2. Grace That Is Wildly Undeserved (Romans 5:6-8; Ephesians 2:1-5)


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Masaccio, detail from 'Expulsion from the Garden of Eden' (1426-27), fresco, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence (restored).
Masaccio, detail from 'Expulsion from the Garden of Eden' (1426-27), fresco, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence (restored).

For the last decade I've been learning to become a watercolor artist. One of the things you learn about artistic composition is to decide upon a "focal point" where you want the viewer's eye to land. Often this focal point is the convergence of the darkest dark and the lightest light. The human eye is naturally drawn to this place of highest contrast.

To get us to understand how astonishing grace really is, we need to place grace's brilliant light against the dark truth about us humans.

The story of Hosea and Gomer that we examined in Lesson 1.3 gives us a glimpse of the depths of the degradation from which our God can redeem us. Now, to help us understand the darkness from which grace saves us, we'll focus on two passages from Paul's letters -- Romans 5:6-8 and Ephesians 2:1-5.

2.1 While We Were Sinners, Christ Died for Us (Romans 5)

But before we get to Romans 5, we need to trace Paul's argument in Romans to this point.

  1. Introduction (Romans 1:1-15).
  2. Thesis verse (Romans 1:16-17). The Gospel of salvation by faith is for both Jews and Gentiles alike.
    1. Gentiles are under judgment for rejecting the truth about God (Romans 1:18-31).
    2. Jews also are under judgment for not keeping the Law they have been given (Romans 2:1-3:8).
    3. Thus, both Gentiles and Jews are under sin (Romans 3:9-23).
  3. God sent Jesus Christ to atone for the sins of all who put faith in him (Romans 3:24-31). (We'll examine Romans 3:21-26 in Lesson 4.1.)
    1. Abraham is an example of faith being counted as righteousness (Romans 4).
    2. 'Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God" (Romans 5:1).

Even simplified, Paul's reasoning seems complex. So let me simplify it even more. All of us -- Jews and Gentiles -- are sinful. At our best we rebel against God in our hearts. We fall way short.

"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

We are needy and can't save ourselves -- even trying our hardest!

Access to a State of Grace (Romans 5:1-2)

Notice that Paul doesn't mention the word "grace" until chapter 5, not until he has laid out the blackness of our sin and our desperate need for a Savior. Now we read:

"1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2)

In verse 2 we see the word "grace" that we examined in Lesson 1.1 -- Greek charis, "favor." There we learned that "Grace is favor that is neither earned nor deserved." Verse 2 tells us something particular about our relationship to this grace:

"... This grace in which we now stand." (Romans 5:2b)

Notice three things:

  1. We are in a state of grace. The verb is histēmi, "to stand," here specifically, "to be in a condition or state, stand or be in something."50
  2. We continue to stand in grace. The verb histēmi is in the Greek perfect tense, used to describe a completed action which produced results that are still in effect all the way up to the present. Not only were we put into a state or standing of grace in the past, but that standing still continues.
  3. Faith. We have "gained access"51 (verse 2) into this state of grace by faith in Christ.

When Christ saved us we were and are to this day in a state of grace ("favor") -- God's favor -- that Paul describes as "peace with God." Before God showed favor to us, we were at odds with God, but now we are at peace with him. Our point of access is faith, trust in Christ.

Q5. (Romans 5:1-2) What does it mean to be in a state of grace? According to the text, what is the role of faith in this? What is the opposite of "peace with God"?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2140-q5-state-of-grace/

The Improbability of Christ's Sacrifice (Romans 5:6-8)

Verse 3-5 talk about how God builds our character -- important, but off our topic. Next, Paul discusses the improbability of our salvation.

"6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8)

Paul describes our condition with three words: "powerless" (verse 6), "ungodly" (verse 6), and "sinners" (verse 8). Let's consider each of those.

