According to Ephesians 2, it it grace all the way.
SEPTEMBER 28, 2022
Justin Holcomb: According to Ephesians 2, it is grace all the way. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
This is Key Life. We’re here to communicate the freeing truth that God’s not mad at his children. Steve invited our friend Justin Holcomb to teach us all this week. Justin is a Priest, seminary professor, and he’s written, co-authored, or edited more than 20 books.
Justin Holcomb: Thank you Matthew. My name is Justin Holcomb, and I have the joy of teaching this week. The first two teachings were focused on making the claim that the grace of God is the central message of the Bible and the ministry of Jesus Christ and his work. And yesterday, we looked at what does the Bible have to say about grace? For this teaching and tomorrow’s, we’re going to be looking at specifically Ephesians 2. So you can break out your Bibles, find Ephesians 2, we’ll be going through that chapter, but first John one verse 16 tells us that from Jesus Christ, we have all received grace upon grace. We’re saved solely through faith in Christ because of God’s grace and Christ’s merit alone. We are neither saved by our merit or deserving nor declared righteous by our good works. We do not deserve grace or else it wouldn’t be grace. This means that God grants salvation, not because of the good things we do, or even our faith and despite our sin, this is the ring of liberation and the Christian and proclamation. If it is not grace all the way, then we will spend our lifetimes wondering if we’ve done enough to get that total acceptance that we desperately long for. You know, I said the prayer, but did I say it passionately enough? I repented, but was it sincere enough? And the teaching of election puts salvation in the only place that it can possibly exist, in God’s hands. God’s election is the unconditional and unmerited nature of his grace. Ephesians 2 verses four and five proclaims God’s grace clearly.
God being rich and mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved.
Regeneration or being made spiritually alive takes place when we are spiritually dead people and we’re made alive in Christ. Dead people don’t cooperate, unless regeneration takes place first, there’s no possibility of faith. And Paul got this from Jesus who told Nicodemus in John 3:3.
Unless a man is born again first he cannot possibly see or enter the kingdom of God.
The Bible teaches us that new birth and the word for that is regeneration precedes saving faith in Christ. In other words, God in his sovereign grace, makes spiritually dead people alive so they can have faith in Christ and be justified. And to be justified means that your sins are forgiven and you are declared righteous because of the act of righteousness of Christ. Spiritual death is human self dependence. When we are made alive, we are able for the first time ever to place our hope in someone else who can save us, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Left to our own abilities, we don’t cooperate with grace or even seek God. John, or not John, it’s in John 2, but Romans 3:10 and 11 says.
None is righteous, no, not one, no one understands, no one seeks God.
We choose ourselves over God, if left to ourselves. We’re unable to seek God because we’re spiritually dead, just as Lazarus couldn’t raise himself from the dead, we can’t raise ourselves from spiritual death. We also need Jesus to say to us, dead one, come out. This teaching makes God’s grace even more amazing. Salvation belongs to the Lord. It is not something we do and act or achieve. Jesus loves us, and he draws us to himself for God’s glory while we are spiritually dead and utterly undeserving. That is grace indeed. That is liberation. As humans we inherited in nature and will from Adam that are in bondage to sin. This is why Augustine argued.
What God’s grace has not freed will not be free.
Calvin said it another way.
Human will does not by liberty obtain grace, but by grace obtains liberty.
You see, we’re born in sin, we’re naturally enemies of God and lovers of sin and evil. We needed to be made alive, regenerated that we could even have faith in Christ. All of this is grace that we don’t deserve. When we realize we didn’t earn or attain this grace, we also realize we can’t lose it. God graciously preserves us and keeps us, II Timothy 2:13 promises.
When we are faithless toward him, he is still faithful.
