19 November 2015

Ephesians 2:1-10

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (v. 8)

Psalm: Psalm 129


The conflict between good and evil, which is well represented in modern fiction and film, features in the verses that begin this chapter. Evil is personified in "the ruler of the power of the air" (v. 1), whose influence on human life is destructive. The writer takes a dim view of such a way of life, but lest anyone should think that it is other people and not themselves who are in such a state, in verse 3 it says this refers this to "all of us". Again (link to yesterday's notes) there is fluctuation between "you" and "we", which in one sense affirms the universality of the sinful state, but might mean that the author is writing from a Jewish background to Gentiles, or as an established Christian to new believers.

Having set out humanity's universal plight, in verse 4 the writer goes on to offer the way out of it. As by the power of God Jesus Christ was raised from death and exalted to heavenly power, so God's love and mercy in Christ can bring us to life from the death of sin. Twice (in verses 5 and 8) the same phrase is used, emphasising that salvation comes by the grace of God. Verse 8 contains the best known words in Ephesians: "For by grace you have been saved, through faith". This free gift of God cannot be earned, but is to be accepted in faith. Whilst works (ie doing good deeds) cannot earn God's love, this does not mean that they are to be avoided. If, through Christ, we are rescued from the death of sin, doing good is God's chosen way of life for us (verse 10).

The words of verse 10 must be contrasted with those of verse 1 of this chapter. That speaks of the death which results from following a sinful way of life, whereas the latter verse offers a Christlike way of life, which from the beginning has been the purpose of God for all.

To Ponder

  • What would you say to someone who says that living a good life and helping other people is the essence of true religion?
  • How do you define 'salvation'?

Bible notes author

The Revd Richard Bielby

Richard is a supernumerary Methodist presbyter in Stockton on Tees. He is a part-time prison chaplain and also serves as a voluntary chaplain at Durham Cathedral.