Ephesians, Queen of the Epistles
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

#3 – Unconditional Good News

(Ephesians 2:1-13)

In our very first study of this tremendous epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, what many scholars call the queen of the epistles, we studied together the first 14 verses of chapter one in which Paul expounded to us the riches we have in Christ.  Remember in verses three to six, Paul told us how we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, how He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, how He predestined us to be His adopted sons and daughters and how we have been accepted and forgiven in Jesus Christ.

As we turn in our study today to chapter two of Ephesians and the first 13 verses, we will discover that Paul is expounding in greater detail this wonderful truth of God’s unconditional good news in Christ.  In fact, that is what I have entitled this present study “Unconditional Good News,” because that is what the gospel is.  God unconditionally saved you and me and we shall see this in more detail as we look at this passage.

Keep in mind that this epistle was written by Paul while he was in prison.  He is writing to men and women, to believers, who were becoming discouraged because of his imprisonment.  The purpose of expounding this wonderful truth in Christ, this unconditional good news, is to establish the believers so that their faith becomes unshakable.  And if there is ever a time that we Christians need to have a faith that is unshakable, it is today, because as we look at the events of this world, the future looks bleak.  But my dear reader, there is hope for you and me and that hope is only as our faith is resting on that Rock, Jesus Christ.  It is my prayer that, as we look at our study today, Ephesians two, verses one to 13, you will discover a truth that will make your faith so strong, so unshakable, that nothing will sway you from your hope, your assurance in Christ.

Paul begins chapter two in the first three verses by pointing out man’s predicament, our universal sin problem.  In Paul’s epistle to the Romans, he spent chapter one, verse 18 right up to chapter three, verse 20 on the universal sin problem and how he concluded that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin.  They are dominated by sin; there is none righteous; there is none that doeth good, not even one.  Then, in chapter seven of Romans, verse 14, he made this statement:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

He said, “The law is spiritual, but I” — and that “I” is the corporate I, the universal I, the human race I — “am sold as a slave to sin.”  And that is what he does in the first three verses of chapter two of Ephesians.  He paints this dark, dismal, hopeless picture of mankind.  Why?  For two reasons.

  1. Number one is to destroy all confidence in ourselves.  Our faith must never be in ourselves.  We are not saved because of our faith.  Nowhere in the New Testament is this taught.  The New Testament teaches that we are saved by faith or through faith.  Faith is only an instrument or a channel by which we receive salvation but the Source of our salvation, the cause of our salvation is the object of faith which is Jesus Christ.  We must never look at ourselves for any hope.  Not even what God does in us contributes towards our ticket to heaven.  We are saved, as we shall see today, entirely by grace.  Paul has to destroy all confidence in self before he can offer us the good news of salvation.

  2. Of course, the other reason is that when you discover your total sinfulness, the gospel becomes more desirable.  How many of you would accept a plate of food after you came out from a banquet?  There is no desire for you to eat any more because your stomachs are full.  But if I offer you a plate when you haven’t had any food for the last 15 or 16 hours, you will accept it with delight.  God is painting this dark, dismal picture of mankind through Paul’s writings so that the gospel may become desirable and He may destroy any lingering of legalism that may be creeping into your lives.

With this in mind, with this introduction, let us turn to the first three verses of chapter two of Ephesians.  If you have your Bible, dear reader, please turn to it.  I want you to discover this truth from your own very Bible so that this message comes to you, not from me, but from God Himself.  All I am is a tool, an instrument that is expounding to you the matchless charms of our Lord Jesus Christ.  What does he say in verse one?  Now I am reading from my New International Version.  You follow in your translation, whatever you have, and this is what Paul says in verse one:

As for you...

I am going to pause here because the next three words in the New King James Bible say, “He made alive,” and those of you who have the King James will also have the same thing.  But you will notice something very unique about those three words:  they are in italics.  Do you know what that means?  When you find any italic words in the King James or the New King James versions of the Bible, it means that this is a scribal addition.  It was not in the original and it should not be here really because it distorts Paul’s thought.  What Paul really said is, “You who were dead in trespasses and sins.”  Now who does he mean by the word “you”?

