New Life in Christ

Eph 2:1-10

SS Lesson for 05/10/2009

 

Devotional Scripture:  Rom 6:1-12

Introduction

Overview and Approach to Lesson

The outline of the lesson came from the Bible Expositor and Illuminator. The lesson teaches about a New Live in Christ. The study's aim is to show that new life comes only through the gift of our Lord Jesus. The study's application is to understand that all who turn to Jesus and receive His gift of salvation will experience new life.

 

Lesson Introduction and Background

From the NIV Standard Lesson Commentary

I was brought up in a lower–middle class, blue-collar neighborhood where most people worked in trades or heavy industry. My grandfather was a construction worker who had grown up on a farm and left school after the eighth grade; he retired as vice president of a major company through sheer hard work and determination. My father worked two jobs, serving as a firefighter and running his own remodeling business on off days. Many times I saw families in my neighborhood suffer because the parents refused to accept aid from anyone. Through this upbringing, I learned to take pride in hard work and, especially, to avoid taking charity or welfare. This attitude in many ways reflects the American definition of success: taking care of yourself and never admitting that you need help. This same spirit of self-sufficiency and independence can be found in American religion. Many American Christians feel very little responsibility for fellow believers. They may also often feel (at least subconsciously) that they must prove their worth to God by doing good deeds. The apostle Paul characterized his own religious life similarly in Philippians 3:4–6, noting that he once took great pride in his Jewish heritage, membership in the sect of the Pharisees, and strict obedience to the Old Testament. Indeed, he asserted that he was “faultless” in keeping the Law of Moses. But Paul’s sudden and dramatic conversion experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–19) started him down a path of thinking differently. That new thinking eventually was written down in a series of letters. A key issue in those letters is Paul’s conclusion that we cannot earn our salvation. All people, even the most righteous, are saved only by God’s grace. That means that he does what we cannot do so that we may be acceptable to him. In our passage for today, Paul makes this point by noting that God did not save us when we were good people, but rather when we were sinners. Good works become possible only because of what he did for us. Recognizing this fact, we should respond to his mercy through loyal service.

 

Ephesus was one of the best known cities in the ancient world. Its fame came not only from its size and commercial importance, but also and particularly from Ephesian religious culture. One of the largest temple complexes of the day—in fact, one of the so-called “seven wonders of the ancient world”—was located there. It was dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of the wilderness and fertility. Ephesus was also a world center of occult practices and black arts (compare Acts 19:19). When Paul first arrived in Ephesus in about AD 54, he spent three months teaching in local synagogues, but was eventually expelled. So he established a school in the lecture hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:8, 9). The Ephesian church eventually was threatened by pressures from local trade unions. They feared a loss of profit, since Paul’s preaching against idolatry was so effective that it jeopardized sales of articles that bore the image of Artemis (Acts 19:23–27). Thus the various elements of Ephesian culture presented special challenges and opportunities to the apostle Paul when he visited the city on his third missionary journey. In view of their deeply pagan background, Paul wanted the Ephesian Christians to understand two points clearly: (1) God had completely forgiven the sins of their previous lifestyle, and (2) God expected them to produce good works as expressions of redemption. Our passage for today covers both topics.

 

From the Bible Expositor and Illuminator

We recognize that death is irreversible. We may take every health and safety precaution possible to prolong life.  But once death has claimed its prey, it will not give it back. We all understand that physical death cannot be reversed. Scripture, however, reveals astonishing examples of resurrection, some in the Old Testament, several during Jesus' ministry, and the greatest of all in His own conquest of death. Believers are promised that their bodies will someday be raised and death itself will be defeated. Scripture also speaks of spiritual death, which can never be reversed by fleshly efforts. It is the normal human condition under sin, and it will eventuate in eternal death. Yet as this week's text explains, God has made it possible for the spiritually dead to be made alive. Imagine that you are a drowning man. Nothing else matters at that time except to have someone come save you from the water. That is the same way with salvation and all the benefits for the new life that come with it. This is our lifeline to heaven, and it provides new life meaning for today as well. We live in a world that is full of genuinely religious people, but without Jesus Christ, they are going to hell. Our lesson this week shows us that once we were dead in sin. But God, in His gracious favor toward us, raised us up with Christ. When we accept Christ as Saviour, God changes the course of our lives. We cannot forget that because of what Christ has done on the cross for us, we now have the opportunity to receive that new life.

 

Major Theme Analysis

(Scriptural Text from the New King James Version; cross-references from the NIV)

Life Dead in Sin (Eph 2:1-3)

 

1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,

2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,

3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

 

Dead in trespasses (1)

Dead in trespasses because of being separated from the life of God (Eph 4:18)

18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

Dead in trespasses because of living for pleasure (1 Tim 5:6)

6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.

