Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 5, Qtr 4-05

Special Insights No. 5

Fourth Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Ephesians: The Gospel of Relationships”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“The Church: God’s Workmanship”



Paul’s burden in his epistle to the Ephesians is to reveal God’s purpose, “the mystery of His will … which He purposed in Himself” in order to restore unity in the universe (the genuine “gospel of relationships”) through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (see Eph. 1:7-10). Evidence is piled upon evidence that God chose, adopted, predestined, and made us accepted in Christ from the foundation of the world. And since God is the Savior of all men and shows no partiality, this good news applies to the entire fallen race of men. God purposed and accomplished His will through the gift of His Son.


Next to John 3:16, the memory text for this week’s lesson is perhaps the most familiar and most often quoted and most loved Bible text. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” It is generally understood by many Christians that if you have sufficient faith, then God’s grace will save you. The burden is on you and your ability to develop sufficient saving faith.


We will address two issues in this Insight: (1) How does God make anyone alive together with Christ Jesus? (2) What is the gift of God in Ephesians 2:8? Is it faith or something else?


Made Alive with Christ

The basis upon which anyone dead in trespasses and sins can be made alive together with Christ is not our faith. God accomplished His purpose for this by taking fallen human nature, dead in trespasses and sins, and uniting that nature with the divine nature of His Son. By that one unique act of the incarnation, the human race, from a corporate point of view, was made alive or spiritually awakened together with Christ. The fallen human race was reconnected with God.


The parenthetical phrase, “by grace you have been saved,” in 2:5 deserves special attention. The verbal phrase, “you have been saved,” is composed of two Greek verbs: este and sesosmenoi. The literal rendering is the following: “by grace you are, having been saved” or “by grace you exist, having been saved.” [1] In a unique corporate sense, mankind is alive by virtue of the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ. They have been saved from the second death temporarily (and in God’s intention, eternally), because Christ tasted and abolished that death resulting in probationary life for all.


The grace of God originates from the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:24). It is this grace that is responsible for the unconditional corporate good news of the gospel wherein fallen man has been chosen, adopted, predestined, and made to sit in heavenly places in Christ.


But it is also true that all those who embrace Christ by a surrendered life of faith and obedience will be made alive together with Christ and will be given free access to partake of the divine nature to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.


From a similar corporate standpoint, when God looks at His Son, God manifested in the flesh, He sees all mankind sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. But this is especially true experientially for those who believe. They are made alive and raised up together with Christ and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ. They are new creatures in Christ Jesus created in Him for good works.


What Is the Gift of God in Ephesians 2:8?

Is it faith or something else? “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourself; it is the gift of God.” A cursory reading of the passage would suggest that the antecedent pronoun “it” refers to “faith” or perhaps “grace.” The pronoun “it” is supplied by the translators and certainly refers to “that” in the phrase: “and that not of yourself.” But what does the demonstrative pronoun, “that,” refer to? Both faith (pistis) and grace (charis) are feminine Greek nouns. However, the demonstrative pronoun “that” (touto) is neuter in gender. This pronoun, (touto), must therefore refer to the general concept of the salvation process (“having been saved”). The pronoun “it” is supplied by the translators and is irrelevant. It is therefore evident that the gift of God in 2:8 is God’s saving process affecting all mankind.


What is the significance of all this? A literal rendering of the passage is the following: “For by grace you are, having been saved through the faith (tes pisteos); and this not of yourselves, the gift of God.” Yes, a literal rendering of the Greek passage would suggest that we are saved by grace through the faith of Jesus. More specifically, “For by grace you are (exist), having been saved through the faith, and that not of yourselves, (it is) a gift of God.” It is widely recognized especially in the scholarly community that Paul’s epistles are permeated with the phrase, “the faith of Jesus,” but which is more often translated as faith in Jesus.


The gift of God resulting from the faith of Jesus includes both probationary life for all and eternal life for those having been made spiritually alive with Christ by faith which originates from the Author of faith.


 What is the conclusion of all this? Salvation is entirely a work of God through the faith of Jesus Christ bestowed as a gift upon all. For those who receive the gift of Christ, they become the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus for good works. This is a faith expressed by His saints that works because of His great love with which He loved us.

—John W. Peters


[1] Other versions (KJV) translate 2:5 as “by grace you are saved.” This requires only the present passive verb in Greek (for example, see 1 Cor. 15:2). The NKJV translation of Eph. 2:5 or 8 would require the perfect passive Greek tense. However the unusual compound Greek verb in 2:5 and 2:8 demands the literal translation: “by grace you are, having been saved.”


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