Saved by Grace through Faith (2): It is God’s Work!


DesertTree2Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10

We have mentioned that Ephesians 2:1-10 is one long sentence, and although we have look at some details of this sentence, it is time now to look at the overall sentence structure.

I understand that some people are a little resistant to this kind of study. To them this kind of reading seems unnecessarily academic but has no life. To that thinking, I would like to explain that all we are trying to do here is simply to read a sentence as a sentence. That is all. It is not really a complicated or highly intellectual matter.1

Imagine listening to a sermon. If for some reason (it could be simply because of a bad sound system), you could not understand the sentences that the speaker speaks. You could not tell when he started or ended sentences but could only hear a few nice words or phrases here and there, do you think you would understand what he was trying to say? Although you might say that in that situation God could still speak to you through broken sentences and phrases, it would be hard to believe that you could actually get the intended message from the speaker.

It is the same with the Bible. We need to understand the overall idea that a speaker is speaking about, and we need to understand each sentence as a sentence in order to get the intended message.

With that, let us look at the sentence in vv. 1-10. Basically the structure of the sentence is as shown below:

 You, being dead in your transgressions and sins… (description of former life in vv. 2-3, but the sentence does not complete)…2

God made us, being dead in transgressions,

(made us) alive with Christ (vv. 4-5)3

and raised us up with Christ (v. 6a)

and seated us with him in the heavenly realms (v. 6b)

in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace (v. 7)

Since we had been dead, we could not have made ourselves alive. The only way we could be made alive was by through the power and grace of God. Thus Paul interjected the expression of amazement and thanksgiving, “it is by grace you have been saved.” (2:5) And a little later he came back and explain this topic of salvation.

So structurally this is what we have in vv. 1-10:

 (You, being dead in your transgressions and sins…. vv. 2-3); grammatically this is not a complete sentence but a participle describing the “you.”

God made us, being dead in transgressions,

(made us) alive with Christ – it is by grace you have been saved! (vv. 4-5)

and raised up with Christ (v. 6a)

and seated us with him in the heavenly realms (v. 6b)

in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace (Eph 2:7)

Further explanation of “it is by grace you have been saved.” (vv. 8-10)

The reason the sentence is so long is because within this main sentence, explanations are added as needed. When Paul talks about spiritual death, he further explains how people used to live. And after he mentions that salvation is by grace, he further explains the concept in vv. 8-10. All these together form this long sentence, that is, Ephesians 2:1-10.

Again, since verses 3-4 is not a complete sentence but an explanation of our spiritual condition before we came to Christ, the main statement is about God’s act in making us alive, raising us with Christ, and seating us in the heavenly realms.

Seeing this main statement helps us to clearly see how this act is related to:

  • previous section on the power of God in resurrecting Christ
  • God’s grace as Paul explains salvation by faith
  • the explanation of salvation by grace through faith

But the main statement itself is quite clear: it is all God’s work.

So let us all rejoice and praise God for his power and grace for us!

“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)

  1. Admittedly this has to be done in Greek, but this is simply because the New Testament was written in Greek. If it were written in French, we would have to do the analysis in French. That is common sense, and we don’t need to add any mysterious or even mystical feeling to the original language either. Biblical Greek is called Koine (meaning “common”) Greek because it was a common language used by common people.
  2. This seems like the start of a sentence, but there is no end of it. Another sentence started and described that God made “us” alive. The “you” started in v. 1 became “we” as Paul included himself in the following statement. We can see that the “you” and “we” belong to the same group by the common description “being dead in transgression.” While the incomplete sentence and switching of subject to become object might not sound unnatural in conversation and is allowed in Greek, it is awkward in written English as the partial sentence started with “you” was never completed. That is the reason why English translation changed the participle “being” to the simple indicative verb “were” (thus “you were dead”). This is acceptable in translation, but it blurs the focus of the sentence, which describes mainly God’s work in making us alive, raising us up, and seated us in the heavenly realsm.
  3. Some commentators called the partial sentence from vv. 1-3 an accusative absolute since “you” (ὑμᾶς) is in accusative form, but accusative absolute would typically stand alone as in titles. This one does not really stand alone, and the thought continues to vv. 4-5. Grammatically this construction is closer to accusative pendens although it does not follow the rule of accusative pendens exactly either.


Saved by Grace through Faith (2): It is God’s Work! — 2 Comments

  1. Let me share here what I think and how I have convinced myself as a lay person that I should make my efforts to study God’s Word and understand God’s Word.

    First and foremost, our God who has created the universe and everything in it, and also created you and me, has chosen to reveal Himself specifically to us in writing besides general revelation. I cannot just make excuse not to study His Word if someone graciously helps me to understand His Word better.

    Second, Jesus has died for me – save and rescue me from death and make me alive. IF I am not willing to learn and know what He wants me to know about Him by studying His Word, what reasons I have before Him?

    Third, God has given human beings, you and me, everyone, intellectual capacities, and He expects me to exercise those abilities in quest for truth and know Him more and more. Just like I had to make a lot of efforts and years study in my elementary school, high school, and college for learning various subjects while exercising my abilities given by God, I should at least make the same level or even more efforts in studying His Word.

    Forth, I believe that proper learning and understanding God’s Word will lead to proper living in Him.

    Fifth, by reading David’s posts in this blog, I have seen that the author has been making a great effort and spending much time in educating me and you and sharing his study and knowledge with us freely. I don’t see a reason that I can take this learning journey for Ephesians lightly and miss this learning opportunity.

    Having said all above, I am telling myself right now that I need to make more effort not less in the pursuit of truth.

    • Thank you for your sharing!

      Let us continue to encourage others in Bible reading. The Bible is indeed a special means that God chose to reveal himself to us.

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