The Apostle Paul, having reminded his readers of the glory and promises of God, as well as our need for His grace and provision, moves on to our new standing before God, both as individuals and, corporately, as a family of Believers.
When the daily challenges of life confront us, our fleshy nature tends to move us to anger or depression in response to fear.
In books and movies like Harry Potter, young people turn to witchcraft for magical powers. In the crass movie Wanted a young man, trapped in what he sees as a dead-end job as an “account manager” under the tyrannical supervision of an arbitrary and demanding boss, invents a persona of rebellion and re-creates the story of his life. In his fantasy he is the heir to the “magical” powers of his murdered father, is recruited by an organization supposedly directed by fate to execute bad people, is befriended by a beautiful and deadly woman, endures severe injuries as part of his training, is “magically” cured, and goes on to be the hero of the story. He then returns to his job, where he righteously exacts revenge on all who “deserve it.”
Which of us has not dreamed of such glorious “get-evens”? Of what are we afraid: Failure, pain, insignificance? In what or whom shall we trust: Government, magic, money, power, God?
In Wanted the gang of mercenaries is presented as a family with a home that looked like a castle. Each had power, privilege, and purpose. They were never alone, backed up one another, were provided with the best of everything, and acted in ways designed to change the world.
Are we not who we are as a result of Whose we are? Do we not therefore have exceptional power, privilege, and purpose? And are we ever really alone? Do we back up one another? Are we provided with what we truly need? Do we act in ways that change our world?
New Life Individually
2:1 And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
2:2 in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience,
2:3 among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…
Lord, You have offered us rescue from destruction, because the enemies deception constantly leads humankind into sin. May I be careful to test every influence to be certain that it if of-You and not of-the enemy.
Who we were is no longer who we are “in Christ”.
Paul began by setting up the context “... you were dead in your transgressions and sins ...”, the he paused a moment to let that sink in.
Paul continued with a checklist of their circumstances:
1. “... in which you formally [or previously] lived ...”
2. “... according to this world’s present path ...”
3. “... according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air ...” [Air is created, Satan temporarily rules due to the Fall.]
4. “... according to the ruler of the spirit ...” [Pre-salvation our spirit is accessible by Satan.]
5. “... that is now energizing the sons of disobedience ...” [From Adam and Eve on, all are sons—and daughters—of disobedience absent salvation.]
6. “... among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives ...”
7. “... in the cravings of our flesh ...”
8. “... indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind ...”
9. “... and were by nature children of wrath ...” [God’s wrath for rebellion against Him.]
10. “... even as the rest ...”
The nature of our pre-salvation selves was, eternally-spiritually dead.
How enlightening is it for you to personalize the checklist of Paul with your life story?
What are some obvious evidences of evil in modern society as listed by Paul?
When have you been confronted by an unsaved person who is unwittingly enslaved as Paul described?
Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the opportunity to gently show these verses to an unsaved person whose respect and trust you have previously earned.
Today I will share as the Holy Spirit guides and ask if the person sees any parallels between their lives and what Paul described. I will do so humbly and respectfully, I will not condemn or pressure them, I will merely engage a conversation and allow the Holy Spirit to be in control.
2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us,
2:5 even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!—
2:6 and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 2:7 to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
2:8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God;
2:9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast.
Lord, You provided for our salvation even when not one was fit to be saved, and You ask for nothing but surrender-through-faith in return.
We are “saved by grace” because we could never have been saved through Works alone. The Lord God “sees” us through eyes of grace—the eyes of Jesus Christ.
Paul continued his explanation of how and why God has acted to redeem us:
The amazing truth that the Lord God chooses to love us and chooses to show His love through the gift of grace that is our salvation.
What does each element of Paul’s summary mean to you? Can you recall a parallel passage elsewhere in the Bible?
“Works” cannot earn salvation, salvation was only made possible by the gift of God and may only be received by accepting the Lordship of Christ—surrendering everything else, the entire world and our free will.
How did the absence of a demand for works-righteousness, by the Lord God, help to lead you to choose to surrender in faith?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone whom He has prepared to heat His Gospel.
Today I will share the truths of these verses with someone “considering Christ” and/or with a fellow believer who would be blessed and encouraged to revisit their salvation.
2:10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
Lord, You rescued us from the eternal spiritual junkyard to which we were condenmed by our first ancestors, Adam and Eve. May we, as believers, celebrate Your rescue through lives sold-out to You.
God has a purpose and a plan for each of us: We are to “partner” with Him and invite Him to do whatever He has to do to shape us into useful servants of His perfect will.
