Salvation by Faith for Works
Text: Eph 2:1-10
Theme: Salvation by grace, not by works.
Doctrine: salvation by faith
Image: bridge of the cross
Need: joy of salvation
Message: live again the joy of your salvation
Salvation by Faith
Paul is writing a letter to the Ephesian Christians. These are people who were gentiles, and had come to faith in Christ as their saviour. Ephesus was another port city, and there was almost as much vice here as there was in Corinth. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the magnificent temple to Artemis, is located in this city. When the Romans took over, they also built temples to the cult of Roma. Before Paul got there, the Jews had basically avoided the gentiles, and vice versa. Then Paul showed up and stayed for two years while teaching in the synagogue and the hall of Tyrannus. Paul introduced them to the gospel of Jesus Christ, because the believers who were there had received the baptism of John the Baptist. They had not heard the news that Jesus had come. They were eagerly expecting the coming of the kingdom. Remember John's baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He preached good works in anticipation of the coming Messiah. But then Paul taught them the gospel. We do not know exactly why this letter was written to the Ephesians. It seems clear from this passage that Paul wants to make sure they do not slip back into the practices they had before he got there. He reminds them of their position now in Christ.
Unsaved person is dead, disobedient, and doomed.
The first three verses of our passage give us a description of unsaved people, of unbelievers, which the Ephesians were before Paul told them the gospel. An unbeliever is dead in his transgressions and sins. He is dead. In an unbeliever, there are no signs of spiritual life. He has no spiritual ability whatsoever. He has been brought into the spiritual emergency room and pronounced dead on arrival. To transgress and to sin are used almost synonyms here, but they carry very different meanings in the Greek. To transgress is to misstep. The unbeliever has stepped off of the right path. She has transgressed, turned away from, stepped off, the road God has set out for her. She was not able to follow where God had told her to go. The word translated to sin is actually an athletic term. It means to miss the mark, or to come short of the goal. The unbeliever misses the mark, he falls short of the goal set out for him by God. Our lives are supposed to be in line with God's will, but “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) The unbeliever is spiritually dead.
Not only is an unbeliever dead, he is also disobedient. He follows the ways of the world and the Devil. The unbeliever does not listen to his conscience, he tries to get away with what everyone else is doing. He sees no reason to confine his behaviour. Everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn't he. The Devil tempts him by distorting all the gifts God has given the world. If it is the in thing to do, then the unbeliever does it. If it is cool to go to the temple and worship the Caesar, then she might as well participate. If it is cool to go to sleep around with as many women as he can, then he does his best. If it is cool to gossip about the other girls in class, or the other ladies in the community, then she tries to keep up. Anything which satisfies the cravings of her sinful nature, she is quick to try.
An unbeliever's nature is so warped and twisted that even when they try to do good, it turns out to be bad. He is only able to try to please the warped and deluded nature he has left. He follows the promptings of the flesh. His nature is fed and taught wrong desires and cravings by the world and the Devil.
An unbeliever is dead in her sin, disobedient to God, and doomed to hell. She has turned aside from the path laid our before her. She has missed the mark set out for her. She has disobeyed God by following the ways of the world and the Devil and by trying to please the desires of her flesh. She is now closer to God's wrath, than to him. She is, by nature, by her sinful, distorted, ruined nature, an object of God's wrath. God is perfect. God is holy. God is just. He cannot stand to have sin in his presence. He is like a raging fire. A stick of wood cannot stand in the presence of fire, it is consumed. So it is with an unbeliever. She is like a stick in the presence of a raging fire. She is going to be consumed. She is doomed.
Unsaved person puts their faith elsewhere, boast in themselves.
An unbeliever is dead, disobedient, and doomed, and there is nothing he can do about it. Let me ask you something. Can a dead person talk? Does a disobedient person obey? Can a death row inmate, who has no more appeal, no more hope for release, can that inmate save himself. No, he cannot. The unbeliever is dead because the instant Adam and Eve took a bite of the fruit God had told them not to, they died spiritually. They were separated from God, and that is spiritual death. There is no way for the unbeliever to get back to God on his own. A dead person is not able to get up and start running toward the finish line. A dead person cannot pick up a rifle and become a marksman. A dead person cannot open their own eyes, let alone reach a goal.
