“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10).
Sometimes when we watch a film or listen to the radio, John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace” is sung, and though we are happy to hear it, we wonder if the singer understands the words. At an outdoor Mass performed by the pope during his visit in 2010, the hymn was sung, but the full import of the words is lost on the catholic mindset. Like the King James Bible, this hymn has staying power and is known by saved and lost alike, but whom amongst us all finds God’s grace amazing? We all know that grace has a beautiful meaning for we talk about people being gracious and graceful, yet it is a word of power too, for because of it God saves wretches from their sin. Grace has the power to do the impossible.
Paul states that every one of us was spiritually dead because of our sin. Say this to the average person and watch them become defensive. Nobody likes to admit that they are as bad as the Bible describes, and that their sinfulness hinders them from seeing themselves the way they truly are. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Grace is given to destroy sin’s power over us, but it can only do so if received by faith.
Notice that “all” of us were lost in sin, which means that we were destined for Hell, until God’s grace moved in our souls. We all thought of ourselves as good people while we gratified the flesh and the mind with sin. It was in our nature to do this, but no longer, for grace came to change it, so that now we delight ourselves in obeying Christ and walking “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Nevertheless, we often feel the pull of our old life, which tries to bring us down into the mire of disgrace again. It wants us to be under the control of our old master, “the prince of the power of the air”, and but for grace we would follow him (Ephesians 2:2). Apart from Christ we are dead, but now we are alive in Him. We need Him just as much today as when we first believed, for Ephesians 6:16 tells us that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”. God by His grace has given us the weapons to resist Satan’s attempts to recover what he lost (Ephesians 6:10-18).
As mentioned above, this great need is met by grace through our Lord Jesus Christ. Our own idea of goodness made us think that we were better than those evil murderers and child abusers, for who wants to be compared with them? In fact we were never as good as we thought we were, for Scripture says that we “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Then grace stepped in to remedy the situation, for “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Our supposed goodness was seen for what it was as soon as God shone the light of His holiness upon us.
This salvation is effected by God alone rather than by who we are or what we can do, therefore it is all by grace. Grace is mentioned three times in our text, and each time the emphasis is upon what God has done instead of what we might do to be saved. The risen Lord, through His sacrificial blood, has won the victory over sin for us. We used to abide in Satan, but now we are seated together with Christ. We are now expected to follow Him in this new life He has given us; so while good works cannot save us, good works are a product of that salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-10 is known as “the gospel in a nutshell.” But how many accept the grace yet ignore the need to walk in holiness and righteousness as evidence of its work in their souls. The question has to be asked, “Why are we saved?” Is it just to escape Hell? Sadly that is all it means for many believers. God did not stop working in us when He saved us from sin, instead we were became “a new creature” in Christ not only that “old things are passed away” but that “all things are become new” too (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Thank God that He has prepared a Heavenly home for each of us (John 14:1-6, Hebrews 11:16), but we are ordained to live as citizens of the Kingdom on earth. Is it not hypocritical to claim to be a “King’s Kid” while living like the world? God’s grace sets us apart from everyone else, therefore we cannot do what they do or go where they go, nor can we behave like them in any way, unless we are determined to alienate ourselves from God again. “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). If we declare “Sola gratia” (grace alone), then grace alone must affect every part of our lives, both spiritual and secular. God’s grace provides the means to live in holiness and bring Him all the glory.
God has given us a wonderful gift called grace. By faith we accept it and by faith we allow it to permeate through every part of our lives. Grace took away our sin, and it will keep us from sin too. It equips us to withstand the onslaughts of evil and makes us good citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thank God that His grace still works in us!