15. If you love me, obey my commandments (New Living Translation).
8. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God…
There is such a disconnect in modern Christianity. The Evangelical world of believers (I do not say they are not believers) have so thoroughly grabbed hold of Ephesians 2:8 and installed it as the chief soteriological text of their doctrine, that, in terms of the Gospel, there simply isn’t room for anything else, like love and obedience.
If anyone dare to suggest that one needs to actually obey, and through obedience, apply the teachings of the Lord and His Apostles in such a way that requires any action at all on the part of the believer, accusations of legalism and work-based salvation fly out the mouth faster than you can believe in your heart and confess with your mouth.
In fact, there are those who adamantly oppose what they call Lordship Salvation, meaning one can only experience Jesus as Savior if they recognize Him as Lord.
They argue that if we do anything at all in order to be saved, we are adding to Christ’s atonement, thus making the cross insufficient for salvation. Note, however, that they do not say if we do absolutely nothing in order to be saved, we are subtracting from Christ’s atonement, thus making the cross deficient for salvation. I wonder why not?
Now, admittedly, sometimes obedience is recommended and praised by some as a good thing. It is rarely if ever, however, commanded and praised as a necessary thing, especially in terms of being saved.
Some will even say, yes, a Christian believer should be baptized, but not in order to be saved. Rather, they should be baptized because they are already saved.
Some will say, yes, a Christian believer should try to live a clean life, but if they don’t, they are still saved, regardless of the possible unrighteousness present in their life.
What’s the problem? Why are so many millions of professing followers of Jesus Christ trapped in this deception?
It’s because they’ve divorced love and obedience from grace and faith.
For too many, grace means the unmerited favor of God toward humanity; He can’t help Himself, He just has to save us, He loves us so much! Additionally, for such people, faith simply means coming to a mental belief that what God did through Jesus Christ, apart from anything we say or do, automatically grants us eternal life, if we just accept the reality of it all.
These are not God’s definitions for these words. Grace is the Greek word charis and it means graciousness, first and foremost, from the giver, but/and secondly, as an attitude reflected back upon the giver by the recipient. It is the divine action of God upon the human heart to turn to Him for salvation and be regenerated.
While it is correct to say we do not merit such divine action, it is not correct to say that’s what grace means or that that is all there is to grace.
- The grace of God can be received in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1).
- The grace of God can be frustrated, that is, thwarted and/or rejected (Galatians 2:21).
- People can fall from grace (Galatians 5:4).
- People can fail of the grace of God (Hebrews 12:15).
- The grace of God can be turned into (i.e. changed or transposed) into lasciviousness (Jude 1:4).
One cannot simply say “I receive the grace of God by my mentally affirmed belief; therefore I am now saved”.
Salvation isn’t a statement of faith. Salvation is a process of rescue and redemption whereby the power of sin is literally, albeit spiritually, destroyed in the life of a believer, with the entire portfolio of past transgression against God eradicated by the blood of Jesus Christ (See Romans 6).
How many people who hold so tenaciously unto Ephesians 2:8 to the negation of John 14:15 can say they have experienced that? And if one should stand up and say “I have”, then my question is, is such a person still sinning?
I knew a guy who embraced this deception. He was a nice guy. He kept preaching the tender heart made of flesh, instead of the heart of stone (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26). A good message to be sure. But when he visited our assembly and didn’t agree with the guest preacher about whether or not Samson was defiling himself through his actions, he threw his bible down, slamming it to the ground in disgust! Next time anyone saw him, he was raging mad, yelling profusely at people from my church during an outreach.
Another fellow who had also embraced this deception wanted to have a sit down with me about what I believe and teach regarding salvation. We didn’t agree. As I quoted Scripture from the Bible, he quoted Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. When I called him on it, it wasn’t long until I was called a heretic to my face in a public location.
Believing Titus 3:10 to be the Word of God, I told him “Since you’ve admonished me more than once, you may now reject me, seeing that I am subverted. I harbor no ill feelings toward you. I am happy to shake your hand and say good-bye.”
