Sola Gratia—Salvation by God’s Grace Alone
In John Wesley's sermon "On Working Out Our Own Salvation" (sermon #85), Wesley stated that prevenient grace elicits, "...the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning His will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against Him."
The Second Council of Orange of 529 stated that faith, though a free act, resulted even in its beginnings from the grace of God, enlightening the human mind and enabling belief. In canon 23 it is said that God prepares our wills that they may desire the good. Canon 25 states, "In every good work, it is not we who begin... but He (God) first inspires us with faith and love of Him, through no preceding merit on our part.”
If it sounds like we are splitting theological hairs here to some degree we are. And yet the reason why neither side is able to concede to the other is because the implications are humungous.
When we speak of God’s grace in salvation, we mean to say that it is irresistible. That is to say, that if you could resist God’s grace you would. But rather that when God’s grace invades a sinner’s heart, He causes that individual to be born again.
This is the doctrine of regeneration, and it is the doctrine that most significantly highlights the bifurcation here. The Calvinist view is that God regenerates spiritually dead people, an Arminian view is that God gives enough grace to spiritually dead people that they can now either choose God or reject Him. And so the issue is that of monergism or synergism. Mon—alone, ergism—working. Who does the work—God ultimately from beginning to end, or God does his part and we do ours and together you see, we lick the plate clean.
Perhaps the greatest passage on this truth is located in Ephesians 2:1-10.
2 Manifestations of God’s Immeasurable Grace in Your Spiritual Biography
1. The Grimness/Gravity of Your Miserable State (1-3)
- Dead to God (1)
- Enslaved to Satan (2)
- Alive to sin (3)
2. The Greatness/Glory of Your Marvelous Salvation (4-10)
- The reality
- The reason
- The result
What we are going to do here is rehearse your B.C. condition (before Christ). This is your universal, spiritual biography. In fact, if you are in Christ today, then this is your testimony. Not in the specifics of timing of events, but in terms of the framework, we are viewing a history lesson of each of our spiritual biographies.
There are different ways to speak of an issue—let’s say that you have a gossip problem, and your loving friend wants to bring this matter to your attention. Human language offers your friend three possible ways of bringing up the issue. Two are indirect and one is personal.
- Third person—your friend’s comments generally, “I have noticed lately so many people with gossip problems. They speak poorly about their relatives and their co-workers.’ Again, if you are paying close attention to tone and expressions it is quite possible that you might catch the drift that your friend isn’t just merely making an observation without a context, but rather is attempting to clue you in to something you are oblivious to.
- Second person—this is the effective one. This is where your friend looks you in the and says, “I have observed you are speaking poorly about others to those who are not in a position to help the situation. Here are some examples I have seen you do it in, and I want to encourage you to honor Christ with your lips.
- First person—your friend begins to tell, “boy, I used to gossip, it was a real problem, I used to throw people under the bus and latch on to any juicy morsel I could find.” It might be convicting, if you can pick up on the intended innuendo. But if your friend says, “I’ve been convicted that we have a gossip problem that is completely effective.
Throughout the Scriptures we read passages and truths in each one of these ways. But the most personal is that of second person. In our passage I set before you today that the Apostle Paul is using language that will leave the Ephesians universally and individually convinced of their own biographies here. It is universal—all of us, and individual—each of us.
Ephesians 2:1–10—1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and [we] were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, 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 ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
14 Xs not they, not them, not people, not sinners, but you, we and us. Please hear the Word of our God to you today…
The first manifestation of God’s immeasurable grace in your spiritual biography is…
- The gravity of your miserable state.
- You were dead (3)
1. And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
Paul says, not that people are born dead, but you believers in Ephesus were born dead. A spiritual stillbirth. One the hand, a living soul that will remain for eternity, but on the other hand, that soul is dead to God.
What does it mean to be spiritually dead. For the Arminian it means that your relationship with God doesn’t exist. You are relationally dead. The cross reference used here is that of the prodigal son in Luke 15:24, when he returns the father exclaims what?
Luke 15:22-24—22“But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.
And so the argument goes, we were relationally dead to God.