“For we are His workmanship ...” [God does not make anything imperfect—Adam and Eve made us into junk—Jesus will restore us to “design specs” in Heaven. Rom 5:15]
“... having been created in Christ Jesus ...” [Or, re-created, “made new”. 1Cor. 15:22]
“... for good works ...” [This is post-salvation.]
“... that God prepared beforehand ...” [He wanted Adam & Eve to stay clean and do this.
“... so that we may do them.” [We are allowed to choose to serve God well or poorly.]
Despite the failure of Adam & Eve the Lord God provided a way that we might return to what He had planned for them before the Fall and to begin-again that relationship, this time “farming” and “fishing” for a spiritual harvest and catch.
What are some teachings elsewhere in the Bible as to what “works” God expects of His children? (Hint: Fruits of the spirit, telling His-story, loving fellow believers, using our gifts fully.)
There has been an amazing change in you before and after salvation, how your self-image was transformed (or should have been) from a slave to the world to a child of God in a love-relationship with the Creator-God of everything.
What is an example of serving the Lord God through good works, as a believer, in your life?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone whom He has led to ‘consider-Christ’.
Today I will tell someone who is “considering Christ” my story of before and after salvation. I will not pressure them to make any sort of decision but will pray for them to choose Christ.
New Life Corporately
2:11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh—who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands—
2:12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Lord, You have made Your redemption of humankind available to anyone who surrenders to the Lordship of Christ, regardless of age, gender, national origin, or race. May I remember to refuse to treat people differently based on anything—other than the only thing that matters—their relationship with You.
We have now become “aliens” in this fallen world, whose prince is Satan. We are instead guaranteed eternal citizenship in Heaven with our Lord and King!
Paul began by speaking to the Gentiles, reminding them that they lacked the Jewish hope of a Messiah, and were labeled “uncircumcised” by those who associated ritual circumcision with works-salvation.
Paul then reminded them that they also were strangers to the knowledge of God, something the Jews did possess.
The Paul concluded that although they had been “far away” they “... had now been brought near by the blood of Christ” and were “in Christ Jesus”—peers with all believers, Jew and Gentile alike.
The double-gift of Christ to Gentiles, they (mostly “we”), not only gained the knowledge that a Messiah was needed and was coming, but the knowledge that He has come and He welcomes us now to His salvation-party as an honored guest—if we will but come in faith.
What are some ways that you were clueless and hopeless, in your life, as a result of unawareness of the promise of a Messiah?
What impact does the meaning of the Biblical phrases “brought near by the blood of Christ” and “in Christ Jesus” have upon you?
How would you explain the Biblical phrases “brought near by the blood of Christ” and “in Christ Jesus” with someone to whom they would be very foreign expressions and perhaps even unpleasant expressions?
Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to a Biblically-accurate but less religious-sounding explanation of the Biblical phrases “brought near by the blood of Christ” and “in Christ Jesus”.
Today I will share my less “religious-sounding” explanation with someone who has not yet chosen Christ. I will ask a fellow believer to pray in agreement with me for wisdom and will share with that prayer-partner the outcome of my sharing.
2:14 For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility,
2:15 when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees.
He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace,
2:16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed.
Lord, You chose in the Garden of Eden to make a way to reconcile Your creation to you—and despite our continued rebellion even since You have never waivered. May I be more like You every day, resolute in placing You first, resolved to draw nearer to You.
Through Jesus the Christ, the Lord God has abolished the demands of the Law upon man and has instead taken them upon Himself. The “people of the Law” (Jews) and those not of the “chosen tribe” are now forever one in Christ.
Paul described Christ as “our peace” because He “... made both groups [Gentiles and Jews] into one ...”
“... He nullified in His flesh the law of commandments in decrees.” [Jesus took away the requirement of the Law that every person who ever sinned be condemned and replaced it with grace—which makes Him our righteousness instead of perfect Law-keeping.]
“He did this to create in Himself ...” [the body of believers; “The Church”, exists as an adopted part of the Lord’s family—a unique intimacy of ‘being’.]
“... one new man out of two ...” [Jew and Gentile, Law-keeper and Law-stranger.]
“... to reconcile them both in one body to God ...” [the body of believers; “The Church”.]
“... through the Cross ...” [Where the power of death was broken for all who surrendered in faith, dying to the world and the dominion of Satan, being born anew in Christ.]
“... by which the hostility has been killed.” [the curse at the Fall as recorded in Genesis.]
The Lord God has given the incredible gift and sacrifice of Christ, taking our sins to the Cross and leaving them there—powerless—so that He might then offer us the perfect hope of salvation.