  1. "Powerless" (verse 6) means helpless in a moral sense.52 We have no ability or standing or factual basis to claim any kind of mercy for extenuating circumstances. We are guilty.
  2. "Ungodly"53 (verse 6) describes our state in relation to God. We have violated every norm before the deity. We have been irreverent in the most egregious ways in our hearts -- truly rebellious in heart, if truth be known.
  3. "Sinners" (verse 8) describes our activity that falls short of God's law. We are outside the Law, "outlaws."54

Saving the Innocent vs. Saving Enemies

Pick up a newspaper or watch the news and you'll often see a heart-warming story of a person who literally risks his life to save a drowning child or a person caught in a burning car. "A true hero," we say. And if the selfless rescuer dies in the attempt, what a tragedy!

Paul argues, however, that what Christ did is to knowingly lay down his life to rescue his enemies. How improbable! How bizarre is that? We aren't innocent children saved to live a full life. We are unrepentant antagonists who have been struggling with God for our own way every day. We are the kind of people Christ died for.

The Cross Demonstrates God's Love for You and Me (Romans 5:8)

Francisco de Zurbarán. 'Crucifixion' (1650s). Oil on canvas. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
Francisco de Zurbarán. 'Crucifixion' (1650s). Oil on canvas. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Consider Romans 5:8 especially. Meditate on it. It has blessed millions of believers down through the ages. Memorize it in your favorite version:

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8, NIV)

Let's consider two more words.

"Demonstrates" (NIV), "proves" (NRSV), "shows" (ESV), "commendeth" (KJV) is synistēmi, which means here, "to provide evidence of a personal characteristic or claim through action, demonstrate, show, bring out something."55

Look at the cross. It demonstrates a holy truth of love in the most graphic and ugly manner. God has gone beyond the limit of what is appropriate or expected. He sent his Son to the cross because he loves you. God knows every evil, misguided, malignant, unkind, foul, and embarrassing sin in your entire history. The bloody, scarred cross is proof of God's love for you. There is no sin you can commit -- or have ever committed -- that the Son of God did not atone for on that cross.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

A second important word is this brief verse is short -- only three letters: the preposition "for" (Greek hyper). In Greek it is "a marker indicating that an activity or event is in some entity's interest, 'for, in behalf of, for the sake of someone or something.'"56 This important preposition is used several times in this passage -- once in verse 6, twice in verse 7, and once in verse 8.

"6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8)

There's a similar verse in Hebrews that highlights God's grace on the cross.

"We see Jesus, who ... suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for (hyper) everyone." (Hebrews 2:9)

Christ didn't die as an act of martyrdom to make one last heroic statement to his followers. He died for you, on your behalf. For me, on my behalf. For us, on our behalf. As he told his disciples before the cross was yet on their radar:

"The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for57 many." (Mark 10:45)

Christ died not for his friends, but for enemies. By his death he made them his friends (John 15:13).

What does Romans 5:6-8 have to do with grace? These verses don't use the word "grace" (though it is nearby in verse 2), but they illustrate that God's favor is not triggered by our "goodness." Indeed, God has every reason to reject us. But he loves us. And even before we ever turned to him, Jesus had already died to make it possible that our sins could be forgiven. Grace is favor that is neither earned nor deserved. And in our case, we certainly don't deserve it!

Q6. (Romans 5:6-8) What do verses 6-8 say about humankind's situation? What is so remarkable about Christ's death for us? What motivates that sacrifice?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2141-q6-yet-sinners/

No Longer Under Law, but Under Grace (Romans 5:15-21; 6:14)

I'll skip over a number of verses, but Paul mentions the gift of grace several times in the context of comparing Adam to Christ (Romans 5:15b, 17), a grace that reigns! (Romans 5:20-21). He concludes by explaining that God has brought about a whole new covenant -- a Covenant of Grace to replace the Covenant of Law.

"For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14)

God no longer deals with his people by Law. Jesus Messiah has brought a Kingdom where grace reigns, not through our righteousness, but Christ's righteousness. Hallelujah.

2.2 Dead in Transgressions and Sin (Ephesians 2:1-5)

'Burial of Sarah' by Tom Lovell (American illustrator (1909-1997), for Everyday Life in Bible Times
'Burial of Sarah' by Tom Lovell (American illustrator (1909-1997), for Everyday Life in Bible Times (National Geographic Society, 1967), p. 104-105. Larger image.

