I have the privilege and responsibility of teaching a small Bible study every week at a local high school. This blog series will be the fuller versions of the lessons I give there. If you do happen to read, please pray for the students; high schoolers are in dire need of the gospel. This year, I want to teach through Ephesians 2. Lord-willing, by the end of the year, we will have worked our way through this wonderful chapter of the Word of God. Dwelling on its pounding, invigorating theme — the gospel — does us good.
We are comfortable with words like salvation, Savior, thanksgiving, good news, gospel. This is typical Christian-ese. But these words should cause us to ask questions, and seek their answers. We need to be saved, but saved from what? We need a Savior, but why? We are thankful, but for what? And thankful to whom? The good news is that Jesus Christ died, but how is a crucified Son of God good?
Some are satisfied to leave these questions answered only implicitly, to let their hearers infer the answers. But unlike them, Scripture is not silent on the for what's, nor the why's, nor the how's. Thus, we cannot afford to be silent either. We must know the depths of both the 'negative' things, and the 'positive' things.
So then, what do we need to be saved from? Sin! Why do we need a Savior? Because of the wrath of God against sin! Why are we thankful? Because of the grace of God! Why is a crucified Son of God good news? Because by it we are forgiven, justified, and saved!
We cannot afford to leave these things unspoken: without a full understanding of the hard, 'negative' things like sin, wrath, and the crucifixion, we will have no full appreciation of our salvation, our Savior, thanksgiving, or the gospel. Light shines brightest in comparison to darkness. The good news is good only against the backdrop of hopelessness.
Lord-willing, this semester we'll walk through Ephesians 2:1-10 — the gospel of grace. Remember this sentence, and remember it well! "We are more sinful that we could ever fathom, yet more loved than we could ever imagine."
Let's see that from the text. Ephesians 2.
Note that verses 1 to 3 describe mankind. Look at the words that Paul uses to describe us in our natural state: dead, walking according to the world, according to Satan, not just in sin but indulging in sin, and by nature children of wrath. He does not mince words. There is no side-stepping the matter. We are sinners, through and through. We are not just "small" sinners. Hear it well: we are more sinful than we could ever fathom.
But, note that it the chapter does not end there. But, God! Paul takes the rest of the chapter — really, the rest of the book — to explain the glorious things that God has done for the sake of His beloved people. Let's look at just verse 4 to 10. God is rich in mercy. He loved us! Oh, He loved us! With a great love! Even when we were dead in our sins, He loved us in Christ, saved us by His grace, and gave us everything — heaven, the surpassing riches of His grace, every blessing, beyond anything we could ever dream — in Christ.
How? By works of our own hand? Never. By the grace of Christ, and Christ alone. It is in response to this grace that we work and labor and strive for His glory, in love for Him because He loved us first. We are more loved than we could ever imagine. We are the beloved, the beloved of God.
Now then, that's the high level view of verses 1 to 10. Let's zoom in a bit and take a look at one word: grace. What does it mean? We must not assume that this religious word, so often tossed around in Christian circles, is understood rightly. This is the biblical definition of grace: unmerited favor and blessing, a good gift to the undeserving. It is expressed most often in God's love for His enemies, and most supremely in granting salvation to sinners through Christ.
Look at verse 5. It is "by grace you have been saved." Why does it have to be salvation by grace? Because no one deserves to be a Christian. No one has earned it. We are wretched, evil sinners before God. And yet He loved us still. Salvation is a gift, and God extends it freely to all who would come to Him. This the great love we must endeavor to know; but first, we must learn our sinfulness.
Next lesson: Ephesians 2:1 - Dead in Our Sin.