Saturday, July 18, 2020

Peace with God: Salvation in Ephesians

Christ not only brings peace, but “He Himself is our peace” (2:14). Peace has special prominence in Ephesians. Paul knew the bitter enmity between Jews and Gentiles, but he knew also that “through the blood of Christ” those “who once were far away have been brought near” (Ephesians 2:13). The law was of critical importance for Jews: It was divinely given and meant that those who lived by it were saved, while nobody else could possibly know the blessing of God. The law for them was central to salvation and it set them apart from everyone else.

But Christ has abolished “in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations” (2:15). Since the law is not God’s way of bringing salvation, and since Christ has brought salvation to both Jew and Gentile, He has created “in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace” (2:15). The Cross means reconciliation and thus the bringing of peace to those far off and those who were near (2:17).

Paul emphasizes the truth, that salvation is God’s gift, not a reward for merit. He starts Ephesians with an expression of praise to God, who has given us “every spiritual blessing in Christ” (1:3). He then goes on to say that God “chose us” in Christ before Creation (1:4) and that in love “He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ” (1:5). He proceeds to refer to grace, a term he uses twelve times in this short epistle. The word points to a gift which the giver is not bound to give—it signifies a good gift freely given, definitely not a reward for merit.

Paul brings this out by piling one expression on another to show the wonder of God’s free salvation: It is “by grace”; “you have been saved” (not “you saved yourselves”); it is “through faith”; it is “not from yourselves”; it is “the gift of God”; it is “not by works”; this is “so that no one can boast”; the saved are “God’s workmanship”; they are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works”; and those good works “God prepared in advance” (2:8–10). Paul is emphasizing strongly the truth that the whole of salvation, from first to last, is the gift of God, the outworking of His grace.

Not only does grace point to God’s great plan for bringing salvation to multitudes of sinners, but grace is given “to each one of us” (4:7). In our wonder at the amazing grace that spreads so far, we should not overlook the importance of the grace that is extended to the lowliest of God’s children.


Six times in Ephesians Paul uses the word mystery (1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 5:32; 6:19); no other New Testament book has it so often. The word does not mean something difficult to discover but something impossible to discover. But as Paul uses it, there is the further thought that what we cannot find, God has now made known. Especially does this refer to the Gospel (6:19). Who could possibly have worked it out that our eternal salvation does not depend on our good lives, or our worship, or our prayers, or anything that we do? Who could have worked it out that our salvation comes about because the Son of God came to earth and died on a cross to put away our sins? But that is what God has done for us, and Paul ceaselessly exults in this “mystery.”


Love rings through Ephesians (only 1 Corinthians and 1 John have the noun more). The love of God underlies and brings about salvation (1:4–5; 2:4; 3:18–19). For Paul it is very important that we understand that God does not simply tolerate His chosen sinners. Although He hates their sinfulness, He loves them. He loves His own with a deep and holy love, the love we see on Calvary. Paul prays that his correspondents may “have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (3:18).

And God’s love is creative. It awakens love in those for whom Christ died. So Paul is insistent that those saved in Christ must be loving people. They are “rooted and established in love” (3:17); they bear with one another “in love” (4:2); the whole Christian body “grows and builds itself up in love” (4:16).

New Life In Christ

The life Christians live is distinctive. Paul prays that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (1:18) and speaks of “His incomparably great power for us who believe” (1:19). Believers are no longer dead in sins but “alive with Christ” (2:5). They are to live lives worthy of their call (4:1). They must put on the armor God provides them (6:11–17). They live “as children of light” (5:8).