Paul was used by God to write the letter or Epistle named Ephesians. Jesus is the one who fulfilled the law; and by His blood, His death, and His resurrection, we have entered in to a new era in the fullness of time. That era is the age of the New Covenant, made possible by God’s work—Jesus’ fulfillment of the law, becoming a curse for us, and destroying sin and death by His resurrection from the tomb. While the center of all creation and God’s word is Jesus, many of the terms and explanation of the Gospel came by the epistles of Paul. Each letter and epistle of Paul reveals more and more about the premises and details of the New Testament as well as all the Scripture found in what we call the New Testament. This passage is especially revealing to the nature of the New Covenant, from the start of a sinner’s predicament to being seated in the heavenly places. It is God’s work, from birthing faith in a believer, to the works He prepared beforehand that a Christian should walk in after being born again. Although not all inclusive, this passage encapsulates the Christian’s walk.
Establishing the Text
Ephesians is an epistle, and as such, it is not a letter to an individual but is intended for the edification and instruction for a church, and we know for the good of the church universal. Early manuscripts of this epistle have a blank in the space where now it is inserted with ‘Ephesians.’ The introduction read, “To the saints who are in _______, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:.” This indicates that the letter was intended in general for many churches, especially in Asia Minor. R.J. Utley explains however, “The phrase “in Ephesus” is omitted in the RSV, NJB, and Williams translations because it is missing in some of the earliest Greek manuscripts (P46, ﬡ, B) There was a blank space apparently, where a place name should have been inserted. It was a circular letter for all the churches of Asia Minor.” Topically the letter of Ephesians is split; the first three chapters are doctrinal, and the last are practical. Standard elements of an epistle are salutation, thanksgiving, body, and farewell. An epistle is intended for circulation and publication.
The address of the epistle is general and the content of Ephesians is universal to every local church and much is addressed to every individual Christian. Ephesians presents a bigger, finished picture that is meditative, instructive, and expansive.” Other letters seem to be corrective and rebuking, but this letter is more a teaching letter or sermon, and is more general to reach a general audience on the theory and practice of being a Christian.
Paul’s history with Ephesus was important. He had spent a short time in Ephesus on his way back to Antioch from his second mission. This work was carried on by Apollos and Aquila and Priscilla. On the third mission he stayed in Ephesus three years. In Ephesus he baptized a dozen of John the Baptist’s followers, he spoke in the hall of Tyrannus, miracles took place, sorcerers were converted, and he even had a riot in response to his delivery of the Gospel. Thousands of dollars of magic books were burned and no doubt there was reason for fear of economic and religious threat to the Temple of Artemis. He gave a farewell address to the Ephesian elders at the coastal town of Miletus. This may be the last time he saw the Ephesians. Paul was in prison while he wrote this letter, either in Caesarea or in Rome, some time around AD 60-62. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon are thought to be written in the same time span and are called the “Prison Epistles.”
The pastoral heart of Paul is behind His loving message intended to clarify and explain the nature of Christianity and the New Covenant. Especially in this passage grace is the main idea behind Paul’s theology and nature of salvation. Twice in this passage he iterates that “by grace you have been saved.” No doubt he had love for the Ephesians he had spent so much time with and wanted them to have clear understanding of the nature of the Gospel and salvation found in Jesus Christ. Understanding that Paul was in prison helps to point out why this letter is contemplative and sublime. With time to think of many things, Paul’s letter gives the important structure and nature of his Gospel and describes it in a distinct and succinct way.
Ephesians is irreplaceable as far as its contribution to the word of God. The explanation of grace alone giving God’s salvation is clearly put. Also the tension between grace based salvation and the faith proven by works of James is explained as a relationship between the two in this passage. Contributions include Christ’s lordship, submission to God in heaven and earth, reconciliation in heaven and earth, trinity based soteriology, gospel centered ecclesiology, Spirit powered ethics, spiritual warfare, aspects of Christ’s victory, and vision for the church. Canonically, this epistle fits in with the biblical themes of salvation, redemption, creative history, and is part of God’s revelation of Himself and His love for mankind.
Exegesis—The text in specific for this exegesis is Ephesians 2:1-10 especially vs. 10
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. 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. 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.
This passage is found in an epistle and therefore it is expected to have certain elements. An epistle has the form of a letter with an introduction, body, and salutation. This passage is found in the body and has pure doctrinal and theological language. Being a general letter, with the fact that the address in the earliest manuscripts was left open, this letter is for any church and any Christian. The first three chapters have to deal with doctrine. The passage builds chronologically from the lost state every Christian once found themselves, to salvation by grace, finally to deal with what does a Christian do after he is saved?
