Sermon: The Language of Salvation (Ephesians 2:8-10)

The Language of Salvation

Ephes. 2:8-10 (ESV) 

    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  [9] not 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, that we should walk in them.

As we begin, I want us to see that this text of Scripture and others have been challenged throughout Church History. A salvation that is at the mercy of God is not popular among the masses. In America this doctrine is fought against very viciously. People in general want to work and earn their keep. For the most part they want to say they have acted well toward God and so He somehow owes them salvation. We hear things like…I’m a good person, I try my best, no one is perfect, God and I have an agreement.

This type of teaching has been around from the beginning of the church.

The first famous surfacing of this false teaching happened around the fourth century. A British monk named Pelagius began to teach that mankind really wasn’t dead in sin and transgressions but born in a state of innocence, that Adam’s sin didn’t affect anyone but him. He also taught that man is unimpaired spiritually. He taught that mankind without any help from God through his freewill can choose that which is spiritually good. Mankind was not corrupt but basically good. Pelagius probably would not have liked this passage at all. This is, however, the reality of salvation…The Language of Salvation  

Rather than taking Pelagious’ views, we will look to the Scriptures and glean from God.

1. Saved by Grace (Ephesians 2:8a)

For by grace you have been saved

As we unpack this text we should see that verse eight begins with the word For. This word reaches back and carries all the other verses along with it. The wording shows that Paul concludes that because of all the other clear evidence that we are saved by divine grace.

We have already seen in previous messages that this grace stems from the riches of God’s mercy and love. The Ephesians did not earn God’s love by doing good things or by being smart enough to respond when Paul preached. We do not earn God’s love either.

Romans 11:6 (ESV) 

    But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

Grace is not an aid to salvation. The Lord doesn’t help us along by grace. We are saved by grace alone. You cannot add anything to grace and still have grace. As Paul said if you add works to grace you no longer have grace.

If you try to earn unearned love it’s no longer unearned. God chooses to save some rebellious sinners not because they deserve or could ever do enough to deserve it but simply because He chooses to do so.

John Newton knew of the grace of God first hand…

Oh it was mercy indeed to save a wretch like me

John Newton wrote these words in his journal on 21 March 1796, at the age of 70.

He never forgot that “great turning day” in 1748 when, as an obstreperous, rebellious young man, he was surprised to hear himself crying out during a violent storm at sea, “The Lord have mercy on us!”

[John Newton’s sermon notebook, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 2940]

For it was on that day he discovered, “How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.”

Every year that followed, he kept  21 March apart as a day of remembrance, for thanksgiving, fasting and prayer. 

The words of Amazing Grace were etched on his heart daily.  But we assume that he first wrote this hymn for his New Year’s Morning sermon of 1 January 1773, for it fits his sermon notes so closely and the text  he chose to write above it in the Olney Hymns, 1 Chronicles 17:16,17, is identical to the sermon’s text.

Grace is amazing especially up against the backdrop of our human depravity and lost ness. We were a ruined race and then God so lovingly moved and brought a people to life for His glory.

2. Saved Through Faith (Ephesians 2:8b)

through faith

I’ve heard the old saying that grace is God’s part and faith is our part. But if that’s true then even faith becomes a work (something we do to earn salvation) and we’re told that salvation is not by works. So faith cannot be a work.

For the answer we need to go to the original languages to see what Paul is writing about. When we do that it becomes crystal clear as to what Paul is referring to.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 

The answer to this question is in one little word…this.

What does this refer to?

It refers to grace and faith. It refers to the gift of God. It refers to salvation as a whole which is made up of grace and faith and both are seen by Paul as God’s gift. The reality is God gives the lost sinner unmerited love called grace and He gives the sinner saving faith. When the Lord brings us to life spiritually He implants the Holy Spirit within us. He also extends grace and gives us the faith needed to trust Him.

So the way faith is not a work is that it is included in the gift and it becomes first a characteristic we posses rather than something we do. Once it is given, however, we then begin to exercise it. We now have saving faith and we begin to use it.

Because God has given as a gift, salvation we are different than we used to be. We were dead, now we are alive. We were children of wrath, now we are children of God. We used to be slaves to sin, now we are slaves to Christ. We believe Christ died for us personally and that all the promises of God will come to pass.

The next logical question is this…what is it that we trust in or have faith in?

Saving faith is a trust in the finished work of Christ for us. It believes that His death and resurrection are for me and that all God’s promises will come to pass and that’s all God requires. Saving faith is also something that continues throughout our lives. It’s not something we exercise once and then its over, but we are continually believing and trusting God in everything. What does trusting God daily look like?

Here’s some examples…

And here’s what that means. It means that from here on out you will trust in your heart that the death of Christ has covered all your sins, and guaranteed all the promises of God on your behalf.

So, for example, if you are tempted to steal, instead you’ll put your trust in the promise of God that “He will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). And you don’t deny that promise by stealing.

And if you are tempted to lie to get yourself out of a jam, instead you will trust the promise of God that “The Lord withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). And you will not deny this promise by lying.

And if you are tempted to take revenge for wrong, instead you will trust the promise of God, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). And you will not deny the truth and value of this promise by taking revenge yourself.—John Piper

3. Not by Our Works (Ephesians 2:9)

[9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

From the very first verse Paul has been showing us that salvation is not of works. There is nothing that even resembles works.

In the Book of Romans Paul puts for proof that in no way has salvation ever been connected with works. Even in the Old Testament, salvation has always been by Grace through faith.

Romans 4:1-8 (ESV) 

    What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?  [2] For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  [3] For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”  [4] Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.  [5] And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,  [6] just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

 

    [7] “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,

        and whose sins are covered;

    [8] blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

If Abraham could earn salvation because of good works then he could boast in his own abilities. There is no room for this kind of boasting.

1 Cor. 1:26-31 (ESV) 

    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.  [27] 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;  [28] God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  [29] so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  [30] He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.  [31] Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Even though we should not ever think for a second we can contribute works to our salvation, there are works involved.

 4. By God’s Works (Ephesians 2:10)

[10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Extending grace to undeserving sinners is God’s work. Bringing dead sinners to life is God’s work.

God is the Great artist who is forming a new creation. He has provided salvation through the death of Jesus Christ. He has opened our hearts to believe this message of truth. He has implanted the Holy Spirit within His people. God is at work.

2 Cor. 5:17-19 (ESV) 

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  [18] All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  [19] that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 

As believers, now we do have work to do. God alone is creating new people with new natures. He is causing us to be born again. Once this happens we do have work to do. This work isn’t done to earn salvation because those engaged in it are already saved. This work isn’t done in order to keep our salvation because Scripture teaches that we are eternally secure. This work is done because we love the Lord with all our hearts. Through gratitude we joyfully labor for our King.

[10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Our calling as believers is to walk in these good works in which God has prepared for us already. Every believer has a job to do. Every believer has good works prepared for them.

Are you engaged in those good works? Are you consistently laboring for the Glory of Christ?

 

1. Saved by Grace (Ephesians 2:8a)

2. Saved Through Faith (Ephesians 2:8b)

3. Not by Our Works (Ephesians 2:9)

4. By God’s Works (Ephesians 2:10)

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