And that is true. In fact, Paul is going to deal with that exact topic elsewhere in this letter:
Ephesians 2:12—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Ephesians 4:18—being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;
So that’s true. Prior to salvation you have no interest in God, no relationship with God, you are unable and unwilling to worship God. But when we are considering what Paul means when he uses the word dead here, going to a parable which is not trying to explain regeneration and then bringing that meaning back into this passage is bad hermeneutics.
You don’t work from less clear passages back to the more clear. Paul is describing a spiritual state here. The Parable of the Prodigal son is as much about the Father and the older brother. It isn’t teaching regeneration.
As we will see in this passage, the issue is regeneration.
You were dead in your trespasses and sins.
Sheer hopelessness. You were struggling in your sins. You were trapped in your sins. >You weren’t sick or hurting or weak or lacking in wholeness. You were dead.
Again, note the intensely personal nature of this instruction. Paul’s believing friends in Ephesus are not hearing about the church abroad, they aren’t hearing in third person about what God does in other people, this isn’t the sins of the world. I want you to stop where you are sitting and feel the weight of this personally applied to your own thinking.
What does a corpse need to come to life? Antibiotics? A ventilator? IV fluids? A blood transfusion? A heart transplant? No. No. No. No. A corpse needs to be brought back to life. And you begin to see the hopelessness, and the need for sovereign grace.
How capable is something that is dead? Utterly incapable of anything.
You smelled like death. There is no spiritual activity. There is no life. And furthermore, you set to remain in that state until your physical death, which precedes your eternal spiritual death.
“The use of the two synonyms here… helps to convey an impression of the immensity and variety of the sinfulness of the readers’ past.”
These sins characterized your life…
2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Although you at one time are dead to God, you are still very much alive to sin, and enslaved to the power of Satan.
And yet the Gospel truth here is so rich. You formerly walked… formerly means previously—something that was at one point true, which now no longer is.
What used to be true is that you walked according to this world. περιεπατήσατε—established pattern of conduct in your life… walking implies direction. Romans 12:1-2 speaks of not being conformed to the pattern of this world. This age is the age that Christ came to deliver us from (Galatians 1:4) this present evil age. See further discussion by Lincoln.
The implication in that text is that this is the default position that we are in.
The course of the world is the manner of thinking and reasoning. You were making you decisions and actions according to a humanistic worldview. Waling is movement, pattern day after day, making progress in it.
And all this is under the influence of Satan:
according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Ruler of the realm of the air. And then it says of the spirit it means that Satan rules the spirit of the age. Grammatically this is two ways of describing the same basic reality. Satan is not all-powerful and has a limited, delegated authority that from God that is terminal (it has an expiration date).
Satan is ruling the air and the sprit. The air refers to the unseen realm. Satan isn’t dwelling in heaven with God, but he also isn’t confined to planet earth. There is a dimension that he operates in that is unseen to us. Not only does he rule the air but he also rules the spirit (of the age). It is not personal, but impersonal. Complex grammatical scenario, but it is best rendered… the spirit of the age… note:
1 Corinthians 2:12—Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,
But his influence right now is over the air the spirit of the age (idea, believes, convictions). Satan doesn’t make people do bad things, but rather puts forth competing ideas about God, and he fuels lies and tempts the flesh. It is an active role.
Now at work in the sons of disobedience.
νῦν ἐνεργοῦντος—active, ongoing role, empowering, igniting, encouraging, utilizing. This work is not static or stale. You could call this progress in the wrong direction.
Sons of disobedience—if you were to use a descriptor to characterize they are disobedient to the commandments of God. They are ungrateful, lovers of themselves, abusive, etc. (2 Tim 4…)
Pagan worship of Diana in Ephesus.
Dear friends, this is a terrifying reality. Satan is a powerful force, the adversary, the evil one, the accuser of the brethren, the opportunistic enemy of God.
2 Corinthians 4:4—in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Ephesians 1:21—far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
We are talking different realms. It’s like taking the most talented and incredible high school basketball team in the history of high school basketball, and the putting them up against the Golden State Warriors.
Colossians 1:13—For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
Powerful spiritual influences keeping you in darkness.