Comparing translations only shows a few notable differences. One such difference is found right off. ESV states, “And you were dead in the trespasses…” (Eph 2:1) NIV puts it this way, “As for you, you were dead in your transgression…” (Eph 2:1) The way NIV puts it draws the attention of the reader to what was said before in the prior passage. It draws the reader especially to this statement, “… that you may know… what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead… “ (Eph 1:18-20) Why is this noteworthy? It shows that the nest passage is about the greatness of His power toward us who believe according to the power He has demonstrated in Jesus Christ. So this sets up the beginning of the selected passage.
Verse one explains how dead in our trespasses and sins, in which we once walked. The Greek meaning is the same as in English, to walk, which also has the connotation of behaving and imitating. Walking is found here in the beginning and in the ending of the passage (Eph 2:1-10) like bookends. The passage develops from how we walked to how we should walk—found in vs. 10. This is an example how the word for word practice of translation can convey a clearer message by using its wording. In both languages walking shows the analogy of walking somewhere to going through life’s journey to the end, which in the case of the believer will be the immeasurable riches of His grace.
We once followed the way of the prince of the power of the air, now at work in the sons of disobedience. The word work occurs here as a verb and is in contrast to God’s work seen later, and is even shown in comparison to the works that Christian’s walk by seen in vs. 10. The state of following satan at one time had consequences for those who once walked in the passion of the flesh, and has consequences for the rest of mankind who still don’t believe. The consequences being that all were by nature children of wrath without the work of Jesus Christ.
What God has done to give life where there was death, was done because of God’s great love with which He loved the believers, and credit is due to Him being rich in mercy. Twice the line is used that “by grace you have been saved.” Throughout this passage the credit is directed solely to God, and it points out that God’s grace is the sole origin of saving faith that delivers from the state of death to the state of life—eternal life.
Paul is addressing saints who believe as seen in vs. Eph 1:15 those who have faith in Lord Jesus and who have love toward the saints. “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,” (Eph 1:15) The surety that one is saved by His grace is expressed by the statement that Christians are seated with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. The word for seated is aorist indicative and usually identified as past tense. It is a snapshot in time without a process. This means in Christ Jesus the work or process is completed without depending on further process for salvation. The relation to works, and faith shown by works, will be addressed later. Verses 6 and 7 show that we are seated in Christ Jesus now, so that in the coming ages God might show us the immeasurable riches of His grace, in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. The term not yet but already is used to describe this state. This is maybe impossible to grasp but is comparable to the fact that the Spirit is a seal of guarantee until the manifestation of the grace.
Verses 8 and 9 are familiar verses and deal with the nature of salvation. Again it states that “by grace you have been saved through faith.” The credit and origin of salvation is from God and is solely due to His grace. “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.” (Eph 2:8-9) Eugene Nida and Charles Tabor shows how the surface sentence is actually seven kernel statements: “(1) God showed you grace. (2). God saved you. (3)You believed. (4) You did not save yourselves. (5) God gave salvation. (6) You did not work for it. (7) This is done so that no one may boast.” When Paul states that it is a gift from God, “it” refers to the “whole process of salvation which includes our faith.” This is very important to the proper understanding of grace. It is evident that we cannot boast of works giving salvation, argued extensively in Romans and Galatians, but also God is the one who births the faith through which we are saved. This is not of our doing. So really there is no boasting in faith either, because this too is by grace. The Lord be magnified.
The next verse may be overlooked because much focus of church history greats have delighted in and embraced—and rightfully so—the doctrine of God’s grace being the only mode of receiving salvation. All other foundations crumble over this rock of offense. Salvation is not by works. Also as stated salvation is through faith, but the credit is due to God’s grace and therefore credited to God alone—understanding this includes the work of Jesus Christ. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10) One must not stop at vs. 8 and 9 and not discern the potency of the next verse. Already discussed is the bookend word “walk.” So a Christian is saved from death in sins, seated in the heavenlies as far as security in salvation in Jesus Christ, and the reason and credit is grace, but what now? Overjoyed from salvation, reality sets in that a Christian is still alive in his fleshly body here in this world. What now?