In this lesson we've been examining how bad off we are without Christ. How much we need grace.

There is a second passage in Paul's writings that makes clear the extreme graciousness of what Christ did -- Ephesians 2:1-5 (We'll study these verses now, and examine verses 8-10 that follow these in Lesson 5.)

Let's begin.

"1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:1-5)

Spiritually Dead (Ephesians 2:1)

Paul declares that people without Christ are spiritually "dead" in their transgressions and sins. Our post-modern culture doesn't even like to use the word "sin" or acknowledge any God-given moral law. Transgression? Transgression of what?

"Transgressions" (NIV) or "trespasses" (ESV, NRSV, KJV) refers to "a violation of moral standards, offense, wrongdoing, sin."58 The word, of course, assumes a divine law that is the standard of righteousness. In English, "to transgress" means "to go beyond a boundary or limit, to violate a command or law." In English, "to trespass" means especially, "to enter unlawfully upon the land of another." Then "to err, sin."59 To transgress is to violate God's moral law.

"Sins" (Greek harmatia, the most commonly used word for sin in the New Testament) means literally "a missing of the mark." But the word is not used in the New Testament of trivial, involuntary mistakes, but of serious offenses against God, "a departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness."60

Whether or not we believe it, our transgressions and sins against God's holy law have made us dead to God. Cut off. Spiritually entombed. Even though our age doesn't understand the concept of deadness to God, they do understand and experience emptiness. Purposelessness. No wonder our culture is so interested in spirituality and hungry for spiritual fulfillment! Our culture is vulnerable to the empty promises of the New Age movement, but it is also potentially open to the power of a vibrant Christian faith!

Following Satan (Ephesians 2:2-3)

"... Transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." (Ephesians 2:2-3)

"The power of the air" (verse 2) is a strange expression to us. "Prince" (KJV, ESV), "ruler" (NIV, NRSV) is, literally, "authority ... the power exercised by rulers or others in high position by virtue of their office," then "the sphere in which the power is exercised, domain."61 The Greeks saw heaven as the abode of the gods, earth the abode of humans, and the air (Greek aēr) as the abode of the demons.62 Without adopting Greek cosmology as his own, Paul employs a brief reference that his readers will understand. Of course, our God is Creator of heaven and earth and everything in between. We need not cede the atmosphere to Satan and his minions; the devil is a usurper of God's creation, not its rightful ruler.

In the days of our spiritual deadness before Christ, we mindlessly follow the value systems of the culture, what Paul calls "the ways of this world" (NIV) or "course of this world" (KJV, NRSV, ESV).63 Oh, we don't admit to mindlessly following the thinking of the day. Rather we pride ourselves on following our own deliberate, individualistic, self-deterministic way, but we absorb the self-centered, relativistic values of our culture and can't help but express them in our lifestyles.

What is really scary, however, is that in our deadness we end up following Satan, "the ruler64 of the kingdom of the air," the great Deceiver. In our deadness we lack discernment. Our lives are filled with the cravings of our sinful nature (verse 3) -- desires, lusts, thoughts, jealousy, envy, strife, selfishness, you name it -- which the Tempter inflames.65

Our world believes in the myth of neutrality. We are not following, we are leading, we tell ourselves. We make our own decisions, we insist. But we are not spiritually powerful enough to lead in this unseen "heavenly realm." Without Christ, we end up being led around by Satan, duped, victimized, usually without us even knowing it. Our lack of commitment in itself is a commitment -- a commitment to follow our whims, and the Tempter is a master of subverting selfish whims.

