He Did It All...Everything (Ephesians 2:8)
Passage: Ephesians 2:8–2:8
Saved by Grace
He Did it All...Everything
April 12th, 2009
Way of Grace Church
I. "It's Grace"
There is a story about the British author C.S. Lewis, the man best known for his book "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", there is a story that goes something like this:
During a conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world were discussing whether any one belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. "What's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among the world's religions. In his forthright manner, Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace."
Grace. What is grace? Grace is not a big part of our modern vocabulary. It's not a word our world uses very often. When we do, it's usually someone's name, or it might be used to describe the movements of a ballerina, or maybe in reference to praying before a meal.
But as Professor Lewis explained it, when it comes to Jesus Christ, this word "grace" is absolutely unique. And if you know anything about C.S. Lewis, you know that he would also say that grace is absolutely essential if you or I want to know God.
This morning, I'd like you to turn with me to Ephesians chapter 2. This morning I'd like us to set up our camp right here in 2:8-10. The plan is to spend three weeks digging into these three verses; one verse a week.
Now that may sound like overkill to some of us, because we can and do typically cover a lot more ground in three weeks, more than just three verses. But I believe that these three verses have so much to teach us, that we need to go slow in order to discover how much is really here.
II. The Passage: "For by Grace You Have Been Saved" (2:8)
Let's look together at verse 8. Ephesians 2:8: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God...
Now what the main question I'd like us to think about in the coming weeks is this: "what does it mean to be ‘saved by grace'?"
Let's start answering that question this morning by trying to define two key words in this verse.
A. Defining Salvation (2:8a)
The first word we need to define is this word "saved". When we think about someone being saved, we might imagine a firefighter rescuing someone from a burning building; or we might picture a SWAT team saving a hostage from a terrifying standoff; or maybe we think of an emergency room doctor responding quickly to keep a critically injured patient alive.
In all of these situations, the person rescued might say to the rescuer, "you saved my life!"
So from what perilous situation do you and I need to be saved "by grace"? Well Paul tells us in the opening verses of this chapter. He writes:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
So what we see here is that we need to be rescued from spiritual death, from following the devil, from the passions of our flesh, and from the wrath of God, that is, from God's justice in response to our foolish thoughts, words, and actions.
And as we see there in verse 3, all of us, "we all", are trapped in the burning building of spiritual death; "we all" are hostages when it comes to the flesh; "we all" are fighting for our life when it comes to the wrath of God.
But this is only what we're saved from. If we continue to explore this letter, we find that Paul also talks about what we're saved for.
Look at Ephesians 2:4-7: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, 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 coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
The hope of Easter is the hope of life together with Christ (v. 5), it is the hope of being raised up just as He was raised up, and being seated in the presence of God, just as He was seated in the presence of God (v. 6). Salvation is not only God canceling the debt of our "trespasses and sins", it is also us receiving "the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness" in the coming ages, forever and ever.
Chapter 1, verse 5 even describes our salvation in terms of being adopted by God. God has made us his own children. Forgiveness from God. Forever with God. Isn't that what all of us really want. Isn't that what all religions and philosophies and life plans are ultimately looking for?
But remember, Paul tells us here, we are only saved "by grace".
B. Defining Grace (2:8a)
So what is grace? How do we define it? More importantly, how would Paul define it?
Well when Paul wrote this letter, he wrote it in Greek. And the Greek word for "grace", the word charis, meant a number of things; but in general, it meant "favor".
Even though it's Easter and not Christmas, Luke 1:30 makes the basic sense of this word plain: But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.
So Paul is saying, "by favor you have been saved". But what Paul has in mind is bigger than the word ‘favor'. So what we need to do in order to get into the mind of Paul is look at what else he tells us about this word grace. If we can understand how Paul uses the term grace, we can better understand how he would define the word.
1. Grace is free, but not cheap.
"If we look back at chapter 1, we read, in verses 6 and 7 that God saved us...