The doctrine of works for salvation is clearly denounced in scripture, but a doctrine of works in the life of a Christian is evident and necessary. The word picture of walking to go somewhere is what is written in vs. 10. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, but to walk is to be obedient and do the works described by the instruction of Jesus and the Spirit, that is Jesus presence in our inner man. The word ergon simply means works or deeds. God has prepared works for us to do ‘in order that’ we may journey through this life from the present until final judgment of the world. Christians are His workmanship, and we are to imitate and behave like God by doing works like Him. These works are not done in our own strength but God has prepared works for us to do in order to walk through this life. It is as if crossing a river there are stepping stones in order to cross the river. The stones are works that move us closer and closer to the goal, maturity in Christ, a complete man, and collectively a complete and perfect body of Christ. Jesus is the true vine and if we abide in Him, He abides in us and we bear fruit. The fruit are works that are expressions of the fruit of the Spirit. Against these there is no law.
Theological Significance of the Passage
There is no question between works being necessary for salvation. Paul, an author of Scripture, chosen and fully inspired by God, clearly speaks against any such doctrine. But what are we to do now that we are born again? We are to “…Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Jesus, Mat 5:16) Jesus says also concerning works “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (Jn 14:12) He connects belief and works, believing in Him and doing the works that He did.
There is no debate that works are not being credited for salvation. Abraham believed and it was counted to him as righteousness. As already discussed, it says “you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing,” faith is credited to God as being borne in a Christian by God, and that also is part of the gift. This is all so that salvation is solely by grace. However, Word Studies of the New Testament states, “God prearranged a sphere of moral action for us to walk in. Not only are works the necessary outcome of faith, but the character and direction of the works are made ready by God.” Expositors gives good insight:
His final object was to make good works the very element of our life, the domain in which our action should move. That this should be the nature of our walk is implied in our being His handiwork, made anew by Him in Christ; that the good works which are the divine aim of our life shall be realized, is implied in their being designed and made ready for us in God’s decree; and that they are of God’s originating, and not of our action and merit, is implied in the fact that we had ourselves to be made a new creation in Christ with a view to them.”
Christians are part of God’s work and they are to walk in them. We experience the work God is doing that he created and originated and prepared beforehand. What a wonderful thought; what a wonderful state. The word “workmanship” (poiēma), used only here and in Romans 1:20 (where the niv renders it “what has been made”) denotes a work of art or a masterpiece. It is the word that poem comes from. God is working His masterpiece through Christians and the works of Christianity. The Apologetics Study Bible explains, ”While good works cannot merit right standing with God, good works are the fruit borne in the lives of those whom God has saved. Good works are neither an afterthought nor optional in the lives of believers. God created and saved them for the very purpose of doing good works.”
The tension between works and grace is relieved when grace is seen as the foundation of a Christian’s eternal life, and by grace it is fundamental that it is God’s work through Jesus Christ that holds up and sustains every part of the new creation in Christ and the believer’s relationship with God. Wiersby describes this: “We are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” We are not saved by good works, but saved unto good works. The famous theologian John Calvin wrote, “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.” We are not saved by faith plus good works, but by a faith that works. The basic Scripture on this theme is James 2, where the writer points out that saving faith always results in a changed life. It is not enough to say that we have faith; we must demonstrate this faith by our works.
The doctrine of James 2:17, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead.” Luther is quoted stating, “Saint John’s gospel and St. Paul’s epistles, especially that to the Romans, and St. Peter’s first epistle are the true pit and marrow of all the books … ,” also, “These books show you Christ and teach you all that is necessary and salutary for you to known even though you were never to see or hear any other book or doctrine. Therefore St. James epistle is really an epistle of straw compared to them, for it lacks this evangelical character.” Yet he did not venture to reject James from the canon of Scripture, and on occasion earned his own beret by effecting reconciliation. ‘Faith,’ he wrote, ‘is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith’ “ He is also quoted to say, “It is one thing that faith justifies without works; it is another thing that faith exists without works.” He may have stated an erroneous quip about the book of James, but his other statements of faith come to the same conclusion of this exegesis.
All Christians can find pragmatic instruction that simply to believe is all that is necessary for salvation. An example is the man on the cross next to Jesus. He did no work, he had no baptism in water, but he did believe and he was saved that day. So salvation was on the cross next to him, and that was the completion of God’s work for that man’s and every man’s salvation. Jesus by fulfilling the law, became a curse as our sins were placed on him. He became a living sacrifice, being totally holy and pure, and died. He did not stay dead, but rose the third day, conquering sin and death, so believing in Him one can have eternal life in Him. Practically, belief in Him, and therefore because He is the Word, belief in Him is belief in the Word, gives the gift of salvation, credited to God alone and given by His grace.