Let me remind you what I said in a previous study.  In the book of Ephesians, the “you” refers to the Gentiles and the “we” which he will use in verse three, refers to the Jews, his fellow men and the “us” in the book of Ephesians normally refers to both Jews and Gentiles.  Now this is not dogmatic.  There are some times when he will use the word “we” referring to the Jews and the Gentiles but, as a general rule, the “you” refers to the Gentiles, the “we” refers to the Jews and the “us” refers to both Jews and Gentiles, the corporate man.  Here is verse one again, in its entirety:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins....

So Paul is saying in verse one, “You Gentiles who were dead in trespasses and sins.”  What he means is that you are by nature spiritually dead and incapable of doing anything but sin.  And then he says in verse two:

...in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

In other words, “You are not only sinful by nature but you are sinners by performance.”  Of course, our performance is simply the fruits of what we are.  When I plant an apple tree, there is nothing else I expect from the apple tree but apples.  Likewise, since you and I are born and are by nature sinners, our performance, apart from grace, is nothing but sin.  This is what Paul is saying to the Gentiles, “You are a bunch of sinners.  There is nothing good in you, not one of you are living a holy, righteous life.  You are incapable of doing that because you are dead in trespasses and sins.”

But now, in verse three, he turns to his own fellow Jews and he says (if your translation uses the word “flesh,” the word here means sinful human nature):

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

In other words, not only are you Gentiles a bunch of sinners but we Jews are in the same boat.  We belong to the same category.  We, too, have been fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.  We are by nature sinners and we are by performance.  Please notice how Paul ends verse three:

Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

You and I are born in the camp of sin.  Our very nature is dominated by sin.  We are ruled by sin as Paul said in Romans 3, verse 9:

What shall we conclude then?  Are we any better?  Not at all!  We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.

And if you turn to 1 John, chapter 5, verse 19, the apostle John says the same thing:

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

We are under sin and we are under the evil one, which is the devil.  There is no way you and I can escape apart from Jesus Christ.  That is our predicament.  There is no hope for you except through Jesus Christ.  “We are by nature the children of wrath just like you Gentiles.”

Having painted this dark, dismal, hopeless picture of mankind, Paul now, in verse four of Ephesians two, turns to the wonderful, unconditional good news of salvation.  In verse four, he tells us the ground of our salvation is not our goodness but the love and mercy of God.  Look at verse four of Ephesians two:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy....

The word “but” at the beginning means “in complete contrast to our sinful state and our inability to save ourselves.”  Oh, I thank God, He is rich in mercy.  “Because” — that’s the cause — “Because of His great love.”  Have you got it?

Remember, His love is unconditional.  It is this agape love which loves us unconditionally.  It is a love that is uncaused; it loves the bad; it loves those sinners.  As Paul brought out in Romans 5, verses 6-10:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:&nbps; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life?

While we were helpless, while we were ungodly, while we were sinners, still sinners and while we were God’s enemies, we were, past tense, reconciled to God by the death of His Son.”  And, of course, those statements made by Paul are in the context of verse 5 of Romans 5 which says that the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit:

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

And here Paul again in Ephesians 2, verse 4, says that the source, the cause of our salvation is God’s love:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy....

But the fact that God loves you and me, unconditionally, is not enough to save us.  And so, in verse 5 and 6, he expounds the facts of salvation.  How did God save you?  Not only did He love us unconditionally, not only is He rich in mercy, but He also did something.  Love is meaningless unless it is followed by action.  And verses 5 and 6 of Ephesians 2 is dealing with God’s action which saved you and me.  Listen to verse 5:

...Made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.

Here the “we” refers to Jews and Gentiles.  Even when we human beings were incapable of doing any righteousness, even when we were helpless in terms of inability to save ourselves, God made us alive together with Christ.  That is a powerful, tremendous statement.  First of all, the word “made” is in the past historical tense.  It is something that took place in the past and, therefore, here Paul is not talking about our subjective experience as Christians.  He is not talking of our new birth experience.  He is talking of a truth that took place in Christ.

