Memory Verse #17: Ephesians 2:10

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“For we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

This is the 17th memory verse that I will use as a guide/focal point to writing these articles. The Table of Contents is available in the series introductory article.

Immediate Literary Context

The whole chapter of Ephesians 2 provides the entire and immediate literary context of this memory verse. For our purposes, we will only reproduce the verses up to and including the memory verse. You may notice that the memory verse itself above does not contain the bible version – that is because after reviewing some 10 different versions of the single verse, not one of the available versions on BibleGateway match the exact wording! The version we are using here is the American Standard Version (ASV):

And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins,

2 wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience;

3 among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:

4 but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved),

6 and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus:

7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus:

8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

9 not of works, that no man should glory.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.

This second chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus focuses on the guilty condition of mankind contrasted with the saving grace of God. We can group verse 1 through 10 into three sections:

  1. Verses 1 – 3, focusing on the disgraced and fallen state of humanity. Our sinful nature has resulted in this state, where the price of sin is death.
  2. Verses 4 – 6, offer a contrasting nature on God and His grace. His mercy and kindness is offered to us through Christ; and
  3. Verses 7 – 10, provide the motivating force of our salvation, as a gift from God.

In totality, and the memory verse here emphasis the purpose of the Gospel/Good News found in the saving nature of Christ.

Verses 1 – 3: The Depths of our Sinful Nature

And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins,

2 wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience;

3 among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:

These three verses paint quite the picture of our sinful nature, our disobedience and desires of the flesh and all. It is interesting that the immediate preceding verses from Chapter 1 had just presented the opposite picture – the surpassing power of Christ (Ephesians 1:19) and the authority and power of Christ. Death is the ultimate result of our sinful nature. However, Paul examines some of the ways we contribute to our sin:

  • All of us are sinners because we are born that way. We were, “by nature, children of wrath.” We were sinners, subject to the wrath of God because of our sinful nature, which we obtained at birth.
  • We sin and are therefore sinners because we have followed the world in its course of sin and rebellion. Sinners love and seek companions, co-sinners, to share in the excitement and (unknowingly) in the penalty of sin (Proverbs 1:8-19).
  • Unbelievers sin because they are unwittingly subject to the influence of Satan. We see this in 1 Corinthians 12:1-2:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols, however you were led.

  • We are sinners because we follow the dictates of the flesh. Paul fully explains the role of the flesh in relation to sin in Romans 7:7-25 and Galatians 5:16-21. These are the natural, self-serving impulses and desires of fallen men. The flesh includes not only the sinful passions of the body, but also of the mind.

Verses 4 – 6: Being Alive in Christ is God’s Grace

4 but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved),

6 and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus:

Paul starts this section by focusing on the motivation of God, which prompted Him to provide a way of escape from our condition of sin and eternal death – a sign of His mercy and His love for us. This divine motivation is not about us, but instead promotes humility on our part, and deep gratitude toward God. The love from God is not a response, but the cause of His divine actions. His mercy is not prompted by our potential or by any qualities we think we possess, nor by our own pathetic condition, but instead because it is part of His nature. Divine grace was not granted to us because we could possible deserve it, or because God found anything good in our nature, but because of His own goodness – God is the source of ultimate goodness and morality. The goodness is in the giver, not the recipient.

God sent Jesus into our world, to suffer and to die in our place. He did this because we were in such terrible shape and so that He could demonstrate His grace and power in transforming us as “dead” people into a living sacrifice. Now we are a living testimony of this divine grace and power. God’s motivation in saving us should not flatter us, but instead humble us as well as give Him all the glory. God’s grace and His salvation does not come to us in a form of our choice. His grace has been lavishly poured out to us through Christ, in Him alone and upon that cross. Cue the bridge of This is Our God:

Freely You gave Your live for us

Surrendered Your life upon that cross

Great is Your love, poured out for all

This is our God!

It is through communion with Jesus that we become new transformed believers, no longer tied to the deadly wages of sin. Whilst our separation from God through sin made us what is described in Ephesians 2:1-3, our new identification with and in Christ, through faith, makes us all that Christ is, as described in Ephesians 1:19-23.

Verse 7 – 10: The Praise of God’s Glory & Purpose

7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus:

8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

9 not of works, that no man should glory.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.

The primary purpose of God for sending His Son to die in our place was not so that we could merely be happy in the knowledge that we are saved by grace, but rather to  demonstrate the grace of God for all eternity. God’s purposes are eternal; saving sinners is not just to make us happy, to provide blessings, or to enable our escape from the torments of hell. The reality check is that God’s Holiness is just as glorified and unchanged by the righteous punishment of the wicked sinner as He is the salvation of those whom He has made righteous and justified. No matter the punishment of the wicked or the salvation of sinners by grace, God has and continues to work out all things to His glory. The salvation of sinners is thus a secondary priority to His ultimate purpose of bringing glory to Himself. When sinners receive salvation, the grace of God is on display. When the wicked and unrepentant receive their judgment, it is the holiness and justice of God which is demonstrated. God’s Holy nature requires that we either receive God’s grace or judgement – not something else. The riches of God’s grace is displayed for all eternity because salvation is all His sole doing, and nothing we do can achieve that salvation. Grace is His undeserved divine favour. God will not share His glory with anyone, and thus the work of salvation is completely His work.

