“The Church as the Masterpiece of God’s Grace for Successive Ages”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 2.1-10
Ephesians chapter 2. Our text this morning will be verses 1-10. Last week, we concluded chapter 1 where we discussed the kind of power that is directed toward believers.
You could look back at Ephesians 1:19. Paul is praying that we would know …. “what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. This power is in accordance with the working of the strength of His might…. Or the power of the power of His power…. Ephesians 1:20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
We have a resurrection power directed toward us. And now, in chapter 2, Paul is giving his commentary on this power. And so he answers the question, “when was this resurrection power first demonstrated in God’s people?”
And the answer to that is at the moment of someone’s salvation. Last week, we saw how Paul describes the power that gave physical life to Christ’s dead body. And this week we see that power in action in salvation.
The same power that raised Christ from the grave [**left hand] is the same power that raises up a believer from his spiritual grave [**right hand].
Chapter 2:1-10 describes an individual believer’s position in Christ. And the rest of chapter 2 describes how individual believers are unified in Christ. So verses 1 to 10 the individual is focus and in the rest of chapter 2 the community of those individuals is in focus.
Let’s read Ephesians 2:1-10. As we do, notice how the apostle chooses words and phrases that indicate how overwhelmed he is. He’s overwhelmed at the glories of God’s grace to such sinners like ourselves.
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The first three verses of our passage concern the old condition that the believer was in before he came to Jesus Christ. These verses describe anyone who has not trusted in Christ for salvation and if you have come to Christ, it is you previous to having done so.
And that condition changed because of God’s gracious actions as found in verses 4-6.
In verses 8 to 10, Paul explains God’s grace in salvation. God’s grace in salvation. He explains here and how grace accomplishes our salvation and how our salvation is not given to us because of our good works. But Paul’s point here is that good works are the outflow of true salvation.
And I skipped verse seven which really is the central point of this passage. Where is all this going? Is this salvation really man-centred? Is God placing the highest esteem on mankind? Why is God saving people from their sins? Why did God save you? Why does God take sinners as described in verses 1 to 3 and it makes them alive together with Christ as described in verses 4-6? Why does God save people?
Verse seven describes God’s primary purpose in salvation. God saves people so that “in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” In other words, he saves those who are in the church and then he [**2 hand uplifted**] displays the church as the masterpiece of His own grace for ages to come.
I’d like to preach this morning on that topic: The Church as the Masterpiece of God’s Grace for Successive Ages.
TRANS: Now, this passage assumes you have come to Christ. This passage does not speak of someone who is comfortable in their sin.
No, verses 1-3 describe the old condition of the believer. He was dead to God. But of course now, the believer is made alive to God.
Old Condition of the Believer: Dead to God (2:1-3)
The believer before he came to Christ was dead to God.
You can see that in the passage … verse one … “you were dead” in your trespasses and sins. And this is discussing the old condition of the believer because, in verse two, before coming to Christ a believer “formerly” walked.
Before coming to Christ verse three believer “formerly” lived in the lusts of our flesh.
Everyone’s condition before repenting of sins and trusting in Christ is spiritually dead. There is no spiritual life in them. There is no spiritual pulse. And it is the power of the sin itself that keeps an individual in this condition of death.
But what does it mean to be dead? Death is a separation. To be physically dead is to be separated from your body.
You are not your body. You live inside your body. When you die, you leave your body and you are separated from your body. Death is a separation.
Paul is saying that while still alive, the majority of humanity is described as being dead. … dead in your sins. How can people who are still alive be dead? The answer to that is that they are dead to God because they are in their sins…they are spiritual united to their sins. They love their sins and have no victory and no care about repenting of sin.
They are spiritually separated from God. The majority of humanity is dead to God because their sins have separated them from God.
ILL: In our house we have a mouse. Our cats are not doing their job. I have set out traps in order to bring about the untimely demise of these varmints. When that trap springs, the mouse is dead. And if I were to attempt to get the mouse to respond to me … by flicking that thing …. Hello? …. no matter what I would do, he would not respond to me.
And just like that, someone who is still dead in their sins and separate from God has no ability to respond to God. If you are spiritual dead because you are still united to your sins in your spirit you do not respond to God and you could care less about your sin against.
