This morning, we are in Ephesians chapter two. Last week, the first seven verses reminded us where we came from - dead in trespasses and sins. But because of God's love for us, He saved us from being the walking dead and gave us eternal life. Paul is continuing the thought as we continue to read about how a loving God saved dead sinners like me and you.
I have heard this sentence so many times in the last fifteen years that I often have to remind myself to be in awe of it. It is so basic, yet so deep. So easy to grasp, yet so difficult to accept. Understandable in its simplicity, yet impossible in its complexity.
It begins by saying that it is by grace we are saved. If we're saved by it, then grace must be vitally important to understand.
The word actually has a variety of meanings: "kindness, favor, gift, and blessing." But because it has been shown by God to man, most people define it as "undeserved favor." It is clear to us that we did not deserve it, because of passages just like this one. Remember, this is a repetition of what Paul has just said in verse five:
Eph. 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
We were dead in transgressions, but because of God's mercy, He made us alive, saving us by grace.
This is unmerited favor indeed. It was nothing we deserved. It was only by God's love and mercy.
Rom. 5:8 ...God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
So this sentence could easily begin by saying, "For by God's blessing, kindness, gift, and favor (which you didn't deserve), you have been saved..."
"Saved" is another "Christian" word that we fail to define when we use it. Most people know that it means to be rescued or delivered from danger, harm, or death. But when a Christian asks, "I'm saved. Are you saved? Do you want to be saved? Do you know how to get saved," then what is he saying that you need to be saved from? This is actually making reference to being saved from many things. For example, when you're "saved," you have been...
Acts 2:40 "...saved from this perverse generation"
You are being saved from perishing in death (2Thes. 2:10). Also, regarding the future, you...
Rom. 5:9 ...shall be saved from the wrath of God...
This wrath will come upon the earth. But there is also an eternal judgment that you are saved from (Heb. 5:9).
With that in mind, we can now understand this verse to say, "For by God's blessing, kindness, gift, and favor (which you didn't deserve), you have been saved from this corrupt world, from death, from wrath, and from judgment..."
Next, we see that this happens through faith. Of course, faith is simply belief that is acted on. But it is not just any old faith that brings God's grace. After all, some people have enough faith in the Denver Broncos that they will bet money on their games. Others have enough faith to pay their express mail courier to absolutely, positively get their package delivered overnight. Still others have enough faith in the engineers at Boeing to get in a plane and trust that they will arrive at their destination safely.
But the Bible is specific about exactly what faith will save us by grace. It is...
Acts 20:21 ...faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus said that people...
Acts 26:18 "...have been sanctified by faith in Me."
Gal. 2:20 ...I live by faith in the Son of God...
(See also Acts 3:16; 24:24; Rom 3:22; 3:26; James 2:1; Rev 14:12.)
Saving faith is faith in Jesus Christ, and only Him. Regardless of what is politically correct to say, a sincere belief in some other religion or person is sincerely wrong, and will not save anyone. The Bible says that...
2Ths. 2:13 ...God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
It is only faith in the truth of Jesus Christ that saves. Faith in a lie cannot.
So, as we're clarifying this verse, we can now say, "For by God's blessing, kindness, gift, and favor (which you didn't deserve), you have been saved from this corrupt world, from death, from wrath, and from judgment by your active belief in the truth of Jesus Christ..."
Now, lest people begin to complain and say that it isn't fair that only people with faith in Jesus get to be saved, it is important to note that...
Rom. 12:3 ...God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
Every human being is born with some faith inside their heart, and so everyone is without excuse (Rom. 1:20).
Jesus Christ not only put that faith inside of us, but He wants it to grow and become complete. That is why He is called,
Hebr. 12:2 ...the author and perfecter of faith...
With that information, let's look at our new paraphrase again
"For by God's blessing, kindness, gift, and favor (which you didn't deserve), you have been saved from this corrupt world, from death, from wrath, and from judgment by your active belief in the truth of Jesus Christ, Who, by the way, put that belief in your heart in the first place..."
No one has ever been saved by religious works. No matter how much money you've donated, no matter how many hours of your life you've spent in church, no amount of good deeds, no number of prayers, you are no closer to heaven than the murderer on death row unless you have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Bible says that God...
2Tim. 1:9 ...has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus...
People, this is the biggest trap, and we must avoid it at all costs. Christians start to think that their religious works are saving them. Other who aren't yet Christians are led to believe that only really good people can get to heaven. But this takes us back to the beginning: it is God's grace that saves you, not your works. It is God's goodness, not yours.