For many centuries, the only option for church in Europe was the Roman Catholic Church. There were various groups which disagreed with the Roman Catholic Church and what it taught throughout the centuries, but they were quickly put down. While the Bible had been translated into over 500 languages by 500 AD, by 600AD, the only translation allowed to exist by the church (on penalty of death) became the Latin Vulgate. This effectively made it so only the educated could read it – with end result being that only the Church was able to teach what God had said. And eventually the things the church taught and required of people caused some who COULD read Latin – to begin to speak out; some people even began translating the bible into their native languages (although those who tried to do so were killed). Eventually, this led to the protestant reformation often considered to have begun with Martin Luther on October 31, 1517. That was when he nailed 95 theses to the door of a church, 95 points of disagreement he had with the excesses and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, specifically dealing with indulgences (which were intended to be purchased to fund church buildings and supposedly caused people to be forgiven of sin). This reformation eventually came to have five principles in common throughout Europe – these have come to be known as the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation.
One of the things the Roman Catholic Church taught was that a combination of the scriptures, church tradition, and the teachings of the magisterium (the church teaching authority as exercised by bishops and the pope) were the foundation for faith and practice. In response to this, reformers responded Sola Scriptura, or Scripture Alone is the foundation for faith and practice. This did not mean that the church was not to interpret scripture, but that scripture must be the foundation, and not ignored in favor of church teaching if what was being taught was contrary to what the Bible teaches. Another thing the Roman Catholic Church taught was that we are justified by faith AND the works that we produce, which the righteousness (that God infuses in us through faith) brings about. The reformers responded, Sola Fide, or “No, we are justified by faith alone, which lays hold of the alien righteousness of Christ that God freely credits to the account of those who believe.” The Catholic Church taught that we are saved by the merits of Christ and the saints, and that we approach God through Christ, the saints, and Mary, who all pray and intercede for us. The Reformers responded, “No, we are saved by the merits of Christ Alone, and we come to God through Christ Alone” – or Solo Christo (AKA Solus Christus). The Roman Catholic Church taught that the glory for a sinner’s salvation could be attributed partly to Christ, partly to Mary and the saints, and partly to the sinner himself. The reformers response? Soli Deo Gloria, or “No, the only true gospel is that which gives all glory to God alone, as is taught in the scriptures.” And finally we come to the topic of today’s message: the Catholic Church taught that we are saved through a combination of God’s grace, the merits that we accumulate through penance and good works, and the excessive amounts of merits that the saints before us accumulated; the reformers responded, “sola gratia”, or grace alone. 
Let’s look at an example of how many view grace (this example is credited to the puritan Thomas Boston): Imagine a sinner in a deep pit which he can’t get out of. Now imagine God lowers a long rope down right beside him. If the man grabs hold of that rope, then God can pull him out of that pit.
This is generally as far as most people’s view of grace goes – where God initiates a way for man to be saved, but does not force man to take that way, and so to be saved a man has to cooperate with God by doing his part – making a decision, saying a prayer, being baptized, doing good works. The only problem is that the sinner at the bottom of the pit is dead! He can’t grab the rope, he can’t respond to anyone or anything. He is spiritually dead.
This brings us to our passage for today. Turn to Ephesians 2:1-10
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, 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 ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
I always like to look at a passage through the lenses of an investigator. So let’s look at the questions of Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How, as presented by the passage in question. Now this passage begins with the condition of every person before salvation:
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins
Paul tells us something of the WHEN and something of the WHO in this passage – WHEN YOU (his audience, believers) were dead in your trespasses and sins. Some people don’t realize what that means, so I thought I’d take a second and review a couple of key passages dealing with sin and death. Let’s look at Romans 3:23
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
So we can see that EVERYONE has sinned – this is the case whether you are a good person or not, whether you are moral or not, whether you grew up in the Christian church or some other religion – ALL HAVE SINNED.
More than that, we have to realize that sinning has consequences.
