By Henry Law, 1884
Ephesians 2:1—10. Dead in Sin—Alive in Christ
"And you has He quickened,
who were dead in trespasses and sins."
This verse presents a striking contrast. It exhibits our natural condition, and tells us into what state we are brought by the gracious power of God. (1.) We were dead in trespasses and sins. (2.) We have been brought from death unto life by the quickening Spirit. Heavenly Father, shine now into our hearts, and give us to feel what wondrous mercy has been extended towards us!
(1.) We were dead in trespasses and sins. Let us never forget, that in Adam we lost all spiritual life. Satan seized upon his soul, and inflicted a mortal wound. He was created with the light of heaven in his heart, but sin gained entrance, and utterly extinguished every spark. He became corrupt and depraved in every faculty, perception, and power. It is indisputable that Adam could not impart to his descendants that which he no longer possessed. A holy being cannot spring from an unholy; neither a clean from an unclean. Darkness cannot produce light; the grape cannot bud forth from the brier. Thus no descendant of fallen Adam could bring a living soul into this world. All who are naturally born of him must be born dead as to God.
How humbling is this thought! What can be more pitiable than to see natural men swelling with haughty pride, and vaunting as if endued with great and noble faculties! Alas! what are they? Fleshy sepulchers of expired souls. There is no life within, and the moving clay must soon crumble into dust. Yet such men will oppose God, and dispute against His truth, and openly revile His new-born children. Such, however, were we; but we are quickened. Blessing and glory be unto Him, who in the multitude of His tender mercies, has wrought a change!
But we were not only dead by nature, we were dead also in practice. The life within us, not being the life of God, was the life of the Evil One. Therefore, every movement of the inner man, being utterly apart from God, was only animate towards Satan. Whatever we did, having no reference to God, was sin. All our deeds, from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, were evil. Every thought was sin—and, therefore, every word and every work was sin, and that continually. Death to God is life to sin. Every step which we took was in sin towards hell. Every moment which passed over our heads witnessed an aggravation and accumulation of iniquity, and brought us nearer to endless perdition. The dreadful description of the prophet exactly belonged to us. "Ah! sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupters; they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger, they are gone away backward. From the sole of the foot even unto the head, there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores." Is this our present state? Thanks be unto God! we now live unto Him. "While we were in our blood, He said unto us, live; yes, while we were in our blood, He said unto us, live."
(2.) This brings us to our second truth—We have been brought from death unto life by the quickening Spirit. When we had no power to look towards God, or cry unto Him—when we had no inclination or desire to seek His face—He drew near unto us, and raised us from the grave of our iniquities. He caused the dry bones to live. Can we doubt who is the first mover in the work of regeneration? It is our God, in the plenitude of His love. Shall we enquire what motive constrained Him? It could be nothing in us, for we were dead in trespasses and sins—all that we did and had was vileness and abomination in His sight. Nothing moved Him but the love which is His essence. He quickened us because He loved us—He loved us because He would love us. Let us adore this love, which brought life and light into our souls; and let us love Him, who first so loved us. If He so loved us, while our whole nature was enmity to Him, will He cease to love us, now that He has made us partakers of the divine nature, and has given us new powers to know, worship, and serve Him? It cannot be. He has loved us with an everlasting love, and never will He cast us off.
We may now plead with Him, that we are His workmanship, the temples of the Holy Spirit; and we may beseech Him for His glory's sake, to forsake not the work of His own hands—and we may rejoice in the assurance, that He who has begun this good work, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Let the new-born exclaim, Have we received this life from heaven? Oh! then, let us live as redeemed from the death in trespasses and sins, and as quickened unto the life of God. It is true not of the Jews only, but of all God's children, "This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise." Remember what Spirit dwells within you—cease altogether from the world and the flesh—walk in the Spirit—be not carnally-minded, which is death, but be spiritually-minded, which is life and peace. "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."
Ephesians 2:2."Wherein in time past you walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience."
Dark and dreadful is the picture which this verse presents. It withdraws the veil, and shows us more distinctly our miserable and lost condition by nature. We have just been told that we were "dead in trespasses and sins." It is now added, "wherein in time past you walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience." Let us consider these fearful declarations in the following order. While we walked according to the course of this world, (1.) We walked in sins. (2.) We walked according to the Devil, who is called the prince of the power of the air. (3.) Let us ponder the truth, that the Devil is the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience. While we advance, may our hearts overflow with gratitude at the thought that the quickening Spirit of God has delivered us from this horrible pit, from this mire and clay, and has set our feet upon a Rock, even our Savior Jesus Christ.