Verse 8 focuses on the cause of our salvation whilst verse 9 on the outcome. Irrespective of the cause or outcome, salvation and all grace belongs to our God. Cue the song Salvation Belongs to Our God:

Salvation belongs to our God
Who sits upon the throne
And unto the Lamb

 

Praise and glory
Wisdom and thanks
Honour and power and strength
Be to our God forever and ever
Be to our God forever and ever

Our key memory verse leads us to another reason why God will be glorified for all eternity for His grace toward men – that any good deeds which result from our salvation as also the result of God’s grace. As his workmanship, we are what we are because of His doing. Whilst we are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), we are also His creation to begin with. He created us in Jesus. Any good works which we might do as Christians are the works which He foreordained, which He planned and prepared in eternity past. Instead of taking credit for them, we should simply “walk in them.” Good works will not save us, and neither will they be the cause for our boasting, except as we boast in the Lord. Cue the song I Will Boast:

Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom
Or the strong man boast in his strength
Let not the rich man boast in his riches
But let the humble come and give thanks
To the One who made us,

To the One who saved us

 

I will boast in the Lord my God
I will boast in the One who’s worthy
I will boast in the Lord my God
I will boast in the One who’s worthy, He’s worthy

Wider Literary Context

Paul’s Letter to the church in Ephesus carries a clear theme summarised and focused on the church as the Body of Christ. Key messages are exhorted by Paul to preserve the unity of the Church community, keeping the church as the body and bride of Christ pure and holy. Whilst tradition sees Ephesians dated to AD 60, other schools of thought provide a date range of AD 80 – 100, because there is also part of that school of thought a view that this Epistle was written not by Paul, but by someone else using his name, but nonetheless heavily influenced by Paul’s teachings. If we work with the traditional dating to AD 60, it aligns closely to Paul’s letter to the church in Colosse. Philemon, as a leader of the same recipient church received his own letter (Philemon) which Paul co-wrote during this same period with Timothy.

The structure of the letter can be segmented into six distinctive areas:

  1. 1:1-2. Greetings
  2. 1:3 – 2:10. General account of the blessings, including:
    1. the source of these blessings
    2. the means by which they are attained
    3. the reason why they are given
    4. their final result
  3. 2:11–3:21. New spiritual position of Gentiles as a result of Christ’s encompassing gift of salvation
  4. 4:1–16. Unity in the midst of the diversity of gifts among believers
  5. 4:17–6:9. Instructions for ordinary life and different relationships
  6. 6:10–24. Spiritual warfare, the mission of Tychicus, and valedictory blessings

Just like the wider literary context of Romans, Ephesians forms a key pillar in the doctrinal teachings of Christianity today. The main theme of Ephesians was likely written in response to the newly converted Jews who often separated themselves from the Gentile believers. The unity of the church, especially between Jew and Gentile believers, is the keynote of the book. This is shown by the recurrence of such words and phrases as:

  • Together: made alive together; [Eph 2:5] raised up together, sitting together; [2:6] built together.[2:22]
  • One, indicating unity: one new person, [Eph 2:15] one body, [2:16] one Spirit,[2:18] one hope, [4:4] one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. [4:5–6]

This same theme is also heavily emphasised in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi (Philippians).

Application

This passage and memory verse from Ephesians highlights the glorious difference between what we once were – separated from Christ – and what we now are – restored and in communion with Christ. The good news/gospel is that we need not remain dead in our transgressions and sin, separated from God and destined for wrath. God has provided us with a single way of achieving salvation – through faith in Christ Jesus, the risen Son of God.

The Son of Man died for our sins, so that we would not suffer the wages of sin – a death penalty. Christ rose from the dead and was ascended to the right hand of the Father. In Jesus, we are promised of our future resurrection from the dead, and of our position with God in the heavens. The application and call to action here is to:

  1. Agree with God concerning our condition (Ephesians 2:1-3)
  2. Receive Jesus as God’s gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:4-6)
  3. In receiving Christ and acknowledging His Lordship, we are reborn again and our identity adopts the Christ-like nature – a new creation.

For believers, Ephesians 2:1-10 should serve us as a reminder of what we once were, and of what we now have in Christ. It should produce both humility and gratitude, causing us to love through our actions and good deeds. We should be secure in and at peace with the knowledge that even our good works are merely what God has accomplished in and through you, all for His glory.

Three worship songs are referenced above as containing highly applicable lyrics; use of those songs should enable a personal worship session whereby we can hold the passage of Ephesians 2:1-10 close at heart:

  1. This is Our God (bridge)
  2. Salvation Belongs to Our God
  3. I Will Boast

Combined, these songs also offer a thematic worship set. As a practical application, I offer this up as one way to conduct an extended worship session, where you read out the passage as a group. Having read through the entire ten-verse passage, you can then re-read it in sections, and as the relevant keyword/phrases come up, use them to transition into each song.

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