Ephesians 2:1-10 :The Saving Grace of God
There is a humorous old tale that speaks of a man who died and upon arriving in heaven faced the angel Gabriel at heaven’s gates. The angel said, "Here’s how it works. You need a hundred points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you have done, and I will give a certain number of points for each of them. The more good there is in the work that you cite, the more points you will get for it. When you get to a hundred points, you get in."
"Okay," the man said, "I was married to the same woman for fifty years and never cheated on her, even in my heart."
Gabriel replied, "That’s wonderful. That’s worth three points."
"Three points?" said the man incredulously. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my money and service."
"Terrific!" said Gabriel, "that’s certainly worth a point."
"One point?" said the man with his eyes beginning to show a bit of panic. "Well, how about this: I opened a shelter for the homeless in my city, and fed needy people by the hundred during the holidays."
"Fantastic, that’s good for two more points," said the angel.
"TWO POINTS!" cried the man in desperation. "At this rate the only way I will get into heaven is by the grace of God."
"Come on in," said Gabriel.
Read this first Ephesians 2:1-10.
When it comes to preaching God’s Word, I often reflect that I ultimately have only two basic messages with which to approach any person or group of people. These two messages can be summed up as follows:
Do you claim to be a Christian? Then here is a summary of my message to those who lay claim to Christ:
Release anything else you might think to have cause to grasp, and hold on to Jesus Christ with both hands for the rest of your life.
- Let your love be genuine.
- Abhor what is evil.
- Hold fast to what is good.
- Love one another with brotherly affection.
- Outdo one another in showing honor.
- Do not be slothful in zeal.
- Be fervent in spirit.
- Serve the Lord.
- Rejoice in hope.
- Be patient in tribulation.
- Be constant in prayer.
- Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
- Bless those who persecute you, live in harmony with one another.
- Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly.
- Never be conceited.
- Repay no one evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
Do you not know Christ? Then the second of my messages is for you:
Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand! Realize that you have sinned against God and are justly destined for eternal punishment. Beg forgiveness of those sins and throw yourself upon the mercy of God through every scrap of faith that you can muster. Rest assured in His promise of salvation and spend every moment of the rest of your life striving to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body and soul – and to love your neighbor as yourself, through the Spirit of God – by faith in the Son of God – for the Glory of God the Father. So may it be!
And I love this scripture that we just read, because it so eloquently encapsulates these two messages into one. Let us look back at these verses and I would propose to you that verses one through three speak directly to those who do not know Christ, by admonishing those who do know Christ to remember whence they came. Then a quick review of verses four through nine demonstrate to us the saving grace of God, pointing out that we are saved by what God has done – not by what we have done.
Finally, we come to verse ten, which encourages us to realize that while we once were dead and what we had done was useless for attaining salvation, we are now alive and God has prepared good works for us to do while at the same time creating us for good works!
What a wonderful condescension! That God would not only save us by His grace and mercy, but that on top of that He should choose to work through us! This certainly requires a closer inspection, so we will start at the top and work our way down.
Verses one through three reminds the Christian:
- You were dead!
- You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked!
- You were following the course of this world â€“ that is to say that you were following the prince of the power of the air, which is a fancy way of saying Satan.
- Satan is now at work in the sons of disobedience.
- You once lived in the passions of your flesh.
- You once carried out the desires of your body and mind.
- You were by nature a child of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Verses one through three tells the un-saved:
- You are dead!
- You are dead in the trespasses and sins in which you walk!
- You are following the course of this world â€“ that is to say that you are following Satan.
- You are one of the sons of disobedience.
- You live in the passions of your flesh.
- You carry out the desires of your body and mind.
- You are by nature a child of wrath.
I shudder to consider the term a child of wrath – at one time, we all were children of wrath and sons of disobedience. Perhaps some here today are children of wrath. What is a child of wrath but one who, like most children, look at the world and consider only their own wants and desires. Fueled by the passions of their flesh, and the desires of their body for what they perceive to be the sweetest things in life, their minds are overcome with pursuing only their own passions, and with reckless abandon they precariously climb upon the most dangerous of precipices in order to slyly slip their hands into the proverbial cookie jar; and believing that their selfish appetite is about to be fueled, they ultimately discover first hand where God stores the grapes of wrath.
