Paul in chapter 1 of Ephesians opens with an introduction and blessing (vv.1-14) where he expresses the main themes of the letter: Christ has reconciled all of creation and has united the Church to Himself. In Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul gives his prayer of thanksgiving. Paul prays here that the church will gain deep insight into the Lord’s powerful working and rich gifts in Christ. The overarching theme in Ephesians 2:1-10 is that God lavishes his grace on Christians through his saving initiative.
Ephesians two opens with a brief sub-section of three verses that describe man’s hopelessness and helplessness without Christ. The world often thinks that God helps those who help themselves; however Paul in this section makes the opposite point- God helps those who are helpless.
Paul describes the human condition in verse one of Ephesians 2. He teaches that “you were dead,” which reflects the fact that human beings as sons and daughters of Adam enter the world spiritually dead. Men and women have no inclination or responsiveness towards God and no ability to please Him. Paul furthers this argument when he mentions trespasses and sins. Transgressions are violations of divine commandments, while sins are offenses against God in thought, word, and deed.
The words prince and spirit in Ephesians 2:2 refer to Satan as he dominates his human subjects called sons of disobedience. Sons of disobedience refer to sons of this world in contrast to sons of light in Luke 16:8. These sons of disobedience belong to the family of those who rebel against the holy and true God. By nature means that by being a son or daughter of Adam is to be born into a fallen state (Psalm 51:5) and to be subject to condemnation as children of wrath.
Paul then turns from talking about man’s hopelessness and helplessness without Christ to explaining hope believers have in Christ. In contrast to the hopeless state of the nonbeliever, Christians exult in hope because of God’s incredible grace and free salvation. Paul accents this grace in contrast to the pre-Christ hopelessness in vv.1-3.
No hopeless fate looked any worse than that which awaits the company of humanity marching behind the prince of the power of the air (v.2) to their destruction under divine wrath. Even when things look their darkest, Paul utters the greatest short phrase in the history of human speech, but God being rich in mercy. God’s mercy on his helpless enemies flows from his own loving heart, not from anything they have done to deserve it.
Paul, with “when we were dead” in verse 5 resumes his original thought from verse 1, which began “you were dead” in v.1. Made us alive refers to God giving us regeneration (new spiritual life within). Since Christians were dead, they first had to be made alive before they could believe and God did that together with Christ. This is why salvation is by grace alone.
Raised us up with Him in Ephesians 2:6-7 means that, because of Christ’s resurrection, those who believe in Him are given new life spiritually in this age (regeneration). They will be given renewed physical bodies when Christ returns (future resurrection). God has allowed His people even now to share in a measure of the authority that Christ has, seated at the right hand of God (1:20-22; 6:10-18; James 4:7; 1 John 4:4), a truth that would be especially important in Ephesus with all of its occult practices. Ephesians 2:7 answers the question of why God lavished such love upon his people: so that they will marvel for all eternity over the incredible kindness and love of God. It will take all of eternity to fathom God’s love, and those who are saved will never plumb the depths of it.
By grace in Ephesians 2:8 refers to God’s favor upon those who have transgressed his law and sinned against him. Grace may also be understood here as “power” in these verses. God’s grace not only offers salvation it also secures it. Saved refers to deliverance from God’s wrath at the final judgment (Rom. 5:9). “by grace you have been saved” is repeated from Ephesians 2:5 for emphasis. The verb form “have been saved” communicates that the Christian’s salvation is fully secured. Faith is a confident trust and reliance upon Christ Jesus and is the only means by which one can obtain salvation. The whole process of salvation by grace through faith as being the gift of God is that it is not something that we can accomplish ourselves. Salvation is not of our own doing. Furthermore salvation is not by works. If salvation were according to our works then man would get the glory. Instead man was created for good works which highlights that salvation is not based on works, but the good works Christians do are the result and consequence of God’s new creation work.
At first glance when one reads Ephesians 2:1-10 it may appear easy to understand. Paul makes the point that outside of Christ there is no hope that our sin keeps us away from God, and that only hope man has of salvation is because of the work of Christ who now makes man alive unto Him by grace through faith.
