Romans 12, 1 to 8 and Ephesians 2, 1 to 10, Does God Give Us Saving Faith? Part 3
by Karl Kemp
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Here in Part 3 of this 3 Part article we will discuss Eph. 2:1-10 in a verse-by-verse manner. One goal for this study is to show that the apostle Paul was not saying that God gives us saving faith in Eph. 2:8.
NOW WE'LL START A VERSE-BY-VERSE DISCUSSION OF EPHESIANS 2:1-10:
This significant passage deals with the glorious transformation from a state of spiritual death and bondage to sin and Satan and his kingdom of darkness to spiritual life in union with the Lord Jesus Christ in His kingdom of light, walking in God's truth, righteousness, and holiness. This glorious transformation, in its entirety, is all of grace; it is totally unearned/unmerited. It is received by faith (as we repent and submit to God, His Son, and His gospel), based on God's salvation plan, which is spelled out in the gospel. In this study, we are especially interested in verse 8 because of its use of the word "faith." (Ephesians chapters 1 and 4 are discussed in a paper on my internet site: karlkempteachingministries.com. Ephesians 3:14-21 and 6:10-20 are discussed on pages 53-56 of my "A Paper on Faith.")
"And you [The apostle Paul was addressing the Gentile Christians here, as he was in 1:13 and 2:11-13, 19, for example.] were dead [spiritually dead] in your trespasses and sins [[(This double bracket continues for two paragraphs.) Spiritual death (and the attendant bondage to sin problem) came as a penalty for sin, Adam's sin (cf. Gen. 2:17; Genesis chapter 3; and Rom. 5:12-21). All mankind (apart from born-again Christians) is in spiritual death because of Adam's sin, but the death (the separation from God) is intensified by the sins of our forefathers and our own sins. The old-covenant, which was established on the Mosaic Law, was from God; and it was good; but it was not designed to overthrow spiritual death and solve the bondage to sin problem (cf., e.g., Rom. 7:5, 6; Gal. 3:13, 14, 21, 22; 4:5). I'll quote GALATIANS 3:21: "Is the Law [the Mosaic Law, on which the old covenant was founded] then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! [They both came from God, so they were not "contrary" to one another, but the old covenant was temporary. It was not designed to overthrow spiritual death and solve the bondage to sin problem, but the Old Testament prophesied that God was going to solve the spiritual death/bondage to sin problem through the new covenant, in which, for one thing, He would pour forth His Spirit of life and righteousness and give His people life and make them righteous (cf., e.g., Isa. 32:15-18; 45:8; 53:11; 56:1; 60:21; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:25-27; John 3:5; 6:63; 7:37-39; 4:10; and Rom. 8:1-14.).] For if a law had been given which was able to impart life [The old covenant, which was founded on the Mosaic Law, was not able to impart spiritual life. Spiritual life could not be imparted until the Lamb of God had born our sin back to Adam with the guilt and the penalties (including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin; cf., e.g., Rom. 8:1-4 and Romans chapter 6).], then righteousness would indeed have been based on law." This verse, along with a large number of verses in the New Testament, shows that we cannot be righteous in the full new-covenant sense until we have been redeemed out of the kingdom of spiritual death and bondage to sin.