After salvation, the gift of God, a Christian is not found immediately in heaven, unless willed by God, but there is now a journey through life. One must leave the state of spiritual death, and walk by works toward completion of God’s redemption found on the last day, when God’s work is finished for this creation, and all those in Him will inherit the Sabbath rest. We, like Abraham have a journey, and the steps are works, created by God and worked in us and through us by God Himself. Consider Noah. If he believed, but did not build an ark, mankind would have ceased. He would be dead, because his faith would have been dead—it would have lacked the work of building the ark. So believers in the true God, like Abraham, called the father of faith—we know his faith was from God, and like Noah—who by God saved himself and mankind, walk like them, and at journey’s end will inherit eternal life with the Author of Salvation—Jesus Christ.
It is simple. Hope is the path of
faith, and we walk this path by works, not by our strength or abilities, but it
is all God’s workmanship. So much is
found in the word of God. The word is
living and God explains so much of Himself and how to relate to Him and
live. The word lights up the way to
walk, and this is by our work in Him, by Him.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for
reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God
may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16) Christians started in a state of death. God’s grace gave us faith and saved us. We are seated with Christ in the heavenlies,
but until we physically inherit the kingdom we must journey through this life. We do this by works, created beforehand by
God. We do these works by God’s strength
and effort. What is necessary is that we
obey the Spirit and believe. There is
harmony found in the scriptures, and the relation of grace and works is
explained here within this passage. The
impetus is for us to walk, with full view and appreciation of God’s grace.
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Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J., & Powell, D. The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007).
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Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset et al. A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments,. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.
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Utley, Robert James Dr. Vol. Volume 8, Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon, Then Later, Philippians). Study Guide Commentary Series. Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International, 1997.
Osborne, Grant R. The Hermeneutical Spiral, Second Ed., Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2006.
Plass, Ewald M. compiler. Deutsche Bibel Weimar Edition, What Luther Says: An Anthology Three Volumes. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1959.
Richards, Larry and Lawrence O. Richards. The Teacher’s Commentary, Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1987.
Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures, V 2, Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983.
Swan, James, commented on blog- “Six Points On Luther’s “Epistle of Straw””, from [Here I Stand, 259], Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics, comment posted April 3, 2007, http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=1892. (Accessed September 28, 2010).
Vincent, M. R. Word studies in the New Testament. Bellingham, WA: Hendrickson, 2002.
Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983.
Wiersbe, W. W. The Bible exposition commentary. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996.
S.. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English
reader. Grand Rapids, Mi: Eerdmans. 1997.
 Utley, Robert James Dr. Vol. Volume 8, Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon, Then Later, Philippians). Study Guide Commentary Series, (Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International, 1997). 70.
 Easley, Kendell H. Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding the Bible, (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2002). 302-303.
 Achtemeier, Paul J., Publishers Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. 1st ed., (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985). 274.
 Dockery, David S. Holman Concise Bible Commentary: Simple, Straightforward Commentary on Every Book of the Bible. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998) , 574-576
 Knowles, Andrew. The Bible Guide. 1st Augsburg books ed., (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001). 614.
 Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset et al. A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments,. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997). Ga 6:18.
Richards, Larry and Lawrence O. Richards. The Teacher’s Commentary, (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1987), 794.
 All scripture quotes ESV.
 Osborne, Grant R. The Hermeneutical Spiral, Second Ed., (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2006). 584.
 Mounce, William D., Basics of Biblical Greek, Second Ed,.(Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan, 2003). 4.
 Vincent, M. R. Word studies in the New Testament. ( Bellingham, WA: Hendrickson, 2002). 376-377.
 Wuest, K. S.. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader. (Grand Rapids, Mi: Eerdmans: 1997. Eph 2:8.
 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983). 624-625.
 Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J.,
& Powell, D. The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight
Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007). 1764.
 Wiersbe, W. W. The Bible exposition commentary. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996). Eph 2:10.
 Plass, Ewald M. compiler. Deutsche Bibel Weimar Edition, What Luther Says: An Anthology Three Volumes. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1959). 988.
James Swan, commented on blog- “Six Points On Luther’s “Epistle of Straw””, from [Here I Stand, 259], Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics, comment posted April 3, 2007, http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=1892 (Accessed September 28, 2010)