Please turn to Romans 6:23.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We earn death with our sin. Whether it is one sin or a multitude of sins – we died. Obviously this does not speak of our physical condition, but of our spiritual condition – we die spiritually when we sin. And being dead, unsaved sinners are simply unable to understand who God is, or what God has done and even are unable to understand them. This is easy to see in 1 Corinthians 2:14
14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
Returning to our main passage
2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience
We see in Ephesians 2:2 that everyone, before they are saved, walked in ways affected by the world and by the spirit which works in those who disobey – the prince of the air – the devil.
While they don’t know it, Satan works in those he has captivated to HIS will. We see this more clearly in 2 Timothy 2:24-26
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
Notice – God MAY GRANT repentance. So many people think they are good people, that if they live “right”, that God will grant them entrance into heaven when they die. But this passage tells us that unless God grants repentance, people continue to be held captive by the devil to do his will.
Indeed, let’s return to our original passage, verse 3:
3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
We see in verse 3 that Paul shifts who he includes in the WHO – even HE, the Apostle Paul, lived in his lusts and indulgences, being by their very nature children of wrath – as ALL before coming to Christ were, and are, and will be. By their very NATURE, people without God are children of wrath. They are selfish, indulging the desires of their minds and bodies. The wrath of God remains upon them. But they are not unique – everyone without God is like this. We also see here the Where – in the lusts of our flesh and mind.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us
So now we see where GOD enters the scene as part of the WHO. Remember earlier we saw that part of the “who” is believers. So we have two sets of “who” – believers and God. We have “when” – when believers were dead in their trespasses and sins; and “where” – in our lusts. We now also have WHY – because God is rich in mercy and because of God’s great love which with He loved US.
Let us continue in verses 5 and 6
5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, 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,
So we see the WHEN repeated – when we were dead in our transgressions. And we see more of the WHO (Christ), and finally we see the WHAT – God made us alive together with Christ – God saved us. God raised us up with Christ. God seated us with Christ in the places IN CHRIST JESUS.
We see that Paul was convinced that God had finished the work, as we see in Philippians 1:6 (AMP)
6 I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return].
And for our purposes today, we see some of the HOW – BY GRACE.
But what does “grace” mean? The New American Standard New Testament Greek Lexicon says the Greek word is “charis” (http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/charis.html).
In our case, the definition we will focus on is:
- good will, loving-kindness, favour
- of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
We must realize precisely BECAUSE those who do not know God are helpless to do anything to be with God, that God had to initiate what it took for us to be with Him. That is grace.
Some people don’t like the idea that we are helpless to come to God UNLESS God does it all. But turn to Romans 5:6
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
We were helpless, and yet God died for us at the right time and it was by the grace of God that Christ died.
But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
That is grace.
And while people like the idea that they are the ones who chose God, they must realize that no one seeks God.
10 as it is written,
“There is none righteous, not even one;
11 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
Indeed, without God working in us, we are hostile toward God and unable to please God.
7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
And some believe that everyone in the world has a call upon them to come to Christ and people will have the free will to choose to follow Christ or not, but we see in John 6:64-65 that ONLY those who have been granted permission by God the Father can come to God the Son, and that does not include everyone.
64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
Indeed, all those given to Christ WILL come to Christ and Christ WILL lift them up on the last day.
37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
I guess it is summed up by Romans 5:8
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
WHILE we were yet sinners, Christ died for us – and that demonstrates God’s love toward us. That is grace.
Getting back to our original passage, let’s look at Ephesians 2:7
7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Another WHY – so GOD can show the awesome riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
So now we have WHO – GOD, Christ, believers.
We have WHEN – while you were dead in your trespasses and sins.
We have WHERE – in the lusts of the flesh and mind – where we were living, the world.
We have WHAT – God made us alive together with Christ; God saved us; God raised us up with Christ; God seated us with Christ in the places IN CHRIST JESUS.
We have HOW – By the grace of God.
And we have WHY – because God is rich in mercy; God loved us; God will show in the ages to come the awesomeness of His grace.
Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us more of this grace.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
We were saved BY GRACE, THROUGH FAITH. There is often a question as to what is meant by “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Some believe the “THAT” Paul spoke of was referring to grace, some believe he referred to ‘saved’ and some to ‘faith’. Personally, I think the Greek supports the all three being a gift. The key here, though, is that people who are saved are saved by GRACE – this is God working in you and for you to ensure you are saved through faith in Christ. It is God’s gift. It is God’s work.
We see that it is GOD’s work by seeing Jesus saying to people who asked what they must do to work the works of God in John 6:29
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
This belief is not mere intellectual assent, but it affects the believer so as to cause them to live differently – to obey God.
36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
20 but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.
Its not that doing things saves us, but the things we do show we trust in Christ. This is what James meant in James 2:14-26, when he said that he could show his faith by his works – that faith engenders actions, otherwise it is an empty faith, a mere intellectual assent.
Ephesians 2:10 tells us we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so we would walk in them. We are like living dolls, created to do the good things God prepared for us to do.
We also see in Philippians 2:13
13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure
There are those who would say that God began the work, and they had their own part in it. But that would contradict Ephesians 2:9 which says it was not by works. And Romans 11:5-6 tells us,
5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
Any who believe, only do so because they were graciously chosen by God. So either you were saved by grace through faith or you were not. Either GOD did it, or He lied. If GOD did it, then you did nothing to contribute to your own salvation.
Remember Romans 6:23
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You earned death with your sin. But GOD graced you with the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is not something we earn OR cooperate with God on. This is something freely given by the grace of God, and something God works to ensure occurs.
Some would say that God showed grace to those who would be saved because He looked down the passage of time and saw they would choose Him and so chose them. But Romans 9:16 tells us,
16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
Hebrews 2:10 tells us:
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.
Hebrews 12:2 (KVJ) tells us:
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Not only does it not depend on the man who desires or the one who does something, but God does not need anything from us, and even determined when and where we would live so we would find Him.
24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us
Just as we are saved by grace, we are justified (or declared righteous) by grace.
7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life
No, our justification, our salvation, our belief, our repentance is all the work of God, by the grace of God, alone.
All believers receive grace, realized through Christ, who was full of grace and truth.
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
And this grace is eternal.
2 Timothy 1:8c-9
God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity
We are set apart and called by God before we are born through grace.
But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased
We have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins, according to God’s grace.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
We are to imitate the faith of those who led the church, and not be carried away by strange teachings and so be strengthened by grace.
7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.
And we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.
2 Peter 3:18
but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Even the very gifts we have differ according to the grace given to us, and we are to exercise them accordingly.
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
So reviewing the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW, we saw that God granted believers grace from all eternity – before we are born. God made them alive by grace. God saved them by grace, through faith. Moreover, God did so because He loved us, and to show the awesomeness of His grace. God initiated this while we were still dead in our trespasses and sins. God has completed it by seating us in heaven with Christ. God did it by working in us and around us and through us to desire and to do according to His will – we are HIS workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works.
Let’s return to the example of grace I gave when I started discussing grace. You remember, a sinner in a deep pit which he can’t get out of, and God lowers a long rope down right beside him. If the man grabs hold of that rope, then God can pull him out of that pit. But instead of lowering the rope beside the sinner to grab hold of, God puts the rope around the man, gives him new life, and draws the man up out of the pit to be with God himself. THAT is how grace works – God not only initiates the whole thing, He completes it – God provides the people, the new life, the faith, and the obedience. GOD does something in the heart of man so man becomes alive spiritually and is able and willing to be saved and come to Christ. Because of Grace, by Grace, God effectually accomplishes salvation, by Grace Alone.
 Anonymous; “English Bible History: The Pre-Reformation History of the Bible From 1,400 BC to 1,400 AD“; ; Available online 10/28/2015: http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/pre-reformation.html
 Horton, Michael; “Reformation Essentials – Five Pillars of the Reformation”; Available online 10/27/15 at http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/essentials.html.
 Anonymous; “39. What are the “five solas,” and what do they mean?”; Available online 10/27/15 at http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/qna/fivesolas.html.
 The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon; Available online 10/28/2015: http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/charis.html
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