Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 28
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1999|
|Dr. Barber does a study of the word “ages” to explain first, what an age is, and then how God relates to His people in each age.|
Made in Heaven by the Grace of God – Part 1
Turn with me to Ephesians 2:7. I will entitle this “Made in Heaven by the Grace of God.” When I got on the plane on the way home recently, I was looking for an illustration for what I believe Paul is doing in chapters 1 and 2 of Ephesians. I found it in a very unusual way. A man got on the plane, and I noticed him right off. He wasn’t as tall as I am, but he was three times as big. He had huge shoulders and a huge barrel chest. He was wearing a blue suede sports jacket. Well, he was taking his jacket off. He pulled it open, and that label stuck out. It was in big red, white and blue letters. The label said, “Made in the U.S.A.”
Now that made a statement to me about the coat. That made a statement about the manufacturer of the coat, and that made a statement about the man wearing that coat. He was an American, and he was proud of it. “Made in the U.S.A.” I got to thinking, “Isn’t that exactly what Paul is saying?” Isn’t he trying to tell the Ephesian believers that they are made in heaven by the grace of God? They ought to be wearing a label wherever they go. They are not man made, they are God made. A label should be on every one of us. We are made in heaven by the grace of God. Both Jew and Gentile who have received the Lord Jesus Christ by faith are made anew in heaven by the grace of God. He is telling them that they are products of God.
One of the greatest pictures of the love of God, the grace of God, and the mercy of God is in verses 4-6. Remember verses 1, 2 and 3? Man is dead in his trespasses and his sins. There is no hope for man. He cannot even come up with a way in which he might be saved. You come through those awful first three verses of Chapter 2, then in verse 4 he says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,…” Oh, folks, if you are doubting the character of God and the fact that He loves you, listen.
He does not have to do another thing to prove that He loves you and me. Some people say, “You don’t know my experience. You don’t know what I am going through. God couldn’t love me.” Oh, friend, God has already proven to you and to me that He loves us. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.” I don’t have to do one thing to get God to love me and neither do you. God already has proven that He loves me and you.
A great theologian went to a school of higher learning. He spoke one morning. He opened it up at the last of his message for a few questions. One student stood up and said, “Sir, you are a theologian. You are a scholar. What is the greatest truth in scripture that you have ever come across?” He looked down very humbly and said, “Jesus loves me. This I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong.”
Folks, God has so proven His love to us and in that love is His grace and His mercy. We are made in heaven by the grace of God. Salvation is God’s idea. God has done that for you and me. Paul is wanting these Gentiles to know. You can’t read it without seeing that they have nothing to do with their salvation. They were without hope. He even tells them they were of the uncircumcision. They were without the covenants of promise. But God, being rich in mercy, reached down to them just like He did to Paul on the Damascus Road. That salvation is God’s plan. Salvation is God’s idea.
Well, verse 7 sort of culminates the thought from verses 4-6 in the fact that God wants to demonstrate in you and me His love and His grace and His mercy through all the ages. After talking about what He did for us when we were dead in our transgressions, it says in verse 7, “in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Have you ever thought about the fact that you are living proof that God loves His creation? The very fact that you are a believer, the very fact that you wear the label “Made in Heaven by the Grace of God” is living proof to this world that God loves His creation. That word there when he says “He might show” is the word that means to prove something or to demonstrate something. It is used twice in the New Testament, II Corinthians 8:24 to prove something and Hebrews 6:11 to demonstrate something. So we see Paul is saying, “You are the living proof. You are the living demonstration of God’s grace in kindness towards us.”
He wants to demonstrate this from age to age. Every believer ought to have a label on him. It ought to be “Made in Heaven by the Grace of God.” That label ought to be on what He is and that label ought to be on what He does. We are not a cold, calculating organization that functions like the world functions. We’ve been made by the grace of God. You know I think more so in our generation than any other time, we see on one hand believers who are just humbly grateful that they have been made in heaven by the grace of God. They get up daily saying, “God, I want Your label on me as who I am. I want Your label on me in what I do.” On the other hand, you’ve got people who don’t give God the time of day. They have joined the church. They think that they can do something for God, and they are cold, calculating, manipulating, programming. People who think they can help God out. People who come up with a better idea. On the one side, people overwhelmed by the grace of God. On the other side, people proud and arrogant, being religious and holding to a form of godliness, having denied the power thereof. Quite a distinction.
Paul says to those Ephesians, “Friend, when we get to heaven, there are not going to be any Baptists, Methodists, or Presbyterians. There are going to be people covered by the blood of Jesus standing there overwhelmed by the grace of their salvation. There, for sure, we will realize that we have been made in heaven by the grace of God.” The label that is on us should be just simply, “Jesus.” That’s it. Wherever we go, whatever we do, when people look at us they ought to see Him. When they hear us, they ought to hear Him. When they watch us, they ought to see Him. You see, in everything that we do, that label ought to be upon us.
