Ephesians 2:8-9 is the gospel in a nutshell. According to Kent Hughes, “…the most cogent (lucid / strong) summary of the dynamics of salvation to be found in Scripture…All who have not been saved, or who are not sure of their status, would do well to shut out all distractions and give attention to these words of life.”
Salvation / saved
These are good bible words and good Christian sub-culture words. I would never advocate that we not use these words.
“Salvation” and “saved” give reference to our state before we were in Christ. We have well unpacked that state we were in before we were in Christ.
“Saved” understands that I was an object of wrath and would be under the eternal condemnation of God if it were not for the elective love of God to redeem and repair and thus display is glory in love.
Make no mistake, those who are not “saved” will be a display of glory as well. They will be an eternal display of Father’s glory in justice for shunning the Son of God’s work in his death to rescue man from the fall.
But, we, who are in the church (the community of the kingdom of God), are in Christ. We are not longer in the domain of darkness. We are in the kingdom of the Son.
But, how did we come to be in the kingdom? How did we come to be members of the church that is making proclamation of Father’s manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities? How did we come to be in Christ so that in the coming ages we may be shown the immeasurable riches of Father’s kindness toward us?
- Salvation is by grace through faith v. 8a
“For by grace you have been saved through faith.”
The end is our salvation and the means is grace and faith.
We were in darkness, and now we have been made alive and transferred to the kingdom of light. We were in the prince of the power of the air, and now we are in Christ.
How did we get there?
Grace and Faith
Grace is the unearned favor of God. Or you could call it God’s goodness to those who deserve only punishment.
We have been saved due to the goodness of Father when we deserved only punishment.
We have been saved due to the favor of the Father based on zero merit of our own.
How did a dead and rebellious, flesh living, object of wrath get goodness and favor?
According to chapter 1 verse 5 he predestined us to adoption as a sons and daughters through Christ Jesus. As a result, the powerful gospel found us and made us alive together with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
What about faith? Faith is the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen. Faith believes at the deepest levels that their hope is as good as provided even though it has not yet been realized.
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, through Isaac shall your offspring be named. He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead…” (Hebrews 11:17-19)
How did that happen?
Father graciously, before the foundation of the world, adopted Abraham from Ur and took him from the “gods” of his fathers (likely the gods of the Gilgamesh Epic) and showed him his grace and faithfulness and Abraham was made able to believe. Abraham’s faith was the result of the grace of the Father to rescue him from false gods, give him ears to hear his voice, call him from that land and into the gospel of making Father’s name great among all nations.
We are no different from Abraham. We were dead and doing our own thing, but Father full of grace made us alive (whether we were 20 or 4) and thus made us able to have faith that we could be sons and daughters of his.
- Salvation is not by our work v. 8b-9
“And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
When Paul says, “…this is not your own doing…” he is referring to being “saved” therefore referring to the means by which people are saved.
In other words our salvation is completely the work of Father, Son and Spirit.
When we ask the question about why we are in Christ and our friends and family who are not Christians are not in Christ and our answer is that we just evaluated the data and made a better decision, then when we stand before Jesus Christ at the end of the age we will have to demand our salvation as payment due to our superior decision-making. They didn’t choose wisely, so they get hell. We did choose wisely so we get heaven. Give me my due, Jesus. Negative. That is not how it works. This is arrogance in thinking one gets salvation because of anything they do.
2 Timothy 1:8-9
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
What do we take from this truth that we are saved by grace through faith and not by our works?
- Father is good!
Father is the ultimate standard of Good and all that he does is worthy of approval.
- We understand that a redeemed world is better than a world that never needed to be redeemed.
Have you ever wondered why the fall? Why not just keep things pristine? Why elect those in Christ from before the foundation of the world to be saved by grace through faith? Why all the language about being saved? Why didn’t Father just plan a no-fall created order?
Jesus let Lazarus die so he could display the glory of God and instruct Mary and Martha that he, Jesus, is life “…I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (v. 25-26)
The bible informs us that although creation has fallen, it will someday be restored and evil be destroyed; fallen humanity and a fallen created order will one day be redeemed.
In fact, we are told that the end will be even better than the beginning because of a newly created heaven and earth and a multitude of nations will be gathered in thanks and joy that can only be had because they were rescued.
They can know thanks and joy truly because of the contrast of having been blind to and ignored and disdained the truth. Therefore, a world redeemed is better than a world that had never fallen.
Father will not only be worshiped for his grace and mercy but also for his justice. In the fall the full glory of Father was put on display at the cross and redeemed man is better than man who had never fallen for seeing and boasting in the cross.
- The worship of the nations is a fixed reality and our right involvement can only produce eternal fruit.
This follows comes not so much on the heals of “grace and faith” but on the metanarrative of Scripture that tells us Father saves by grace through faith.
See, father does not just intend to save you and I by grace through faith. Father intends to save folks from all peoples by grace through faith. That is what he told Abraham.
Galatians 3:8 “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall the nations be blessed.’”
- We give thanks
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
- We obey
1 Samuel 15:22
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”
- We worship in word and deed
A people who will not offer their lives as a living sacrifice is a people who have not received salvation by grace through faith. Although no “Christian” would hopefully ever say they have earned their salvation, there are many who hold on to their lives as though they have to achieve some non-kingdom standard of success rather than obey the Lord, and these refuse to worship as a living sacrifice.
Although no “Christian” would hopefully ever say the Lord owes them anything, there are many with sour dispositions (not talking about a true wrestling through seasons of life that cause the external to be down and hurting) because somehow things have been harder than they perceive they should have been or someone had done something they didn’t life and they make it their aim to be as unhappy as they can be and drag as many down as they can with them. They refuse to take joy in the Lord as a living sacrifice. There is no song because they are just sour.
We sing not because we like a style. Lord willing one day TRCC will be so “not white” that we look like the kingdom in a gloriously multi-cultural Revelation 4 and 5 display and I promise you, the music won’t be “your style”. It will be clear it is for Jesus and we are just participants whose aim is to make Jesus big not our style. We sing, whether it sounds like R & B or the eclectic southern rock / bluegrass thing we have indigenously at TRCC. We sing because we’ve been saved / rescued / redeemed and Jesus is worth our sacrifice of praise.
 Kent Hughes, Ephesians (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), p. 71
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), p. 1243
 Ibid,. p. 251