APP: How would somebody know if they are lost or saved? How would somebody know if they have eternal life in them?
You’ll know the answer to that if you know the answer to this question, “what are you responding to?” “ … Hello!? ….” Someone who is dead because they are spiritually united to their sins is indeed spiritually dead to God. “Hello, don’t you care that what you are doing is sin?” … They are alive to their sins. They are responding to their sins.
APP: Are you responding to your sins? Is it your sin that you enjoy? You know the commandments of God, are you violating them? Are you violating them and it does not concern you? In fact, you rejoice in them.
However someone who has received eternal life, though he still sin, he hates it. It grieves his heart when he sins against God.
… Someone who does not have eternal life is further described in verses 2-3…
EXP: And you who have trusted Christ, before you came to Christ you were described in 3 ways. Your life was directed by three different things. Your life was directed verse two, first “by the course of this world.” You were directed by the world. Your behavior and desires and direction in life was all governed by general direction of the people of this age. You followed the basic attitude and outlook on life that the world has. Your habits were their habits … Your preferences and tastes pretty much lined up with theirs. And you did not care about God’s ways, God’s preferences, God’s outlook on life, God’s main calling on every Christian’s life.
So first before coming to Christ, your life was governed by the fleeting values of this world.
And second, before coming to Christ, your life was governed it says in verse 2 … by “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”
This is Satan. Before Christ, you were governed by Satan. Satan is a supernatural spirit and he is the chief of the fallen angels. He opposes God and everything that he does. And he tempts and deceives people. He walks about the earth seeking whom he may devour. And many of us in this room can give testimony on the devouring of Satan!
Satan was created perfect but at some point he sinned against God and rebelled against him. It was at that time that he became this Prince of the power of the air … The ruler of the demons in the heavenly places. He is the god of this world.
And he is working, verse 2 says, in lives of the sons of disobedience. Satan is active in the lives of those who have not received Christ and they are being deceived and living a life of disobedience.
And believer, this was your life before coming to Christ. You followed the course of this world following and being devoured by Satan.
And now thirdly, verse three, our flesh. Before coming to Christ, we followed the world and were devoured by Satan and now thirdly verse three we lived for the lusts of our flesh.
Ephesians 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind,
A believer used to live …. He formerly lived in the desires of his sin nature. The phrase “lusts our flesh” is not limited to sexual immorality, to intimacy outside of marriage. Also included here is any desire that our sin nature has.
And believer, before Christ, you indulged those desires. You indulged in the desires of your sin nature and even the desires of your mind. This is hostility against God. You indulged the sinful desires of your flesh and mind.
These things characterized our lives and we carried out its every desire. We were enslaved to our sin and lived for this world while being enslaved every day to our sins and having no victory against it.
APP: Have you recognized how you have been so enslaved by the desires of your flesh? You had no care or conviction about your sin. Are you now experiencing freedom from the power of sin? If you were saved later in life, do you remember what it was like to be in the muck and mire of the filth of your sin do you now know that God has broken off those chains of sin? Do you see the evidence of how God has released you from living according to this world? Has God broken the power of the desires this world and from the desires of your own the sin nature? You struggle, but when you sin it grieves you? Is this you?
EXP: Do you remember being dead to God … dead in your sins? Well, what is the consequence of that? What is the penalty of that position before God?
The position anyone has before coming Christ is, end of verse 3, that “by nature you were a child of wrath even as the rest of humanity.”
Your very nature as a human being is such that left to yourself apart from the work of God in your heart you would be a child of wrath. That simply means that apart from God, you are only deserving of receiving the wrath of God.
Apart from God’s work in you, you would only be worthy of receiving the eternal wrath of God. Because of your sin nature and because you, from the moment you were born, began to go astray from God… Because you have rebelled against him from the moment you took your first breath, because of this by your very nature you only deserve eternal wrath of God in the flames of hell forever and ever.
You were spiritually dead to God because you were united to your sins and if you did not come to Christ, your physical death would simply eternalize that condition and you would receive eternal death, eternal separation from God.
The torment of the damned in hell is eternal and conscious. Heb. 6:2 says there is eternal judgement and Matthew 18:8 and many verses say that the fire is eternal.
