We were spiritually dead, but God, out of his mercy and love for us, made us alive in Christ!
That God made us who were dead alive shows his power, and his willingness to save us, because of his mercy and love, shows his grace.
Understanding God’s blessing and his grace is part of Paul’s prayer for believers in Ephesus, and it is a reminder for us as well.
Going back to the big picture, we see that Paul describes our spiritual death and being made alive in the section where he explains God’s power (for some details/outline of the big picture, please see “We Once Were Dead, but Made Alive!“). In describing this power of resurrecting Christ and making us alive, he points out that it is God’s grace to take such action, and he lets out an expression of thanksgiving: “it is by grace you have been saved!”1
While “salvation by grace through faith” is an important subject that most Christians have at least heard of, it is worth noting that the explanation of it comes later (vv. 8 – 10). Its first appearance in verse 5 is an expression of appreciation and gratitude.2 It is a great reminder for us that while studying the Bible and doing theology is important, we are not to lose sight of the original sense in the text (including the emotion and feeling conveyed).
Paul is reminding the Ephesians about grace that God has bestowed upon them. Even in this short epistle alone, he mentions this grace quite a few times: God is to be praised for his grace of electing us (1:6); we are redeemed through the blood of Christ in accordance with the riches of God’s grace; we are saved by grace through faith (2:5, 8-10), and this shows the incomparable riches of his grace (2:7). In describing his own ministry, Paul said he was called to the administration of God’s grace (3:1), to become a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace (3:7), and to preach the gospels by the grace that was given to him (3:8).
We see there is description and teaching about God’s power and salvation, but it is not emotionless teaching and description. There is a deep appreciation of God’s grace. It is Paul’s hope and prayers that the Ephesians also understand and appreciate God’s grace from their hearts. In fact, the section that we are reading today is still under Paul’s prayer that our eyes may be opened and that with the help of the Holy Spirit we may know God even more.
So let us study the Bible even more, but at the same time, remember to thank God for the incomparable riches of his grace!
“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. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:1-10 TNIV)
- Literally, “you have been saved by grace.” ↩
- Grammatically it is described as a parenthetical statement. While ‘parenthetical’ might sound like it is less important, remember that the term only describes the grammar, that is, the statement “it is by grace you have been save” interrupts the flow of the original sentence grammatically. In conveying the meaning, it is certainly not less important at all. ↩