Sermon Summary | "Saved By Grace"
- Our Hopeless Condition
- God’s Merciful Action
- God’s Ultimate Purpose
1. Our Hopeless Condition
Initially, Paul gives a description of the pre-Christian life in terms of being spiritually dead in trespasses and sin (2:1). The apostle uses poignant imagery to explain the grim and hopeless condition apart from Christ. This spiritual condition is portrayed in three ways: First, the pre-Christian life was described as “walking according to the age of this world” (2:2a). The reference to “the age of this world” denotes the spatial and temporal sphere of the world’s fallen condition and values (cf. Gal 1:4—i.e., “present evil age”). It is in this sinful state that we continuously lived (i.e., “walked”), following the fallen ways of the world prior to salvation. Second, the pre-Christian life was characterized by “walking according to the ruler of the power of the air” (2:2b). Not only were our values affected by the world’s fallen system, but also our lives were governed by the ruler of the age. A supernatural being stands as the source of authority for the evil in the world. This is “the evil one,” namely, the devil (cf. Eph 6:11, 16). Prior to salvation our lives were governed by his tyrant rule. Third, the pre-Christian life was carried out by the gratification of our sinful nature (2:3). We lived in order to fulfill the “passions of our flesh” (cf. Gal 5:16. 24), which consisted of sexual immorality, selfish ambition, anger, and drunkenness (see Gal 5:19-21).
At this point, our hopeless condition is clear. We lived according the ways of the world’s sinful system. Its fallen values were our values. We lived under the rule of a supernatural opponent, the devil, who governs and contrives the evil in the world. We lived only to fulfill the desires of our sinful nature. Nevertheless, Paul provides this grim picture of our past in order that the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ might be seen in its full beauty.
2. God’s Merciful Action
The focal action of this section now comes to center stage: God’s merciful act of salvation towards hopeless sinners. The bleak condition of the pre-Christian state now stands in stunning contrast with the salvific mercy of God in Christ. In verse 4 the main actor is brought into focus: God, who is rich in mercy and great in love. It is God’s merciful act of salvation that reverses the sinner’s hopeless condition.
The previous descriptions of our pre-Christian life are now juxtaposed with our Christian life. Formerly, we “walked” in the evil works of the world (2:2a), now we “walk” in the good works God has prepared for us because of his grace in Christ Jesus (2:8-10). Our life used to be under the reign of the devil, who governed the evil “age” of the world (2:2b), now our life is under the reign of Christ, in whom we are now partakers of his resurrection rule, being raised and seated with him in heaven (2:6). Moreover, we now experience the great grace of the new “age” that he has dawned (2:7). We used to live in accordance with our sin (2:3), but now we are new creations, who have been “made alive” in Christ (2:5).
These parallels could be outlined as follows:
Contrast between pre-Christian life and present-Christian life
A. Walking according to the evil works of the world (2:2a)
B. Life under the reign of the devil (2:2b)
C. Life dead in sin (2:3)
D. God rich in mercy and great in love (2:4)
C. Life in Christ, death to sin (2:5)
B. Life under the reign of Christ (2:6-7)
A. Walking according to good works because of God’s grace (2:8-10)
Christians have thus been given a new identity in Christ through God’s merciful act of salvation. The old life is in contrast with the new life a Christian now possesses. At the crux of this is the astounding mercy of God that saves by grace alone in Christ alone.
3. God’s Ultimate Purpose
Paul does not conclude without showing God’s ultimate purpose for why he displays his grace to save sinners. The purpose is stated explicitly in verse 7: “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us who are in Christ Jesus.” God saves hopeless sinners in order that his sovereign grace might be on full display.
[by Andrew Preston]