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Ephesians 2:1-22

Well, our last lesson ended on a high note, didn't it?

Not only did we see all things put under Jesus’ feet, but the church is described as being "the fullness of him that filleth all in all."--- yes, the church, which is described in Eph.1:18 as God's "inheritance in the saints".

But, where did this masterpiece of God’s workmanship come from?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When an artisan, or a tradesman, sets out to produce a work of art, he invariably chooses the best materials he can afford.

It may be a valuable hardwood, or a flawless piece of marble. 

But when God created His masterpiece, He selected the worst material that could be imagined.

He reached down into the refuse heap and lifted out a material that was literally offensive to His nostrils.

Yes, He chose sinners, those who are best described in Eph.2:1, "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins".

In this particular case, Paul was referring to the Gentile Christians in and around Ephesus , but his description is universal. 

And not only were they dead, but they were "dead in trespasses and sins".

Now, the word translated trespasses, in this particular verse, gives the idea of falling aside, rather than standing upright.

In fact, one of the reasons God gave Israel the Old Testament Law, was to enable them to see this kind of trespass as He sees it.

And then we come to the word "sins", which has a little different connotation.

It expresses the idea of missing the mark, or wandering from the path.

And even though they are slightly different in their meaning, their effect is exactly the same.

Yes, they produce death in both its forms.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As you will remember, God warned Adam --- "in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die".

And on the very day of his disobedience, Adam died spiritually.

Yes, on that fateful day, the sweet fellowship they had both enjoyed evaporated. 

But, what about physical death?

Didn't Adam live to be 930 years old?

That not so bad, is it?

Well, no it isn’t.

But for a man who had been created to be incorruptible, for a man who would have lived forever, that’s not so good either.

And even though he didn't die immediately, he began to age, ever so slowly.

Yes, on that very day, he took his first step on that long road to the grave.

And there are acres and acres of graveyards that give testimony to the fact that we are following in his footsteps.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

But Paul wasn't talking about physical death, when he said "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins".

No, he was talking about spiritual death.

And not only had these believers been dead but they had been deluded.

V2 "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:"

Yes, not only had they been dead to God, but they had been alive to Satan.

And this is true of all mankind.

Oh, I know, in this day of higher learning, it's not fashionable to believe in Satan.

In fact, some people don't even believe in God.

But whether we believe it or not, Satan is alive and well, and mankind is walking "according to the prince of the power of the air".

And not only had they been dead, and deluded, but they had been controlled by the lusts of the flesh, "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind". Eph.2:3

Now, you can't really classify every lust of the flesh as gross sin, but every desire of the flesh has the potential of drawing us away from God. 

That's what 1 John 2:16 tells us doesn't it?

"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And, as Paul continues to describe their former condition in Eph.2:3, it gets worse. 

They had been "by nature the children of wrath".

Now what exactly did Paul mean, when he used the term "the children of wrath".

Had they let anger totally control their lives?

No, of course not!

Paul wasn't talking about their passion.

He was talking about their position.

Because of their sinful nature, and consequently their actions and attitudes, they were the enemies of God.

As a result, their very nature called forth God’s righteous anger. 

Yes, they were the children of Adam, and they were "the children of wrath".

And by the way, that's the real condition of all of us, even though many don’t believe it. 

Oh we might, in one of our more reflective moments, get the feeling that there is something wrong, but it doesn't last.

And the political, educational, and even religious systems that surround us tend to reinforce the belief that we are OK.

But we're not OK!

When the Apostle Paul penned the words, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God", he was giving us the bottom line.

But here’s the wonderful news.

God has added a P.S. to our bottom line.

Yes, God has spent all to create His masterpiece.

Eph.2:4-6 "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5: Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6: And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:"

I remember the late Dr. Howard Sugden, a pastor and well-known Bible teacher from Michigan , making this statement --- "I love the buts in the Bible. They change gloom into glory, pain into peace, and trial into triumph."

And we have one of those wonderful buts right here --- "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5: Even when we were dead in sins,--

Surely, every action must be energized by a motive.

Normally speaking, we don't do something without a reason. 

So, what motive could have possibly energized a righteous God to show this kind of mercy, especially, to those who "were dead in sins", who by their very nature, could only attract His wrath?

Why would He give the best that heaven could provide to redeem the worst that earth could produce?

Well, the answer is found in V4.

It was "his great love" that motivated His great salvation. 

The words of Samuel Medley are so appropriate here:

"He saw me ruined by the fall,

Yet loved me notwithstanding all,

He freed me from my lost estate,

His loving kindness, oh how great! "

And I think John 3:16 puts it in a nutshell: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And not only has He saved us, not only has he retrieved us out of the refuse heap, but He has lifted us to the very heavens.

In our last lesson, we read about God's mighty power --- "Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places ---". Eph.1:20

But it was His "great love" that "raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:" Eph.2:6

Yes, "heavenly places", the very place where Christ sits at the right hand of God.

In the past, "the desires of the flesh and of the mind" dictated our horizon, but in Christ, our eyes have been opened to heavenly things.

Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the doors of God's Word have swung open.

And even the physical world that surrounds us is seen in a different light.


"Heav’n above is softer blue,

Earth around is sweeter green!

Something lives in every hue

Christless eyes have never seen:

Birds with gladder songs o’er-flow,

Flowers with deeper beauties shine,

Since I know, as now I know,

I am His, and He is mine."


Yes, God’s "great love" has lifted us "out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay" and has "made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eph.2:7 "That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."

Certainly, God's creation gives witness to His wisdom and power --- "Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge." Psa. 19:2

But when it comes to "the exceeding riches of his grace" there can be no better evidence than "his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" and the scars in His dear Son’s hands and side, as He sits beside Him on His throne.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eph. 2:8 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:"

I don't think the Holy Spirit could have made it any clearer than that.

Our salvation is God's work, motivated by God's love.

It is "not of yourselves" it is "the gift of God".

It can't be purchased, and it can only be received by "faith".

And just in case we still didn't get it, the Holy Spirit has added V9 --- "Not of works, lest any man should boast."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As the hymn writer has penned,

"Not the labour of my hands

Can fulfil Thy law’s demands;

Could my zeal no respite know,

Could my tears for ever flow,

All for sin could not atone;

Thou must save, and Thou alone."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now, there has been some controversy concerning "the gift of God" as it appears in V8.

Of course, two possibilities would be God's grace and faith, as they both appear in this verse.

However, I believe Paul is referring to salvation, and the very next verse seems to bear this out.

You see, if Paul is identifying salvation as the "gift of God", then the caution which follows, namely, that it is "Not of works", would make sense.

On the other hand, this same cautionary word, applied to God's grace or our faith, would seem quite unnecessary.

So then, "--- by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9: Not of works, lest any man should boast."

However, in spite of this clear testimony, at the heart of every false religion there is a doctrine of works.

We make our pilgrimages to holy shrines; we seek to build up our equity by good works.

And like Cain of old, we offer the fruits of our labours, only to have them rejected.

No, God will have "no respect" for the work of our hands.

Only the blood of a substitute will suffice to put away sin.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

However, there is a place for good works in the economy of God.

And might I say, a very essential place, as the very next verse points out.

Eph.2:10 "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

So then, even though good works can never suffice as the price of salvation, good works will forever remain a proof of our salvation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Let me give you an example.

I think everyone would agree that a painting can tell you a lot about the artist who created it.

For instance, a qualified expert can usually identify a Rembrandt even before he sees the signature. 

And God's workmanship is like that also.

His creation, that literally surrounds us, clearly identifies the profound wisdom and ability of its Creator.

As the psalmist once said --- "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork."

In fact, if it wasn’t for man's stubborn ignorance, he would see God's fingerprints in everything.

So then, if a Christian is truly "--- his workmanship", then we should see the marks of "his workmanship" in him.

And in fact, we do.

As Eph. 2:10 tells us, Christians are "--- created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Let me give you another example.

If a medical doctor comes across an individual who appears to be dead, he will look for vital signs.

Well, it's the same with spiritual life.

Since Eph.2:10 tells us a believer is "his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works", then "good works" is a vital sign.

Now, I realize, only "The Lord knoweth them that are his", and a backslidden Christian may not exhibit any signs of life.

However, if good works are entirely missing, if there isn’t any desire to please his Heavenly Father, then there's no real reason to suspect spiritual life.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

However, having said all that, we must insist that salvation is "Not of works". 

As Eph. 2:8 says "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:"

And didn't Jesus say in John 5:24, "--- He that heareth my word, and believeth" yes --- "believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

However, Satan is ever busy trying to add something to Christ's finished work.

And not surprisingly, one of those things is works.

For instance, there's a doctrine going around today that readily accepts the fact that salvation is obtained by faith, but it also insists that it must be maintained by works.

In other words, if our performance isn't acceptable, we can lose our salvation. 

Such a doctrine denies the very words of Christ uttered on the cross.

When He cried out --- "It is finished", He didn't mean I am finished.

This wasn't a cry of defeat; it was a shout of victory!

Christ had finished the work He had set out to do, and there was nothing left to be done. 

Adding works to Christ's finished work is an insult to His ability, and throws us back on the unstable ground of our own ineffectual efforts.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And now the subject changes.

Previously, Paul had been dealing with the Gentiles’ relationship to God, but now he is focusing on their relationship to their fellow believers.

Or, to be more specific, he is focusing on the relationship between Jews and Gentiles inside the body of Christ. 

At the time of Paul’s writing, the church of Jesus Christ already included Jews and Gentiles.

However, in and around Ephesus , the believers were Gentiles.

And so, in Eph. 2:11-12, Paul says --- "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12: That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:"

Yes, not only had they been separated from God, but they had been separated from God's people.

Because of the contamination inherent in their culture, God had found it necessary to separate Israel from the Gentile nations.

One of the ways He did this was by restricting Israel 's diet to kosher foods, making it effectively impossible to interact socially. 

