Ephesians 2: 1 – 10
You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Those to whom the author writes were Gentiles, believers in and worshippers of idols, before they learned of Christ and chose to follow him. In that former life they were dead in their sins, following powers of evil, living selfish lives. It is our human condition, our natural state, to be selfish, to follow things that are for the self – what we want. And yet, even though we were sinners, God loved us. In God’s mercy, love, and grace, we were made alive in Christ. “We” includes not just the author and his first century audience, but also you and me. We too were dead in our selfish lives – when we live for self we get all tied up in self, dragged down by self, by our own anxieties and fears, separated from God and from other persons, and that is death. But in God’s mercy and grace, we too are made alive in Christ! And all of us are raised up with Christ in resurrection, and are alive with Christ in the now!
For it is by grace we have been saved, all of us, through faith – and this is not our own doing; it is a gift of God! Folks, we cannot save ourselves – if we could save ourselves through our good works, then there would have been no need for Jesus to come and to die for us. Faith is a gift; grace is a gift. Nothing we do can make God love us more, or less. All we have to do is to accept the gift!
And in Christ Jesus we are all created anew – reborn in the Spirit as new people – to do his will, to leave behind our selfish living for self and to live new lives for God! Our doing “good works” is not the path to our salvation; it is the result of our salvation. It is a part of God’s plan that his people live in his will, that we do good for others, that we feed the hungry and help the poor. A word here – there are those who read these words to say that God causes people to be hurting or poor so that Christians might do good works; that is the height of arrogance! It is our human sin that creates poverty; it is human systems that cause oppression and hunger and poverty – and those systems are a part of this fallen world, a result of someone’s greed and hunger for power, sin. We are not supposed to further the sin in order to have someone to do good works with! God did not cause the sin! But we are called to be agents of change, to help those in need, and to love our neighbor. God knew the need would always be there – that is what is meant by “good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”