(1.) While we walked according to the course of this world, we walked in sins. There are two kingdoms in direct opposition—the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of Christ. We were all born subjects of the former; God's own children are translated in His good time by the power of the Spirit into the latter. The former is all darkness, ignorance, and sin. God is utterly unknown in it—all its laws, and rules, and maxims, and desires have reference to the things of time and sense. The thought of eternity and the invisible world seldom enters, and if it presents itself it is instantly expelled as an unwelcome guest. The prevailing notion in it is the indulgence and aggrandizement of self.
While we walk in this world, we do nothing but sin. What is sin, but a violation of the righteous law of God? This law requires, that God should be the object of our supreme love, and should occupy every thought; that self should be completely cast out and annihilated; and that God should reign without a rival in every movement of the soul. But oh! how different from this is the course of this world! Here every step is without God; yes, rather, is against God. How little do the men of this world consider their true condition! They are employed from morning until night in the one work of rebellion against God, their Creator and Preserver; from whose bounty they receive their every faculty and enjoyment. Their seeming approaches to God in outward worship are only fearful mockeries; for they utter what they do not believe; they profess what they do not feel; they promise what they never purpose to perform. Thus they treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Hence it appears, that while we live according to the course of this world, we walk only in sin. But believers "are not of the world, even as Jesus is not of the world." Blessed be God, who through His Son Jesus Christ has delivered us from this present evil world!
(2.) While we walked according to the course of this world, we walked according to the Devil, who is "the prince of the power of the air." The world has its king. The Devil is called "the ruler of the darkness of this world." Again—he is "the God of this world, who blinds the minds of those who believe not." Again—Jesus says, "Now is the judgment of this world—now shall the prince of this world be cast out." Hence we learn distinctly that the men of the world are under his vile yoke; that he rules them with his iron scepter; that his chains enthral them; that they receive their laws and commands from his mouth. What, then, is their boasted liberty? It is abject slavery. They cannot do what they please—as the horse obeys the bridle of the rider—as the ship is moved by the will of the pilot—so these men move here and there as Satan guides them. "The lusts of their Father they will do." What state can be more pitiable, what drudgery more vile! In these chains we too worked in former days; in these chains we would be working at this time, if the Lord had not looked in compassion on us. We knew not our misery, we hugged our fetters, we had no wish to escape from our captivity, when Jesus came and set us free. Shall we allow the prince of the power of the air to regain his sway over us? The Lord forbid. In His name, through His blood, let us resist, and we shall tread down this enemy under our feet shortly.
(3.) The verse tells us, that this evil spirit still "works in the children of disobedience." He is a spirit, and therefore can enter into the secret chambers of the heart, and erect his throne, and give his laws in the recesses of the soul. Here he sits, directing the thoughts, and prompting the inclinations, and fanning the embers of corruption into a flame. Hence in all the desires, and plans, and schemes, and words, and works of the children of the world, Satan is the author and originator. O blessed Jesus! restrain this adversary! Trample him beneath Your feet! Cast him utterly out of us! Drive him into outer darkness!
Ephesians 2:3."Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
Our original state is again represented. Dark and hateful as the picture is, the contemplation is most profitable. It silences all boastings; it utterly strips us of all self-righteousness; it excites self-loathing and self-abhorrence; it loudly proclaims the sentence of just condemnation in our ears; above all, it exalts the glory of God in His free grace and unspeakable mercy in Christ Jesus. May these blessed effects be wrought by the Spirit in our souls, while we fix our eyes on the portrait before us! It exhibits to us "our former conversation:" we "fulfilled the desires of the flesh and of the mind." (1.) Let us consider this truth; (2.) Let us proceed to the fearful consequence, we "were the children of wrath, even as others." Heavenly Father, enlighten our darkness!
(1.) We fulfilled the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Before the Spirit of God enters the soul, the whole nature is carnal and corrupt. The mind, in its various operations, only lusts after evil; the flesh is one mass of depravity, greedy after low and base gratifications. The mind suggests, and plans, and invents; the flesh is eager to obey. The mind is enmity to God; the flesh never can become spiritual. Hence the old man is given to works of unrighteousness. The mind is the nest of every unclean bird—the fountain-head of polluted streams, and the flesh is the instrument of unholy indulgence. In this Epistle, the Gentiles are described as "walking in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;" and then it immediately follows, that being thus "past feeling, they gave themselves over to work all uncleanness with greediness."