3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
ἐν οἷς—in and around
καὶ ἡμεῖς πάντες—universal identification we also all “I may have been Jewish, but I was right there with you. Perhaps Paul hadn’t committed all the extortion and immoral deeds that the Gentiles in Ephesus had, but he no stranger to sin.
What’s the assumption of the human heart. There’s evil out there. Many people are bad people. Me and my friends are pretty good.
Paul isn’t referring to a particularly degraded element of society, but rather describing the condition of fallen humanity everywhere always. Elizabethan age. The so-called Bible Belt. The rural areas. The good ‘ole boys. He is including himself in his Jewish background… the most conservative branch of monotheism.
ἀνεστράφημέν—idea again of the pattern of life. This is how you spent your time, your vitality, your creativity, your imagination. Rather than living for the Creator. But what about the humanist you say?
τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς—not children characterized by wrath, not wrathful people, but rather a genitive of destination. It speaks of where these children are headed. Use of the imperfect—existing day by day in this state.
Romans 9:22—What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?
As natural parents transfer congenital defects and diseases to their offspring as genetic material is downloaded into a fertilized egg, so spiritually you were born in corruption.
Romans 5:12—Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
A classic scenario of being dead on arrival. Doomed before you even got started.
Whose wrath? The wrath of God. God’s righteous anger that is controlled and calculated against the injustices and the unrighteousness against Him. You are guilty. Convicted. Sentenced. Now awaiting judgment. That’s the picture.
Illustrated: a raft floating down the river with no oars, the torrent is rushing and the destructive waterfall of God’s wrath is nearing.
Rather than being characterized by restraint, your manner of life is that of indulgence. That’s such a vivid concept. Rather than denying fleshly desires and rather than denying your sinful thoughts, you give in to them. They dominate you. They are your gods.
Calvin thought through sanctification at a much deeper level than Luther. He was more refined. He described the human heart as an idol factory. That’s the idea here. You are producing and following idols.
even as the rest— οἱ λοιποί smacks of those “left behind.” Just like your neighbors who are still in that state. Just like every other culture—spans time and history. Conservative or liberal this is the verdict.
My friends, never give up telling people the bad news. For the glory of God and for the good of souls, do not shrink back from declaring these truths with full conviction. To minimize the Christian biography as mistakes, mess-ups, or us as lacking wholeness or whatever the case may be is to diminish the glory of God in the Gospel.
Utterly comprehensive—you have a sinful environment, you have sinful influences, and you love to sin yourself. The world (2), the flesh (2), and the devil (3) all working together.
This is your biography.
Perhaps some of you have a hard time relating to this. God graciously saved you early enough in life that you don’t have the rap sheet if you will that the believers in Ephesus did. You know what you ought to think if this was you.
- Praise God for his restraining grace that not only saved you, but restrained even the degree of in your life prior to salvation.
- Recognize that this is still true of you prior to Christ. When it comes to deadness there are no degrees. Sure, not everyone has the same degree of sinful bondage or aberration. But there is not somewhat dead, mostly dead, and really really dead…
- Consider where your life would be if God had not intervened. We’ve talked about this before. But you should, knowing the pattern of your life, your personal vulnerabilities and where you tend, even now in Christ to prefer the other things over God, what your life would look like without God’s restraining grace in your life. If I take my personal sin struggles and remove the Spirit of God and send myself down that path it begins to give me a sense for what I’ve been delivered from. Whatever is your tendency to indulge the desires of the flesh and the mind, just imagine that running riot.
And so is the spiritual biography of us all. It is hopeless. There is a grimness and a gravity to your miserable state. And that is what makes the next verse so unexpected:
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
When you come to this verse the outlook is bleak. Take whatever analogy you will for being in a hopeless state. You are dead to the right things. You are enslaved to Satan. You are alive to the wrong things.
Those two little words… But God ὁ δὲ θεὸς. Greatest words of hope in the NT.
In direct contrast to all that is expected at this point… the main verb (in v. 5b συνεζωοποίησεν) in light of this truth is shocking, or perhaps better stated in spite of the participle in v. 1. Although you were dead in trespasses and sins. Even though this was once true of you, nevertheless, defying all expectations, God acted in your behalf.