Well, let’s look at the fact that we are made in heaven by the grace of God. In verses 8-10 we are the living demonstration of God’s grace. First of all, look at this thought in verses 8 and 9, by the grace of God. We are what we are by the grace of God. Verse 8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” In other words, I am a product of God and His grace. It is a gift of God. Paul is telling the Gentile believers that they are what they are because of the grace of God. If somebody gets up to testify of their salvation experience, they have not one right under heaven to say they had anything to do with it. Grace is what only God can do to a man, for a man, in a man and through a man that a man could never do and on this earth will never deserve. It will never be deserved in any way. It is what God has done for you and me. A believer cannot take any credit whatsoever for his salvation.
Paul says in Verse 8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves.” It kind of tickles me sometimes to say that there are two “nots” in Greek, but there are. The first one is me, which is a relative “not”, and means sometimes, sometimes yes, sometimes no. It always is subjective to whatever you are talking about. However there is another not in Scripture. It is the word ou, and it means absolutely not in any way, shape or form. Paul says, “We are saved by grace, not in any way, shape or form, of yourselves. It is the gift of God.”
Now I can hear somebody saying, “You said not of anything of man and yet you say, we must believe. How do you reconcile that?” Well first of all, let’s see if we can explain it. The word “faith” there is the word pistis. It means to put your trust in and to obey. That’s exactly what the Ephesians had done. Look back at 1:13. It is the same form of the word. In verse 13 of chapter 1 he says, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” There has got to be belief. When the gospel is presented, revealed to the human heart, there has got to be a response of faith, of receiving of trusting in, of being willing to obey what the gospel has said. There is one thing we tend to overlook, lest anybody think you did anything to get saved: it is all God’s idea.
Turn to Philippians 1:29. I want to show you something. Not only is our salvation by the grace of God, even the way we receive it is by the grace of God. “For to you, it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Now if you jump to the suffering, you pick up the fact that Paul is in prison. He is talking about that, but he said something else there. You have also been granted, it is given as a gift, to believe in Him, which is in the present tense.
By the way, there is a difference here. When God enables a person to see the gospel revealed to him by the Holy Spirit and be convicted of his sin by the Holy Spirit, He also enables him with a different kind of belief than what man calls belief. Belief is not static. That’s human belief. “Oh, I understand. I think I know what you are talking about. I’ll do what you say.” It stops right there. With God, when He quickens belief in a person’s heart, when he is responding to gospel of their salvation, it is a belief that starts and never stops. Oh, it may wane for a while. It may even be little for a while. It might be like the centurion, “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief.” But that spark is still there. That flame is still there. You see, what starts by God continues.
That is why the Apostle John over in I John doesn’t say, “Did you get saved back here?” Every time he says, “Those who believe,” in the present tense. Listen, it is no good to go back and say “I believed back then” if you are not believing right now. God quickens that measure of faith that He gave to all men on this earth. When that is enacted, when they respond out of the grace of God to the gospel of their salvation, it is something that starts and it never, ever, ever stops. It has been granted to you to believe in Him. So, yes, we must respond. Yes, it must be a response of faith. But my friend, God gave you the faith to respond, and it is God who, when you do respond in His power and by His grace, enables that belief to go on and on and on and on and on. There is one thing then we must remember: our salvation is by the grace of God.
Going back to Ephesians 2, verses 8 and 9 say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” Now what does he mean, the result of works? Well, it is a deed. That word is used three times in the book of Ephesians. Let’s just find out how Paul wants us to see it used. First of all, it is in 1:11. It refers to that which someone does, a deed that a person does: “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” Who does something? You see, a deed is something you do.
In chapter 2 it is used again in verse 10. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” So it is not only what somebody does, it is what they are supposed to do. It is a deed, something you do.
In 3:20, it carries even the idea of the energy of that deed. “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” That’s energy. That word is the energy behind a deed that one does. Now you say, “Why are you laboring the point?” Well, anything that a man does in his own energy is not and cannot be the basis for his salvation other than activating the faith that God has already given him to respond to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is from God alone. We are products of His grace, made in heaven by the grace of God.
Now, what work could anybody attach to being saved? Some people say you have to be baptized to be saved. Have you ever heard that? There are some people who say, “Hey, it is not even the baptism. You’ve got to believe, when you are being baptized, that the water cleanses your sin and washes away your sin, so that you can be regenerated. If you don’t believe that when you were baptized, then you aren’t saved when you are baptized.” Some people say, “You have to be baptized by a minister of a particular church that holds to that creed. You can’t just be baptized by anybody.” Folks, how does that match up with what Paul says here? Not of works, in no way of yourself, not of any energized deed that you do can you be saved. In no way can you be saved.