Here we have the mind desiring and devising, and the flesh executing, all evil. Hence the Spirit so continually represents the flesh or carnal nature as the enemy or opposing principle to Christ. "The carnal mind is enmity against God—because it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be—so then those who are in the flesh," or carnal state, who have not received the Spirit, and become partakers of the divine nature, "cannot please God." This is their one conversation—"they fulfill the desires of the flesh and of the mind." They offer no restraint to their ungodly propensities; they are carried rapidly down the destructive stream of sensual indulgence. Their one desire is to crowd the largest portion of worldly pleasure into the narrow speck of this little life. They know no higher desires—they are ignorant of God—they tremble not at His Word—they are utter strangers to His fear—they are blind to the real character of sin—they are reckless of the dreadful consequences—their eyes are closed to the realities of eternity, the approach of judgment, and the appalling terrors of the wrath to come. Such were we—so we walked, having no holier object than to fulfill the desires of the flesh and of the mind. But believers are "renewed in the spirit of their minds," and strive now to "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." It is their privilege to give blessing, and praise, and thanksgiving to God, and to the Lord Jesus, and to the quickening Spirit! We ascribe all inward life, all spiritual power, to the free grace of our God, who loves us and has such mercy on us!
(2.) The fearful consequences of such conversation. We were "the children of wrath, even as others." God abhors all evil—it is infinitely repugnant to His holy nature—His wrath burns like fire against it. So while we were thus wholly given to work iniquity, God's pure anger was against our every word, and thought, and work. We were every moment treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. This is the way of all the generation of the ungodly. We differed not from their principles and proceedings, and therefore we were rapidly hastening to the endurance of the wrath to come. But who can tell what that wrath is? Then will it be known, "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ—who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power."
But though in ourselves we were thus "the children of wrath, even as others;" yet in the secret purposes of God's grace, we were the children of His love, and given unto Jesus, and appointed not unto wrath, but to obtain salvation. Therefore Jesus came, and drank the cup of wrath for us; and "has delivered us from the wrath to come." Lord Jesus, we adore You! Give us grace to know that no wrath remains for us.
Ephesians 2:4."But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us."
How beautiful is this ray of cheering light, which breaks in upon the gloomy darkness of the preceding verses! In them man appeared "dead in trespasses and sins;" "walking according to the course of this world;" "fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind;" "the children of wrath, even as others." We beheld the hideous features of Satan's progeny; we trembled at the prospect of the smoke of the torment ascending up forever and ever, which is justly prepared as their portion. But now all is brightness and celestial joy. God appears—not as a consuming fire—not in the garments of fierce indignation and vengeance—but as the God whose name is Love, arrayed in the riches of His gracious mercy. Blessed Lord, help us by Your Spirit, to see and know You as here revealed—the very God of our salvation! Send out Your light and Your truth, to give us light, and to lead us into all truth! The points for consideration are (1.) God rich in mercy; (2.) God loving us with great love.
(1.) "God is rich in mercy." Mercy is that tender attribute which looks with compassion on the wretched, and hastens to their relief. Who is more completely wretched than man in his natural condition? Ignorant of God, he knows no real enjoyment; for all real joy consists in likeness to, and communion with God—a slave of the Devil, he toils throughout all his days in the vilest drudgery; and the wages at the end is the blackness of darkness forever. This is real wretchedness. This is the state which mercy flies to alleviate. Mercy ceases to be mercy, if no efforts are made to rescue these sufferers from perishing. But our "God is rich in mercy." When He proclaimed His great Name to Moses, what a precious train of graces seem pressing for the foremost place! But mercy outstrips her fellows, and the first sound we hear is "merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth." Again we are told that "He retains not His anger forever, because He delights in mercy;" that "He is plenteous in mercy and truth;" that "as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him." He has said, "Mercy shall be built up forever;" and we are encouraged to trust in "the multitude of His tender mercies."
Surely then Mercy will not leave us in our low abyss of misery! It cannot be. See God sparing not His own Son, but delivering Him up for us all; putting Him to shame and grief—being pleased in bruising Him—sheathing the sword of vengeance in His heart; taking of Him the full payment of our countless iniquities; and say, has not mercy yearned over us to help us? God is rich in mercy! Where we abound in sin, He far more abounds in mercy. Let believers put all their trust in God, "looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." When their sins rise up in dreadful crowds against them, let them think of Jesus, God's mercy of mercies—God's mercy in the highest—and hasten to the fountain opened, and wash them all away. When conscious of infirmity, and terrified by Satan's assaults, let them go quickly to the mercy-seat, that they may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. When conscience accuses, let them go to God, and plead with Him that "He is rich in mercy," and they will find indeed that "with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption."