Before coming to Christ believer, you were unable to properly respond to God, you were being devoured by Satan, and you were following this general descending highway that the whole world has taken and it goes right over a cliff into the very pit of hell. ….
TRANS: “But God!” Verse 4 …
The situation is dire! Your eternal outlook was bleak, to say the least. Your condemnation would be a righteous act of God…. But he did not leave you in that condition!
God’s gracious actions
Verse 4-6 we have God’s gracious actions in our salvation. God is rich in mercy! He has a wealth of compassion and pity upon those about to receive eternal destruction. And that was us! He is, first here, rich in mercy and secondly he has great love.
Rich in mercy and he has great and infinite love. He truly does seek your highest good and he does not hide good things from you.
No, he greatly loves you with his infinite love. So being rich in mercy and because of his great love, verse five, even when you were dead in your transgressions … or your sins against God …
… Think of that contrast! A wealth of infinite compassion for those about to receive eternal destruction. And he does something about it. He doesn’t just feel the compassion he activates that compassion with his infinite love. He has infinite love toward you, yes, even of you who were dead to God because you were in your sins.
As you can see this is all the work of God. God is rich in his mercy and he is infinite in his love and because he has chosen to set his love upon you when you were dead in your sin and unable to respond to God, he made you really come alive, verse 5. He made you alive with Christ!
Just like he made Christ physically alive after He died, so also he made you alive after you were dead spiritually!
This is all of God’s grace! It’s only by His grace that you are saved…saved from this condition of being dead and unable to respond to God and headed for hell.
TRANS: So first, God’s gracious actions include the fact that God made us alive together with Christ. And at this point, he really wants to elaborate on “by grace you have been saved” as it is there, at the end of verse 5. He does talk more about that beginning in verse 8, where we read “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves.” And it seems, at the end of verse 5, that he just about begins to expand on the grace that saves and what’s required of us to be saved … , but first, he feels, he must continue his main thought. So you can see he’s really excited, overwhelmed at God’s grace! And he has a burden for the personal responsibility that we have in salvation.
But first, verse 5 …
“Even when we were dead in our transgressions, Christ made us alive together with Christ …oh, it’s by grace you have been saved… Oh I can’t wait to tell you about God’s grace and how that saves and what you must do and did if you came to Christ! And he gets all excited in his mind and decides though to keep writing along about his main thought which is God’s actions in salvation.
So first, he made us alive together with Christ, or He caused us to be able to respond to Him. And second, now, he raised us up with him … He’s given us the resurrection power that He gave to Christ. Colossians 2:12 says that we’ve been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”
Thus, we have new life in Christ. We’ve been made to be able to respond to God and now secondly we have new life in Christ. Colossians 3:1-4 1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
And the third of God’s actions in this passage is verse six that he “seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
You remember that Christ is seated at God’s right hand now in the heavenly places. Back in … Ephesians 1:20 God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.
The very reason that we are seated together with Christ is because we are “in Christ.” That means that believers are spiritually united to Christ. Of course, we live upon the earth, but in the sight of God we have the same position as Jesus Christ.
Positionally before God, believers have the exact same standing. Christ’s righteousness has been credited to the believer’s account. All of the believer’s sin has been paid for at the cross. Just like Jesus Christ was made alive and raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand, so also we have been made alive to God we have been spiritually resurrected and we have been, in God’s sight for now, seated at God’s right hand along with Christ.
So we have the present experience of being made alive to God. We have the experience right now of the being raised up with Christ … We have experiential new life in Christ. And our position before God is that we are seated together with Christ in the heavenly places because we are spiritually united to Christ Jesus.
But that experience of being seated together with Christ is yet in the future. Romans 8:23 we who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
There is coming a day when we will be entirely redeemed in both body and spirit.
APP: Oh! the transition that has happened! Dead because of my sin, living at the whim of Satan, indulging the desires of my sin nature, and living like the world is about to go over into the very pit of eternal destruction. I was a son of disobedience and a child of wrath … But God made me alive! Oh, what a difference now! And the life of a believer clearly shows this! Believer, glory in this! If this doesn’t excite you, something is wrong!
