Grace so permeates the book of Ephesians that one might call the entire book, “Grace Abounding.” Grace has the first word, if you will (Ephesians 1:2). It has the final word (Ephesians 6:24). And it flows like a mighty river through every verse we read in this book.
The indicatives of Ephesians drip with grace. And the imperatives we see to the Christians in Ephesians all flow from grace. Every step we take through the pages of Ephesians, there is grace. Every bite you taste from this blessed book, you taste grace.
We peek into the loftiest of sights that any human can behold in the book of Ephesians, and there we find grace. We plumb the depths of human depravity in the book of Ephesians, and there too we find grace.
High, low, left, right, behind, before, over, under, around, in, through, up, down, and everywhere in between, grace lavishes upon us in this grand epistle.
Grace is not a leaky faucet in Ephesians. It is a massive breach in the main water line. Grace is not an autumn mist in Ephesians. It is a torrential downpour. The kind that brings flash flooding. And it floods our hearts, minds, and souls with the glorious grace of our sovereign God.
I hope that begins to paint a picture of the extravagance of grace in this epistle. But it does not yet answer the question: what is grace? That brings me to my first point in today’s post and that is grace:
A common way to define grace is to call it “unmerited favor.” And I agree with that. Though, it’s sort of a flat definition, isn’t it? But it’s a good place to begin.
“Grace to you” (Eph. 1:2) is not for the achievers. It’s not for the winners. It’s not for the earners. It’s not for the hard workers. It’s not for the deservers. Because Grace cannot be achieved, won, earned, worked for, or deserved.
Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Think with me for a moment: What do you deserve from God? What does God owe you?
You will be tempted to say “Nothing.” But that’s not the right answer actually. God does owe mankind something. Do you know what that is? Judgment. Wrath. This is His universe. This is His air we are breathing. Our bodies are His. He owns it all.
And how have we used His air? To curse His name. Now, you will say, “I’ve never cursed God.” But that’s only because you are seeing sin as mere external behavior. And our sin runs much deeper than that.
Sin is not merely what you do. It’s what you love. It’s what you believe. It’s the motivations of your heart. It’s your pride. It’s your fear of man. It’s your unbelief. It’s your love of control. It’s your love of comfort. It’s our idea that we are the center of the universe. It’s our idolatry of human autonomy. It’s living as though we, and not God, are King.
In order to understand the depth of grace, we must understand the radicalness of our depravity. Left to ourselves we are wretches. We are rebels. Everything that we are and all that we do in and of ourselves only cries out to God for His holy and righteous judgment.
In some places in America, our sinfulness is a bit moralized. Outwardly we conform to expectations of our culture, but inwardly we smugly sit on the thrones of our hearts thinking we are worthy of the world’s treasures and God’s favor.
The Bible says no. God does not owe us our next breath. He does not owe us health. He does not owe us salvation. All we deserve from Him is His wrath. But God has not given all mankind wrath. Instead, He has chosen to show grace to Christians. Not for foreseen faith. Not for foreseen works. Not because of where you were born. But because of His own sovereign pleasure.
Grace excludes performance. It is given freely to we who do not and cannot deserve it. Matchless grace indeed! Now, there are four ways grace is shown to us in Ephesians. Grace is active and working. It’s grace to you not merely something you come get.
So, the remaining four points here have to do with how grace is active in Ephesians:
Grace means God has an eternal plan to rescue unrighteous rebels (Ephesians 1:4–6, 11). God’s plan for grace began before you were born. Before the world was made. Before any created thing existed.
None of us deserve grace, but the triune God determined before time to elect a people for Himself so that He could lavish them with His grace to the praise of His glory.
God had an eternal plan to save His people, but before that was brought to completion in effectually calling them, He patiently endured your rebellion (see Ephesians 2:1–3). Christian, you lived your own way and did your own thing, all in rebellion against the Lord. And God was patient toward you in His grace.
Expiation and Propitiation
Ephesians 1:7 says, “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…”
The sacrifice of Jesus is both an expiation and propitiation. Expiation means that God removes our guilty through the atoning work of Christ. Propitiation means that God has satisfied His wrath in the atoning work of Christ.
This is why Paul frequently refers to Jesus as “the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:2). He is the Lord — that is He is Yahweh — and He is the Christ — the Messiah. God in the flesh, who was our vicarious substitute on Calvary. Who atoned for our sins. Who rose again in victory.
What a demonstration of grace is the cross. But grace doesn’t stop there!
Grace isn’t something you merely think on or contemplate or read about. If you are a Christian, grace is something you actively experience.
You experience it in your regeneration (see Eph. 2:4–9). Grace stops us dead in our tracks even when we were dead in our trespasses and sins and it makes us alive. Even our faith, our power to believe on Christ for salvation, is a gift of sovereign grace.
We know in Romans that Paul says we are justified by grace. As we come to Christ in faith and repentance, and as He declares us justified before Him, we know this is all due to His matchless grace.
You also experience grace in your adoption (see Eph. 1:4–6). Paul calls God “our Father” (Eph. 1:2). What a grand reality! Not every person on the planet is a child of God in this sense. Only those who’ve experienced this grace are sons and daughters of God.
And who are we that we could come to the most high and holy God as Father? As our Father?
You also experience grace in your sanctification (see Eph. 1:19, 3:16). That is, grace doesn’t merely bring you from death to life, it also fuels your Christian walk. It causes you to obey and to be holy and to seek Christ in humility. None of this dismisses our responsibility of course. But it shows us that grace is experiential power. Grace fuels our efforts in sanctification.
Here are a few thoughts for Christians in closing as we contemplate God’s matchless grace:
- Have you been prideful recently? Repent. Let the gospel humble you. See all that you have and are flow from the undeserved favor of God. Will you praise Him?
- Have you been a complainer lately? Repent. Wash yourself again in the rivers of God’s grace. How kind the Lord has been to you! Give Him the glory.
- Have you forgotten who you are and God’s power of grace in your life for holiness? Repent. Go to your heavenly Father. He loves you with love inexplicable. And He gives more grace
Christian, drink deeply again today from the fountain of God’s grace. Let it wash over you as you give God the glory and seek to pursue Him in holiness.