(2.) Next, let us consider God as "loving us with great love." This is the precious truth so inconceivably dear and supporting to believers. Their God is Love. His whole nature, His entire essence, His every feeling, His every dealing towards His people, is pure, unmixed, infinite love. His love gave them to Christ before all worlds; His love gave Christ unto them; His love called them in time; His love sends out the teaching Spirit to enlighten them, and to excite the cry, "Abba, Father," in their hearts. His love keeps them amid their many perils, through faith unto eternal salvation. His love sustains them daily looking unto the Lamb slain, whose meritorious blood cleanses them from all sin. His love sends out His rod to chasten and correct them—to humble them—to keep them low in dust and ashes. His love binds up their wounds, and pours in heavenly consolation, and whispers unto them, "Be not afraid." His love is from everlasting to everlasting. Nothing can separate the believer "from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Ephesians 2:4-5."But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ."
Such is the full and glowing statement of Paul. It calls for our adoring admiration. We have already considered "the great love with which God loved us." This love is marvelously enhanced by the consideration now before us. Let us (1.) Ponder this truth—He loved us "when we were dead in sins." (2.) Proceed to the result of this love, "He quickened us." (3.) This is said to be "together with Christ;" that is, after the model of Christ's resurrection from the dead, and by virtue of our eternal oneness with Him. May the Spirit of our God be with us!
(1.) God loved us when we were dead in sins. There is no fact which seems to be so staggering to faith. Such action is so utterly at variance with all the feelings which we experience, or witness in others. Our love is excited by what we deem lovely; our hearts are warmed by the charms of extraordinary worth and grace; we turn with disgust from the hideous deformities of vice and iniquity; we loathe and reprobate the dark features of undisguised evil. Who ever loves that which is altogether hateful? Our love lies dead and dormant until aroused and kindled by something from without. Such is the manner of man. How different the manner of our God! He loves us with a great love before one particle of divine grace enters our souls; while we are one mass of loathsome iniquity; while we hate Him and His holy law, and manifest our complete alienation from Him by every word and work. What a wondrous thought is here! Oh, for more grace to see it distinctly, and to realize it abidingly! God has greatly loved us, when we were nothing but sin, when we did nothing but sin. Whence then sprang this love? All in us tended to estrange from it. Whence then did it originate? Surely from nothing belonging to us. It sprang entirely from His own nature, which is Love. "God is Love." He loved us, because it was His will to love us. We may search and reason until all our powers fail, and we shall find no motive or cause out of God Himself. Let us then adore our God, and the freeness and the riches of His love! Who is a God like unto Him, who so greatly loved us, vile, hateful sinners! What an instance of God-like grace! But our God is infinite, and unspeakable, and unsearchable, and inconceivable in His nature! We cannot fathom, or understand—we can only marvel, give thanks, and adore.
We should not be content with a general view of this amazing love. Each believer should single himself out of the whole company of the redeemed, and take his seat alone before the light of this truth, and calmly bring it home to his individual case. God has thus loved you, even you, when you were thus detestable and unclean. It is so, it is really so, it must be so; therefore believe it. Lift up the eyes of faith, and see God's eternal love yearning over you, when in the lowest depths of your degradation, misery, and filth, and say, Will not you now love Him? Can you withhold your love from Him?
Are you disposed to ask, Wherefore me? What fixed this love on me? Here ignorance must check conjecture. This secret knows no man. But is it not enough to be assured that you truly are the object of His distinguishing favor? To realize this is salvation, heaven, glory. Is not this enough? Be content, then, and let your life be a life of love and praise. For what is the immediate consequence of the freeness of this love? If you were loved when dead, will you not still be loved now that you live? If all the sins of unregeneracy did not prevent love, surely all sins after regeneration cannot quench it. His love is like Himself; therefore it is without variableness or shadow of turning.
(2.) The immediate result of this love is our divine birth. Because He loves us, therefore He quickens us. Because we are sons, He sends forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. Hence we have new powers conferred from heaven, enabling us to see, and know, and love, and serve Him. Let no man rejoice in God's free and eternal love of him, who cannot testify from inward experience, I am created anew in Christ Jesus—"old things are passed away; all things are become new."
(3.) This spiritual regeneration is "with Christ." We have already seen, that it is "according to the mighty power which God wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead." Our souls are quickened with Christ, being brought from the death of sin by the same omnipotence which brought Christ's body from the grave. Our regeneration is also with Christ, because it is by virtue of our oneness with Him. "Because I live, you shall live also." A living Head must have living members.
Ephesians 2:6."And has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
We have already considered the words, "God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ." Marvelous indeed is this act of grace and unspeakable this goodness. It breathes divine life into our dead souls! But superadded blessings fill up the cluster. The Apostle carries us onward to the contemplation of a wondrous work. "He has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Gracious Spirit, magnify Christ before the eye of our faith, while we examine these truths! (1.) We are raised up together with Christ. (2.) We are sitting in heaven together with Him. How can such blessedness be? It is even so, Lord, for it has seemed good in Your sight to make this revelation.
