Author: Ron Graham
A verse by verse study about the great change God’s grace has wrought in the lives and future of sinners who have turned to him.
In the first three verses, Paul reflects on the way he had lived, and the Ephesians had lived, before they became disciples of Jesus.
¶“1You were dead in offenses against God’s law. 2You walked in sins following this world’s age-old ways. You followed the ruler of the kingdom of the air. He is the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2). Our Lord was "exalted above every highness, authority, power, lord, and title —not only in this age, but also in the age to come" (Ephesians 1:21)..
When Paul says, "You were dead in offenses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1), he means the same thing as his later words, "alienated from the life of God" (Ephesians 4:18). When sin cuts you off from the life of God, you lose eternal life and your destiny is eternal death. You are not, however, irrevocably dead. Christ can make you alive again, and change your destiny to eternal life.
The “kingdom of the air” is Satan’s dominion. He does not rule in heaven, but in the world. He and his angels are unseen spirits. Yet their heaven is of this world, not the Heaven where Christ is. So they are called “the kingdom of the air” in mocking contrast to “the Kingdom of Heaven” ruled by Christ. In the same way, Paul later mentions "spiritual powers of wickedness in the heavenlies" (Ephesians 6:12).
The expression "sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2), refers to everyone who has rejected the Heavenly Father. By rebelling against God, people alienate themselves from his life (Ephesians 4:18). They are begotten instead of their own disobedience. And the only inheritance that disobedience offers is death. The sons of disobedience are "children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3).
Paul now reflects on how our former nature, indeed our destiny, was changed by God’s kindness and mercy.
¶“3We were among them, living in the lusts of our flesh. Our works followed the will of our bodies and our own thoughts. We were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of humanity. 4But God is rich in mercy because he loved us so much. 5Even though we were dead in sin, God made us alive with Christ. You have been saved by grace!” (Ephesians 2:3).
"Our works followed the will of our bodies and our own thoughts" (Ephesians 2:3). This is how most people live. They follow their own lights but end up in darkness. How much better it is to have "the spirit of revelation in the knowledge of God" (Ephesians 1:17).
"We were by nature children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3). This “nature” is not inherited by procreation, but acquired by experience in a sinful society. “Nature” refers to the world and environment one grows up in, the traditions and culture one acquires, and the things one absorbs. People can "by nature do the things in God’s law" (Romans 2:14), or they can "by nature be children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3). It depends on what their social environment encourages, and how they react.
"God is rich in mercy... God loved us so much... You are saved by grace" (Ephesians 2:4-5). Our hope rests in the merciful and gracious love that God has shown in Christ. Later, Paul will again affirm that we cannot save ourselves on our own. We rely on God’s grace.
Paul shows that God’s grace was shown in Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, and accession. We have been made alive and lifted up on high with him.
¶“6In Christ God raised us together, and seated us together in the heavenly realms. 7In the coming ages he will show the surpassing riches of his grace —his kindness toward us in Christ” (Ephesians 2:6-7).
We, through Christ, have a place in heaven. This was all accomplished by Christ’s resurrection from death and his ascension to glory. By grace we are allowed to fully share in that. And we look forward to eternity when the riches of grace will be fully seen.
Paul now teaches on the place of good works in God’s scheme of things.
¶“8You are saved by grace through faith. You can't save yourselves on your own; salvation is God’s gift. 9It is not achieved by your own works, so nobody can boast. 10Rather, we are God’s work. He created us in Christ Jesus to do good works which he previously planned. So in those works we should walk” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
We are saved by grace through faith. That faith must be obedient. Paul does not teach that salvation has nothing to do with works. The “faith alone” doctrine is a lie. However salvation is not achieved by our own works. The works that we do for salvation are those which God, out of his own counsel and kindness, originally planned for us to do in Christ.