He became livid. I finished by saying that we can both take our doctrinal views to the Judgment Seat of Christ. We’ll see what happens then. He then went from livid to boiling inferno. I packed up and walked away. This was all over a certain soul we were both trying to win. The person in question was divided between what he was being taught. I decided early that I would not compete when someone’s soul was in the balance, as if someone’s soul was a rope in a tug of war, especially when he wouldn’t commit (In the meantime, while this person decided and undecided what to do, I baptized his friend in the name of Jesus Christ in the university pool. This friend, who knew how to commit and have faith, then received the Holy Spirit in the locker room).
A couple years later, I ran into the soul in question, who informed me that the man who had called me a heretic, had used and abused him, betraying him and mistreating him.
So I know what I’m talking about when I say that many, many people caught up in this deception aren’t living right and that the power of sin in their lives isn’t destroyed. There was one young man several years ago who said he could do whatever the “F” he wanted (his words, unfortunately) and God will still forgive him and let him into heaven.
I quoted 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9. He got mad and stormed off, cursing me as he went. A few years later, as I understand it, he was dabbling with and experimenting in a particular brand of sexual immorality I won’t mention here.
Why these tragedies? Because all three and millions more have been taught to divorce love and obedience from grace and faith.
But what about faith? Surely faith is all that matters, right? That’s Paul’s main premise in both Romans and Galatians, isn’t it?
Of course it is. But hold your horses. Faith isn’t just some confession “I believe X”. Faith is action, is demonstrable, and is provable. I have faith that such and such a surgery will save my life if Surgeon X performs the operation, but even though I’m dying right now, and may go any day, I haven’t had the surgery, nor have I even scheduled it. But I’m going to live, because that surgery will save my life.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But replace some words and see here:
I have faith that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will save my soul since God Himself performs the regeneration, but even though I’m lost now and may die eternally any day, I haven’t obeyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, nor have I even tried. But I’m going to heaven, because the Gospel of Jesus Christ will save my soul.
Come on! Who do they think they’re fooling?
No one, and they know this. So, they introduced the sinner’s prayer, a weak version of actual repentance, although no doubt, many have genuinely repented of their sins as they prayed it. So now, through faith, they’ve loved the Savior enough to have obeyed (acted upon and by faith) some aspect of the Gospel, but still have the gall to accuse us of legalism and works-based salvation!
What’s easier? Being immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, or taking the time to tell God you’re a lost sinner, but that you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and trust that you are now born again because you repeated this prayer after some preacher or Bible tract?
Again, it’s a divorce. Love and obedience are separated from grace and truth.
But surely not love, you say? Don’t all these people love the Lord Jesus?
Perhaps. I hope so.
But love for Jesus is the only thing that gets people to forsake tradition and deception and go all the way into complete obedience. People who don’t obey the Master cannot faithfully say with any honesty that they love the Master. Not when it comes to the Gospel. The Gospel is the easiest, most primary part of loving Jesus.
I realize that there is a lot going against anyone being saved: they may have demonic forces fighting against them. They may have addictions in their flesh. They may have a past with what seems like insurmountable baggage.
But mostly it’s just bad old fashioned pride and stubbornness, coupled with unbelief.
And that’s the kicker. No matter the amount of grace God gives, no matter the Spirit of Grace employed by God to draw someone to Christ, it can be rejected on account of apistia, which is the direct opposite of pistis, the Greek word for faith. So what is apistia. Does it simply mean unbelief?
It means faithlessness, or the quality of lacking any sense of loyalty or love, as in one who is faithless in a marriage, which is to say, such a person is a betrayer and cheater. Apistia invokes the idea of rebellion and disobedience, which is apeitheia (as it’s found in Ephesians 2:2). It means obstinate opposition to the will of God, from the following words: a- meaning the negative particle, comparable to un- in English, and peitho, the root word for pistis, meaning to persuade and induce to faith through words.
So guess what? Apparently what Jesus said in John 14:15 simply cannot persuade or induce some people into faith, which is obedience, since they obstinately refuse to submit to Him because they don’t love Him, even though they say otherwise, all the while still demanding God grant them His “unmerited favor” so they can be saved.
Give me a break! Anyone who sidesteps love and obedience for grace and faith will never receive the grace that saves through the faith that saves. Jesus don’t play. You think I’m kidding?
27. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
“Reign over” means to be positioned as king above someone. Jesus said any who refuse His Sovereign, Divine Right to rule over them as Lord and Master should expect but one fate: the spiritual gallows when He comes. Even worse, according to this parable, Jesus demands that such people not only should be put to spiritual death, but also that such an execution should take place before Him as He watches and supervises (Take a look at Revelation 14:11 some time).