...to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace... (1:6, 7)
The phrase "he has blessed us" is translated as "freely bestowed" in the (NAS) or "freely given" in the (NIV). Even the phrase "he has blessed us" conveys the sense that this rescue, this salvation is not something that we pay for or give something for. You don't for someone to be a blessing to you; if you did, it would simply be a transaction, not a true blessing.
No, salvation from sin and salvation for eternity with God is freely given. But even though it is free, it nevertheless came at an incomparably high price. Paul tells us in 1:7 that we have redemption, we have our freedom through the payment of Jesus' blood.
Jesus' suffering and death on Friday was the price for our hope on Sunday. And as we go on to read in verse 7, it was all paid for out of the riches of God's grace. So grace is free, but not cheap.
2. Grace is about our sinful inaction, but God's saving action.
Now, if you recall, chapter 2, verse 1 explained to us our spiritual condition before God: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked... (2:1)
In his letter to the Roman church, Paul explains our spiritual deadness in this way: "There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away... (Romans 3:10-12a)
Later on in that same letter, in chapter 8, he tells us that this spiritual deadness comes from and is defined by having a "mind that is set on the flesh". And in 8:7 he concludes...
"the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot." (Romans 8:7)
So from Paul's perspective, we do not simply have a spiritual cold or a spiritual sprained ankle. We are spiritually dead, which means we can do and are doing nothing to get to God. This is precisely why Paul begins Ephesians 2:4 in the way he does:
But God...But God...being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, [He] made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved... (2:4, 5)
Because we could do nothing, it was God who had to act. It was God who had to make us alive. In the book of Acts, the writer describes God's action in the everyday in this way:
One of those listening [listening to Paul speak about salvation...one of those listening] was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. (Acts 16:14)
And so grace IS about [it reminds us of] our sinful inaction, but God's saving action.
3. Grace is not about what we deserve, but what God chooses to give.
But as we heard in verse 3 of chapter 2, in this hopeless condition, in our horrible inability, we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Now, when we understand why God created us, and understand how far we have wandered away in our trespasses and sin, that we do not seek God, that we always go our own way, and thus fill the world with pain and brokenness, God's wrath is seen as completely just.
"But God"..."But God". But as we see here, God does not respond to us as a judge according to our crimes. He responds to us a savior according to His grace. Therefore it is extremely clear that grace is not about what we deserve, but about what God chooses to give us.
4. Grace is not about our boast, but God's glory.
And finally, if we are attempting to understand what Paul means when he uses the word grace, we need to go back to the beginning of chapter 1 where Paul writes in verse 4: ...he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (1:4-6)
The fact that God has chosen us to be his children is all to "the praise of his glorious grace". As Paul will go on to emphasize in chapter 2, verse 9, "no one can boast" in what God has done, because this rescue has come from God. He and He alone is in the spotlight. He and he alone gets all the credit. He and He alone receives all the glory for saving our lives.
C. Defining Terms Apart from "Us" (2:8b)
If we come back to verse 8, we find that Paul has given us more at the end of this verse. He writes: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God...
If we are attempting to define grace, then we have to take in account what Paul goes on to emphasize here. It should be abundantly clear from everything we've seen thus far that grace has nothing to do with what we can do. "And this is not your own doing..." What is not our own doing? Any of it! Being saved by grace through faith.
Some of Paul's readers might have been tempted to think, "Well God must have seen that deep down, I'm not such a bad guy." Wrong. I am that bad of a guy. "Well, God must have looked into the future and seen that I would choose him someday." Wrong. None of us seeks God. We cannot submit to God. "Well, I've decided to place my faith in Him." Wrong. Paul has the whole thing in mind when he writes, "and this is not your own doing"; even our believing is wrapped up in that.
What Paul desperately wants his readers to understand that when it comes to our rescue, our deliverance, to our being saved from sin and saved for God, he want them to see that God did it all...everything.
This is why Paul says in his other letters:
So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:5, 6)
In II Timothy he talks about this God...who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time... (II Tim 1:9)
And so if took all of this into consideration, I think we would have to say that to define "grace" simply as "favor" doesn't paint for us the bigger picture. Grace is definitely God's favor.
