Our lesson this week is the first lesson of the new year! It is the second lesson within the second unit of lessons which is titled – “Transformed Lives in Christ”. In our lesson to close out 2023, we saw that God calls for all people of the world to become holy and righteous; all people can be saved if they accept His call. This week’s lesson takes a look at how the sincere believer is molded by the Lord – God’s workmanship – to produce the works of righteousness.
The key verse of our lesson this week, Ephesians 2:10, speaks to how we, the sincere believer, are God’s workmanship. There is a compare and contrast from the last verse of our lesson this week with the first verse of our lesson this week. Let’s take a look at the opening of our lesson this week.
Dead in trespasses
In the opening verse, Paul writes to those of Ephesus, “You He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins (v.1).” So, to be clear, Paul is writing to the believer. We know that Paul is writing to the believer because those who believe in the only begotten Son have been quickened (made alive), spiritually speaking, through the Holy Spirit.
The opening verse speaks to the compare and contrast of being God’s workmanship and the workmanship of sin. When one abides by sin, they are “dead in trespasses.” Again, to be very clear about this, Paul was not speaking about one being physically dead but being dead in the soul.
To be dead in the soul calls back to what Jesus said of those who would choose not to believe in Him when He taught Nicodemus. To Nicodemus, Jesus said, “He who believes in Him (Christ) is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18).” Those who choose to live in sin and never repent are living with a soul that is already condemned to the second death— to be cast away from God for eternity.
So, Paul tells the sincere believer that we were once on that pathway to the second death but Christ made us alive. Paul writes that the believer once “walked according to the course of this world,” which again means that we were once dead in our soul. Paul stated that we once walked according to the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience (v.2).”
Who is the “prince of the power of the air”? That is certainly a reference to Satan. Satan is at work today as the kind of work he does in the world is shown throughout scripture. In his first interaction with mankind, we saw the devil encourage Eve to disobey in the garden (Gen. 3:1-6). In the book of Daniel, we read where the devil worked to prevent an angel from visiting and ministering to Daniel (Dan. 10:4-14).
The angel shared a message with Daniel, stating, “the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.” No human can withstand (prevent) an angel of the Lord; the prince of the kingdom of Persia was so much of a challenge that Michael, the archangel, had to intervene. The prince of the kingdom of Persia is a reference to the devil.
Satan himself speaks of his rule over the kingdoms of this world when he tempted Jesus. In Matthew 4:1-11, when Satan tempted Jesus, you will remember that the devil tempted Jesus by offering him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Sadly, for mankind, many of us give in to the temptation of the devil and we end up living in obedience to our temptation; this means we live under the rule of the devil, which is exactly what Paul stated (v.3).
Becoming God’s Workmanship
In the book of Job, we can see that the Lord permits the devil to move about in the world. In the opening of the book, when the “sons” of God went to present themselves before the Lord, Satan came and actually gave a report to God about what he had been up to. God asked, “From where do you come?” Satan responded, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back forth on it (Job 1:6).”
Now, this may seem odd to many people that the Lord permits the devil to move about as he does. I myself have raised an eyebrow at this thought, but at the same time, I have come to realize that the Lord permits this to happen because He is sovereign and in control. The devil did his best to break and destroy Job but Job’s story shows us that the devil does not have the power to do that as God is able to save.
Saved by grace
With that in mind, we will see Paul say, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His 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)… (vss.4-5).” Though it may appear like the devil has rule over you, his rule is as he is — a mirage and deception to those who are of sincere faith and recognize God’s authority.
Paul points to the Lord’s great love – His compassion – for us. I feel I have to use the word compassion here because the word love has lost its true meaning in our world. You see, compassion is full of mercy, which again, is what the Lord has shown us. Again, Paul tells us that the Lord was merciful to us when we didn’t even deserve it as we lived transgressing against Him with the biggest smiles on our faces.
Compassion speaks to one being both empathetic and sympathetic, which means to fully understand what one is going through. To be clear, God fully knows and understands what it is that you go through in life, even when you give in to temptation. Does the Lord hold that against us? Absolutely not – He is merciful.
Paul stated that we have been “made alive” together with Christ and continued by stating, “[God] raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus (vss.6-7).”
The compare and contrast reveals itself once again in our lesson this week. Satan’s workmanship leads one to being dead in the soul. However, because of God’s compassion, and the giving of His only begotten Son, we are raised from the dead, in our soul. Yes, there is going to be a resurrection of our body one day, but again, when Paul writes about being “made alive” he was speaking to a transformation of the present and not the future.
I also want to point out something that you have heard me speak to recently as well that Paul also points out. Paul speaks to our being made to “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This speaks to the Lord’s ultimate desire which is that mankind be saved so that we can dwell with Him in His kingdom. You and I, I want you to understand, have been made to join into fellowship with Christ through His death and through our faith.
Transformed through faith
Paul makes it vehemently clear in our next couple of verses who has saved us and how we are saved.
Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (vss.8-9).” My dad, when he began New Found Faith, would have us as a congregation quote this verse every Sunday morning. This verse points directly to the Lord and gives us another compare and contrast, in a manner of speaking.
You and I are saved not by our works. I could go on and on about this thought, which I often do in lessons and sermons. You see, there are many people that believe if they do a bunch of good things, then they will be able to enter heaven. Many of us was taught this very thing when we were little children, at least I certainly can remember being little and the nursery school teachers teaching this.
The sentiment of doing good is certainly a good thing to teach, however, the notion of simply doing good and being able to enter heaven is very misleading. The reason why this notion is misleading is because it is missing the key to opening the door to heaven, which is faith. One must be of sincere faith to be born again (transformed in the soul) to enter the kingdom of God.
Sadly, many people have become religious people rather than faithful people. There is a drastic difference between the professed believer and the sincere believer that I don’t think many people understand. You see, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day are good examples of professed believers; they had their works but their works had absolutely no faith.
In Matthew 23, Jesus testified to how the religious leaders moved about in their “works”. Jesus pointed out that they did their works to be seen by others (Matt. 23:5). The religious leaders, Jesus said, loved to be able to go through the marketplaces and have men call out to them (Matt. 23:7). So, essentially, the religious leaders did their works to make a name for themselves, rather than to glorify the Lord; they moved selfishly to gain the riches of the world.
Paul, in the last verse of our lesson this week, stated, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (v.10).”
The sincere believer is who James spoke of those being dead in faith because they did not have any works. James asked, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him (Jas. 2:14)?” James then said, “But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (Jas. 2:18).”
James hit those that loved to simply profess to be of faith but they never moved in faith, while also hitting those that liked to boast about their works but did not move by faith. Sincere faith will produce the works of righteousness, the works of God. I want you to understand, when you move, you are a living testimony of God and you give testimony to His grace.
As we know and saw all of last year, when the child of God is led by the Holy Spirit, we are able to produce fruit that is holy and righteous – the fruit of the Spirit. God has not created us for the purpose of tearing down and destroying. No, the Lord has created us for the purpose of building up, edifying those that are around us.