This past Sunday Shannon preached a very powerful message through the second chapter of the book of Ephesians. Some theologians and biblical scholars refer to the book of Ephesians as “the great epistle” because of its incredible “gospel depth.” In just six chapters, Paul explains the gospel of Jesus Christ and adequately explains how that same gospel should affect the life of every believer.
I would personally argue that chapter 2 is the richest in content and truth. Here Paul is reminding the Church at Ephesus of their prior identity before they were “in Christ;” to show believers just how lost in sin we were and how great the grace of God is for saving us despite our wickedness.
Paul begins with a clear gospel message (see verses 1-10). In verse 1 Paul reiterates the fact that we were “dead because of [our] disobedience and [our] many sins” and in verses 2 and 3 he even goes so far to say that we were following the devil! Then Paul hits us with the gospel and explains what grace and faith are all about. On two different occasions, Paul states that it is by grace that we have been saved (see verses 5 and 8). Paul is doing everything that he can to remind the believers in Ephesus that it was God who saved them, not anything that they did, but what Christ accomplished on their behalf.
Salvation is the gift of God to us, but for salvation to occur in our lives we must believe.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. – Ephesians 2:8
Simply put: we must have faith in God. We must have faith that Christ’s death on the cross was enough to cover us of our sins. We must have faith that Jesus is who he says he is. That is what true saving faith is all about; that is what true saving belief is all about.
Then, in light of the gospel, Paul shows us how we are to interact with others in verses 11-17. Paul reminds the believers in Ephesus, and us today, that when we remember all that God has done for us– that we were dead in sin and Jesus made us alive through faith in him– from our gratitude for being brought into God’s family, we ought to treat others with love.
In verse 14 Paul says, “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” Paul is referring to an actual wall in the temple that separated Jews and Gentiles. This “wall of hostility” has no more purpose because of what Christ did on the cross!
We were outsiders in relation to God’s Kingdom. We were dead and separated from God. But thanks be to Christ for saving us by his grace and for removing all dividing walls!