EPHESIANS TWO, VERSES EIGHT AND NINE
EPHESIANS TWO, VERSES EIGHT AND NINE Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Some Scripture (as noted) taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE. Š Copyright, 960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Some Scripture (as noted) taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Ephesians 2:8,9 is a favorite passage of Christians. It often is presented as meaning that by making a statement of belief in Jesus Christ we have a ticket to Heaven, and how we behave can have no critical effect on our eternal destiny. While this interpretation may not always be stated as succinctly as we have presented it, in many instances it is the impression that is left.
We would like to examine the context of this "key" verse and see if there may be a more defensible interpretation.
EPHESIANS TWO, VERSES EIGHT AND NINE
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. (Ephesians 2:8,9—NIV)
The passage above is often presented as meaning that by making a statement of belief in Jesus Christ we have a ticket to Heaven, and how we behave can have no critical effect on our eternal destiny. Perhaps this interpretation has been helpful in the past in leading people to Christ. But today the interpretation is counterproductive since it tends to keep the believers in a state of eternal babyhood.
Let us examine the context of the two verses. I think the context will reveal that the prevailing interpretation is not suitable. We shall start with Ephesians 1:18 to see what Paul meant by "by grace you have been saved." We also will keep in mind other parts of the Book of Ephesians.
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, (Ephesians 1:18—NIV)
The inheritance works two ways. We are God's inheritance and God is our inheritance.
We are reminded of God's exhortation to the Israelite priesthood of the old covenant. God told the priests they would not have the same inheritance as the rest of the Israelites because He Himself was their inheritance.
We saints need to realize that God Himself is our inheritance. The eyes of our heart must be opened to this fact. There is so much self-centered talk today in Christian circles about what we can get God to do for us. How disappointing to the Lord is this attitude. Don't we realize what an incredible gift we have in that God has called us to be saints, to be holy ones, to dwell in His Presence and always be with Him?
God is our inheritance. We certainly will inherit many other relationships, things, environments, opportunities for service, wealth of all kinds, authority, and power. But all of these are as nothing compared with God Himself. Until we realize this we are coming short of the Glory of God and probably are guilty of idolatry. Let us pray about this until our heart is single toward the Lord.
It also is true that we are God's inheritance. Never before has God had sons, brothers of Jesus Christ, a royal priesthood, saints transformed into the image of Christ and dwelling in untroubled union in Christ in Himself. For eternity we shall lift up holy hands and bless the Lord. In God's eyes this is an inheritance of indescribable value.
Can you see how we are beginning to build to a proper understanding of Ephesians 2:8,9?
And his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, (Ephesians 1:19—NIV)
There is power available for us who believe. To emphasize—there is an "incomparably great power for us who believe." Power for what purpose, may we ask? Power to live the Christian life.
The resurrection power of Christ is not available to unsaved people. The power is available to us who believe. But power to do what? Are we speaking of energy? Are we to have more energy than unsaved people? Probably not.
As we seek to serve God we find that many pressures are brought to bear on us, pressures we can avoid if we are willing to sin, to rebel against God, to forsake our integrity.
Sometimes the pressure comes from family members who are not serving the Lord. They depend on the Christian to carry them through.
There are pressures common to all people, saved and unsaved alike, such as severe illness or economic problems. God's power does not always heal the saints but it always enables the saint to act in a manner that glorifies God, that is, if the saint continues to trust and obey.
The wicked dodge, lie, steal, betray those who trust them, take the credit that belongs to another, step on other people to gain advantage. They are smooth talkers. We have multitudes of such in America at this time. They think everyone is like themselves. God's power is not available to the wicked.
If you are trying to serve God, don't quit. His power is available to keep you from sinning, to enable you to overcome every temptation.
It is the same power that raised Christ from the dead and it dwells in you.
Which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, (Ephesians 1:20—NIV)
When Satan and his allies managed to crucify Christ they played their last card. If Satan ever could have prevented anything from happening it would have been the resurrection of Christ. Satan could not prevent that. Therefore he cannot possibly overcome you because that same power is at work in you. It is the power of salvation. It is the power of the Kingdom of God.
Christ today is at the right hand of God.
Far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:21—NIV)
How high has Jesus Christ been raised? He has been raised far above all rule, all authority, all power, all dominion, every title that can be given—now and throughout all ages to come.
Sometimes the powers of darkness seem ready to overcome us.
The cords of death encompassed me, and the torrents of ungodliness terrified me. The cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. (Psalms 18:4,5—NASB)
It is then we need to have a deep realization of the mighty resurrection power of Christ that is saving us. When we put our faith in Him, calling on the name of the Lord, as David did, the power that works in us lifts us far above all the works of Hell, of darkness, of Satan. They cannot stand in His Presence. They flee in disarray. He is too strong for them.