(1.) We are raised up together with Christ. Wonderful is the Person of Christ! It not only represented, but, so to speak, it contained all His people. His punishment was their punishment—His sufferings their sufferings—His death their death—His righteousness and obedience their righteousness and obedience. So that each child of God is privileged to say, By virtue of my eternal oneness with Christ, I have in Him suffered all the wrath of God, which my sins deserved—I have in Him fulfilled every requirement of the Law. When He hung on the cross, I hung on the cross; when He rose again from the dead, I rose also; when He ascended into heaven, I ascended together with Him. Christ and my person can never be parted. He received me as portion of Himself forever.
This is that blessed truth which explains the language of our text, and tells us that "we are raised together with Him." This resurrection is true mystically in the purposes and counsels of heaven. It will shortly be so in our actual and joyful experience. God now looks upon us as the conquerors of death and the grave. When His Son burst the bands and came forth trampling the chains of hell beneath His feet, God saw the whole Church sharing in the triumph. Shortly shall we realize the victory which is now mystically ours. It is true that our bodies must for a little while lie in the grave; "our earthly house of this tabernacle must be dissolved;" unto dust we must return. But we are one with Him who proclaimed, "I am the resurrection and the life;" and soon shall the voice of the Archangel and the trumpet of God be heard, and then "this corruptible shall put on incorruption; and this mortal shall put on immortality. Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory." Then shall be the full accomplishment of the prophecy, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death! I will be your plagues—O grave! I will be your destruction—repentance shall be hid from mine eyes." Let believers realize this truth—In Christ they have conquered death and the grave—in Christ, God sees them already delivered from this power and clad in the garments of new and eternal life. Let them then cease to tremble at this foe. Let them rather view him as prostrate and subdued beneath their feet—let none of his terrors make them afraid, but let them go on their way adoring their Lord, and singing, "We are raised together with Christ."
(2.) We are "sitting together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Our exaltation to glory is as sure as our resurrection from the dead. The union which secures the latter secures also the former. Christ entered into heaven representing the whole company of His redeemed. He took His seat on the throne of His glory, not in His own name only, but also in their name, and as their Surety. Believers may lift up their eyes to heaven, and not only behold Jesus on the right hand of the Majesty on high, but may also see their own thrones already prepared, and their own people already in occupation. Our Proxy has taken possession for us. God sees us in Him established and settled in the mansions of eternal blessedness. Shall we realize this, and not rejoice in the Lord! O my soul, know your real blessedness, and sing, rejoice, and give thanks! Heaven is your, because you are inseparably one with Christ. Care nothing then for the trifles of time and this miserable world—it is neither your home, your rest, nor your portion. Live above it. Look down upon it as being an inhabitant of a heavenly abode. Habituate your thoughts to dwell on high. Fix them on your true estate. Become more familiar with God, your Father—with Jesus, your Redeemer—with the Holy Spirit, your Sanctifier and Teacher—and with the spirits of the just made perfect, and the whole company of the ransomed, who are your brethren and your associates forever. Learn more and more the language of the better country. Converse more uninterruptedly with the citizens of light. Cease more from the ways and words of the children of darkness. So shall you have the present enjoyment of heaven, and find by experience that you are sitting in heavenly places together with Christ.
Ephesians 2:7."That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
Do we enquire for what purpose God is pleased to quicken our souls, to raise us up together with Christ, and to make us sit together in heavenly places? The present verse supplies the answer. "That in the ages to come, He might show the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." It is the intent of God to display throughout all eternity the amazing abundance of His grace, as evidenced by His work in His people. To this truth let us now direct our thoughts, and may light from above shine into our souls! Our theme carries us beyond the limits of this perishing scene. We are introduced into the heavenly inheritance. What do we there behold? God is manifested in all the plenitude of His glory. He who is "eternal, immortal, invisible, who dwells in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man has seen, or can see," is now clearly revealed. Jesus is now seen as He is. Who are they who stand around the throne, and encircle God and the Lamb? They are "a great multitude, whom no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands." What is their employment? They cry, "Salvation unto our God, which sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." They will never rest throughout all the ages of eternity, in ascribing the glory of their full redemption to the exceeding riches of God's grace, in His kindness toward them through Christ Jesus.