These children of wrath will come before the Judgment seat of Christ on that last day and never hear "Well done, My good and faithful servant." Rather they will hear the Just Judge pronounce their punishment, that they should be bound hand and foot, and then hauled off to be thrown into an everlasting torment, better known as hell.
I thank my God and Savior that I am no child of wrath, but that by the grace of the Father, I am a child of God! I pray with all urgency that each one here today can safely make that same claim, to be a child of God following Jesus Christ and no longer a child of wrath following the course of this world!
I believe that it is important that you know what you are saved to and it is vital that you know, and remember, what you are saved from. But this is a hard and difficult topic, let us move on toward the happier versus that speak of God’s grace and love for us.
Look quickly at verse four. We see here that God is rich in mercy! That God has a great love with which He loves us! For those of us here today, that can rightfully claim to be children of God, scripture points out that He loved us even when we were dead in our trespass, which is nothing more than a nice way to say that He loved us even as children of wrathand sons of disobedience! God makes us alive with Christ! And He does this by His Grace alone.
To what end does God do this? That we might be raised up to the heavenly places with Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages God might show us His immeasurable grace, in kindness towards us! How would you propose to measure Gods grace or kindness? He loved me, a child of wrath, justly deserving no more than the punishment reserved for only the foulest of fiends, and by no effort of my own, God reached out His hand and adopted me into His kingdom! My Lord – surely Your grace and kindness have no measure whatsoever.
Let’s look again at verses eight and nine. It is clearly stated, yet again, so that you can not be confused, that you will be saved by nothing more than the grace of God. No work you perform can bring you through the pearly gates! This is Gods gift, it is not earned, and no one will be walking through the pearly gates and swell their chest out and tell anyone else why God had to let them in.
Oh there will be plenty of children of wrath lined up, those sons of disobedience with their works in hand, saying:
- I was married to the same person for fifty years and never cheated on them, even in my heart.
- I went to church regularly.
- I tithed and supported the church with my time as well.
- I regularly assisted the poor and unfortunate.
- I was a “good” person.
- I did this.
- I did that.
- I was nice to dogs and small children.
And the judgment of God will be the response they receive, for there is nothing you can do that will win you passage into that far better land.
You can only swallow your pride, bend your stiff neck, and accept salvation from God as the gift that it is, boasting only in the cross of Jesus Christ and dead to the works you once believed would buy your passage into the kingdom of God.
And once we have repented, attaining Gods free gift through faith, we, as Kierkegaard says, fasten the end by means of the paradox.
Did we not just discuss how meaningless our works are? Have we not already determined that nothing we do can attain our salvation? Do we not know that there will be no boasting of the works that we have done? Yet here, in verse ten, we suddenly have thrust upon us once again the expectation of work!
What does it say? We, the children of God, are God’s workmanship! God has created us in Christ Jesus for what!? Good Works! Apparently, while we were pursuing our own fleshly passions as children of wrath, God did not only love us – He was actively preparing a list of things for us to do once we became His children! And we are admonished to walk in these good works! How will He great us with that most sought after phrase, "Well done, My good and faithful servant!" if we have not done anything!? It can’t be well done if it were never done.
How wonderfully upside down is that!? Our works are worthless without God’s grace, but once we have attained that grace through faith, our works are suddenly of import to God! So Christian, I call you to rise up and go to work! Walk in the works that God has prepared for you! Bring glory and honor to the one whose grace has set you free and given you eternal life!
And should any of you have reason to question your claim to the title child of God, I urge you to have a look at the The Roman Road. You alone know can know your status, child of God or child of wrath, rest assured there are no other categories. I pray that I have managed this particular message in such a way that I have encouraged each child of God to strive onward, seeking a closer relationship with God by walking in the works He has prepared for you, while at the same time admonishing any child of wrath to duly consider taking advantage of the immeasurable grace and kindness of God.
I say again, "Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
September 18, 2016
January 09, 2009