But grace! But faith! But! But! But…?
I know it’s harsh. But the Lord Jesus spoke those words; I merely quoted them.
So what’s one to do? It’s simple. Reunite love and obedience with grace and faith. We need a reconciliation. Let’s call the divorce off and renew our vows!
Line upon line, precept upon precept, that’s how.
The first thing to do is to stop equating obedience with works. The Greek word for works (as in we are not saved by works) is ergon. It means toil, effort, intense labor. We are not saved by toiling in an intense labor in an effort to be saved, by obeying the ritual Torah of the Old Covenant. Such obedience was a day in, day out demand that no one could successfully do. But we can love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and our neighbors as ourselves, which were and are Torah commands (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:34, respectively), and are in fact, the two greatest commandments of all (Mark 12:29-32).
Therefore, passively submitting to having someone immerse you in a pool of water as they invoke the name of Jesus Christ over you after you’ve confessed and repented is not ergon.
Receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit and prophesying in tongues as the prophet Joel foretold and the Apostle Peter explained, is not ergon.
Allowing the Holy Spirit to renew your mind from within so that the inside and outside of the cup becomes and STAYS clean is not ergon.
The second thing to do is re-embrace the word commandments as a good, necessary word. Look at the following:
- All thy commandments are faithful (Psalm 119:86)
- All thy commandments are truth (Psalm 119:151)
- All thy commandments are righteousness (Psalm 119:172)
- If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments (Matthew 19:17)
- And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless (Luke 1:6)
- He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me (John 14:21)
- If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love (John 15:10)
- And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments (1 John 2:3)
- He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:4)
- And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him (1 John 3:24)
- By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments (1 John 5:2)
- His commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:3)
- Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city (Revelation 22:14)
Where is grace and faith in any of the above? Does the Bible contradict itself? Is Paul an enemy of King David? Of King Jesus? Of John the Beloved?
So now that we see that commandments is not an ugly word to be shunned, but rather a righteous idea to love and obey, they next thing we need to do is exegete Ephesians 2:8 properly.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God…
The first order of business is to translate the text correctly. The Greek text looks like this:
τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶνθεοῦ τὸ δῶρον
Translated literally, with the syntax in place, it looks like this:
And because grace are all of you saved through faith and this thing not from of yours gift God
You can see that some work needs to happen in order to turn this into a coherent English sentence. But before we even do that, just look at the first two words: And because.
The first word “And” is a connector, linking the text back to what has come before, that is, it serves as a conjuctive. See, we need to pay close attention to what Paul has already written if we want to properly understand this verse (unfortunately, this Greek word te is often not translated). “Because”, as we have it here, is the Greek word gar, and expresses a causal affirmative conclusion regarding any matter, based on what has been offered by preceding clauses. Therefore, not only is Ephesians 2:8 connected to what has come before (meaning it’s not an independent idea floating out on its own), it’s also a summarizing conclusion of the previous statements made by the apostle. So, in order to understand anything Ephesians 2:8 related, we have to exegete the verses that come before.
1. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6. And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7. That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
The first thing to notice is that verse 1 is a continuation from chapter 1. So, Ephesians 2:8 isn’t really going to make any sense unless we study chapter one. But for the sake of time and space, instead of doing a full line by line of chapter 1, I will summarize the key parts, as follows:
Jesus is the Head of the Church and has been caused by God to be ruler over all things. This occurred when God raised Jesus from the dead and set Him at His own right hand. God did this in Christ so that we might know how awesome God’s power is toward us believers.
Therefore, we can understand from chapter 2, verse 1 that God likewise has quickened us or brought us back alive in the same way He raised Christ from the dead. The death we were raised from, however, was a death caused by walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (most likely a reference to Satan). Such a spirit, even in this present time, works in who? That’s right, in the children of DISOBEDIENCE. We saints, however, were once upon a time just like the children of disobedience, before we were saved, on account of our lusts of the flesh and mind. Being so unsaved, we, like them, were children of wrath, meaning we were deserving of divine punishment.