Why is this unexpected? Because bad people deserve bad things. Adam and Eve knew that. Cain learned it more profoundly. Job’s friends knew that. Noah learned that. The generation that came out of Egypt and perished in the wilderness learned that. When you oppose God, God opposes you. And when you offend God, God is offended by you.
Not in this situation. Why? Because of the character of your God. Our God who is characterized as acting in accordance with His:
- Mercy (4)
- Great love (4)
- Extreme grace (5, 7, 8)
- Kindness (7)
πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει—He has an abundant supply of wealth. This is the opposite of meager. God mustn’t ration His mercy lest He bestow too much and not have enough left. He has it in abundance and then He loves to be generous with it.
Paul uses a financial term. As a rich man holds a seemingly limitless bounty from which to draw upon, so God possesses a rich supply of compassion for sinners.
Paul never got over this truth in his own heart. When he wrote his first letter to Timothy he said, “Timothy, I found mercy… I found compassion… and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love that are found in Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 1:16a, 14). This is the love of God in Christ Jesus—it is boundless, it is rich, it is abundant and it is free.
God the Sovereign of the universe abounds in mercy. Mercy that is so triumphant over guilt that it is upsetting and scandalous at times to God’s people.
Jonah 4:2—He prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.
God I just knew you were going to let them off the hook. I just knew you were going to give them the opportunity to repent, and then you would relent when they did.
This was a mercy that didn’t merely feel for us in our state. He instituted the necessary steps to do something about our situation.
The riches of God’s abounding mercy and the greatness of His love are the basis of Him seeking and saving the lost. As parables of the woman searching for a lost coin, or the shepherd leaving the fold to find one who has gone astray, as the Father who longs to have fellowship with his sons, our God pursues sinners when they are at their worst.
Better rendered on account of His great love
When we were undeserving. As one pastor writes God’s viewpoint from these verses, it’s as if God says:
“I know what you are and what you have done… but because of My great love for you, your penalty has been paid, My law’s judgment against you has been satisfied, through the work of My Son on your behalf. For His sake I offer you forgiveness. To come to Me you need only to come to Him.”
5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
“And you he made alive, when you were dead”
Does this have a ring of repetition to it? The Spirit of God, through the Apostle Paul wants to make it clear in no uncertain terms that God did the work. And that work which God did was not to “get the ball rolling” or to “ignite something” in our hearts. But rather in the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ to take that spiritually dead state and make us alive together with Christ.
Main verb of the whole section so far. Everything else has led up to this point. Tough to see in the English, but all of the verbs leading up to this are helping verbs that serve to support the main verbal idea.
Friends it isn’t that I am grinding a theological axe and trying to make my point about God’s central role in salvation. This is where the emphasis in the Spirit-breathed grammar lies.
God made us alive together with Christ. In hope against hope. Contrary to all that was true of us lies this contrast in stark relief.
There are three verbs lined up in rapid fire succession. All three works are completed by God. All are active verbs with God as the subject. And each contains a little prefix. A little word in front of the verb + συν prefix. Not soon (s-o-o-n) in terms of time, but the equivalent of (s-u-n) which means with.
And so my friends, while still being dead in your sins, even then, God the one acting…
- Made us alive + συν together with Christ
- Raised us up + συν together with Christ
- Seated us + συν together with Christ
Each of these great privileges is granted to us by God the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is exclusively the result of Christ’s accomplishment and then your connection to Him that grants you these privileges.
Theologians refer to this as vital union. You and I ride on His coat tails as it were. Receiving blessings from God because of His merit. And yet we are not called the tagalong of Jesus or even his step brothers and sisters.
No, my friends, God has so ordained that we would be joint-heirs with the very Son of God. Regardless of your earthly family situation you have an elder brother who loves you and is faithful to you, and is bringing you every spiritual blessing that the Father has to offer.
Made us alive together—regeneration. Here it is. You want to understand the great Calvinistic doctrine of God’s irresistible grace it is here. (quote James Montgomery Boice)
John 3—born again. Who is acting in birth? Quick anatomy and physiology question for all you moms out there. What was the role your child played in the process of their conception and birth? Did they select the date of their conception? Did they put together the necessary plans and resources to bring about their birthday? Without knowledge or ability, it is a process that happens to them. And it’s the analogy Jesus picks up to explain the spiritual mystery of salvation.