He had also forbidden them to intermarry, and had they been completely obedient in that matter, it would have protected them from idolatry, and the gross sin that usually accompanied it.

Yes, like the Church of Jesus Christ, Israel ’s strength was to be in separation, not conformity.

However, at the same time, this protection of Israel automatically made the Gentiles "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel , and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:"

That is, "no hope" as a nation, for God had always kept the door open to any individual who might seek Him.

In fact, one of His purposes in keeping Israel separate was to make them a testimony to the one true God, and to be a light in the darkness.

Unfortunately, their testimony was flawed by sin.

Nevertheless, any Gentile who was truly seeking the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob could become a proselyte in the Jewish nation, and by doing so, receive its benefits.

That provision had been made way back when Israel left Egypt , and you can read about it in Exod. 12:48-49.

However, even though a Gentile could be accepted by Israel 's God, he was never really accepted by God’s People. 

For instance, in the temple there was a wall, about 4 1/2 feet high, which separated the court of the Gentiles from the rest of the temple.

Any Gentile crossing that wall would do so in hazard of his life.

Actually, Paul almost got himself killed when it was rumoured he had brought Gentiles into the temple.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

However, such is not the case in the spiritual body of Christ.

And here we have another of those wonderful buts.

Eph.2:13-15 "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14: For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15: Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace".

Yes, this national division had completely disappeared.

Christ had made "in himself of twain one new man".

So, that's how it is in the economy of God, but that's not exactly how it was in the hearts of the early Christians. 

Granted, during those first few years after Pentecost, this wasn't an issue.

That’s because the church was completely Jewish.

And I'm sure those early believers would have assumed this new fellowship was simply an extension of God's mercy to Israel .

However, as the Gentiles began to be added, there was a problem.

Many Jewish believers felt the Gentiles should be circumcised in order to be truly Christian.

I suppose this was sort of a carry over from the Jewish proselyte days.

But Paul would have none it, insisting circumcision was no longer valid.

Certainly, circumcision had been ordained by God and was a sign of the Abrahamic covenant, but the church isn't Israel .

The seal of the church is the indwelling Holy Spirit, not circumcision.

And, as you can well imagine, this resistance, on the part of Jewish believers, had a very negative affect on the Gentiles.

It was Paul's job to assure the Gentiles that God had accepted them, and on an equal basis.

So then, in Eph.2:16-17, Paul continues --- "And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh."

Certainly, Paul made no attempt to downplay their previous differences, for indeed their backgrounds were very different.

Before their conversion, the Gentiles had been "afar off" from God.

No doubt they had been idol worshipers like their countrymen.

No doubt they had "changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things."

And living in and around Ephesus , one of the worst cesspools of inequity in the Roman world, no doubt they had sunk to the very depths. 

By contrast, the Jew had been relatively "nigh" unto God, having received the law and the prophets.

So their backgrounds were quite different, but their new status was the same.

Not somewhat the same, but exactly the same.

Eph. 2:18-19 "For through him (that is through Christ) we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
19: Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God".

No, they were not Jewish proselytes, they were not resident aliens; they were "fellowcitizens with the saints".

They were citizens of that heavenly country, and would be legitimate residents in the New Jerusalem.

They were Abraham's spiritual seed, they were heirs of the new covenant, and they were brothers and sisters in the Lord.

They had been born again, and were a legitimate part of "the household of God".

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So then, this is the barrier that had been broken down, and here is the new structure God had built.

As Eph. 2:21-22 tells us; our Heavenly Father had constructed "an holy temple in the Lord" and "an habitation of God".

And like any structure, it would have a foundation.

That foundation is described in Eph.2:20 "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone".

However, this "foundation of the apostles and prophets", is not the apostles and prophets themselves.

1 Cor.3:11 makes it clear that Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church, as well as being "the chief corner stone".

So what exactly is "the foundation of the apostles and prophets"?

In a word, it's the New Testament scriptures, which contain the doctrinal foundation of the Church.

It was revealed to God's apostles and New Testament prophets, and they wrote it down.

Yes, they were the foundation builders, and they were faithful in their task, but now it is complete.

There are no apostles or prophets in the church today, and there is no need of them. 

The day of foundation building is over, and the New Testament scriptures are complete as they stand.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

However, the "chief corner stone" is eternal, and will forever be the guiding light of the church.

In the past, a cornerstone served a very important function.

It was carefully fabricated to be square, straight, and true in every plane.

Actually, it was called "the Stone of testing", and was the standard for the rest of the building.

And so it is with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our doctrines, our conduct, in fact everything in the Church must line up with the "chief corner stone".

Yes, Jesus is the "chief corner stone"--- "In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:"  Eph. 2:21

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, there you have it.

This is the new "habitation of God".

·       It is built upon Jesus Christ.

·       It is built around the Lord Jesus, Who is the "chief corner stone".

·       Doctrinally speaking, it is built upon "the foundation of the apostles and prophets".

·       Also, it is built of living stones made up of Jews and Gentiles.

·       And it is "an holy temple in the Lord", indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

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