How do you express the proper Biblical definition of “The Church” as the community of believers? How might you use that clarification to draw fellow Christians away from an obsession with buildings and organizations and instead to relationship (with God) and purpose (in Christ)?
The dominion of Satan in the lives of the unsaved is broken and there is a new-found freedom experienced by children of God.
What is an example of the way Jesus bridges the gap of Jew and Gentile, old and young, male and female, as all recognize that their common definition, purpose, and value comes from a common source?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a fellow believer who will be edified and encouraged to learn of the most-Biblical definition of “The Church”.
Today I will encourage a fellow believer to reconsider the Biblical meaning of “The Church” and ask them to then prayerfully consider where the Enemy may have caused distraction and diversion in their relationship with God as the result of a non-Biblical definition of “The Church”. I will commit to pray in agreement with them for wisdom as they walk through the process of adjusting their perspectives and priorities.
2:17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near,
2:18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
2:19 So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household,
2:20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
Lord, You made a way for us to benefit from Your 'cross of grace'. May I celebrate Your gift with a life sold-out to You.
Paul reminded the people that Jesus arose and “preached peace” so that all are welcomed to accept His gift through the Holy Spirit. He is the cornerstone upon which the apostles and the prophets built His Church.
He also reminded them that Jesus came and “preached peace” to both Jew and Gentile in order to bring them together in faith and together in the Holy Spirit.
Paul used again the term “saints” to describe “fellow citizens” and “members of God’s household.”
He further explained that who they were as believers was because they “have been built on the foundations of the apostles and prophets ...”
Then, Paul used another construction metaphor “... with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone.”
The strong desire of Christ that His children be unified (based on Biblical Christian principles, not the invented parameters of man, such as "political correctness" or "speech censorship", which are intended to restrict the condemnation of sin).
The apostles and the prophets taught what was necessary to an adequate knowledge-base, and they demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit to equip believers to be unified in the love of Christ; how is that explained and practiced in your fellowship?
Believers are blessed by a powerful sense of 'belonging' that comes from the Lord God calling us "saints" and "fellow citizens" and "members of God's household."
When have you observed genuine unity among believers that overcame, and or is overcoming, worldly divisions and fears?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a new or troubled believer whom He desires to reach using you as His instrument of blessing.
Today I will share the Lord God's priority that we be united in the love of Christ. I agree to pray in-agreement that they will partner with the Holy Spirit to purge any fear or misunderstandings that may stand in opposition to their full fellowship with their fellow believers.
2:21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 2:22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Lord, You have made every believer, and every fellowship of faithful believers a dwelling place where You make Your presence and Your plan known. May I seize every opportunity to “grow together” with like-minded intentional Biblical-Christians.
The Lord God draws together those who are His, building us into a “holy temple” and a “dwelling place of God in the Spirit”.
Paul wrote “In Him ...”, reminding them of the centrality of Christ to everything in the world of the believer.
He continued his construction metaphor “... the whole building ...” [The corporate commonality of believers.]
“... being joined together ..” [Causing believers to live in Biblical unity is a process, not an event.]
“... grows into a holy temple ...” [Believers are purposed to worship God in everything that we think, say, and do.]
“... in the Lord ...” [The centrality of Christ again.]
“... in whom you are also being built together ...” [It is a community process.]
“... into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” [The Holy Spirit is our common bond.]
It is critical to remember that Christ is in all and defines all and brings to all perspective and purpose and nothing we do as believers must ever be apart from Him as our center.
Why is there such a major problem with worldly things displacing Christ in our gatherings and in our separate daily walks?
The are many ways we can choose to enhance the centrality of Christ and to resist the distractions of the enemy.
When have you experienced or observed a community of believers either emphasizing Christ or allowing themselves to be distracted by something else. What was the result?
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you a place in your walk, alone and in community, where you have allowed other things to displace Christ as the indispensable and irreplaceable center.
Today I will cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He leads me back to a right place with Christ.
All Bible text is from the NET unless otherwise indicated—http://bible.org
Note 1: These Studies often rely upon the guidance of the NET Translators from their associated notes. Careful attention has been given to cite that source where it has been quoted directly or closely paraphrased. Feedback is encouraged where credit has not been sufficiently assigned.
Note 2: When NET text is quoted in commentary and discussion all pronouns referring to God are capitalized, though they are lower-case in the original NET text.
Commentary text is from David M. Colburn, D.Min. unless otherwise noted.
Copyright © 2011 by David M. Colburn. This is a BibleSeven Study— “Ephesians”—prepared by David M. Colburn and edited for bible.org in October of 2011. This text may be used for non-profit educational purposes only, with credit; all other usage requires prior written consent of the author.