Dead in trespasses because of not loving (1 John 3:14)

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.

Dead in trespasses because of wicked deeds (Rev 3:1)

3 "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.

 

Satanically influenced (2)

Satanic influence through false teachings (2 Peter 2:1-3)

2 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them — bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Satanic influence through spiritualism (Col 2:18-19)

18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Satanic influence through hypocrisy (Matt 7:15)

15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Satanic influence through a different gospel (Gal 1:6-7)

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

Satanic influence through fine-sounding words (Col 2:4)

4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.

Satanic influence through lies (Jer 23:32)

32 Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," declares the Lord. "They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least," declares the Lord.

Satanic influence from within (Acts 20:30)

30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

 

Under God's condemnation (3)

Condemnation for those who exploit others (2 Peter 2:3)

3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Condemnation for preaching a false gospel (Gal 1:7-9)

7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

Condemnation for those who have not believed the truth (2 Thess 2:12)

12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Condemnation for those who deceive (2 Cor 11:15)

15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

Disbelief that could lead to condemnation (Mark 16:16)

16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

A consequence of unbelief is condemnation (John 3:18)

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

 

Life Alive in Heavenly Places (Eph 2:4-7)

 

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,

5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

 

Beloved by God (4)

Beloved by God because nothing can separate us from His love (Rom 8:37-39)

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Beloved by God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:15-18)

15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Beloved by God because love is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Beloved by God because the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of love (2 Tim 1:7)

7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Beloved by God because God's love is always before us (Ps 26:3)

3 for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.

Beloved by God because God gives comfort through His love (Phil 2:1-2)

2 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

Beloved by God because He provided Jesus as our sacrifice (John 3:16)

16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Beloved by God expressed in mercy (1 Tim 1:15-16)

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

 

Alive with Christ (5)

Alive in Christ because it pleased Jesus (John 5:21)

21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.

Alive in Christ through the Holy Spirit (John 6:63)

63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

Alive in Christ through baptism in Jesus (Rom 6:4)

4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Alive in Christ in a mortal body (Rom 8:11)

11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Alive in Christ because of living by faith (Gal 2:20)

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

Exalted with Christ (6-7)

Exalted with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph 1:3)

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Exalted with Christ in glory (Col 3:2-4)

2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Exalted with Christ that was predestined (Rom 8:30)

30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Exalted with Christ because our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20-21)

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Life to do Good Works (Eph 2:8-10)

 

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

 

Gift of grace (8-9)

Gift of grace that saves (Acts 15:11)

11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

Gift of grace that guarantees the promises of God (Rom 4:16-17)

16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring — not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed — the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

Gift of grace that provides access to God (Rom 5:1-2)

5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Gift of grace that belongs to a remnant (Rom 11:5-6)

5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

Gift of grace to teach (Rom 12:5-7)

5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;

Gift of grace that makes one work harder (1 Cor 15:10)

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

 

God's creative work (10)

Creator of things both visible and invisible (Col 1:16)

16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

Creator through being the Word (John 1:1-3)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.  3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Creator through whom all things consist (1 Cor 8:6)

6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Creator through whom all things were made (Heb 1:2)

2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

Creator who built everything (Heb 3:3-4)

3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.

 

Conclusion and Other Thoughts

Concluding Thoughts from the NIV Standard Lesson Commentary

Christians may be plagued with doubts about their salvation. “Trying hard, never sure” is the way such self-doubt has been described. When we reflect on our past lives and our ongoing sinfulness, we don’t seem to be making the grade. Indeed, if God evaluated our performance in the same way that our employers do, we might have been cut a long time ago. This approach to faith, which reflects the spirit and ethic of a Western marketplace, typically generates two responses, which often work together in something of a vicious cycle. First, we may try to do good deeds to prove that we are worthy of God’s love and mercy; second, when we inevitably fail to be perfect, we feel guilty and ashamed. These feelings of guilt will lead us either to try even harder or to give up. This cycle of effort/failure/guilt leads to depression and burnout. It never leads to genuine biblical faith. The apostle Paul had lived in a cycle something like this before becoming a Christian. Perhaps for this reason he stressed God’s grace again and again. The work necessary for us to become members in God’s family has been done on the cross; it has nothing to do with anything we have done or could do. Of course, God expects us to do what is right, but we do this as an expression of our salvation, not as merit points toward it. So whenever we begin to feel guilty, insecure, or burned out, we need to pause and ask why. Are we focusing on our own (in)abilities? If so, the cure is to recall that God has called us to him through his Son, not through our own efforts. The cross puts an end to self-doubt.