Spiritual death speaks of separation from God and His life (all of the offspring of Adam were all born outside of the garden of Eden), but God has not fully separated Himself from mankind and abandoned them to the fullness of spiritual death. The time will come, however, when spiritual death will be full and complete (cf., e.g., Rev. 20:6, 11-15; 21:8). Born-again Christians have life by the indwelling Spirit of life, but the fullness of spiritual/eternal life is reserved for the future (cf., e.g., Rom. 6:22, 23; Titus 3:7; Rev. 7:17; 21:6; and 22:1, 2, 14).]], (2) in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world [The devil is the god of this world (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; and 1 John 5:19)], according to the prince of the power [or, authority; kingdom (NIV); domain (BAGD Greek Lexicon)] of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. [[The devil is the "prince of the power [or, authority, kingdom, domain] of the air" and "the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." One of the primary reasons we need to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ is so that we can walk in/by/after the Holy Spirit in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God, instead of being in bondage to sin and under the influence of the evil one and his multitudinous horde of demons.]] (3) Among them we too all [That is, "we" who are now Christians, whether we came from Jewish or Gentile backgrounds.] formerly lived [to one degree or another] in the lusts of our flesh [[The word "flesh" refers to the old man here, as it often does in the New Testament; it is not at all limited to the physical body; the NIV translates "sinful nature." I discussed this use of the word "flesh" when I discussed Gal. 5:16-25 in my book "Holiness and Victory Over Sin," for one place. It is also discussed in my recently published e-book, "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin." (Both books are available at amazon.com.)]], indulging the desires of the flesh [[The "desire[s] of the flesh [old man]" is to do the works of the flesh, which equals all sin. See Gal. 5:19-21 on the works of the flesh.]] and of the mind [[If we think wrong, we will live wrong (cf. Col. 1:21). We need to have our minds (the way we think; especially the way we think in our hearts) renewed by the Word of God and the Spirit of God (cf., e.g., Rom. 12:1, 2; 8:5-9; and Eph. 4:23 with the translation "and that you be renewed BY THE SPIRIT in your mind (or, in your way of thinking)." Having a renewed mind in Eph. 4:23 goes with putting off the old man once for all and completely (being dead to sin) of Eph. 4:22; and putting on the new man once for all and completely (walking in the truth, righteousness, and holiness of God) of Eph. 4:24. (Ephesians chapter 4 is discussed in a paper on my internet site.) Even if we are living in an state of righteousness and holiness (which we are called to do, and enabled to do by the saving, sanctifying grace of God in Christ), we still need to keep growing in the things of God (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 3:18).]], and were [before we became Christians] by nature [by nature, after the rebellion and fall of Adam (e.g., Rom. 5:12-21), not by creation (e.g. Gen. 1:26-28, 31)] children of wrath, even as the rest. [[All mankind was under sin (e.g. Rom. 3:9), which included being in bondage to sin (cf., e.g., Rom. 5:21; 6:6, 17, 20). Being saved from the guilt of sin is an important part of our salvation, but being saved from the pitiful condition described in these three verses is even more important. ((Both of these aspects of our salvation come to us through the all-important atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, who bore our sins with the guilt (so we could be forgiven) and with the penalties, very much including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin (so we could be born again and walk in the righteousness and holiness of God through the indwelling Spirit of God.)) Whereas we were "SONS OF DISOBEDIENCE" (Eph. 2:2), being characterized by disobedience; now we are enabled (and required) to be SONS OF OBEDIENCE.
Formerly Satan (with his demonic hosts) was the spirit working in us; now it is the very Spirit of God, the Righteous, Holy Spirit. And formerly, when we were living in sin, we were "children of wrath." That is, we were headed for the wrath of God, which is destined to ultimately confront all who persist in rebellion against Him (cf., e.g., Eph. 5:5-7; Col. 3:6). It is also true that the wrath of God is manifested in a limited, preliminary sense during this present age (cf., e.g., Rom. 1:18-31). But now we are headed for eternal blessings and glory.]] (4) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us [cf. Eph. 1:3-14], (5) even when we were dead [spiritually dead] in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ [[This partaking of the life of God in union with Christ, which starts with the new birth, is a big part of what new-covenant salvation is all about. And it must be understood that this life, which flows from the indwelling Spirit of God (e.g. John 7:37-39; Rom. 8:9), includes the enablement to live in the righteousness and holiness of God (e.g. Rom. 8:1-14; Gal. 5:16). We are literally united with the Lord Jesus Christ (by the Spirit of God) from the time we appropriate His atoning death by faith. He died in our place, bearing our sins (back to Adam) with the guilt and the penalties, very much including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin. Then, having become united with Him in His death, we are also united with Him in His resurrection and ascension. We have already been resurrected in a preliminary, spiritual sense, and in the near future we will be resurrected in the full and final sense and glorified.]] (by grace [not earned/merited by works of the flesh, or anything else; see verses 8, 9] you have been saved [We are saved 100 percent by the saving grace of God in Christ, through faith, in accordance with God's plan of salvation (cf. Ephesians chapter 1; as I mentioned, that chapter is discussed in a paper on my internet site. The apostle repeats these words in verse 8 and expands on the meaning in verses 8-10.]), (6) and raised us up with Him [[We (believers) are united with Christ in His death (we die to the old man; we crucify the flesh with its passions and desires [Gal. 5:24; cf. Rom. 6:6]), in His burial, resurrection, and ascension (cf. Rom. 6:1-11; Col. 2:12, 13). We have been resurrected spiritually; when Christ returns we will be resurrected into the fullness of eternal life and glory of God, including our bodies, and we will begin to reign with Christ.]], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus [[Compare Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 3:1-4; Phil. 3:20. Those united with Christ and "SEATED WITH HIM IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES" ARE NO LONGER UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF SPIRITUAL DEATH, SIN, OR SATAN that was spoken of in 2:1-3. See Eph. 1:19-23. We have been saved (and we are now experiencing salvation) by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. This does not mean that we cannot still sin, and it certainly does not mean that there is no more spiritual warfare (cf., e.g., Eph. 6:10-20), but we need not, and should not, be defeated. I'll quote Eph. 1:3, 4 (NKJV): "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (4) just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world [cf., e.g., Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:28-30; Eph. 1:5, 11; Rev. 13:8; 17:8], THAT WE SHOULD BE HOLY AND WITHOUT BLAME BEFORE HIM IN LOVE [my emphasis]."
