By Mike Willis
Last week, we introduced the study of Eph. 2:1-10 by noting the universal need of man for salvation. In studying verses 1-3, we showed that all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Hence, man is “dead in trespasses and sins” (2:1), doomed to Hell and without hope before God. While man was alienated from God through sin, God acted in the salvation of his soul.
By Grace Ye Are Saved (vs. 4-9)
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.
Having shown man’s lost condition, Paul now shows God’s response to man’s need. Consider carefully the divine attributes listed by Paul which caused God to act to save man. He mentions such things as mercy, love, grace, and kindness. Let us define each of these words.
a. Mercy (eleos). Thayer distinguishes eleeo from oikteiro as follows: eleeo – “to show sympathy with the misery of another, esp. such sympathy as manifests itself in act, less freq. in word; whereas oikt. denotes the inward feeling of compassion which abides in the heart” (p. 203). The noun eleos he defined as “mercy; kindness or good will towards the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them.” This simply states that God felt sorry for man’s hopeless state and acted personally to bring about his salvation.
b. Love (agape). Kenneth Wuest wrote the following concerning agapao: “Agapao” speaks of a love which is awakened by a sense of value in an object which causes one to prize it. It springs from an apprehension of the preciousness of an object. It is a love of esteem and approbation. The quality of this love is determined by the character of the one who loves, and that of the object loved.
Agapao is used in John 3:16. God’s love for a sinful and lost race springs from His heart in response to the high value He places upon each human soul. Every sinner is exceedingly precious in His sight (“Golden Nuggets From the Greek New Testament,” Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. III, pp. 60-61.).
God saw in man that immortal soul which was created in the image of God; He perceived how precious it was and pried it dearly. This love prompted Him to work toward saving it.
c. Grace (charis). The primary idea of grace is that God acted to do a favor for man; He acted freely and without expectation of receiving anything of equitable value in return. It finds its motive in the bounty and free heartedness of the giver (see Trench, pp. 166-171). “Moreover, the word charis contains the idea of kindness which bestows upon one what he has not deserved” (Thayer, p. 666). When we deserved to be cast into Hell for the wicked, rebellious offences which we had committed, God sent His Son to die on Calvary. That, my brethren, is grace!
d. Kindness (chrestotes). This word is a little more difficult to define. “So far from being this mere grace of word and countenance, it is one pervading and penetrating the whole nature, mellowing there all which would have been harsh and austere; thus wine is chrestos, which has been mellowed with age (Luke v. 39); Christ’s yoke is chrestos, as having nothing harsh or galling about it (Matt. xi. 30)” (Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, p. 233).
These divine attributes of God were the motivating forces which moved Him to act to save sinful men. There was nothing in man which deserved salvation. We are saved out of the goodnesses of God, plainly and simply.
Jesus Christ: The Expression of God’s Grace
Throughout this context specifically and the book of Ephesians generally, Paul emphasizes that Jesus Christ is the expression of God’s grace. God “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (1:3); “he hath chosen us in him” (1:4); He has predestinated “us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ” (1:5); He did this “to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved, in whom we have redemption through his blood” (1:6-7); “In him in whom also we have obtained an inheritance” (1:11).
Similarly, chapter two shows that salvation by grace is through Christ. He “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” (2:6-7). “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (2:10).
These Scriptures show us that Jesus Christ is the manifestation of God’s grace. The totality of God’s grace for man is summed up in Jesus Christ. We can expect no grace in addition to that which is available through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God’s answer, His only answer, to man’s sin problems.
The sending of Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, to die for our sins manifests the greatness of God’s love toward us. Paul mentioned “his great love” (2:4) when He described God’s love for mankind. Frankly, I have trouble grasping the greatness of God’s love. I have two children. I cannot imagine me allowing one of them to die for any reason. However, to imagine sacrificing one of my children to save an enemy is altogether unbelievable from my point of view. Yet, that is exactly what God has done for us. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins . . .” (2:4-5). “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom.5:8).
