from God’s mercy and love (2:4-7)
grace, through faith and not of works (2:8-10)
condition of the Gentiles (2:11-12)
Jews and Gentiles through Jesus Christ (2:13-18)
The one household
of God (2:19-22)
Made us alive,
raised us up, saved, by grace, through faith, works, workmanship, remember,
peace, law, commandments, ordinances, reconcile, household of God, foundation
of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
holy temple, dwelling place of God.
1. To help us understand that God saved us by
grace (verse 5), for a dead man cannot help himself.
2. Through the trespasses and sins we once
walked. Following the devil (prince of the power of the air) (2). Lived in the
passions of our flesh (3). Following the desires of the flesh and of the mind
(3). Children of wrath (3).
3. Air here is used in the sense of it being
naturally circumambient (surrounding). The devil here is described as completely
surrounding and controlling the world.
4. It would seem that the lust of the flesh
and the lust of the eyes neatly elaborate the desires of the flesh. Also, the
terms ‘pride of life’ and ‘desires of the mind’ help us to understand
intellectual pride and self-exaltation.
5. He is made alive together with Christ,
raised up together, and made to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ
6. Our salvation is by grace, meaning that it
is God’s free gift. This salvation is received through faith in Jesus Christ
and His atoning work. It is not based on our merits.
7. Because this is such an important issue,
please read the entire article in the appendix. Important excerpts are as
As grace is the
giving of salvation by God, so faith is the accepting of salvation on our part.
“Now faith is the
assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1
NRSV). By the above Scriptural definition, faith, being an ‘assurance’ and a
‘conviction’, can be seen as an abstract entity, a thing of the mind. James saw
the misconception that could possibly arise from such a definition and stressed
the absolute necessity of the projection of the abstract entity into action
(which he terms works). He rejects the conception of faith as a thing purely of
the mind or heart, independent of the actions proceeding from such an assurance
and conviction. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead
illustration of faith in its true sense – You are trapped in your burning
office block. Out of the blinding smoke and chaos, you sight a fireman breaking
through the flames. Salvation! You have faith in him, in his ability to save
you from a fiery end. He beckons to you. You go to him. “Down on your knees and
crawl so that you won’t choke on the smoke.” Down on your knees you go. “Up the
stairway.” Up the stairway. Turn left, then right.” Turn left, then right.
“Jump!” Jump? “Jump!” Jump. And you are saved.
underlines the intrinsic relationship between obedience and faith, action and
faith. Is it possible to be saved from the fire if you have faith in the
fireman but do not follow his commands? Is it possible to separate faith and
works? “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works
faith was made perfect?” (Jas 2:22) True and saving faith is faith with works –
not any kind of works but works which have their source in the conviction that
Christ is the Saviour.
The doctrine that
salvation is effected at the moment of confessing
Jesus Christ faces serious disagreement in the light of Mark 16:16 and Matthew
24:13. The first commands the believer to be baptized for salvation. If one’s
salvation is effected at the point of open confession, why this verse? The
latter goes even further. It advocates a lifetime of faith, not a single
important moment of faith alone. Salvation is to one who remains faithful to
Salvation is a
way. “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life,
and there are few who find it (Mt 7:14). Salvation begins (not ends) with
belief in Jesus as the Saviour. Then follows the
question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do (Acts 2:37)?” To which Peter
replied, “Repent and let everyone of you be baptized
in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive
the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).” This next step is reconciliation with
God through the removal of the barrier of sin by Jesus’ blood in water baptism
(see Acts 22:16; 1Pet 3:21). Whereupon in due time, we shall be sealed with the
promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance (Eph 1:13,14). Our feet are now firmly planted on the road to
salvation. But the way stretches on for a lifetime, a lifetime to be saved by
the Spirit “for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the
Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Rom 8:13).” This
is a process of renewal, growing in the Lord, not an accumulation of ‘works of
righteousness which we have done’ (see Tit 3:5) but a living by faith,
quickened by the Spirit.