But I think it would be more helpful to define "grace" in this way:
Grace is the favor that God freely gives in order that we might get the exact opposite of what we deserve and God might get all the credit. (x2)
Somebody has put it like this: Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we do not deserve.
III. Humbled by the Grace of God
Now, as we sit here this morning and attempt to take all of this in, we have to ask, "Why did Paul want his readers to get this, to understand this idea of being saved by grace?" You may have notice that he repeats that phrase twice in these verses.
Here in verse 8, but also before this in verse 5. "By grace you have been saved". So why is this so important.
If go back to that story about C.S. Lewis, it should make us stop and think about how we as human beings typically respond to the human condition, to the mess that we call our world, to the mess we call our lives.
What have we been told by the religions and philosophies of our world?
If are to be saved or reach ‘nirvana' in Buddhism, we are called us to accept the Buddha's four noble truths, and then follow the eightfold path, which are eight practices revolving around morality, meditation, and wisdom.
Salvation in Hinduism, or "moksha', this freedom from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth is ultimately about human knowledge or devotion or technique.
Islam teaches that that salvation can be attained through observing the Five Pillars of Islamic practice, which includes things like fasting, giving to the poor, and a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Even when we shift our focus to belief systems that use the term Christian, we find similar ideas.
The catechism of the Roman Catholic church tell us this: "The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments [things like baptism, and the Lord's Supper, and confirmation... these sacraments] of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. ... The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Saviour" (New Catholic Catechism, 1129).
The Latter Day Saint or Mormon church declares in the book of Mormon that "it is by grace that we are saved, after all that we can do" (II Nephi 25:23).
This means that after we do our part, God chips in the rest. Or as the 3rd Article of Faith puts it: "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel"
Jehovah's Witnesses teach that "When a person, on the basis of the Scriptural knowledge he has gained, has belief in Christ as the Savior whom God provided and shows that faith by his works, he can consider himself as being on the way to salvation. It would be a mistake for him to think that he is now saved and cannot fall. He must show by his endurance in the Christian faith that he is worthy of salvation." (Watchtower, March 1, 1960, p. 134).
And I could go on and on and on, but it's all the same. Our response to our condition is always about what WE can do to fix it.
But Paul, in love, wants his readers to banish these kinds of ideas, ideas that are rooted so deeply in us that they appear all over the world, in every culture, all throughout history. He wants the Ephesians to understand that God has done it all...everything.
And one of the main reasons he wants to drive this point home is clear from 4:1. After laying all of this out in chapters 1-3, he tells them this in chapter 4:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling by which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience...
Humility. Gentleness. Patience. These are the fruits of a life lived in a manner worthy of being saved by grace. Paul is not saying, "make yourselves worthy". He is saying live now in a way that corresponds to the grace you've been given.
Any religion or philosophy or program that allows us to believe that we can do something to fix ourselves is a religion or philosophy or program that leaves us with a reason not to be absolutely humbled in the face of our salvation. Those beliefs do not call us to a saving faith, to a faith that acknowledges that we can do nothing except believe that Jesus Christ has done it all.
I hope that was clear from all the verses we looked at this morning. God's grace is given to all those who believe on Jesus Christ. Jesus is the means by which we receive this grace. By grace, through faith.
One commentator wrote long ago, "Faith then brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ".
The hope of Easter is the hope that God can make us alive together with Christ and raise us up, not because of anything we can do (thank God!), but because of what Christ has done through the grace of God.
If you believe this morning are you humbled this morning by the "great love with which [God] loved us"? Are you humbled that God came and found you, that God forgave you, that God opened your eyes, that God brought you to himself, that He made you his own, that He will never let you go, that He did it all...everything?
Grace is the favor that God freely gives in order that we might get the exact opposite of what we deserve and God might get all the credit.
If all this is new to you, or if you have been believing some spiritual truth that is still about what you can do, God is calling you to believe this morning. "For it by grace you have been saved through faith".
Faith is the open and empty hand of the heart.
May we all go in faith this morning, in humility, with great joy and gratitude in the reality of God's grace, grace declared and confirmed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.