wrath, God, being immeasurably kind and loving, made us alive together with Christ.
    • We are seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
    • God grants us faith so that we could believe in Christ and be united to Him in His death.
    • The purpose of this salvation is for the display of His immeasurable kindness to us.
    • This is all by grace.

Let my song forever be, my only boast is You!

Verses 8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

  1. For by grace you have been saved through faith. — “For” denotes that this train of thought explains or completes the previous statements of God’s sovereign work to save sinners. The reason of your salvation is by grace, the means by faith–trusting, humble faith.
  2. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
    • This–the summary of all of salvation, is not your own doing. It is the gift of God. This is the gift of God–salvation!

      “ It has to be one or the other; and since Paul has already told us that salvation is God’s doing (via His grace), then it cannot be the result of man’s doing (via his works).’ (Davies, 2014)

      Some render it For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves
      since the interlinear of that verse prefers that line. Again, we can deduce from verses like John 6:44-46, as seen above, that God grants belief. So, we can confidently say that from saving faith to deliverance from sin’s penalty, sinning itself, and sin’s presence at the end is a sovereign work of God.

    • Not as a result of works–of the law, of human deeds to neighbor and God, which is the essence of the law. Nothing from our effort.
    • so that no one can boast.– Compare 1 Peter 2:9 for the opposite of boasting:

      But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

  3. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
    • For we are his workmanship — All of this is because we are His workmanship–we are His project, so to speak. All who have been made alive by God’s saving work are His workmanship, His work, as if to display us.  
    • Created in Christ Jesus for good works — Created new, as in 2 Corinthians 5:17, or Galatians 6:15. The regenerated saint is saved not for the sake of merely being free, but for the sake of good works done for God and unto their neighbor.
    • Which God prepared beforehand — God prepared these works for those whom He will save beforehand.
    • That we should walk in them.
      Here we see a kind of total reversal of verse one. In verse one, we were dead in the trespasses of our sins, in which we once walked following the course of this world. Now, we are not dead; in fact, we are alive in deed! Salvation, then, is not merely salvation from wrath–though, verse 3 states it plainly, but a salvation from our rebellion. Eschatologically we are then saved from wrath by His substitutionary death and resurrection life (Isaiah 53:10-12; Romans 5:9-10), but this is shown by our good works, for He will render eternal life unto those who seek glory and immortality (Romans 2:6). Only those saved by God can escape the wrath to come by virtue of His Son’s life, shown through the good works we do.  
  4. Summary
    • You are saved from your dead nature and from the wrath of God by grace alone through faith alone. 
    • All of this is not from your doing, but the gift of God, to the praise of His glorious grace. For His glory, He saved you.  

For Misha. 

Nick 

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