You see, salvation is that which God does. We are what we are because of the grace of God. He is telling these Ephesians, “The Jews can’t take any credit. You can’t take any credit. We are all what we are by the grace of God.”
Secondly, His label should be on what we do. We should do what we do by the grace of God. Now that is different. We are what we are. Yes sir, I’ll wear that label. But on what I do, I put my own label because I’ll do it and ask God to bless it. Is that what verse 10 says? Let’s look at it. He says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Uh oh. “Beforehand” in the context of Ephesians means before the foundation of the world. You mean only God knows what those good works are? Well, that’s the thought I’ve got. They are in Christ. That is the only way they can be accomplished, and we are to walk in them. Not only are we to have His label on who we are, but we are to have His label on what and how we do what we do.
Notice I said we should do what we do by His grace. We have a choice here. You say, “Wait a minute, you’re confusing me. I’m to walk in these good works, I am not to come up with them; He has already predestined them before the foundation of the world. How in the world can I walk in something if I don’t know what they are?” Well now, many of them we do know. They are right here in the Word. You need to remember we are only in Chapter 2 of Ephesians. We’re laying the ground work for chapters 4-6. We haven’t gotten to the instructional part. We are in the doctrinal part right now. Now the instructional part makes a lot of sense, if you understand the doctrinal part.
How are we going to walk in those works? It’s not going to be because of our own self-effort or our own creativity. We were saved by the grace of God, therefore, what we do should be by the grace of God. That is only what God can do in a man, to a man, for a man and through a man. Ephesians 5:18 says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” The tense here means “being at all times.” That’s the Spirit-filled life. How do I walk in those works when I don’t know what they are apart from His intervention in my life? I simply am being filled at all times with the Spirit of God. What does that mean? Listen, it doesn’t mean I get something new every day. It means I’ve already got what I need. I bow to that every day. I am submissive to Him, yielded to Him, and overwhelmed that this is His idea and not my idea. In other words when I understand this is God’s work, when I am yielded to His Word and His will, then His Spirit within me begins to produce, with my cooperation, through me works that are good and have His label on them. It is not my label. His label is on them.
As a matter of fact, look over in Galatians 3:1. He says, “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?” “You got saved in the Spirit. You wore His label of salvation. Now are you going to be sanctified by the flesh?” You know, a lot of people are hung up in that. They don’t mind wearing the label and saying, “Hey, I didn’t have anything to do with my salvation.” But they take on the responsibility that they have everything to do with their sanctification, as if they have got to work their way into perfection.
Philippians 1:6 says, “…He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” It is all Christ and what He does in our life. We simply line up. We simply cooperate with Him. What comes out of that intimate relationship with Him in His Word is called the good works.
Do you want to see what the deeds of the flesh are, what we can do, what we will end up being, what the root attitudes are? In Galatians 5:19 Paul tries to warn them. He tells them if they live this way, they can’t even be saved. If they start acting these ways nobody will ever know they are even Christians. Verse 19 says, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing.” He doesn’t even finish the list. He says, “I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” In other words, you don’t want this stuff to get in your life. You don’t want the flesh to control your life. These things will start coming in your life, and people won’t know if you are saved or if you are lost.
It says in verse 22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” In other words, I want you to see there is a difference in what comes out of a person when he is in tune with the One who lives in him. There is a difference when he does it himself and when God through him does a work. He has done a work to us. That is the label we wear, “Made in heaven by the grace of God.”
Now He wants to do a work through us on earth by the grace of God. That’s what He wants to do. Look at II Timothy 3:16-17. I think this explains it even better. The first part of chapter 3 is about loving self. A lover of self is one. The first characteristic is a lover of money. In Verse 10 he switches to people who love God. In that context we find verse 16. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Now wait a minute. Which comes first, the work or the word? You see what happens is, we get saved by grace. I’ll wear that label. Then we jump into the work. No. We must surrender to the Word so then we are equipped for every good work. His label should not only be on what we are, but it should be on what we do.
Well, I could have added another one. One day we will be what we will be by the grace of God. We are what we are by the grace of God. We should do what we do by the grace of God, and one day we will be what we will be by the grace of God. His grace continues to be demonstrated in us from ages to ages, to ages to come of His love and mercy towards His creation.
That’s what Paul is saying. You are saved by the grace of God. You are made in heaven by the grace of God. Wear His label on who you are and wear His label on what you do. Don’t you dare take an ounce of credit for any of it.