Children of Wrath (Ephesians 2:3b)

"All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." (Ephesians 2:3)

This passage calls those without God "children" (ESV, NRSV, KJV) or "objects" (NIV) of wrath.66 Being "children of something" or "sons of something" is a Hebrew idiom that means "worthy of."67 "Wrath" here is a "'strong indignation directed at wrongdoing,' with focus on retribution, wrath ... of God's future judgment, specifically qualified as punitive."68

The wrath of God is another of those counter-cultural concepts. Our relativistic society rejects judgment or judgmentalism. We have gutted the idea of penal justice to exclude retribution, and are left with (1) a rehabilitative incarceration (which fails more often than not) or (2) a society-protective incarceration that produces guilt in us for locking up so many people. You can't read the Bible very long, however, until you run smack into the judgment of a righteous God.

I hate all that Old Testament judgment and hell-fire and brimstone! you protest. Just give me Jesus and his love. Have you read Jesus' teachings carefully? He talks more about hell and judgment than anyone else in the New Testament.69 We can't escape it. There is no dichotomy between the Old and New Testament God. Our God is a God who insists on justice and its consequent judgment.

If we try to live free of God we become "objects of wrath" like the rest of mankind. There is a legal axiom: "Ignorance of the law is no excuse."70 Just because we didn't see the red light is no guarantee that we won't be killed in a collision.

Does God blame us for something we have no control over? No. We do have at least some control over our actions, or "free will" has no meaning whatsoever. (See more on Free Will in Appendix 2, Sec. 4.) But we are weak. We are selfish. We are blind. And we break God's holy standards of conduct and righteousness.

Q7. (Ephesians 2:1-3) What do these verses teach us about humankind's fallen nature? What motivates our actions before we come to Christ? Which of these motivations might be conscious? Which might be unconscious?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2142-q7-spiritually-dead/

2.3 Fallen Sinful Nature

Verse 3 uses the Greek word sarx, "flesh." The word is translated variously as "sinful nature" (NIV), "flesh" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "human self-indulgence" (NJB), "evil nature" (Phillips), "earthly nature" (Twentieth Century New Testament), "lower nature" (Williams). The Greek word sarx is used in several senses in the New Testament, but is used here as "sinful, fallen human nature."71 (We'll discuss "the flesh" in greater detail in Lesson 4.1.)

Sinners by Nature (Ephesians 2:3)

The text says that we are lost in sin "by nature." The word refers to a "condition or circumstance as determined by birth, natural endowment or condition, nature, especially as inherited from one's ancestors, in contrast to status or characteristics that are acquired after birth."72 Our "nature," our character, seems to be formed both by genetics and environment.

Verse 5 repeats the judgment of verse 1: "dead in transgressions."[73] Our sins have produced a spiritual deadness and dullness in us.

Jeremiah put it this way:

"The heart is deceitful74 above all things and beyond cure.75 Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)

There is an underlying selfishness deep down that is deceitful, devious, conniving. Paul bemoans our state:

"I know that nothing good76 lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature (KJV, "flesh," sarx)." (Romans 7:18)

There is something twisted about our nature that gives us what John Wesley called "a bent to sinning."

The Confusing Mixture of Good and Evil

This is confusing. We know there is good in man. We see it every day. This is the remnant of God's image in which we are formed (Genesis 1:27, 31). Thank God for his inherent goodness! But even the good in us isn't perfectly good.

We're left with a conundrum. Man is basically good because of the remnant of God's image in us. But we are basically evil since the heart, the very center of our being, is corrupt and cannot be trusted. Our whole being is at least somewhat corrupt and, therefore, even the "good" in us cannot be completely trusted. We are a mixture of good and evil. Jesus recognized this when he taught on the heart or core of man:

"The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean.'" (Matthew 15:18-20a)

"24 Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man." (John 2:24-25, ESV)

Of course, this is just what Paul is teaching about the flesh. Theologians have framed this as the Doctrine of Total Depravity. (We'll explore this from a different point of view in Lesson 4.1. Also see Appendix 2, Sec. 1.)

Are we being punished for something that is not our fault? you might ask. No, we are being rescued from something that has overpowered our race and victimized us, and from which we cannot escape without assistance.77 What we need is not justice or fairness. What we need is mercy and grace. That's all we have left to hang onto. We need to throw ourselves on the mercy of the court.