This salvation consists in their spirits being made perfectly pure and holy; even participating in the nature of God Himself—in their bodies being redeemed from all the filth and pollution of earthly corruption, and being rendered immortal, incorruptible, bright, perfect, spiritual—exactly in every circumstance similar to our Lord's glorious body, and in their exaltation to sit down with Him on His throne, even as He has taken His seat on the Father's throne. They are glorified in body, soul, and spirit, and they share the throne of God and the Lamb. They well know that they are indebted for all their greatness and joy to God's free, sovereign grace in Christ Jesus—and now with one ceaseless hymn of adoration they laud and magnify its exceeding riches. No other note disturbs the harmony of eternity. One God, by His one grace, in the one Savior, has brought this vast company to their one home—and one song is now heard blessing and praising the freeness and the riches of this grace. Thus it is that by our regeneration, resurrection, and exaltation, God will show "in the ages to come the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." From this explanation of this verse, let us proceed to a few reflections.
(1.) We see how God has purposed to display the riches of His glory in the ages to come, and shall we not now commence the song which is so pleasing to His ears? Let us glorify now in the house of our bondage the exceeding riches of His grace. When we draw near to the mercy-seat through the blood of Jesus, let us confess unto God our utter misery, and vileness, and corruption, and pollution, and iniquity by nature—let us strip ourselves of the filthy rags of our own righteousness, and bless God that He has condescended to look upon us in our low estate, and to give us grace and glory. Let us tell Him, that when we merited nothing but hell, He has been pleased to give us freely all things, even all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Let us never be ashamed to confess before men, that we are debtors to grace for all things. While worldlings boast that they "are rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," let us avow that in ourselves we "are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked;" but that God, in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus, has quickened us, and raised us up, and made us to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus—and openly declare, that He has so blessed us in the exceeding riches of His grace.
(2.) Let us look forward to the ages before us. God's kindness toward us through Christ Jesus is kindness for never-ending ages. Let this thought enable us to rise high above the afflictions and troubles of this brief day. For the endless joy set before us, let us endure these short-lived trials, and "reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us." Let us look less "to the things which are seen; and more to the things which are not seen—for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." Let us remember our high calling. God has quickened us, and raised us, and exalted us, that we might be the monuments of His grace throughout all the ages to come.
(3.) Let us warn others, who are trusting in themselves, and despising the grace of God. Let us tell those who "merit" is the inscription over the gate of hell; "free grace" over the portals of heaven; that all who enter the latter, enter leaning on the arm of Jesus, and boasting in His righteousness; that they know but one language, and sing but one song—Grace to it! Grace to it!
Ephesians 2:8."For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves—it is the gift of God."
The verse before us is one of those plain declarations of God's Word which no sophistry can gainsay. It is sad evidence of the determined infatuation and dreadful blindness of the natural mind, that after reading this faithful saying, difficulties should exist concerning the fundamental truths of our Gospel. Let us draw near to this text, and humbly enquire (1.) What is the originating cause of salvation? (2.) What is the instrumental cause? (3.) What part belongs to man—what part to God? Lord, give us to receive Your truth more deeply in the love of it, and may its sanctifying power more sweetly constrain us!
(1.) What is the ORIGINATING cause of salvation? It is grace. This truth has been examined and unfolded in many of the preceding verses. It is the note which sounds aloud in every part of this Epistle. It is the corner-stone which holds the whole fabric together. To write the same things, however—to hear the same things—is not grievous, but rather profitable and pleasant. That is no gracious heart which wearies of contemplating the grace which is the song of the Redeemed, the glory of Heaven, the destruction of Satan. Let us then recapitulate. The plan of salvation is of grace. This plan is wonderful in wisdom and love, and was framed and arranged in the counsels of heaven before the foundation of the world. It was grace which selected Christ as the Redeemer, and called Him to the blessed work. Grace consented to receive His blood as the full and sufficient payment of all the sins of His people, and His obedience as their complete fulfillment of all the law's demands. Grace determined the number and people of the saved, and gave them unto Jesus, and Jesus unto them. Grace united them as one forever. In the fullness of time, grace opens their eyes to see Christ as chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely; opens their hearts to receive Him as all their salvation and all their desire. Grace supplies them through their earthly pilgrimage with all things needful for life and godliness; and when all is accomplished in them and by them, grace receives them to the heavenly inheritance, which is incorruptible, undefiled, and fades not away. Thus every link in the whole chain, which extends from eternity to eternity, is a link of grace. All believers exclaim, "By grace are we saved."