Tit 3:5 is also
an important parallel passage to Eph 2:9. “Not by works of righteousness which
we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of
regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Comparing with Eph 2:8,9 we
of righteousness which we have done – works;
mercy – grace;
3. washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit –
If we can see
that the works mentioned in James 2 are different from the works in Eph 2:9, we
are out of our muddle. The difference in the two kinds of works is in the
source of each. The work in James has its source in faith. It is intrinsic in
faith and without it, there is no faith. The works in Ephesians has its source
in human moral exertions – deed done by us in righteousness. It is alien from a
faith in Jesus, typical of the moral strivings of humanism, charity and other
religions. Paul emphasizes that this kind of works cannot save since it is without
faith in Jesus. It is then easy to understand why baptism or adherence to other
commandments of God are necessary for salvation since these are NOT works done
by us in righteousness but rather are works of faith.
8. Verse 9 speaks of human endeavors to find
justification in good works apart from the grace of God. Such kind of works
cannot save us. On the other hand, verse 10 speaks of the good works after a
believer’s conversion, and these good works are the result of becoming “God’s
workmanship.” In other words, this kind of works is made possible by the
spiritual regeneration and renewal in Jesus Christ. We are the works of God’s
hands. Therefore, we ought to give God the glory for the good works we perform
9. God has chosen us in order to transform us
in Christ so that we may walk in a new way of life and carry out good works.
10. These are some of the good works discussed in
from evil - see Eph 5:3-7 and contrast with 1Cor 5:1,2.
the Lord - see Eph 4:1,2,11 and compare with Lk 9:59-62.
in love - see Eph 5:2 and compare with Rev 2:2-5.
11. Because they do not partake in the covenants
of promise that God made with Abraham. This covenant, whose sign is
circumcision, remains for the descendants of Abraham through Isaac, Jacob (Israel) and finally the commonwealth of Israel.
12. The blood of Christ (13) and the broken body
of Christ (14-16). This fact ties in very well with the doctrine of the Holy
Communion where we are told that ‘for we, though many,
are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread’. (1Cor
13. The dividing wall of hostility is the law of
commandments and ordinances.
14. Because God does not want two separate ways
to Himself. From the beginning, His way of salvation is one and the people He
chooses is one (see Eph 4:3-6). So while the promises and the covenants with
the Jews cannot be revoked, God has to find a way to save both parties in one
unified way and this He achieved through the blood of Christ and the death of
15. Built upon the foundation of the apostles and
the prophets. Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone. In Jesus, the whole
structure is joined together. It grows into a holy temple to the Lord. In Jesus
also, we are built into the temple (see 1Pet 2:5) for a dwelling place of God
in the Spirit.
16a. As members of God’s
household, believers are children of God and siblings of the same spiritual
family. There should be no division on the basis of race, gender, wealth,
status, or personal interests (Gal 3:26-28). Because we are all part of this
family, we all have a part to play in the work of the church. No believer is a
guest waiting to be served, but we all ought to serve one another.
16b. The church must
conform to the teachings of the apostles and prophets, who had received the
revelation of God (Eph 3:5; cf. Acts 2:42). Since the church is founded on the
truth (1Tim 3:15), she must preach the same gospel that the apostles preached
(Gal 1:8-9). Any congregation that strays from the apostolic doctrine cannot be
the church of God.
16c. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the center of our
faith (1Cor 3:10-11). Our faith must be built not on man but on Christ the
solid rock. People make mistakes and may fall away, but the Lord is always trustworthy.
Furthermore, it is the Lord Jesus Christ, not our common interests or any other
factor, that unites us together as one body. The only
way to achieve unity despite our diversity is for all believers to be joined to
the Lord and share the same faith in Christ.
16d. From verse 21, we see
that the church is a building project in progress. We are being fitted together
by the hand of God until the entire building grows into a holy temple. Thus,
the church needs to work towards spiritual maturity and unity in the faith (Eph
3:13-15). Our ultimate objective is to become a spiritual temple dedicated to
God for His use, so that our assembly becomes a holy gathering in which prayers
and thanks are offered to God continually and believers offer themselves as living
sacrifices (i.e. they obey the will of God). Then God’s name will be exalted
through this temple.
16e. The church of God
has the presence of the Holy Spirit. This means that believers in the church
receive the promised Holy Spirit just as the apostles did on the day of
Pentecost. Not only so, as a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, we need to seek
to live a sanctified life (1Cor 6:19-20) and submit to the guidance of the Holy
Spirit in all areas of church ministry (cf. Acts 13:1-3; Eph 4:3).