Text: Ephesians 2:1-10
The Five Solas were the foundations for the Protestant reformation. Around 500 years back, the church moved away from the teachings of scripture in many ways. Scripture was not seen as authoritative but traditions were given equal authority. Salvation was not by grace through faith in Christ but was something that was gained through merit, good works and even bought with money. It was against this backdrop that the Protestant Reformation started and the five solas were some of the foundational beliefs of Christian faith.
These five solas are important even today as people face similar issues, even within the church. God is seen as a higher power with many forms and names. People assume that there are many ways to God. Basic belief is that God wants us to be good people and good people go to heaven. And there are some who don’t consider God to be all knowing, all powerful or even all good.
If you don’t experience the power of God, if the gospel is not powerfully changing you from the inside, if your heart does not melt when you look at your Savior, if you are struggling to obey, struggling with sin or struggling to lead a life of holiness, if you have not not embraced Christ with all your hear and are still living under guilt of past or present sin, if you are struggling with assurance and confidence in Christ about your salvation, then you don’t understand the grace of God.
The doctrine of God’s grace should grip our whole being. The doctrine of grace exalts God as sovereign yet points to the desperate fallen condition of sinful humanity and bridges this gap through the all-sufficient, powerful saving work of Christ. This is why we sing amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
Grace not only touches the depths of human existence but also reveals the very heart of God. A rich understanding of God’s grace draws us in glorious worship and intimate communion with God.
What is grace? It simply means Gift.
5…it is by grace you have been saved
7 the incomparable riches of his grace
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith
Gifts come in various ways. We receive gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, kindness of people, response to some need etc. Gift is something we don’t work for, it has been paid for, cannot be earned and its free. But not all gifts change your life. A Starbucks card as a gift is very thoughtful and a kind gesture. But for someone who is undergoing a kidney transplant and is in need of a donor, failing which the person will lose their life in a matter of days, and someone donates their kidney to save this person’s life, this gift is in a different league.
You don’t just say, thanks for the kidney, see you later. It changes you.
The gift is special not because it is free but because of how much you need it and how costly it is for the other person – Grace is same
Often we don’t understand how much we need grace, and that we cannot live without it. We don’t understand how costly it is. To understand the gift of God’s grace, you have to understand your true condition first.
Let’s look at Ephesians 2:1-10
1. Dead in sin
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
Bible does not say you were sick in your transgressions and sins. But it says you were dead in your transgressions & sins. If you were sick you have an option of doing something. You can go to the doctor, take some medicines, stick to a diet, do some exercise, you can do something about your sickness and the choice is yours. And what you do determines the outcome.
But if you were dead, nothing you can do will change the outcome. There are no degrees of deadness. You are either alive or dead. The Bible says we are spiritually dead. We don’t need God as doctor or consultant but we need a savior who can resurrect us.
Our spiritual deadness and brokenness is evident as we see a 2-year-old lie about breaking a toy. Clearly the parents did not teach the child to lie. But there is a propensity within each one of us to gravitate toward things that displease God. This is because we are spiritually dead. Not everyone is equally bad. There are people who do good, show kindness, be generous and help with justice. And there are people with all kinds of evil and immoral behavior. But all people, both good and bad, nice and not so nice, all are equally spiritually dead.
Ephesians 2:1 shows that we are spiritually dead.
2:2 shows we are enslaved and in bondage.
2:3 shows we are objects of wrath and condemnation.
As we read scripture, we see in 2 Corinthians 4 that we are blind, in Psalm 51 that we are sinful, in Jeremiah 17 that we are deceitful, in Luke 19 that we are lost and in Jeremiah 13 that we are helpless.
Most people think that we are basically good and because we are basically good, God has to bless me and has to take me to heaven. We have no idea of our true spiritual reality. We may not like this fact, it might make us uncomfortable and even resist the truth. But the Bible gives us the truth about our spiritual reality and not how the world portrays us as amazing people who need to just try a bit harder.
Rom 3:10-12 There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.
Unless we grasp our true spiritual condition, we will never understand God’s grace. And the gift of God’s grace comes to us in this state of being dead in sin.
2. Grace of God
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
In the first part we see how we are spiritually dead, enslaved, objects of wrath and condemned. Here we see what God does about our spiritually dead state.
Three verbs capture what God has done and they all have a prefix (sin) in Greek which means synonyms or synchronous. The idea is something done “together”. And notice all three are in past tenses, something that’s already done for us.
v.5 God made us alive together with Christ – we are no longer spiritually dead
v.6 God raised us up together with Christ – we are no longer under guilt and shame
v.6 God seated us together with Christ – we are at a place of love, honor/acceptance
All this done in and through and by Christ - v.8 it is by grace you have been saved through faith
There is a great transfer that takes place on the cross. What I deserve is transferred to Christ and what he deserves is transferred to me. I deserve –eternal death, separation, alienation and condemnation. Jesus deserved - for living a perfect, obedient and righteous life – honor and glory. When I trust Christ – by God’s grace – I get what he deserved and he gets what I deserved. On cross, Jesus cried, Father why have you forsaken me? He received eternal abandonment and the full wrath of God as my substitute. It was a costly price but he paid it willingly. He who knew no sin became sin for you
God’s grace is a free gift but it was a costly gift. We don’t deserve it or can never afford it, but we need it and without it there is no life.
If the knowledge that you are saved utterly by the grace of God does not thrill you all the time, infuse your whole life with joy, then you don’t understand how big a sinner you were and how lavish his grace is for you.
How do you understand the grace of God, only by understanding the magnitude of your sin and the cost of what Jesus did for you on the cross.
Some say yes, God’s grace is a gift, but you have to believe. God does his part and we have to do our part. God brings the water to our parched soul but we have to drink it. This sounds spiritual but not biblical – you have no part in your salvation!
v.8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
What is saving faith? Not some thing we do apart from Christ. It is not something we add to the work of Christ. Apart from Christ we lack the intellectual ability to understand the gospel or the moral ability to believe gospel. Even faith we have is a gift from God, not ours. Saving faith is a gift of God and the character of saving faith is to rest and receive, not to offer something in return for God’s salvation. It is like an open hand that simply receives what is offered, like an empty hand of faith we bring nothing, we don’t conjure up this faith. We merely exercise faith that God gives.
The perfect righteousness of Christ is God’s gift to us, and even the means by which we receive it is the Lord’s gift given to us
3. New Life
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
How does a life that understands the grace of God look like?
If someone who encounters the grace of God asks, Can we sin more so grace can abound? Paul would reply saying, you haven’t understood grace at all. When we understand God’s grace rightly, it awakens our love for him and motivates us to a holy life. If the grace of God does not motivate holiness, nothing will.
When you see how much you need God’s grace, you can’t live without it and yet you can’t earn and you don’t deserve it. But God sent Jesus out of grace to die in your place. When you understand how grace is indispensible, critical, and absolutely necessary for your life and that Jesus willingly paid the price for it, when you understand how lavishly you are loved and cherished to be given this gift, it humbles you. You are not longer feeling superior, judgmental, critical, better, than others, arrogant, proud, even depressed or filled with self-hatred. You are humble before God and people.
When you see how costly the gift of grace is and what Jesus did for you, his willing sacrifice, unconditional love it leads to joy, toward joyful obedience and a joyful heart.
Do people see joy in your life? Or do they see you complaining, defensive, cynical, trying to impress, too sensitive to what others say or think – grace filled life explodes joy in our hearts.