To understand what Paul is saying, we need to go back to Genesis and the Fall of man.  When God created Adam and Eve, not only did He create them in His image, but He created them to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  We human beings were created as a temple of God but, when Adam sinned, he turned his back to God.  He became self-dependent and the Holy Spirit left him and his life was plunged into darkness.  In other words, at the Fall, our first parents died spiritually, not physically, but spiritually.  And since God created man to produce of his own kind, since Adam and Eve had no children when they fell — all their children were born after the Fall of Adam and Eve — therefore, they were born spiritually dead.  That is what Paul is saying in chapter 2, verse 1 of Ephesians.  You and I were born spiritually dead.

Now, in order to save us, God had to first qualify His Son to be our Savior.  Legally, no law will allow one person, especially an innocent person, to bear the guilt and punishment of a guilty person.  You cannot transfer guilt and punishment.  Likewise, legally, you cannot transfer righteousness.  So before Christ could save us, He had to qualify to be our Savior.  He had to qualify to be our Representative.  He had to qualify to be our Substitute.  How did God qualify Christ, the second Person of the Godhead, to be our substitute and Savior?

Well, very simple.  He took the divine life of His Son, which the Son had given Him through the self-emptying that Paul talks about in Philippians 2, verses 6-8, Christ emptied Himself, handed Himself over to the Father and the Father, through the Holy Spirit, took the divine life of Christ and, through a miracle, united the divine life, that divine nature, with the corporate human life of yours and mine, that needs redeeming, in the womb of Mary so that, in the incarnation, divinity and our corporate humanity were joined together in one Person.  This, of course, is a great mystery.  The Christian church wrestled with this for over 400 years and, finally, in the Council of Chelsedon came up with this creed:  that Christ was fully God and fully man in one Person.  This was called the “unipersonality of Christ.”  This cannot be explained.  It is a mystery but this is what happened at the incarnation:  divinity and our corporate humanity that needs redeeming were joined together in one Person in the womb of Mary.

The moment that took place, the human race, in Christ — this is not subjective, this is an objective truth — the human race, in Christ, was made spiritually alive because the Holy Spirit was now joined back to the human race in that incarnation experience.  Then Paul adds in chapter 2 of Ephesians, verse 5:

It is by grace you have been saved.

That simply means that we did nothing to deserve this.  Grace is unmerited favor.  In fact, grace is more than that.  Grace is God doing something wonderful to His enemies.  While we were still enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.  Romans 5, verse 10:

For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life?

That is grace.  Paul has already told us about this grace in chapter 1 of Ephesians, verse 7.  Let me remind you what he says:

In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace....

By His grace, God took you, He took me, He took the corporate man and He took His Son and joined us together and, when that took place 2,000 years ago, the human race was made spiritually alive in Christ.  This did not save us but this qualified Christ to be our Savior because He and we became one.

Paul puts it beautifully in 1 Corinthians 1, verse 30:

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

I mentioned this when we dealt with the “in Christ” motif in chapter one of Ephesians.  I am simply repeating a truth that you need to be clear on.  God took us and put us in Christ and, by doing that, God made Christ to be our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our all.  That is what he is saying.

Now, as I mentioned, this union of divinity and humanity did not save us.  It simply qualified Christ to be our Savior.  In fact, this union made Christ the second Adam.  Keep in mind the word “Adam” in Hebrew has a collective significance.  It means mankind.  Just like the whole human race was in Adam when he sinned and, therefore, stands condemned, likewise now, God put the whole human race into Christ so that His history may be our history.  By His perfect life and by His sacrificial death and by His resurrection, He brought to the human race the wonderful truth of salvation.  That is, He gave us a hope that nothing else could give us.  And that, of course, is in verse 6:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus....

Having united us in Christ, having lived a perfect life and having died the wages of sin, in verse 6, Paul tells us, “And God raised us up.”  He raised us up but please notice He did not raise us up as individuals but He raised us up corporately together, and that together means together with Christ.  Since we were united with Him in the incarnation, then His life becomes our life, His death becomes our death, His resurrection becomes our resurrection and, thus, He raised us up together with Christ and made us sit together with Christ in the heavenly places.