If Satan could not prevent the resurrection and ascension of Christ then he cannot overcome you. Pray that your heart will be enlightened until you are fully aware of the awesome power at work on your behalf.
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22,23—NASB)
The Lord Jesus Christ is Head over all things, including the Church. However the Church is in a special relationship to Him. The Church is the Body of Christ, His fullness.
The revelation that the Church is the Body of Christ appears to have been given only to the Apostle Paul. The other writers do not mention this.
If there is a more profound revelation in the Scripture we do not know of it. The Christian Church is actually the Body, the fullness, of Christ.
Of course we could get off base with this concept and begin to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. But there is no need for error. The Lord Jesus Christ is the great exalted Head of true Israel, of the Church of God. The Church is not separate from Him. The Church is an integral part of Him with all this implies.
The Christian churches are social institutions but this aspect is overemphasized in our day, at least in America. It is also true that the Christian churches are the holy Lampstands of God; holy not because they are extraordinarily pure (though they out to be!) but because they have been set apart by the Lord for His special purpose. Holiness has to do with closeness to God, with the election of the priesthood.
The Christian assemblies are not only the representatives of Christ they are the fullness of Christ, the Body of Christ. The local body indeed is important but then we need to get a glimpse of the larger unity, the one Body of the Christ, the greater part of which at any given time is in Heaven with the Lord.
There is the Judaic religion and there is the Christian religion. Both of these are manmade and serve as scaffolding that will be removed in time.
The true Church, the Body of Christ, the Olive Tree, began with Abraham. It is one Seed and that Seed is Christ.
The Olive Tree passed by promise, by prophecy, to Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob.
When the Lord Jesus Christ came the Olive Tree passed on to a remnant of Jews and a remnant of Gentiles.
When the full number of Gentiles has been brought into the Olive Tree, which is Christ, God will turn again to the physical land and people of Israel. This is written and cannot be altered in any manner.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 2:1,2—NIV)
The passage above reveals clearly that the current interpretation of verses eight and nine is incorrect. Paul is not saying here in Ephesians that it does not matter how we live because we are "saved by grace." He is not saying this at all!
It is a fact that Christ is at the right hand of God and we in Him. We are His fullness, His Body.
In time past we were dead in transgressions and sins.
We used to live in them.
At one time we did follow the ways of the world.
Before we came to Christ we did serve the ruler of the kingdom of the air.
The spirit of Satan at one time did work in us because we were disobedient.
Obviously Paul does not consider that we are living in sin and disobedience now!
Let us note the expression "the ruler of the kingdom of the air."
It is taught commonly today that when the Lord comes the Christian Church will be caught up to Heaven with Him.
This is not true, not scriptural, and will not take place.
We Christians say we hold to the plenary verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. Amen. Then why do we teach something not found anywhere in the Scriptures? Will we continue doing this even though we know it is not in the Scriptures. If so we are found to be an unfaithful steward and we had better make peace with the congregation so they will receive us in the eternal homes. The Lord will not have unfaithful stewards in His service!
We are caught up to meet Christ in the air, not in Heaven. This is because the coming of the Kingdom of God will result in a change of the occupants of the thrones in the air. The saints will take the place of the wicked angels.
No, we no longer walk in the kingdom and ways of Satan, that is, not if we have truly been saved. For to be saved means, according to the verses we have been studying, to be made alive.
What does it mean to be "made alive"? It means that the resurrection power of the ascended Christ has entered us and has delivered us from the bondages of death, of sin and rebellion. Divine Life dwells in us and purges the darkness from us. This is what it means to be "saved." We are saved from sin and rebellion by the power of God; not just forgiven but filled with the incorruptible Life of Jesus Christ so we no longer walk in sin, according to the ways of the world, according to the kingdom and ways of Satan.
We are overcoming our sinful nature by the power of Christ.
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. (Ephesians 2:3—NASB)
Formerly! Formerly! Formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh!
We Christians are not to be living in the lusts of our flesh. If we are, we are not being saved, not being made alive by resurrection life.
We Christians are not to be indulging the desires of our flesh and mind. If we are the power of God is not working in us as it should.
You are being made a life-giving spirit. Because Christ is in you, you are to be a tree of life to those around you. What are you thinking? What are you speaking? What are you doing? Is your behavior bringing life to other people? If not, are you sure that the incomparable power of Christ's resurrection is actually saving you?
Paul says we "formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh; we formerly indulged the desires of the flesh and of the mind." At one time we were by nature children of wrath, just as is true of the unsaved.
