The Church: God’s Workmanship

October 22, 2005

Read: Eph. 2:1-10

Comments on Eph 2:1-10: In this passage there is a powerful contrast between the kind of life lived before and after their salvation in Christ. Paul starts off by referring to them as “you” plural (2:1), but then reverts to an inclusive “we” (2:3). The opening phraseology “trespasses and sins, in which you once walked” (2:1) finds is opposite at the end of the passage in “good works… that we should walk in them” (2:10). Also there is the contrast between “we were by nature children of wrath” (1:3) and “we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (2:10).

The pivot is God’s mercy and love (2:4) that issued in the gift of grace and salvation by faith (2:5-8). The confidence and assurance that the Christian may have in God’s work of grace is strikingly expressed and emphasized in 2:6 by the curious expression that we have not only been raised with Christ, but that we have also been seated with him “in heavenly places ” (past tenses!). Besides being used here, this curious phrase “in heavenly places” is applied variously to God’s blessing us in Christ by the plan he had before the foundation of the world (1:3) and the plan’s actualization in Christ’s death and resurrection (1:20). In this way, this presentation of the marvelous work of transformation in our lives is connected back with the introductory paragraphs where we are blessed by redemption in Christ and raised by God’s power with Christ.

Questions to think about: In what sense were we “dead” in trespasses and sins (2:1, 5)? What sort of death was that?
Another way this is expressed is that of being “children of wrath” (2:3). “Wrath” in what sense? Children characterized by wrath, children intended or destined for wrath?

Additional expressions of the former condition are “lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind” (2:3, RSV). Mind in the Greek is plural and may be rendered as “thoughts” or “senses.” The former part most likely refers to sexual passions. What does the expression “desires of body and mind” add? Cannot these also be good?

The expression “ruler of the power of the air” obviously refers to Satan (2:2). Furthermore, apart from the previous references to the heavenly place of God’s dwelling, the expression “in heavenly places” is also curiously used to refer to the location of principalities and powers (3:10) and the spiritual forces of evil (6:12). This creates a bit of a puzzle since the location of the fallen angels is presented in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 variously as in “hell” (tartaroo), “chains of darkness,” “deepest darkness,” and “eternal chains of deepest darkness.” What does this say about the N.T. authors and cosmology? Should one try to harmonize these statements? What impact do such cosmological differences have on theological truth?

What is the difference between the “good works” that some can boast of but do not provide salvation (2:9) and the good works, “which God prepared beforehand” (2:10)? In what sense does God provide good works ahead of time for us to do at a later time?

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