There is no work to be performed before an unbeliever could be saved. She could boast that she had done something which led to her salvation. John the Baptist told people to repent. He told them to reform their lives. He told the people to bear good fruit. But he also said that someone else was coming who would change all that. Someone else was coming who would baptise with the Holy Spirit. Someone else was coming who would throw their world upside down and give them what they needed. Listening to John, an unbeliever might think she had to do something to be saved, but she cannot do anything, because she is dead. She puts her faith in something else, in her baptism, or in her perfect attendance record at church, or in her ministry work. She puts her trust in what she has done to save her, but salvation does not come that way. She puts her trust in the wrong thing.
A while back Sherilyn and I watched a TV show called The Rebel Billionaire. On this show Sir Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin Worldwide, a person with a million dollar a year salary, used the reality TV format to find an entrepreneur to run a new business venture he was setting up. Throughout the show, Sir Richard had these people do some crazy things. He made them climb rope ladders to the top of hot air balloons 2000 feet off the ground. He made them try to pass a baton from one bi-plane to another while standing on the top wing, one of the planes flying upside down. Well, one of the tests he had two people do was to go over Victoria Falls which stands on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, in Southern Africa. This falls is spectacular. It is over a kilometre and a half wide and is over 128 metres or 420 ft high. It is almost twice the height of Niagara Falls. It falls down into a narrow gorge which has all kinds of rocks and ledges jutting out from the side. He lead two people, Dave and Alicia, out to the river above the falls. Here Alicia chickened out because they had to sign another waiver regarding personal safety. Dave, however, hopped right into the capsule which was placed on the bank and Sir Richard joined him. They were hoisted by crane out over the water, and were going to be dropped. Branson gave the countdown. When the countdown was over, the crane never released them. It was a test to see if the people could take smart risks. Dave put his trust in Branson, without ever checking out the downsides. He never even went to go and take a look at the falls. He put his trust in the wrong place.
But we cannot sit smugly in our pews and say, “Man, they sure have it rough.” Everyone here has to examine themselves. If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, if are trusting in something else to save you, then you are dead in our transgressions and sins. We were doomed to spend the rest of eternity separated from God; thrown into the lake of burning sulphur where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. You are doomed to be consumed when we would enter God's presence at the end of time. You are doomed to hell. You are separated from God, and nothing you can do will get you back to him. Just like there is nothing a stick can do to itself so it can stand in the middle of a raging fire, so there is nothing you can do which will allow you to reside in the presence of our Holy God. You ARE dead, disobedient, and doomed.
Page 3: BUT GOD raised the unsaved person with Christ.
But God does not leave us dead, disobedient, and doomed. The English Standard Version translates v.4,5 this way "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ". But God. Is that not an amazing way to start this section? But God, being rich in mercy. See, God is not a little merciful, he is rich in mercy. Its not like he has just enough to make it through the day. Its not like he is only a bit affluent in mercy, no, God is rich in mercy. He has so much mercy, he is bursting at the seams. All he wants is for someone to ask for it and he is happy to give it. He would have to be. For him to do anything for that person described in the first three verses he would have to be rich in mercy.
But God, because of his great love for us, he made us alive with Christ. God's love is beyond measure. God's love for us is truly one of the hardest things to understand. His love for us is something like a parents love for a child, but it is purer. He loves us just for being what we are. He loves us even though we have disowned him and rebelled against him. God gives Christian parents something of that love for their children, but it is not the same. God loves us so much that sent Jesus down to earth to die on the cross. “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.” (Jn 3:16) He gave up his own son for us. More than that, he placed our sin on his son. Even though Jesus had done nothing wrong, the father placed on him the iniquity of us all.
After Jesus died on the cross and was buried in the tomb, God did not leave him there. He raised him up from the dead on the third day. We died in our sins, just like Jesus died on the cross. We were dead in our transgressions and sins; the punishment we brought upon ourselves killed us. But God loved us so much, he wanted to see us alive again. He was not willing to leave us dead in our sins. He was not willing to let us bear our punishment. He did not want to stay separated from us. So he raised us from the dead with Jesus Christ. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we are raised through the power which raised Jesus from the dead.