The grace just keeps on going, but if the gospel is outside of us, if we can’t even stand before God, until he graciously attributes to us, the righteousness of Jesus Christ and attributes to him on the cross, the consequences of our sin, how can this be so liberating? Is it really good news, if our freedom is won by the hand of another? The fact that we try to reserve just a little part of salvation to ourselves, which to be honest, I kind of default to that sometimes myself. So, this is not just a few of us, this is all of us. We try to carve out just a little part that is up to us. This is evidence that we don’t fully understand our bondage. We look for our righteousness in some other action or quality of ourselves, no matter how little that might be. When grace opens our eyes, we realize our righteousness is outside of us. It is then that we realize just how glorious, unchanging, and enduring the righteousness of Jesus, not ours actually is. This good news is illustrated by John Bunyan’s spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, he writes this.
Every little touch would hurt my conscience, but one day as I was passing in the field, suddenly I thought of a sentence. Your righteousness is in heaven. With the eyes of faith, I saw Jesus sitting at God’s right hand and I suddenly realized there is my righteousness. Wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say to me, where is your righteousness? For that was right before him. I saw that my good frame of heart could not make my righteousness better, nor a bad frame could not make my righteousness worse. My righteousness was in Jesus Christ himself forever. Now my chains fell off indeed. I felt delivered from slavery to guilt and fears. I went home rejoicing for the love and graces of God. Now, I could look from myself to him. Christ is my treasure my righteousness. Christ is my wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and salvation.
That’s why we read John Bunyan and the others who celebrate this good news. There’s gold in the hills of the Christian tradition and that’s just one example of it. But let’s look at Ephesians 2:8 through 10. This clearly is captured in Scriptures, not just something made up from people outside of Scripture.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, according to Ephesians 2:8 through 10. Ephesians 2 is filled with the high octane gospel of grace for both our justification and our sanctification. Justification is our standing before God, we’re made right, we are justified because our sins have been forgiven and we have been declared righteous. Sanctification is the Christian life after justification, is our growing and likeliness to Jesus. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit in us. And that’s where we finally cooperate a little bit. It begins with how believers were dead in their sin. Ephesians 2 begins with how believers were dead in their sins, then moved to how God loved us and rescued us from this death by his grace, bringing salvation to all in Christ, uniting Jews and Gentiles as one people in which the Spirit of God dwells. The first half of chapter two focuses on God’s rescue operation for his people, which delivered us from our sin and God’s wrath and ends with verse 10, which centers on how God’s deliverance means we are created anew for lives of righteousness. As New Testament scholar Peter O’Brien notes.
Salvation has already been described by Paul as quote a resurrection from the dead, a liberation from slavery, and a rescue from condemnation. He now moves to the idea of the new creation.
The theme of Ephesians 2:8 through 9 is clear, it is the grace of God. This theme was already mentioned in Ephesians 2:5, but what was then more of an undercurrent, not as clearly stated now becomes the main point. We are saved by grace, not anything that we have done. The passage is a traditional one used to support the idea that justification before God is by grace alone and not anything we do and for good reason. The verse strikes with great emphasis, the note of salvation as a complete gift of God. We have done nothing to bring it about, that could lead us to boast about it. We don’t point to ourselves, but we point to our righteousness there in heaven. And yet, it is nearly impossible not to boast in a radical love of God when we grasp this reality. Let’s pray. Lord God, preserve us with your mighty power. And please give us your mighty grace for our justification and sanctification. Amen.
Thank you Justin Holcomb. What a beautiful reflection on grace, how we don’t deserve it and further can’t earn it. And again, our text today was found in Ephesians 2 and John 1:16. Justin will wrap up his teaching tomorrow, don’t miss that. And just as a reminder, if you did miss any of this week’s broadcast with Justin, be sure to catch those at keylife.org a lot of exciting stuff happening there. If you go to www.keylife.org/biblereading you can hear Steve reading entire books of the Bible. Yeah, how cool is that? It’s an ongoing project. So, check it out and be sure to come back often for updates. We also have transcripts for Key Life, so everything you hear Steve or Pete or Matt or Justin teaching, you can get that word for word. Also at keylife.org you’ll find our digital magazines, sermons, video versions of Steve Brown Etc, a sign up for our weekly e-mail, even a link to our Key Life app. And all of it is still free, thanks to the generous support of listeners, just like you. If you’d like to donate, just call 1-800-KEY-LIFE, that’s 1-800-539-5433. Or you can mail your donation to
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