Q8. (Jeremiah 17:9) Is there good in humankind? Are humans basically good or basically bad? Or both? What are some of the ways a "deceitful heart" shows up in our lives and motivations? If the heart is the innermost person, how does a "deceitful heart" corrupt us in a pervasive way?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2143-q8-deceitful-heart/

Cheap Grace

The Epistle of Jude highlights fallen man's tendency to excuse sin.

"... Godless men, who change78 the grace of our God into a license for immorality79 and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 4)

Sadly, some so-called disciples use grace as a cover for their sins, as an excuse to sin. We humans are very skilled at justifying our actions with excuses, even when our actions are inexcusable. We are twisted.

Dietrich Bonheoffer (1906-1945), author of The Cost of Discipleship (1937).
Dietrich Bonheoffer (1906-1945), author of The Cost of Discipleship (1937).

One of the great Christian martyrs of the twentieth century was German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), hanged by the Nazi Gestapo just one month before World War II ended in Europe. He penned an extremely influential book, The Cost of Discipleship (1937), in which he discusses man's tendency to cheapen grace into a license or excuse for immorality. He wrote:

"Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner.... Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate....

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.

Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'you were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us."80

Words to ponder as we struggle to understand Biblical grace.

Q9. According to Bonhoeffer, what attitudes cheapen the understanding of grace in Christians? Does "costly grace" mean we have to work for it? What is costly about grace?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2144-q9-cheap-grace/

2.4 The Good News: Saved by Grace (Ephesians 2:4-5)

We've spent some time on our fallen human condition, because unless we understand this, we can imagine that God's grace is some kind of reward rather than undeserved favor. Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 2:1-3 that we are "by nature objects of wrath." Only then does he talk about the antidote or remedy for our helpless condition.

"4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:4-5)

We have already studied the idea of "dead in transgressions," the spiritual deadness. Now let's look at the words of blessing in verses 4 and 5. If they seem familiar, it's because we've seen several of them in Lesson 1.2 in an Old Testament context.

"Love" here is agape, "the quality of warm regard for and interest in another, esteem, affection, regard, love."81 Greek has several words for love, for example: eros, erotic love for another, blessed by God in the context of marriage; philia, affectionate regard, friendship, usually between equals, familial love for brothers; and storgē, love, affection especially of parents and children. Agapē, however, wasn't used much in classical Greek. The New Testament writers took the uncommon word agapē and filled it with a new, fuller meaning: unselfish love for another -- especially God's love for us that we are to emulate towards those around us. (More on this in Lesson 3.2).

"Mercy" refers to "kindness or concern expressed for someone in need, compassion, mercy, pity, clemency."82

"Saved" means "to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve, rescue." Here it means to "save or preserve from eternal death ... and bring to salvation."83 I find that using the word "rescued" helps communicate in a culture where the word "saved" is often passed off as a Christian jargon word. We who are so lost have been rescued. Hallelujah! (More on this in Lesson 5.2.)

"Grace," as you recall, means literally "favor ... a beneficent disposition toward someone, grace, gracious help, good will."84 It describes one's attitude toward another which is unilateral, that is, one-sided, not depending upon what another does. "Grace" is not about merit, deservedness, or obligation, but about an unexplained love, generosity, and giving on the part of the giver. Perhaps the best short definition of "grace" is "favor that is neither earned nor deserved." (We'll explore this further in Lesson 5.2.)

Sanctified by Grace

And the news of grace gets better yet. We don't have to wallow in our corrupt human nature. When we are born again, we are given a new nature and the power of the Spirit to start living into that new nature. We learn to "walk in the light as he is in the light," and less and less slip back into the flesh. Praise God! There is hope in Christ. We are saved by grace, and then that grace begins to permeate our being more and more. (The theological word for this is "sanctification." More on this in Lesson 5.4.)