(2.) What is the INSTRUMENTAL cause of salvation? It is Faith. "By grace are you saved, through faith." Faith is a free-grace gift—it is wrought in the heart by the Spirit. This conveys the soul of the sinner utterly out of self, and leads him up to Jesus, and enables him to discern His worth—His suitableness—His all-sufficiency to save to the uttermost. This gives him power to receive with grateful gladness His offers of mercy, and to repose with undoubting confidence on His finished work. Hence faith is the instrument by which the awakened sinner becomes acquainted with his Lord in all His offices and in all His love, and becomes interested in His work of redemption and intercession. He who is without faith rejects Christ. He who partakes in this precious grace embraces Him, and becomes one with Him forever. Now this instrument comes directly from God—He freely bestows it—consequently, salvation through faith is altogether consistent with salvation by grace. This evidently appears from the next head.
(3.) What part has man in the work? He has none. "Not of ourselves." How true is that testimony of the Spirit, "Salvation belongs unto the Lord!" The Lord alone wills it, and bestows it. "It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy." Man freely and fully partakes of the exceeding blessedness; but man is utterly excluded from any share in the design or the accomplishment. What part could belong to him? He was dead in trespasses and sins—a willing captive of the Devil, loving his darkness, and the chains which enthralled him. Hence he had no desire for salvation, and therefore could make no effort. But supposing the desire to be kindled in his heart, what power had he? All the angels and principalities on high were weak to hold back the right arm of God's just vengeance, or to rescue a sinner from the iron grasp of Satan. What, then, could impotent man perform? How could he stand against God, or plead and treat with Him as fellow with fellow? The very thought is folly. Salvation is "not of ourselves." Every enlightened and gracious soul will devoutly confess this truth.
(4.) The whole is God's; it is His gift. We must not limit the words of our verse, "It is the gift of God" to faith. True it is that faith, like every other grace, is freely given to us of God. But the words refer to the whole work of salvation, in all its parts and provisions. This is an absolute, sovereign, unmerited, unsought gift of God. When we deserved nothing, desired nothing, expected nothing—of His own love and mercy He gave us full and eternal salvation in Jesus Christ. O you saints! will you not love the Lord, and praise and magnify His holy Name? Where are your hearts—where is your gratitude? Live to His glory, who has thus freely given you salvation.
Ephesians 2:9."Not of works, lest any man should boast."
The Apostle has clearly affirmed that salvation is the free-grace gift of God. The experience of every child of God confirms this truth. Grace originates—carries on—perfects the whole. From first to last we are debtors to covenant mercy alone. But as this doctrine is of deep importance to the well-being and comfort of the believer, the Apostle proceeds to a negative statement, "Not of works, lest any man should boast." This follows, of course, from the preceding; for if God alone is admitted to the work, man, and all his doings, and merits, and pretensions are excluded. Let us hence consider (1.) That works have no share in procuring salvation. (2.) The cause of their exclusion, "lest any man should boast." Lord, enlighten our understandings and sanctify our hearts!
(1.) Works have no share in procuring salvation. "Not of works." All who have received the Spirit of God well know this. They are convinced of sin. They see their whole lives to be one continuous stream of transgressions, backslidings, short-comings. What did they in their state of unregeneracy? This one thing, and this one thing only—they openly and daringly rebelled against God—they trampled His commands beneath their feet—they followed the devices and desires of their own corrupt hearts—they worshiped and served the god of this world. Can a believer bring any work out of all the period of this blind ignorance, on which he can look with complacency? He loathes—he abhors them all. He sincerely would wash them out in tears of bitter penitence; but knowing that his very tears are not clean, he brings the mass of his former iniquities in the arms of faith, and plunges them in the all-cleansing fountain which issues from the side of the bleeding Lamb. Ask him, Do you rely on any deed of your early life for acceptance? The thought fills him with horror—he cries, Away with them all, they are anguish to my heart, and abomination in the sight of my God—away with them all—nothing but the blood of Jesus can cleanse their crimson dye. Ask the believer, Is this the price with which you hope to purchase heaven? and he confesses, that their just reward is the bottomless pit forever.
But it may be said, Is there no merit in works after conversion? Are not believers then guided by the Holy Spirit, and do they not walk before God in newness of life, and is not Christ their very life, and do they not abound in fruits of righteousness to His glory and praise? Supposing these works to be perfect and holy, even as God is perfect and holy; still, not unto man, but unto the Spirit would be all the merit, for He works in the believer to will and to do that which is well-pleasing in God's sight.
But will the believer admit that his works after conversion are thus blameless? Far, very far from it. He complains, "When I would do good, evil is present with me." He still smites upon his bosom and cries, "God be merciful to me, a sinner!" He daily feels that he is prone to err, and acknowledges with Paul, Of sinners, I am chief. His hourly transgressions seem now to have a darker complexion of evil. There is so much of base ingratitude in them—there is such despite to the Spirit of grace—there are so many wounds inflicted on the heart of Christ—that very heart which bled to save; so that the believer increasingly feels, that he has daily more cause to cling to the cross, and to hide himself in the wounded side. With sincerity he prays "Enter not into judgment with Your servant, O Lord, for in Your sight shall no man living be justified." With humility he confesses, "We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." With thankfulness he acknowledges, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." With gratitude he professes, "This is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." His boast is, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit,". "Not of works, lest any man should boast."