Hence, God has saved us by grace and that grace is summed up in Jesus Christ. His vicarious death on Calvary’s cross was an atonement for sins. He bore our punishment for us. The prophet foretold the work of Jesus of Nazareth in this fashion:
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem his stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”(Isa. 53:4-6).
God’s answer to man’s sins should have been the firm expression of His wrathful judgment. However, in grace -unmerited favor – toward man, He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross of Calvary for our sins. Indeed, our salvation is wholly of grace.
What God Does For Us
Here are some of the things which God in His marvelous grace has done for us. I am sure that others could add to this list. However, let us confine ourselves to this text:
1. He “hath quickened” us (Eph. 2:1, 5). The word “quicken” means “to make alive.” We who were dead in trespasses and sins are now “made alive.” The language of our text reminds us of Romans 6:3-4. Compare the following:
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 (2:5-6).
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4).
The dead man of sin is buried with Christ in baptism (hence, he dies with Christ) and raised up together with Him to walk in newness of life.
The phrase “to make alive” or to “quicken” is the antithesis of “dead in trespasses and sins.” Whereas the latter phrase means “unforgiven,” the former simply means “forgiven” (cf. Col. 2`.13). This man’s sins have been remitted; he stands before God pure and clean as if he had never violated a single one of God’s holy commandments.
2. Made us sit together in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). This passage teaches that Christians shall receive a heavenly reward. Epouranios meant “the heavenly regions, i.e. heaven itself, the abode of God and angels” (Thayer’, p. 247). We are given spiritual life and an eternal reward of heaven. God’s grace is further exemplified in the precious promises which He holds out to His saints. It is not enough that He merely forgives men of their trespasses; He also gives them heaven.
in our consideration of salvation by grace through faith, we have seen man’s need for salvation. We noticed that all men are sinners and doomed to eternity in hell, not for the sins which someone else committed, but for the sins which each man commits. In this article, we have seen what God has done to save us from our sins. We have seen the divine attributes of God (mercy, love, grace, kindness) which motivated Him to send His only begotten Son to die on Calvary for our sins. We have seen that all of God’s grace for the salvation of man is in His Son Jesus Christ. Be with us next week as we continue this study by noticing the conditions for receiving salvation by grace.
Beginning on page 6 is an article by Bruce Edwards, Jr. and a reply by Steve Wolfgang. After months of self-imposed silence, Bruce has finally decided to say something about the grace-unity issues. He sent me a fifteen-page article. I replied to him that I thought that this was too long but he insisted that it be published in its entirety. Lest someone think that Truth Magazine has a closed door policy which does not allow those reviewed to reply to their critics, I decided to go ahead and print this material, although I do not think that Bruce warrants that much space. Hence, I compromised by printing this article in eight point type. It is here for those who desire to read it; those who have no interest in what Bruce is writing can simply skip over it.
The main characteristic of this article by Bruce is that it answers no questions relevant to the issues of grace-fellowship. Read the article and then tell me whether or not Bruce accepts the following: (1) a distinction between gospel and doctrine; (2) the imputation of the perfect obedience of Jesus to the believer; (3) that things taught by example or inference can be made tests of fellowship; (4) whether the fellowship of the saints should be broken over the usage of mechanical instruments of-music in worship, church support of human institutions, church sponsored recreation, and other such departures from revealed truth. These and many other questions go unanswered in order that Bruce might harangue about brotherhood politics. Some of us are getting rather tired of hearing this garbage and are anxious to see Bruce (and others holding this position) grapple with the relevant issues. When will we see him do that? Read the material for yourself and form your own judgments. You can tell how well Bruce addresses himself to the issues the same as I can.
I want to thank Brother Steve Wolfgang for his good review of this article. As he stated, few people realize the effort involved in reviewing the writings of someone like Bruce. The personal feelings which one has for an individual must be laid aside in the interests of truth. We appreciate the fine spirit in which this review has been written.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 26, pp. 419-421
June 28, 1979