Are we still children of wrath? Are we living in the lusts of our flesh? If so we are not being lifted up by incorruptible resurrection life. Eternal life, the holy, righteous Life of God Almighty is not working in us.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (Ephesians 2:4,5—NASB)
God loved us when we were dead in our sins and rebellion. He has made us alive with Christ. What does this mean? It means we no longer are dead in our transgressions. We are walking in newness of life, life that is not sinful and rebellious.
What do we mean by eternal life? We mean the Life, the Presence, the Substance, the Nature, the Virtue, the Power of God Almighty. It is in us. It raised Christ from the dead and now it is working in us.
Can we lose it? Yes, according to the parable of the Sower. It can be choked out. Each day we choose to walk according to the Life of Christ or according to the lusts of our flesh.
Paul tells us in Romans that if we choose to walk in the flesh we will lose our new spiritual life. If we through the Spirit of God put to death the appetites and passions of our flesh we will attain life, resulting eventually in our resurrection at the appearing of Christ.
Make no mistake, it is just as serious as this. The Scripture cannot be broken.
We have been saved from moral death by grace, by the gift of God, not by the works of the Law of Moses or by the practices of any other religion or moral code.
It is apparent from Acts, Romans, and Galatians, that when Paul spoke of works he was referring to the works of the Law of Moses.
When Paul says we are saved by grace and not by works he means we are lifted from the death of sin and rebellion by the power of Jesus Christ and not by our endeavoring to keep the statutes of the Law of Moses.
Another confusion in Christian thinking is that by saved Paul meant we would go to Heaven when we die. As long as we equate going to Heaven when we die with salvation we will never understand the New Testament.
The Kingdom! The Kingdom! The Kingdom is the issue of the Christian redemption!
Neither the four Gospels nor the Epistles hold out Heaven as the destiny of the saints. The New Testament is about the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. To be saved is to be admitted to the Kingdom. To be lost is to be denied entrance to the Kingdom of God and to suffer the wrath of God.
Notice in another section of the Book of Ephesians that Paul warned about losing our place in the Kingdom, not about going to Heaven.
For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5—NASB)
Now, let's take a hard look at this verse.
First of all, to deny that this verse is written to the saints of Ephesus is to depart into a no man's land of chaos and confusion. Obviously Paul is writing to "saved" people, to the believers in Ephesus.
It is apparent that the behavior of the saved can determine their inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God.
Therefore the present interpretation of Ephesians 2:8,9 cannot possibly be legitimate.
God's Life is in us. It is up to us to lay hold on eternal life by turning away from immorality, impurity, and covetousness. The mighty power of God in Christ enables us to turn away from such darkness. But we still have the choice of availing ourselves of God's power or of yielding to our flesh.
Paul never holds out a warning that we will not be admitted to Heaven. He always warns of losing our inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God.
If this is true, then Christian teaching is incorrect in one of its primary emphases.
Why don't we preach today about losing our inheritance in the Kingdom of God? If Jesus and John preached the soon coming of the Kingdom, why don't we preach the soon coming of the Kingdom?
If Jesus' parables are about the Kingdom of God why are our stories about going to Heaven and not about the Kingdom of God?
Why do we absolutely refuse to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and in its place talk about going to live forever in the spirit Paradise?
What will it take to guide Christian teaching and preaching into scriptural channels?
Can you imagine? We are so off track that pastors are having their congregations prepare for the "rapture into Heaven" by jumping up and down next to their pews. This is so far from the Gospel it is not even related.
We are not going to be "raptured" into the Kingdom of God. Nowhere did the Lord Jesus say that the Kingdom of God is as a rocket that when lit leaps into the air.
The Kingdom of God is like a seed. It is something that grows in us and transforms us.
You will never become a new creature or enter the Kingdom of God by jumping up and down next to your pew.
You will become a new creature, and enter the Kingdom of God, by drawing on the Life of Christ until you are saved from sin and rebellion.
The issue is that of inheriting the Kingdom of God. Let's talk about it. Let's find out what it means. Current teaching is incorrect and does not prepare people for the spiritual powers that now are arrayed against us.
And raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6,7—NASB)
If we have received Christ as our Lord and Savior we already have been raised together with Him to the right hand of God. We already are far above every authority and dignitary in the present age and that which is to come.
We never will go any higher than we are now.
It is a question of bringing that throne-life down into the earth where it is sorely needed. Let us pray "Your Kingdom come. Your will be done in the earth."
God's will indeed shall be done in the earth if we allow the power of Christ to work in our life.
The royal priesthood is holy. Each member has been called to sit in the Presence of God and enjoy His Person for eternity.