(2.) We thus come to our second point, the cause of the exclusion of works—"lest any man should boast." If the hand of man added one single stone to the fabric of salvation, he would be able to point to it and say, See what I have done! Some glorying would belong to him, because the entire work would not be of God—it would not have been complete without the addition which he had made, and therefore part of the praise would be his due. But God cannot share His glory with another. "No flesh may glory in His presence." The law of heaven is, "He that glories let him glory in the Lord." The ceaseless hallelujahs of eternity must sound alone the praises of our God and of the Lamb. Where is the believer who would rob God of the honor of redemption? Boasting cannot consist with faith. Bless the Lord, O my soul—be telling of His salvation from day to day—bless you the Lord, O my soul.
Ephesians 2:10."For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them."
In these words Paul concludes his argument in favor of salvation without works, by the free grace of God. Three truths are here announced. (1.) Our new nature is the workmanship of God. (2.) We are created anew, that we might perform good works. (3.) These works are fore-ordained as the path in which we must walk. After examining these truths, let us observe how effectually they close the door against works as having any share in meriting salvation. May the God of truth for Jesus' sake instruct and sanctify us!
(1.) Our new nature is the workmanship of God. We cannot too strongly or too repeatedly contemplate the fact, that by Adam's transgression every spark of spiritual life was utterly extinguished in the soul of man. It became dark, dead, corrupt, alienated from the life of God; entirely given up to Satan and his lusts; in every faculty and power and desire hating God and resisting His holy will. Such were we, when we were born into this world. But a new nature has been conferred; old things are passed away, all things have become new. Who can create a new nature? Surely God alone. This new creation is entirely the work of His power and will. It is the putting forth of the same omnipotence which called this beauteous universe out of nothing into its present being. It is the operation of the same Agent which said, "Let there be light, and there was light." As the dead can neither will nor stir, so lifeless souls can make no effort of their own to obtain spiritual existence.
The new-born soul is indeed a grand and lovely fabric, participating in desires and faculties altogether divine—capable of knowing, loving, and serving God expanding in thought even into eternity—and aspiring after the largest perceptions and fullest enjoyments of God forever. But it is not of earth, earthy—it is of heaven, heavenly—it is not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but absolutely and exclusively the workmanship of God. Happy, blessed, favored are they, who are thus made partakers of the divine nature! How wondrously do they differ from the world around them! How infinitely do they differ from their former selves! How can they adequately adore Him, whose sovereign grace has thus distinguished them! How can they sufficiently love Him who first so loved them!
(2.) We are created anew, that we might perform good works. The new nature is the immediate offspring of God, and therefore is divine in essence, principles, and desires. It is therefore holy and spiritual, even as God is holy and spiritual. Hence we read, "Whoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." And again, "We know, that whoever is born of God sins not; but he that is begotten of God keeps himself, and that Wicked One touches him not." The heavenly workmanship loves good and abhors evil—seeks good and flees evil. The law of God is the rule and delight of the man thus created anew in Christ Jesus. His language is, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man."
But let not this blessed truth dishearten or discourage the child of God, who still finds, and who will always find in this world, "another law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which is in his members." For the old nature expires not when the new nature is implanted; but in the same person of the one believer they co-exist. The one is of God, and cannot sin—the other is carnal, and cannot but sin. Hence the constant struggle, "the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." But good works is the path in which the new nature is always striving to walk, the very course along which it pursues its way to heaven.
(3.) These good works are "fore-ordained that we should walk in them." He who appointed the end, which is endless glory, appointed the way, which is holiness—and never can we reach the end, unless our feet are set in the only right direction. It is an eternal law of God, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Sanctification as the road is invariably connected with sovereign grace as the cause, and glory as the consummation. He "has chosen us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." "God has from the beginning chosen us to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
We are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." Hence the highest doctrines of grace are the truest incentives to good works; and except we abound in the latter, we can have no assured hope. Our calling and election is made sure by adding to our faith every godly work. The Apostle states that we are thus formed and created in Christ unto the fore-appointed path of holiness, to establish that salvation is not of works. For if God gives the new nature—works the works in us—sets them before us—guides us to them—supports us in them, He is the Author. We are the clay; He is the potter—and to Him must all the glory be given.