 

Concluding Thoughts from the Bible Expositor and Illuminator

Eph 2:8 is not just the beginning of our text to study; it can be considered the golden text of the New Testament. It clearly states that salvation is a free gift received by faith and not through human effort. The flow of this text can be studied through a consideration of two words: "free" and "faith." Salvation from sin is free. There are no hidden costs. The most wonderful blessing of life can be received only as a free gift. I recall a time when I received an envelope in the mail from a well-known Christian organization. Across the front of the envelope were the words "Free Gift!" In pleasant anticipation, I opened the envelope to learn more about my free gift. As I read the enclosed letter, I learned that to receive my free gift, I had to make a contribution of twenty-five dollars or more. Was that free gift really free? Whoever heard of a free gift costing twenty-five dollars or more? They had no business calling their offer a gift, much less a free gift. The truth is that if it costs you something, it is not a gift. It would be like putting presents under the Christmas tree with a price tag on each one. A Christmas like that would not be exchanging gifts with the family but selling merchandise to them! The Bible is not so careless with the word "gift." To make sure that no one misunderstands what the Bible means by the word, God embedded some explanatory words in the passage. First, the text says that salvation is "not of yourselves." Salvation is not something a person brings to himself through his own efforts. Second, the next verse declares, "Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:9). If even one good deed were required for salvation, Paul could not have said, "Not of works." Also, if we contributed a single good deed, we would have grounds for boasting, which Paul forbade to all: "Lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:9). Salvation is truly free, which implies the means by which it is received. That brings us to the second word— "faith." The only way to receive a free gift is to accept it by faith. All that is required to receive a free gift is to believe the free offer and take the gift that is being offered to you. The Lord offers us salvation as a free gift. Since it is truly free, it is to be received by faith.

 

Practical Points from the Bible Expositor and Illuminator

1.        Everyone is either a sinner saved by grace or a sinner under God's wrath (Eph. 2:1-3; John 3:18)

2.        A person's only hope for salvation is based on the grace and mercy of God alone (Eph. 2:4-5)

3.        In Christ, we are already positionally everything God is making us to be practically (vs. 6)

4.        God's plan for us in Christ is eternal in scope and seeks His greatest glory and our greatest good (vs. 7)

5.        Salvation is the free gift of God. Those who try to earn it will never gain it (vs. 8-9)

6.        God expects Christians to do good works (Eph 2:10; James 2:17)

 

Heart of the Lesson from the Bible Expositor and Illuminator

Every believer has a history. It is the same story for all believers. We once were lost in sin under God's judgment. God entered the picture and saved us by His grace. He gave us new life through Christ's redemptive work. Now we are members of the new family that God has established in Christ. He saved us by His grace to do good works that will bring glory to His name.

 

Our hopeless situation in the past (Eph. 2:1-3)

We were spiritually dead in our sins at one point in our lives. This was in the past, prior to our conversion to Christ. We did not have a personal relationship with God as our heavenly Father. Instead, we were hopelessly lost and desperately needed God's saving grace. We were in spiritual ruin. Our daily conduct was determined by the self-serving principle that characterizes the values of the world. We were under the domination of Satan, who is constantly at work in the unsaved, encouraging them to disobey God. Like the rest of unsaved humanity, we indulged in the evil lusts and desires of our sinful human nature. Our inclination was to satisfy the selfish demands that spring from an unregenerate life. All the while we merited God's righteous judgment. Believers need to be reminded that they were once lost, without hope and under God's wrath. This should prompt us to be compassionate to those still bound in sin and under Satan's control and in need of God's grace and mercy.

 

God's mercy and grace (Eph. 2:4-7)

There was no escape from our predicament except from outside of fallen humanity. But God turned things around for us due to His boundless mercy and love. He loved us even though our sinful condition and manner of life merited His wrath. We did not love Him, but He loved us. His love for us sprang from within Himself and not from anything in us. God gave us new life by delivering us from spiritual death. Due to our spiritual union with Christ, we have been raised with Him and are now seated with Him in heaven. Believers are already positionally in heaven, where He is. We have the assurance that the outcome of our life here on earth will be our future entrance into heaven to be with Christ. Regardless of the difficulties, disappointments, and challenges of daily life, heaven is our future home. God's purpose in saving rebellious creatures like us was to make known throughout all ages His grace in Jesus Christ. He does not save sinners just to bring them to heaven but to display His grace. We owe Him our constant praise and adoration.

 

A new life of doing good works (Eph. 2:8-10)

God has saved by His grace alone. We did not exchange anything for His grace. Our salvation was free. Faith was the channel through which we received His grace. Faith is not meritorious. There is absolutely nothing in ourselves in which we can boast and thereby expect God to accept us. He has saved us on His terms and not on our own terms. The purpose for our salvation is to do good works for God. We were not saved into a vacuum. Good works spring from our salvation. The only one who can boast about our redemption from the depths of sin and degradation is God Himself. We realize our full potential as those created and then redeemed by God as we do good works for God's glory. This is the outcome of our new life in Christ.