The Gospel of Grace

Our salvation is completely dependent upon grace, upon God's favor that can't be understood because it is so free, so undeserved, so unearnable. Grace characterizes the whole message of the Gospel. That's the way Paul talks about it:

"... The task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." (Acts 20:24)

"I commit you to God and to the word of his grace." (Acts 20:32a)

"All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." (2 Corinthians 4:15)

"All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth." (Colossians 1:6)

Summing Up

We've considered two passages that paint a pretty dark picture of our spiritual condition. In Romans 3:23 we read that "all have sinned," and "there is none that is righteous, no not one." In Ephesians 2:1-3 we learn that we are dead to God, that we are unconsciously led around by the enemy of our souls, that we are under God's wrath.

But then grace suddenly pops to the surface, shining brightly like the sun breaking through the dark clouds. And grace saves us, favor in the heart of the Grace-Giver floods our lives. It is "while-we-were-yet-sinners" favor. There's no other explanation for it. God's favor in Jesus Christ rescues us. Praise God.

There is an old gospel hymn that comes to mind when I think of the contrast between our spiritual bankruptcy and God's grace. The last line of the chorus sums it up:

"Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin."85

Our situation is bleak, but his grace is greater! Hallelujah!

Lessons for Disciples


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These passages contain lots of lessons for us. While they may seem like truisms, they contain a depth and are worthy of pondering and memorizing.

  1. All have sinned, both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 3:23).
  2. In Christ we stand in a state of grace through faith (Romans 5:1-2).
  3. Jesus died on our behalf while we were still in rebellion against him, enemies, sinners, showing a remarkable degree of love (Romans 5:8).
  4. We are now under a Covenant of Grace, not Law (Romans 6:14).
  5. Without Christ, we are spiritually dead due to our sins. In our lack of discernment, we follow the values of the culture, and ultimately Satan. As a result, we deserve God's wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3).
  6. Human nature contains some good, since we are made in God's image, but we are deeply flawed at the core, with deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 7:18; Matthew 15:18-20; John 2:24-25).
  7. The Good News is that God in his mercy has made us alive and rescued us by his grace (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Prayer

Father, thank you for finding value in us in spite of ourselves. Thank you for rescue, for full forgiveness and cleansing. I pray that through Christ, we might shine as your lights in this dark world. In the name of our Lord Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2, NIV)

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8, NIV)

"For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14, NIV)

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:1-5, NIV)

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV)

"I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature." (Romans 7:18, NIV)

"The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean.'" (Matthew 15:18-20a)

"Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man." (John 2:24-25, ESV)

End Notes

References and Abbreviations

[50] Here histēmi is intransitive with the preposition en, "in," meaning, "to be in a condition or state, stand or be in something." (BDAG 483, C5).

[51] "Have gained access" (NIV), "have obtained access" (ESV, NRSV), "have access" (KJV) is two words: the perfect active indicative of the verb echo, "to possess, have, own"; and the noun prosagōgē, "a way of approach, access" (BDAG 876).

[52] "Powerless" (NIV), "weak" (ESV, NRSV), "without strength" (KJV) is asthenēs, "sick, ill," then, "pertaining to experiencing some incapacity or limitation, weak," here, "helpless" in a moral sense (BDAG 143, 2c).

[53] "Ungodly" is the adjective asebēs, "pertaining to violating norms for a proper relation to deity, irreverent, impious, ungodly" (BDAG 141, a), from a-, negative + sebō, "to reverence."

[54] "Sinners" is the adjective amartōlos, "pertaining to behavior or activity that does not measure up to standard moral or cultic expectations," here, as a substantive, "the sinner," generally with focus on the status of 'outsider,' here, of the state of a person who is not yet reconciled" (BDAG 52, bβ).

[55] Synistēmi, BDAG 972-973, 3.

[56] Hyper, BDAG 1030-1031, 1aε.

[57] The preposition here is different, anti, but the meaning is the same: "indicating a process of intervention, 'in behalf of, for someone' so that anti becomes equal to hyper" (BDAG 87-88, 3).

[58] Paraptōma, BDAG 770.

[59] Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary.

[60] Harmatia, BDAG 50-51.

[61] Exousia, BDAG 352-353, meanings 4 and 6.

[62] Aēr, BDAG 23, 2b.

