Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians 2: 1-10 (NIV)
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 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. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no-one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
A friend recently told me of an acquaintance who, though outwardly a follower of Jesus, had separated from his wife to live a life of sexual self-indulgence. This acquaintance claimed still to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and considered that he could continue to rely on God’s grace to save him.
God’s grace is freely available to sinners. Without the grace of God none could be saved. The Apostle Paul has said as much in his Epistles including verses 4 and 5 above:
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.
To follow “the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (verse 2) after being raised up with Christ, however, is to hold that the ruler of this world, Satan, offers a more attractive future than that offered by God in Christ Jesus.
How can one who is “dead in (his) transgressions and sins” (verse 1) claim to be saved if purposefully remaining in those transgressions and sins?
The Apostle Paul addressed this situation clearly in his Epistle to the Romans (Chapter 6):
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
We are created in Christ Jesus to do good works, not so that through works we may earn passage to heaven but to honour the God to whom we surrender and to whom we strive, in love, to give unconditional obedience. That allows us to do good works “prepared (by God) in advance for us to do” (verse 10).