It is very obvious that we are not seated with Christ in the heavenly places in the full and final sense that will take place after we are glorified and begin to reign with Christ at the end of this age. But through our being united with Christ we have the authority to walk with the victory over all sin and to accomplish all of the things God calls us to do in our daily lives and ministries. Satan and the demons, even though they are actively against us, don't have the authority to stop us from walking in the center of God's will.]], (7) so that in the ages to come [[Paul mentioned "this age" and "the [age] to come" in Eph. 1:21. The "ages to come" will begin at the end of this age, when the Lord Jesus returns to glorify us and rapture us from the earth and to judge the world (cf. Eph. 1:21; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Col. 3:3, 4). We will begin to reign when we are glorified (in the middle of Daniel's 70th week).]] He might show [or, demonstrate] the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [[(This double bracket goes on for three paragraphs.) As we have been discussing, great blessings have been given to us for this present age, but most of the glory that we inherit through salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ is reserved for the future. When the Lord Jesus returns and we are glorified, WE WILL BE RAISED UP WITH HIM [CHRIST JESUS], AND SEATED WITH HIM IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES (see Eph. 2:6) IN THE FULL AND FINAL SENSE, REIGNING WITH GOD THE FATHER AND HIS SON IN A REIGN THAT WILL NEVER END (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 4:8; 6:2, 3; 2 Tim. 2:12; 2 :26, 27; Rev. 3:21; 5:10; 20:6; 22:3-5 [Rev. 22:5 (in the last chapter of the Bible) ends with the words, "they will reign forever and ever."]). It will be quite different "in the ages to come" than what we have now when we will have been glorified and begun to reign.
This present age involves some trials and sufferings, including spiritual warfare and persecution. See Rom. 8:17, 18, for example. I'll quote those verses: "and if children, heirs also, heirs of God, and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. [It is clear that most of the glory is reserved for the future, the near future I believe (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Col. 1:5, 27; 3:4; 1 Pet. 5:1). (18) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
Most non-Christians are not impressed with what we Christians have now; they think we are deluded and have made a big mistake to devote our lives to God, His Son, and the gospel. Some in our day even think we are the ones causing most of the problems on the earth. After we have been glorified and begun to reign "in the ages to come" "THE SURPASSING RICHES OF HIS GRACE IN KINDNESS TOWARD US IN CHRIST JESUS" will have been fully manifested to everyone TO THE GLORY OF GOD.]] (8) For by grace [[It is very important for us to understand that our salvation, from beginning to end, is all of grace. It is totally unearned/unmerited, and therefore God must receive all the glory for our salvation.]] you have been saved [[As verses 1-7 show, this salvation includes being saved from the state of spiritual death and bondage to sin and Satan and his kingdom of darkness, and the transformation to the state of spiritual life and righteousness and holiness in union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Without minimizing the awesome significance of our present salvation, we can also say that most of the glory of our eternal salvation is reserved for "the ages to come."]] through faith [[FAITH (along with the closely related word believing) is the key word used in the New Testament to describe our part in the outworking of God's salvation plan. (Repentance is another key word.) We don't earn God's saving grace through faith, but we submit to, receive, and cooperate with His saving grace in Christ through faith.]]; and that [[I prefer the more literal translation "this" (instead of "that"), as translated by the NIV and the Amplified Bible. It is important to see that the word "this" refers back to the words "you have been saved" used earlier in the verse. This is the viewpoint of the marginal note of the NASB, of the translation in the Amplified Bible (("For it is by free grace (God's unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ's salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves - of your own doing, it came not through your own striving - but it is the gift of God." The Amplified Bible supplied the words "your" and "salvation" in brackets.)), and of many of the commentaries on Ephesians that I have looked at.