[63]"Ways" (NIV), "course" (KJV, NRSV, ESV) is aiōn, "age," then "the world as a spatial concert," then perhaps Aeon as a person (BDAG 32-33). But here it probably carries the idea of "world-age" (Peter T. O'Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Pillar New Testament Commentary; Eerdmans, 1999), pp. 158-159).

[64] Archōn, "ruler, lord, prince," here transcendent figures such as evil spirits, the devil" (BDAG 140).

[65] Epithymia, "desire, longing, craving," especially "a desire for something forbidden or simply inordinate, craving, lust" (BDAG 372, 2).

[66] Teknon, here expresses a Hebrew idiom that refers to "a class of persons with a specific characteristic" (BDAG 994-995).

[67] Peter T. O'Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Pillar New Testament Commentary; Eerdmans, 1999), p. 162, fn. 37). We see the idiom elsewhere at Luke 20:36; Galatians 4:28; Ephesians 5:8. The idiom is sometimes expressed as "son(s) of," as in 2 Samuel 12:5; Matthew 23:15.

[68] Orgē, BDAG 720-721.

[69] Matthew 5:22, 29; 10:28; 18:9; 18:9; 23:15, 23; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; 16:23.

[70] In law, Latin ignorantia juris non excusat expresses a legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely by being unaware of its content.

[71] Sarx, BDAG 914-916.

[72] Physis, BDAG 1069-1070. We get our word "physical" from Greek physis. Helmut Köster (physis, ktl., TDNT 9:251-277) provides voluminous and helpful background on the secular Greek use of physis.

[73] Paraptōma uses an imagery of making a false step so as to lose footing, "a violation of moral standards, offense, wrongdoing, sin" (BDAG 770, bγ).

[74] "Deceitful" (ESV, NIV, KJV), "devious" (NRSV) is ʿāqōb, used twice in the Old Testament as "uneven, bumpy ground" (Isaiah 40:4) and then "tough, crafty" (heart), in Jeremiah 17:9 (Holladay 281). "Insidious, deceitful" (BDB 784).

[75] "Beyond cure" (NIV), "desperately sick" (ESV), "perverse" (NRSV), "desperately wicked" (KJV) is ʾānaš, "be sick" (BDB 60); 1. "incurable" (Isaiah 17:11), 2. "calamitous" (Jeremiah 17:16) (Holladay 22). The basic meaning of the word is "to be sick" (2 Samuel 12:15) but most frequently it is used to describe a wound or pain which is incurable.... In Jeremiah 17:9 it describes the desperate spiritual state of the heart in terms of illness" (TWOT #135).

[76] "Good" is the adjective agathos, "pertaining to meeting a relatively high standard of worth or merit, good" (BDAG 3, 2aα).

[77] This is related to Augustine's concept of "original sin" (see Lesson 4.1). Original sin is the Christian doctrine that holds that humans, through the fact of birth, inherit a tainted nature in need of regeneration and a proclivity to sinful conduct. But the idea of "original sin" is often misunderstood. It does not mean that Adam sinned and we personally don't sin. We do sin, of course, and are responsible for the sins we commit. And because of our sins, we are subject to God's wrath and judgment. Grudem (Systematic Theology, p. 495) rather prefers the term "inherited sin." He says that it is guilt and the tendency to sin that we inherit, "original" in that it comes from Adam.

[78] "Change" (NIV), "pervert" (ESV, NRSV), "turning" (KJV) is metatithēmi, "to effect a change in state or condition, change, alter" (BDAG 642, 2).

[79] "License for immorality" (NIV), "sensuality" (ESV), "licentiousness" (NRSV), "lasciviousness" (KJV) is aselgeia, "lack of self-constraint which involves one in conduct that violates all bounds of what is socially acceptable, self-abandonment" (BDAG 141).

[80] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (1937).

[81] Agapē, BDAG 6, 1bα.

[82] Eleos, BDAG 316.

[83] Sōzō, BDAG 982, 2b.

[84] Charis, BDAG 1079-1081.

[85] "Marvelous Grace," words: Julia H. Johnston (1911), music: Daniel B. Towner (1910).

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