Reading the passage again as a whole, how does it cause us to pray?
We can confess to the Lord our natural character and it’s continuing impact on our life.
We can recognize that if we are to be followers of Jesus the values and behaviours of much of the wider world are incompatible with our faith and pray to live distinctive lives for Christ.
We ought to consistently give to God our thanks and praise that he loved us before we could love him.
We can recognize that God’s grace in Christ Jesus is not limited to a one off act at Calvary but is expressed in his continuing handiwork in our lives enabling us to undertake the good works he has prepared for us.
We can pray that we will faithfully follow him in this life until we join him in the heavenly realms.
God however is rich in mercy and great in love. It is not his desire that people should stay spiritually dead and helpless in their sin. We may not be capable of saving ourselves but he is capable of doing so without denying his own holiness. Grace is often defined as not giving to us what we deserve and giving to us what we do not deserve. For this to happen God needed to provide a way for justice to be fulfilled whilst at the same time mercy was extended. This was done through Christ and is only done through Christ. Paul expresses God’s mercy through Christ as, ‘the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.’ v7 By placing us in Christ those who trust in him share in his resurrection life. This brings both Christ and God the Father glory. v7b The key to access God’s gift of salvation in Christ is faith. Even this is not something we can manufacture within ourselves because we are naturally spiritually dead. Saving faith is the gift of God. v8
Paul points to the culture change that occurs when one becomes a Christian by making clear that all prior to conversion lived already under God’s wrath. He does not fudge the lines of difference. Paul does not recognize grey areas. We are either in or out, disobedient or obedient. In his eyes one can’t be 60% a Christian. Before we were a Christian, Paul says, ‘All of us … lived to gratify the cravings of the flesh and follow its desires and thoughts.’ That is 100% disobedient to God, not necessarily in the “worst” ways imaginable but fully signed up to the ways of the world. He makes an interesting shift in his use of language when he says, ‘we were’. Here he is including not only the Roman/Greek culture but also Jewish believers prior to their conversion. Both were in the same predicament. Being a part of the covenant people of Israel does not automatically mean acceptance by God. By nature, all share a natural propensity to oppose God’s will and the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-21 gives a fuller explanation.) Therefore, all deserved God’s anger and judgement. (Romans 2:5, 1 Thessalonians 1:10) God’s wrath is not a vindictive act as commonly believed of Roman/Greek gods. It is both a necessary and appropriate response by God towards those who reject their creator and his mercy.
Paul, writing to a largely Gentile church reminds them of the state of their relationship with God prior to coming to faith in Jesus. ‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.’ v1 Dead here refers to spiritual death and by this he means alienated from God who is life and gives life. The dominant Jewish belief had been, throughout the Old Testament, that non-Jews were not in relationship with God because they did not share in the Abrahamic covenant or the Mosaic law. This was never truly accurate as there are many examples in the Old Testament of non-Jews being crucial players in God’s salvation plan including being part of the Messiah’s family tree. This in itself is an excellent example of why it is important that scripture includes large sections of narrative so we can see how God’s salvation plan is applied and works out over time. Salvation as Hebrews sets out in detail was always through faith. Jesus, as the chapter goes on to explain, overcomes the divisions between Jew and non-Jew as well as between humankind and God.
Ephesians chapter 2 clearly sets out the basic gospel of salvation. For this to be the case it has to be good news because “gospel” means good news. Salvation in the chapter has several elements. For salvation to take place it requires someone to be saved and something to be saved from. Someone has to do the saving. Salvation in the New Testament is not simply a matter of being saved from, it is also a case of being saved to. Behind the story of salvation lies the compelling reason for salvation to be taking place. Before the good news however comes the bad news.