TRANS: So Paul has his eye toward the future as he thinks about God’s salvation. But as he thinks about the future he considers the purpose of all of God’s grace in salvation. Where is all of this headed? Why has God so chosen to give us such a wonderful standing before him? Why has God shown us the richness of his mercy and the greatness of his love? Why has He shown us his love that saves us from being spiritually dead in our sins and causes us to be able to respond to God and to have new life in Christ and to have a seat with Christ in the heavenly places? … Me a seat with Christ? This great sinner? … a seat with Christ?
It seems … Unbelievable! The greatness of God’s grace …. can he really take filthy sinners and make them the masterpiece of his grace?
Oh, yes! It is His delight! Verse 7 … God has done these three things in verses 4-6 for the purpose verse seven “so that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
God has saved us! He has done that to display his grace toward us to future ages. He wants future ages to understand His grace toward us! God has so designed the church to be the masterpiece of his goodness. The community of God’s people is the trophy of God’s grace. It stands as a display of His grace for all future ages, from Paul’s standpoint and ours.
In the future age when Christ returns and on into the future when he finally reconciles and redeems the entire universe, the church will be the [**!!hold up the trophy!!**] pattern and the display of the surpassing riches of God’s grace.
That’s what verse seven says. God is saving people, not to make man happy. Although, only this is my happiness! But God is saving people … He is making them alive together with Christ, raising them up with Christ, and giving them a seat with Christ in the heavenly places. And verse seven… God does this to show those ages all about the surpassing riches of His grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. He wants everyone in the future to know the riches of His grace toward us! The church is His trophy of His grace to show all those future ages!
And if you have trusted in Christ you are a part of this!
APP: My friend, I hope your esteem of the church has just grown! You would if you have trusted Christ and a part of eternal plan of God. Your function in the eternal plan is one of infinite value and privilege. To be able to say that you are participating in the plans of God for all eternity and that you yourself are part of the masterpiece of God’s grace that he will display for all future ages is a privilege of an estimable value.
What then could be more important and desirable than participating in this? As you experience true Holy Spirit-empowered knowledge of what he has done for us in Christ, you will consider yourself to be dead to sin and you’ll come to appreciate the fact that your true and real life is hidden with Christ in God. You will look forward to the day when Christ who is life … is revealed and that you too will be revealed with him in glory.
And you will be found waiting expectantly for him. You will be found laboring and serving him in his church and all will know how much you esteem his work through the church.
TRANS: Well how did all of this come about? How does someone get to be a part of this awesome plan of God?
This is the practical side of being part of this glorious plan of God for future ages. How does someone come to be a part of this? Verses 8-10, Paul explains God’s grace in salvation.
Paul explains God’s grace in salvation
Ephesians 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 as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
It’s only by the grace of God that you receive this kind of salvation and standing before him. This grace or special favor from God is activated in the life of individual through faith. That’s a trust in God. Faith means a trust. And all of this is not of yourself. God’s grace that is activated toward you and the kind of trust that receives God’s grace and the saving… All of that in verse 8 is not from yourself, it is the gift of God.
There is nothing that you can do to receive any one of those three things. It is all the work of God. Apart from God we would be dead to Him because we were still united to our sins. And what good works can a dead man do?
Therefore the grace of God and the trust and the salvation none of that is from yourself. It is all a work of God, it is not your works.
If it was your works, you would have something to boast about before God, verse 9 says. You could say, “well, I have done such and such work and I have never missed a church service and I give all my money to feed the poor and I even cast out demons….” If works like that saved you, you could brag right in front of the face God.” You willing to do that?
And there will be no one who will brag before God. On that day, when we stand before God, he alone will receive all of the glory.
Verse 10. That’s all because we are his workmanship. He has created us to be a new creature in Christ Jesus.
Now, this is not to say that works are not a part of the Christian life. Sometimes we get sidetracked into thinking that since salvation is all of grace I am not required to do good works. Those who have received God’s grace are created in Christ Jesus for the purpose of doing good works. That’s what verse 10 says.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus the purpose of doing good works.” If you have trusted in Christ, you are expected to do good works.
Titus 2:14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good [works].
Are you zealous for good works? You see a brother in distress, your heart longs to encourage him in the Lord. Do it! You see someone with financial need, you desire to come alongside him. Do it! You see the lost sinner in the filth and slavery of his sin, and you desire to seek to win him to repent of his sins. Do it!