There is a statement that Peter makes that I would like you to read that says basically the same thing.  Listen to this, 1 Peter, chapter 1 and verse 3.  Listen to what this great apostle Peter says about this wonderful truth:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead....

“In his great mercy” — have you got it?  This is the wonderful, unconditional good news of salvation.

Well, we must go on.  Now, in verse 7 of Ephesians 2, Paul turns to the subjective, to the future, that in the ages to come, in verses 5 and 6, he is telling us about an objective truth that took place in Christ 2,000 years ago.  Then in verse 7, he says:

...In order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

In other words, as Paul brought out in Romans 8, verses 21 to 25, we Christians who have accepted this good news are not saved in the fullness in reality.  We are saved by faith today.  We stand justified by faith today, but one day Christ is going to come and He is going to take us to heaven.  Remember what Jesus said to the disciples in John 14:1-3?  He says:

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Those are the exceeding riches we will see one day but right now we have a hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our salvation is guaranteed in Him and one day, it doesn’t matter what we are now, but one day when He comes, we shall be like Him.

Then in verses 8 and 9, Paul reminds his readers that they must never look at themselves for security for salvation.  What does it say in verses 8 and 9 of Ephesians 2?  This is what he says:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.

Please notice, salvation is more than a provision.  It is an actual fact.  God actually saved us by grace.  This salvation, of course, is a gift and has to be received and this reception is called faith.  Paul says we are saved by what God did in Christ and this salvation becomes ours through faith.

The grammar meaning in the Greek is that “it” in “it is the gift of God” refers to “grace.”  Grace is a gift.  We are saved through a gift because of God’s abundant mercy because of His great love for us and because of His redemptive activity in Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago.  In Christ, God has obtained salvation full and complete and the reason why that salvation can be yours is because you were in that humanity of Christ that obeyed the law perfectly.  You were in that humanity of Christ that died on the cross.

That famous scholar, Bruce Westscott, says that Christ was not just one man among many men but that all men were in Him so that we were organically united to Him.  As we accept this truth, His death becomes our death, His life becomes our life, His resurrection becomes our resurrection, His ascension becomes our ascension, His sitting in the heavenly places at the right hand of God becomes our position, too.  And, in the ages to come, we will discover this wonderful wealth but, right now, we accept it by faith.

Then Paul adds in verse 9, “not by works.”  Our contribution is nil when it comes to our salvation.  We have not made one iota of contribution towards our salvation.  We are saved entirely by grace, “not by works, so that no one can boast.”  But Paul is aware of our problem.  He is aware that we Christians, even though we are saved by grace, even though we stand perfect in Christ, we have had no change that has taken place in our nature.  Yes, when we accept Christ, when we experience conversion, when we have repented, there is a change of mind.

In Ephesians 2:3, Paul tells us that in our sinful state, both the sinful nature and the mind, were in harmony.  But in a Christian, the mind has made a U-turn.  It no longer is in harmony with the flesh.  It has turned to God; it has accepted Christ as its righteousness.  The Greek word used here means “a change of mind.”  But the nature remains sinful just as it was before our conversion.  Therefore, we have a nature that is not only sinful as believers, but we have a nature that still loves to sin.  The gospel is not only unconditional good news, it is dangerous news because we can take this good news and say, “Since I am saved by grace, it doesn’t matter what I do.”  This is called “cheap grace.”

So in verse 10, Paul says:

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Notice, we are saved by grace but we are not only saved to go to heaven; we are saved to do good works which God prepared beforehand, that is, in Christ, but now, since we have accepted Him, should walk in it.

Now, we will look at the concluding verses of this section we are studying, verses 11 to 13:

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

Here Paul is making a tremendous statement.  He says the salvation that God obtained in Christ is not only reserved for the Jews.  That was the mistake the Jews made.

Oh, my dear reader, the gospel is all inclusive.  Salvation of the Gentiles was not an afterthought.  The Jews, unfortunately, did not see the salvation of the Gentiles in the Old Testament.  It was there.  But Paul is saying that this unconditional good news of salvation is not limited to the Jews.  It is not limited to the Gentiles.  It is not limited to the elect.  It is a gift for all mankind but it has to be received.  It is my prayer that you will receive this truth and rejoice with me in Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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