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” (Jn 5:25) Those who hear the voice of the Son of God will rise from their spiritual death. They will no longer lay in the grave of sin, but will rise and live with Christ. The time has come when Jesus is raising people from their spiritual death. God took us from our dead position in the grave of sin, in the graveyard of the Devil. He found us there, and he raised us with Christ. Not only did he raise us from our death, but he raised us with Christ. He has made us one with Christ. He has seated us with him in the heavenly realms. When we heard his voice, we were given life, but not simply our life back. He does not return us to the Garden of Eden. No, God lifts us up and seats us on the throne in heaven. We are where Christ is because we have been baptised into his body.
Have you ever heard of the heavy rock group KORN? Well, lets just say that the band is into all the things typical of rock groups. They are into drugs, women, alcohol, you name it. But one of their members, Brian Welch, recently quit the band because he converted to Christianity. This came as quite a shock to the rock community, not to mention the Christian community. He travelled to Israel to be baptised in the Jordan River. Picture the scene with me. It is a wonderfully warm morning down in the river valley. The trees are in full leaf and the sunlight plays off the white robes of a small group of people as they stroll down the road toward the river. They are all singing spiritual songs and their voices blend and carry far over the silent valley. When they come to the river they continue to sing as one by one they enter the river and are immersed by the pastor. Finally Brian comes forward. He does not look like the rest. His arms are covered in tattoos. His eyes are a bit sunken and he has dark circles around them. Everyone seems to be more excited as he wades deeper into the water. His robe billows out in the water as the pastor lowers him into the river. When he comes up out of the water there is a smile on his face and he looks very peaceful. When Brian was asked about his experience later he said that the water seemed to wash away all his anger. He said, “You know when you get angry and it builds up? I felt like hurting someone before, now I feel like hugging people.”
God took this young man, who was dead in his transgressions and sin. Someone who most people thought was a lost cause. God took him, and raised him with Christ. He made Brain a new man. He gave him new life and new hope.
Page 4: God did this by grace, through faith.
But Brian did not do anything to deserve this new life. Before he was converted he was not someone we would hang out with. We would definitely label him as a sinner. But we all were sinners before we met Christ. We were all dead in our sin, the only difference was the state of decay. Brain had simply progressed to a further state of decay, but God still raised him from the dead.
Nothing we did got us salvation “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9) We are saved by grace, through faith. Our salvation is not deserved. Remember, we were dead. It is our faith which has saved us, and our salvation is not of ourselves, it is a gift of God. Jesus explained the way of salvation to Nicodemus. He said that we must be born again. We must be born of water and the Spirit. He said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:14-15) God raised Christ up on the cross to bear the punishment of our sin, and to remove the deadly effects of the Devil's bite. Jesus died on the cross so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. Salvation is by faith alone, not by works so that no one can boast.
Our salvation is a gift from God, and we can rest secure in this gift. When we accept Jesus as our Lord, we will never fall away. When God raises us with Christ, we will not die again. Jesus said “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” (Jn 6:37-40)
Do you believe in Jesus? Have you turned to him and said, “Jesus, I am a sinner. I have been born a sinner and I am dead in my sin. Lord, I know that you have taken the punishment for my sin. I ask that you save me from my sin. Please, Jesus, come into my life. Make me new. Redeem my life from the grave of sin, and take me out of the graveyard of the Devil.” That's all you need to do to be saved. Do you remember when you asked Jesus into your heart? Do you remember the feeling of joy and peace which came over you as the weight of sin fell from your shoulders? I ask you to try to remember the joy you had over your salvation. Try to get that back. Try to ignore all the other distractions the world sends your way, and get back to joy of your salvation.
Let us Pray
Lord, give us back the joy of our salvation. Often we get caught up in the business of the world, and we forget how we felt when we first turned to you. Lord, help us to share that joy with others so that more people may feel your love.