ILL: But those good works do not save, they are the outgrowth of salvation. In the summer, you see lightning flashing across the sky. And you fully expect to hear the roar of the thunder to follow. If there was no lightning there would be no thunder. The lightning causes the thunder.
It is just like that with a true saving trust in Christ. Just like the thunder always follow the lightning, so also good works will follow true faith.
ILL: And this is what is unique to the truth. All religions of the world require works as the foundation for salvation. Worldly religions teach that in order to be saved you must work. You must work your way to heaven, they say.
But God’s salvation comes from trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He paid the price our sins deserves when He was separated from the Father at the cross. All that is required of you is that you trust in him. And this is no good work of yours!
ILL: Right now, you are trusting in the very chair that you’re sitting on. How much work are you doing sitting in that chair? You are doing no work. The chair is doing the work.
Just like that, trust in Christ. And trusting in Christ requires repentance from sin. The nature of trusting in Christ demands a turning from the very thing he wants to save you from.
ARG: But this goes against human nature. Everybody wants to work for something that is valuable. It is the pride of man that says “surely I can earn this.”
ILL: G. Campbell Morgan was a Bible teacher in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Great Britain. He told a story of a coalminer who came to him and said, “I would give anything to believe that God would forgive my sins, but I cannot believe that He will forgive them if I just ask Him. It is too cheap.”
Morgan said, “My dear friend, have you been working today?”
“Yes, I was down in the mine.”
“How did you get out of the pit? Did you pay?”
“Of course not. I just got into the cage and was pulled to the top.”
“Were you not afraid to entrust yourself to that cage? Was it not too cheap?” Morgan asked.
“Oh, no,” said the miner, “it was cheap for me, but it cost the company a lot of money to sink the shaft.”
Suddenly, the truth struck him. He understood that while the cost to secure our salvation did not come out of our pockets, a great price was paid for God to accomplish it for us: the death of His Son.
Just like that coalminer got into that cage to come up to the surface, all you believers had to do was to be willing to leave behind your old life and cling to Christ.
To trust in the cage to bring him to the surface requires that he cut himself off from the filth of that mine.
The cost to bring us salvation was not on us but was on God. But it requires that we trust him and turn away from that which he wants to lift us up out of, no matter what it is. It costs to follow Jesus. You must be willing to leave everything and follow Him. Is there something you are not willing to leave?
So, this passage tells me that before I came to Christ, I was dead to God because of my sin. I lived in those sins as I governed my life based on the attitudes and desires of this world. I was at the mercy of Satan and I lived to fulfill the desires of my sin nature, no matter how sophisticated they seemed to be.
I indulged the desires of my flesh and my mind. And because of who I was before Christ, I was only worthy of receiving God’s infinite wrath.
But God rich in mercy as He is… because He sent His Son to pay the penalty of my sin on the cross and because He raised Him from the dead…choose to set His great love upon me! And while I was dead in my sin, He by His grace, awakened me to be able to respond to Him and He gave me a new nature and gave to me the very standing that His own Son has: a seat at His right hand in the heavenly places.
This is all possible for me because God made it so that I was spiritually united to Christ. And He has done this for me, for His own glory in future ages! He has saved me and raised me up and seated me with Him so that in future ages I might be a part of the masterpiece of His grace, the church, and that all who look on will marvel at the surpassing riches of His grace and kindness toward the church.
Amazing love and grace, for which he deserves eternal praise. And I get to be a part of this all because of God’s favor toward me and because of the trust and repentance I’ve placed in Him. And all of this is nothing that I have done; He has done the work. It was all a gift from Him so that He alone receives the glory in those future ages to come.
And now, by His grace, I’ll be zealous for good works. Work, work, WORK for Christ! He’s been so good to you! Sacrifice it all, lay it all on the line for His name’s sake. And be willing to give up those things that would hinder the progression of Christ’s work and add those things to your life that is Christ’s work in His body, the church …
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 2.1-10
Bow for prayer. Not pretending anyone here is saved. Car accident Thursday night. It could be the same this morning.
MEN, in the refrain make a joyful noise … on that line!!!!!!
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