We will skip over the phrase by grace you have been saved and pick it up in a couple of verses.
I don’t mean to say that it is always easy to understand or explain the relationship between God’s complete power and work in salvation and man’s responsibility. But passages like this make it abundantly clear. Even while you were dead… God—made—you—alive. Friends, without trying to make this text answer more questions than it does. Stop and consider those words. Who acted first upon whom? By the power of the Spirit of God you were born again to a living hope.
And furthermore, He…
6 and raised us up with Him,
Raised us up with Him— καὶ συνήγειρεν—we have been spiritually resurrected from spiritual deadness in like fashion to his physical resurrection from death. Divine power. Triumph. We died in Adam (Romans 5).
This isn’t a different work. But in the process of making us alive, we were also given the resurrection power of Christ. And although we do not see it yet He also…
and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Although you and I have not experienced the fullness of our salvation, the reality has already dawned upon us. And the resurrection power, the great power that Paul speaks of back in 1:19 is a surpassingly great power that raised Christ, now is toward us who believe.
You say, “uh I’m sitting in a somewhat cold, hard chair right now…?” Your identity is there. Your security is there. You have a fore taste of that already right now, but it is embraced by faith rather than fully experienced. That’s the not-yet part.
And as if it wasn’t clear enough yet that this work displays God’s marvelous grace. Verse 7 gives a divine purpose in this work of God…
7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
ἵνα + ἐνδείξηται (subjuctive) = purpose clause, but in this case with the Divine intention carrying it out it might as well be a result deal. There is never an intention that is unacted upon. God purposes to do it, then He will. Jews didn’t distinguish between purpose and result when speaking of Divine intention.
The purpose is to display something. What is God displaying?
τὸ ὑπερβάλλον πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ—surpassing, extreme, beyond measure, riches of his grace. This emphasizes the undeserving element of God’s forebearance and patient, loyal-love based on who He is and not on who we are.
His kindness speaks of his generosity and benevolence. The imagery is of a lavishness.
Brothers and sisters, although your eternal happiness is a fundamental reality of God’s saving work in your life. It is even more about Him than it is about you. And He saved you so that
In the ages to come… his extreme generosity and kindness to you would be broadcast. When are the ages to come. Well if Paul said the age to come that would be eternity. But the ages means that then in the first century, then throughout church history, now in his church, and then one day in glory for every day in glory, God’s glorious grace will be broadcast and displayed.
This is what we are to proclaim. The church of Jesus Christ says that in spite of who we are, God pardons us with grace that is rich and free.
It also means that the more we understand this in heaven the great our praise will be to God.
Well the next two verses sum up all that we have just learned. Much like Romans 1:16-17 was the heart of the Gospel in Romans, here is the summary statement of salvation Ephesians in 2:8-9.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
The perfect periphrastic construction is most likely intensive, however. The KJV translators, though not having nearly as good a grasp on greek as modern translators, seem to have had a better grasp on English.
The KJV does a better job of rendering the Greek perfect… for by grace are ye saved… what is the difference? It is the same truth, just a matter of emphasis. In terms of precision, Paul’s emphasis isn’t the completed action as “have been saved” but rather the results or the present state produced by the past action. Right now are you are saved by grace. Your current position, not merely an historic event.
Technically it is on the basis of grace…
Paul is going out of his way to bring in a negative… doesn’t originate from you.
But what is this it that is a gift? is actually τοῦτο (this). What is the referent? Lincoln takes that “it” refers to the entire previous clause—the macro view of salvation.
gift of God—θεοῦ [εστιν] τὸ δῶρον—a gift is something that is received without cost to the recipient. It is categorically different from a payment, which is earned. It is given without cause found in the recipient. The initiation is from the giver of the gift, in this case, God.
A gift originating from (genitive of source) God.
It is the entire package deal (not specifically grace of specifically faith, although both are God’s give). It is salvation-by-grace-through-faith that is a gift. And he continues on…
9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Greek language offered the ability to use different types of negations. Purpose clause with the strongest possible negation—ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται.— never would anyone boast.
