Context Matters: By Grace You Have Been Saved

Perhaps our generation might find greater help with race relations and reconciliation within the church by looking harder into the doctrine of grace.

As presented by Paul, the glorious doctrine of grace serves a rather practical purpose. We are not saved by grace so we can feel great about ourselves or maintain an insider club. We are saved by grace so we can be built up together as a new temple, where members of all races are involved in one another’s lives and growing together in faith and good works. This shows the world how astounding God’s grace truly is.

 

If you have trusted in Christ and now follow him, you’ve likely heard that you’re saved by grace through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8). But do you know what these things mean? And how did the Apostle Paul expect you to perceive and apply these truths?

Context matters. If we learn to read the Bible for what it is—and not as a collection of independently assembled proverbial sayings—we’ll discover that some of our most familiar passages have even more to say than we’ve always assumed.

Salvation By Grace

The doctrine of grace is both astounding and alarming. It is astounding that sinners can receive a righteousness from God, which they do not deserve, and be adopted as his sons and daughters. And it is alarming that they can do nothing to deserve such favor. All they can do is trust the one who makes it so.

Few places define this doctrine more clearly than Ephesians 2:1-10. A skeletal outline of the text shows Paul’s flow of thought. You were…But God…So that…For…For…

  • YOU WERE(Eph 2:1-3): dead, following this world and its prince, living for our own desires, children of wrath like the rest.
  • BUT GOD(Eph 2:4-6): made us alive with Christ, raised us up with him, and seated us with him.
  • SO THAT(Eph 2:7): he might display you as trophies of his grace.
  • FOR(Eph 2:8-9): you have been saved by grace, not works.
  • FOR(Eph 2:10): we are his workmanship, created and prepared for good works.

How It’s Possible

In the previous section, Paul describes his prayers for these people. He asks God to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph 1:17) so they might understand:

  • the hope to which he’s called them (Eph 1:18),
  • the riches of his inheritance (Eph 1:18), and
  • the immeasurable greatness of his power (Eph 1:19)

That power is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated him in the heavenly places and put all things under his feet (Eph 1:20-22). This raised, seated, and authoritative Jesus is God’s gift to the church (Eph 1:22-23).

The content of this prayer provides the context for Paul’s remarks about grace that follow in Eph 2:1-10. Though God’s people have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3), the greatest blessing is the gift of the raised, seated, and subduing Christ.

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