God has prepared unbelievable glory for us and this will be given in the coming ages to those God has chosen. We have earned none of this blessing, it all was prepared for the elect from the foundation of the world.
But, as we have warned, we must be careful not to neglect such a great salvation. We can lose it. We can permit someone to take our crown. We can be cut out of the Vine, out of Christ. We are secure in Christ as we keep walking in Him. But let not the believer who acts willfully think God is obligated to pour glory upon him because he has taken the four steps of salvation. Those who have taught him this deadly error will have to answer for it at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
You can lose your place in the army of the Lord. You can have your talent taken from you and given to another. You can have the door shut in your face. Let us not fasten on the "precious promises" and ignore the "wrathful warnings."
Now, in this context of Scripture and thought, we are ready for Ephesians 2:8,9.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9—NASB)
The Lord Jesus Christ has presented to us a kingdom of life and glory, a kingdom with the power to drive all unrighteousness and impurity from us.
We have not placed our trust in the Law of Moses or any other religious or moral code to make us acceptable to God. We have placed our faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone to save us.
(How Paul must have feared at times to go against the teachings he had held sacred at one time! What faith it took to boldly declare that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision meant anything, only the new creation in Christ. After all, circumcision went back to Abraham. Circumcision was the sign of membership in God's Church, God's called-out people. What courage it took to obey the invisible God and turn from the deepest beliefs of his soul!)
Yes, we have been lifted from the world and Satan by grace and not by striving to obey the tenets of any religion, including the Law of Moses. Christ's atoning blood has forgiven our sins and the power of His resurrection has lifted us from the life of sin and death.
God has called us by His grace. We did not choose Christ, Christ chose us and ordained us that we should bear the fruit of righteousness and holiness.
Can you see how different this is from the current "ticket" doctrine, that Christ is our ticket to Heaven no matter how we behave? What a departure from the context this is!
The next verse puts it together. No preacher or teacher should ever quote Ephesians 2:8,9 without including verse ten. If he does he gives a false impression of the nature of salvation.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10—NASB)
We are God's workmanship, the product of His hands. We are becoming a new creation in Christ. How totally different this is from the "ticket" concept!
God prepared the "good works" from the foundation of the world. Then He called us to walk in the good works He has prepared.
He who overcomes will inherit all the treasures God has created for us.
It reminds us of the statement the Lord made concerning James and John, saying that to sit on His right hand and left would be given to them for whom such high stations have been prepared.
Also, the Apostle Paul spoke of striving to grasp that for which he has been grasped.
First we are grasped for something already prepared. Then we must leave all and seek to grasp that for which we have been grasped.
God's whole intention in the Church is to have an instrument through which He can reveal righteousness and praise to the saved nations of the earth, not an imputed righteousness of course but an actual righteousness of thought, word, and deed.
How do we attain such moral image and union with God?
Only by keeping the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. We keep these commandments by the wisdom and power of the Spirit of God working in us.
As we keep the commandments of the New Testament, Christ is formed in us. It is the forming of Christ in us that is the new covenant.
As we keep His commandments diligently the Day Star rises in our heart, the very Presence of Christ that heralds the new day of everlasting righteousness.
Yes, we are brought into this marvelous glory by the gracious gift of God to us. It is nothing we earn by striving to improve ourselves by our own self-control, wisdom and strength.
The transformation of our personality depends on our holding our faith, our hope, our trust in God. Satan does not have the power to prevent our achieving all God has prepared for us. But he is very skillful at deceiving us until we lose our faith and confidence in God and lapse into sin.
We must always pray that God will lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
It is not from ourselves that such an operation is performed, it is the gift of God to us, the gift of eternal, incorruptible, Divine Life.
There is no boasting involved because all is of God from beginning to end. He is Alpha and Omega, the author and finisher of our faith.
There are places of righteousness, holiness, obedience to God, authority, power, responsibility, closeness to God, prepared for the saints. We did not conceive of these, we are not able even to imagine them. All is of God. The recipients are God's elect, chosen from the foundation of the world.
All is working according to the foreknowledge of God, for He has chosen the brothers of Jesus Christ from the beginning and is transforming them into His image.
The Kingdom of God is God in Christ in the saints coming down to the earth to be Divine Life and Divine Light for the saved nations. We don't want to miss our calling by yielding to the world, our flesh, Satan, and our self-will and personal ambition.
Let's let God prepare us to ride in the army of the Lord. It is soon to invade the earth with the Faithful and True One at its head.
A great people and a strong. Do you want to be one of them? You can if this is what you desire above all else.
Tell the Lord Jesus about your desire right now.