The fact that Paul chose to use a word in the neuter gender for "this" (in the Greek), when the masculine, feminine, and neuter genders were available, helps confirm that he did not intend for the word "this" to refer back to the word for faith. The word for faith is of feminine gender in Greek, and if Paul had intended for the word "this" to refer back to the word translated faith, he would typically have chosen the feminine gender for the word translated "this." I should mention, however, that the gender of "this" is only a small part of the reason why I believe the word "this" does not refer back to the word faith. See the discussion that follows, including the comments at the end of this discussion of Eph. 2:1-10. It is quite significant that the words faith and believe (as these words are typically used in the New Testament) are used of something we do in response to God's saving grace, not something God gives us, as I demonstrate throughout my, "A Paper on Faith."]] not of yourselves [The idea is that the salvation does not come from (out of the source of) man; it comes, in its entirety, from (out of the source of) God (as a gift).], it is the gift of God [The Greek would more literally be translated "from (out of the source of) God is the gift."]; (9) not as a result of works [[The Greek here is exactly the same as the Greek behind "not of (from/out of the source of) yourselves," but here the word for "works" replaces the word for "yourselves." We do not (cannot) earn salvation by our works. Rather, as the apostle just stated, salvation comes from (out of the source of) God as a gift. By definition, anything that is earned by works (or earned/merited any other way) does not come as a gift/by grace. I'll quote what the apostle Paul said in Rom. 11:5, "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." Compare Rom. 4:2, 4; 2 Tim. 1:9; and Titus 3:5.]], so that no one may boast [cf. Rom. 3:27]. [[To the extent that we earned salvation by our works (or any other way [cf. 1 Cor. 1:29-31; 4:7), we could boast in ourselves instead of God. But since we are saved totally by the grace of God, He must receive all the glory forever. Pride is at the root of sin, and God has removed any legitimate basis for us to boast in ourselves; we are saved by grace through faith, a humble faith.]] (10) For we are His workmanship [[Usually whenever I consider these words, I have the same thought: As God's workmanship, we certainly ought to live in a way that glorifies Him, in righteousness, holiness, humility, and truth. But to the extent we are living in the flesh (in the old man), we certainly are not manifesting God's workmanship, and He is being robbed of glory. These words in 2:10, like 2:1-7, emphasize the fact that a big part of what salvation is all about is the transformation to righteous and holy living. We are called to walk by the Spirit of God on a continuous basis by faith, in accordance with the covenant God has made with us (cf., e.g., Gal. 5:16).]], created in Christ Jesus [[We are NEW CREATIONS (cf. Eph. 2:15; 4:24; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15) through what God has done for us in the incarnation, sinless life, atoning death, resurrection, and the exaltation of Christ Jesus, who, for one thing, poured out the promised new-covenant gift of the Holy Spirit, starting on the Day of Pentecost. But then, we really are not new creations to the extent the old man is still manifesting itself in fleshiness, worldliness, and sin/to the extent that we are not walking by the Spirit of God on a continuous basis, in accordance with the Word of God, by grace through faith. We still have the all-to-real potential to walk in the flesh and do the sinful works of the flesh. We are engaged in intense warfare against the world, the flesh (the old man who wants to continue to sin), and the devil and his hosts, and it isn't always fun or easy, but God's grace is greater than our enemies and WE MUST AIM AT THE TARGET OF VICTORY OVER ALL SIN.]] for good works [[As new creations we are to live in the will of God, doing the "good [and righteous] works" that He requires of us, not sinful works. As Paul stated in Eph. 2:9, we have not been saved "as a result of works"; however, it is also true that Christians are required to do good works (that is, we are required to live right, doing works of righteousness). These good works are not the works of man in the flesh but the works of God, since we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, and since they are produced by the indwelling Spirit of God (by the grace of God through faith). The following words of 2:10 also show that our good works are truly part of God's new creation. The New Testament makes it equally clear that God's will won't be accomplished in our lives to the extent that we don't do our part. Our part is pretty well covered by the word faith (repentance and faith).]], which God prepared beforehand, so that we would walk in them. [[Compare Eph. 1:4 (NKJV): "just as He chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without blame before Him in love." This walk is not automatic for Christians. It is not optional either; it is required.]]
A few more comments on the interpretation of Eph. 2:8, 9. I believe the following understanding of these verses is clearly wrong: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this [faith] is not of yourselves, from God is the gift [of faith]; [faith is] not as a result of works, that no one should boast." The apostle is speaking about the source of salvation (salvation is the primary topic of 2:1-10), not the source of faith. It isn't necessary (or reasonable) to say that faith is not a result of works, but it is important to say that salvation is not of works. We receive salvation by faith, in response to God's grace.
May the will of God be fully accomplished through this paper and His people be edified!
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