But God! He stepped in and intervened. He did so because He is rich in mercy and loved us greatly, even when we were lost, and chose to save us (i.e. quicken us) with Christ, that is, we experience spiritual birth from above by God through a temporal shift in which our salvation is wrought not only in the moment of obedience to the Gospel, but also in the moment God raised Jesus from the dead. Therefore, in a paradoxical way, both Christ’s resurrection and our own, take place at the same time, allowing us, with Christ, to sit in heavenly places at the right hand of God. This was done for one main reason: to show how awesomely merciful God truly is and that He is incredibly rich in grace and kindness, even though we were once children of disobedience, children of wrath, under the sway of Satan, dead in sins, and lost to Him.
Now remember, this so far is all from an explanation started in chapter 1. While no less amazing, we must still root whatever we’ve so far said in the context of what has been written before, before we can even get to verse 8.
And what is the premise of chapter 1?
13. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
14. Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Notice, before Paul has anything to say about the Ephesians (and by extension, us today) being saved by grace through faith, he reminds them that they trusted in Christ first, after they heard the word of truth, which is the gospel of their salvation. Once they heard this word of truth, they came to trust in Christ, and in trusting/believing, they then received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
My friend, when did this happen?
1. And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
2. He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
3. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.
4. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
5. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
It happened here, in Acts 19. The disciples in Ephesus, the ones Paul was writing to, the ones who had been saved by grace through faith, the ones who had trusted in Christ after they had heard the word of truth, even the gospel of their salvation, came to believe so much in Jesus Christ, He whom Paul preached to them in Acts 19:4, that they were immediately baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. When they did this, what Paul refers to when he wrote “after…ye believed”, they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, just as Paul reminded them of in Ephesians 1:14.
Do you see how Paul equates believing and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ with water baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ?
So now, we can finally get to Ephesians 2:8.
In consideration of everything Paul wrote before, and in fact, because of it all, the Ephesians, and by extension we as well, are now saved. Why? Because of grace through faith.
We are saved by the divine influence upon the heart, graciously sent down by God, toward us, to motivate us to come to the Lord Jesus and believe. Yes, such an action was unmerited on our part, and it was done because God loves us so very much. But notice the “through faith” part. “Through” is the Greek word dia. It means the channel of the act. The salvation by grace was achieved through faith (belief/trust). Faith is what made it possible for the grace of God to save us in the first place.
But what did Paul equate with faith/belief/trust when he reminded the Ephesians of their salvation (Psst! It wasn’t some sinner’s prayer and a positive confession or a statement of faith)?
It was being water baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. As soon as those 12 disciples heard about Jesus Christ, they immediately went down in the water in the name of the Lord Jesus. They didn’t argue. They didn’t ask for time to think about it. They didn’t check with their pastor. They didn’t quote some Scripture to prove that it was unnecessary. No. They immediately obeyed the messenger by believing the message. That obedience is the provable, demonstrable action which showed these men had saving faith in Jesus Christ. Without that provable, demonstrable action, without that obedience, there is no evidence of ANY SAVING FAITH WHATSOEVER!
And look what God did when they immediately obeyed: They received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
32. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
God gives the Holy Spirit to them that obey Him.
9. And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him…
Jesus Christ is the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.
Here, the word obey is hupakouo, meaning to hearken to a command, from these two words: hupo, meaning under, and akouo, meaning to hear, listen, and comprehend. So, we see that having the Lord Jesus author our eternal salvation involves hearing, listening to, and comprehending His commandments, and in so doing, positioning ourselves underneath them, i.e. make them higher than we are, since they are in fact, higher, coming as they do, from the King of kings, you know, the one that plans to slay everyone and anyone who refuses Him the right to rule over them.
Praise the Lord, we have now reconciled Ephesians 2:8 with John 14:15, and indeed, with the rest of the Scriptures. All those verses in Romans and Galatians now make sense. Love and obedience and grace and faith, despite how hard some will try, will never get divorced! They are eternally united in holy, harmonious matrimony.
If you already know all this, but have friends who need to know it, please share. If you did not know all this, and this is new, and you haven’t yet obeyed Jesus Christ as Lord, even though you may have already confessed Him as Savior, then I ask you the same question Ananias asked Paul in Acts 22:16,
Why do you wait? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord Jesus.
God will baptize you with the Holy Spirit if you do.