Monday, October 26, 2015

Ephesians 2:8-9

Although the believers in Ephesus had once been children of disobedience under the wrath of God, through Christ, they were now the children of God who would receive the “exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness.” That isn’t just avoiding what is bad, that is receiving the exact opposite of what is due. But how do we receive this? Paul’s argument so far has told us what has happened in us and to us, but we have not yet fully seen how it has happened in us and to us. So what is the how?
First, we must understand the how that Paul has already given: God…has blessed us (Eph. 1:3); He has chosen us (1:4); Having predestinated us (1:5); In whom we have redemption (1:7); He has abounded toward us wisdom and prudence (1:8); and made known unto us the mystery of His will (1:9); In whom we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purposes of him who worketh all things (1:11); he has quickened (2:1); he loved us (2:4); he quickened us together with Christ (2:5); and has raised us up and made us sit in heavenly places (2:6). The first part of the how that Paul explained was that God is at work, accomplishing in us his will. This is the point that Paul reiterates in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are you saved…and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
The second part that Paul wants us to understand is how that we are involved in our receiving God’s grace. Have you ever been to the grocer on a Saturday morning? Walking through the store, you will find strategically placed little tables that are manned by apron-wearing “cooks” of some product being marketed by the age-old, taste-bud-stimulating strategy of “free samples.” This ploy allows the smells to waft through the aisles, while the packaging and display glisten with images of delicious promise. Upon arriving at the “free sample” table, you realize that the small portion on the toothpick will never satisfy your appetite, but you accept the free gift all the same. There available to all patrons are the tasty nuggets of temporary gratification. There are ways that this analogy completely implodes, but the principle is similar. There is a table with delicious rewards for those who come seeking those rewards. Similarly, seeing the riches offered through God’s grace, only a fool would walk the other direction.
For the person that sees the wonderful truth that God extends his saving grace and all the riches that it entails, there is a hope to receive this grace. With far more satisfaction than the morsel on a toothpick can offer, God’s grace comes to those who freely accept it. The words that Paul uses are plentiful: who first trusted (1:12); In whom ye also trusted (1:13); after that ye believed (1:13); us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power (1:19). Now, in Ephesians 2:8, Paul tells the second part of the how, “ye are saved through faith.” In order to receive the free gift of God’s grace, we must come in faith. This is a measure of responsibility that we must accept ourselves.
So then does faith save us? There are two terms that you would do well to learn: instrumental cause and formal cause. Understanding the truth of God’s grace, we must see that we are not ultimately saved by anything in us…that includes our faith. In this sense faith is not meritorious. This means that just like works don’t earn us God’s favor, neither does our faith. In this sense, we are saved “by faith,” as an instrumental cause (it is the instrument through which God in His wisdom has chosen to extend his grace, but not the cause of His grace). So what is the formal cause for God extending his grace to those who believe? Jesus Christ. Our faith is not what saves us, it is the meritorious work of Jesus. In a sense, our salvation is by works, the works of Jesus. His sacrifice is the cause for our salvation, and we must come to Him in faith to receive that gift.

Reflect: What are the two parts that Paul gives regarding the how of our salvation? Use scripture to make your point.