If God cast his vote. And Satan cast his vote. And you cast the deciding vote then you can boast. If God issues prevenient grace meaning that He… and then you did your part, then boast about it. You should. Because you are genuinely better than other people. They didn’t choose it, but you did. Good for you.
No matter how much you praise God for his getting the ball rolling, at the end of the day what separates you from the majority of humanity is not God’s sovereign grace, but rather your decisive action upon the grace that God gave to everyone.
And in that theology you know thank God for his grace, and then if you have integrity, consider your own moral superiority to everyone who rejects. They didn’t see the value, but you did. They weren’t willing to repent, but you were. It was not monergistic (the work of one) but synergistics (the work of multiple) you and God teaming up together to save you.
And there you have the offensiveness to God of denying sovereign grace. May it never be, Paul prayed, that I would boast save in Jesus Christ…
God’s grace is designed to save men, while simultaneously giving them no opportunity to feel superior to anyone else. You were saved by grace.
Well Paul concludes this paragraph with an oft forgotten verse. It gets left out
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
We cannot forget Verse 10 because it is inextricably linked to the thought which immediately precedes it.
God saved to be holy. He wants you to do good works, and if you are in Christ you will do good works. You will be conformed to Christ.
For clarity your salvation is not the result of works, nevertheless the result of your salvation surely is works. Good works are not the cause of salvation. They are not the basis of salvation. But you had better believe that they are in fact the consequence of salvation. You are not saved by your works. But you are saved that you might manifest good works.
God… created… you… new in Christ as in 2 Corinthians 5:17 so that you might no longer live for yourself, but for Him who died and gave Himself up in your behalf.
Even good works are a grace. Anytime you obey, anytime you worship God rather than self, anytime you choose to believe God rather than give in to a lie, you are displaying not your own moral tenacity, but rather God’s gracious work and sovereign plan.
We didn’t leave grace in v. 9 to move on to works in v. 10. Emphatically no! These two great realities are both God’s work from start to finish. He is the sovereign over both your introduction into this faith, and then your continuation in it.
Some translations weaken the idea here: He “designed us for” New English Bible (NEB). The relative clause beginning with which is not a whom. Whom cares? A whom means He prepared the people, this grammar says He prepared the works themselves.
We are his work, for his work.
which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Highlights two facts: 1) the importance of good works; 2) the divine origin of these works.
When? Ephesians 4:1 before the foundation of the world. Before the world was created God had purposed to save _________, and had prepared good works that you would carry out.
To say that God has prepared the good works in advance in his sovereign purpose is also to stress in the strongest possible way that believers’ good deeds cannot be chalked up to their own resolve, but are due solely to divine grace. It is grace all the way. Even the living out of salvation in good works is completely by grace. But this is not a total determinism. God has prepared the good works in advance “in order that we might live in them.” The human activity of “walking” is still necessary; the actual living out of God’s purpose in the world has to take place.
John 15 is manifestly clear. You will bear fruit if you are united to Jesus because you are connected to the productive fine who is Jesus Himself. From the vine flows all of the power and vitality needed in order that you might bear fruit.
And you are cared for attended to by the Great Vine Dresser, none other than the Father Himself.
If you are lazy spiritually… you are missing the purpose for which God saved you. If you say, “I will do it when I feel like it… I will obey later…” Bearing fruit is not optional or discretionary, but required by virtue of your new creation. Consider a potter creating a coffee cup that decides he or she doesn’t want to hold hot beverages, or go through the dishwasher, or have people’s lips all over them. It doesn’t matter, this was the purpose.
This isn’t to put a heavy burden on your neck, but to give you a vision of something worth living for. God saved you and made you a new creature in Christ so that you would manifest his glory visibly in bearing fruit.
If you are discouraged spiritually… take heart that God is for you and working in you. He has promised and He will do it. Memorize this verse and walk by faith.
Your hope does not lie in your ability to persevere your stick-to-it-tiveness or your stamina or your resolve.
I love to tell the story, for those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest; And when in scenes of glory I sing the new, new song, ’twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.