Summary: Ephesians 2:8-9 shows us that salvation is a gift of God.
We are currently in a series of sermons on Ephesians 2 that I am calling, “God’s Plan of Reconciliation.”
The theme of Ephesians 2:1-10 is God’s grace in saving sinners. In verses 1-3 Paul described the way we were before we received the amazing grace of God. In verse 4 Paul started to explain how God saves sinners. In verses 5-7 Paul listed some wonderful truths about our union with Christ. Then, in verses 8-9 Paul summarized how we are saved by grace alone.
Let’s read how we are saved by grace alone in Ephesians 2:8-9. For the sake of context, let’s begin reading in verse 1:
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
In her book, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott describes grace as follows, “Grace means you’re in a different universe from where you had been stuck, when you had absolutely no way to get there on your own.”
I like that description because it beautifully captures what the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 2. Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus about God’s saving grace. He described the way we were before receiving God’s grace. We were hopeless and helpless, completely dead in our trespasses and sins. But God then intervened in a marvelous way and saved us. He united us with his Son and translated us, as it were, into a completely new realm – the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Lamott’s description captures God’s grace in our salvation: “Grace means you’re in a different universe from where you had been stuck, when you had absolutely no way to get there on your own.” In verses 8-9 the Apostle Paul described God’s grace in our salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 shows us that salvation is a gift of God.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. Salvation Is by Grace (2:8a)
2. Salvation Is Through Faith (2:8b)
3. Salvation Is Not by Works (2:9)
I. Salvation Is by Grace (2:8a)
First, salvation is by grace.
Paul said in verse 8a, “For by grace you have been saved….” What is grace? Kent Hughes rightly says, “It is unmerited favor – the love of God going out toward the utterly undeserving.” We are all utterly undeserving of God’s grace. We were all dead in the trespasses and sins in which we once walked. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. Paul’s overarching point is that grace is an absolutely free gift. That is why he said in the second half of verse 8, “And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” John Stott summarized verse 8 as follows, “By God’s grace you are people who have been saved through faith, and this whole event and experience is…God’s free gift to you.”
Do you see that salvation is a completely free gift? We should never feel ourselves to be worthy of salvation. If we do, we don’t understand grace. Kent Hughes illustrates this truth with the following story:
A large prestigious church had three mission churches under its care. On the first Sunday of the New Year all the members of the mission churches came to the big city church for a combined Communion service. In those mission churches, which were located in the slums of the city, were some outstanding cases of conversions – thieves, burglars, and so on – but all knelt side by side at the Communion rail.
On one such occasion the pastor saw a former burglar kneeling beside a judge of the Supreme Court of England – the very judge who had sent him to jail where he had served seven years. After his release this burglar had been converted and become a Christian worker. Yet, as they knelt there, the judge and the former convict, neither one seemed to be aware of the other.