At the core of the Protestant Reformation are five ideas- first Sola Scriptura the belief that the Scriptures are inspired, inerrant, authoritative and sufficient Word of God. Secondly is sola gratia the belief that man is saved by grace. Paul articulates this principle here in Ephesians 2:8 “by grace you have been saved.” The third is sola fide by faith alone. Paul makes this point clear also in verse 8, “for by grace you have been saved through faith.” The fourth point is Solus Christus that is by Christ alone. The source of our salvation is through the work of Christ. Therefore it follows that since salvation is by grace through faith then it must be in Christ alone. The final principle is Soli Deo Gloria- to the glory of God. God gets the glory in our salvation for it is at His initiative that He makes us alive together with Christ. Ephesians 2:1-10 is an incredible set of Scriptures to reflect upon. Here within a brief ten verses Paul expounds the central Truths of biblical Christianity that not only confront man’s pride but also provide the ground and means for believers’ salvation.
Paul wrote this letter to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1). After explaining the reason for his writing and giving a blessing to the people of God- Paul launches out with his two themes which he will explain in the letter- that Christ has reconciled all of creation and united the Church to Himself. All of this is for one point- Paul is addressing believers in this letter which means in Ephesians 2:1-10 he is speaking to remind them of the depths from which they have been delivered. Paul twice in verse one and verse five reminds them of the depths of their sin. Sandwiched between verse one and three is Paul explanation of our sin which offends a holy God, that we former according to the way of the world and were children of wrath.
Paul emphasizes the sinfulness of man so that the believers at Ephesus and Christians today will not forget the depths from which they have been delivered. Before Paul ever explains the good news of what Christ has done, he explains why the sacrifice of Christ was necessary, because of our sin. Our disobedience was the reason why Christ had to come to die. Our sin offends a holy God. Paul’s point here is that in order to truly appreciate all that Christ has done we need to see and understand that our sin is offensive to a holy God. Once we do that we will be able to taste, and the goodness of God in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It is going to take all of eternity for believers to fathom the love of such a God who showered His love upon us in Christ and we will never plumb the depths of it.
If you’re like me, and you’ve been a Christian for any length of time you know how easy it is to become complacent even apathetic to what Paul describes here in Ephesians 2:1-10. You may even be thinking right now, “Well Dave, I know what you’re talking about.” The truth though is that Paul not only wants Christians to know the truth of our sin and the glory of Christ, but he wants us to experience these truths at work within our lives.
It’s not enough to just sit in the pew and listen to hundreds if not thousands upon thousands of sermons. It’s not enough to just grow in knowledge of God. Paul wants the people of God to not only know the Truth but to experience the truth of grace at work within our lives. It is exactly this truth- the truth of experiencing what we know that is often missed in explanations on this passage. Paul clearly teaches that we are saved by grace through faith, but he doesn’t leave it at that. He continues on to point out the difference this grace has made.
After explaining our sin, and how salvation is by grace through faith, Paul turns to teach in verse 9-10 that salvation is “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.”
The Lord Jesus saved you for a purpose. The Lord Jesus saved you for good works which He prepared beforehand. He saved you to set apart a people for His own possession. He saved you to sanctify you and prepare you for work He has assigned for you. Do you see the difference grace makes? Are you in awe of a God who not only saved you from your own sin but saved you and set you apart for His own purposes?
If one truth has become evident in my walk own walk with God- it is that too often I take this all for granted. Often I get into the idea of reading and knowing, but I miss the precious truth of experiencing Christ. I don’t know if you’re like me or not, but if you are, I want to invite you to read Ephesians 2:1-10 and behold the God of all grace who exposes our sin so that His children may live lives that honor God and bring Him glory.
See this God- the God who inspired Paul to write these words in Ephesians 2:1-10 calls you to come to Him. He calls the non-believer to come and be made alive together with Christ. He calls the believer to growth and service for Him. Wherever you are today in your walk with God- behold the God of all grace! It is this God who saves. It is this God who sanctifies. It is this God who secures His children in the palm of His sovereign hand. It is this God who calls His people to serve Him. Wherever you are today, and whatever you do- may you know the Truth of Christ, and experience that Truth at work within your life, and through your life in service to Him. Then you will know and experience the difference the grace of God makes.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021) and The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.