By Will Hall, Baptist Message executive editor
This is the second installment of a six-part series for the January Bible study on the book of Ephesians.
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – In Chapter 1, Paul explained redemption as a blessing from God and emphasized Christ as the means by which we receive it.
In Ephesians 2, he built on this doctrinal concept, instructing that this “blessing” is a gift, or the “grace” of God. Again, Paul emphasized that this grace is found “in Christ.” Moreover, he contrasted “grace” with “works” to help us understand the enormity of the gift.
This is important to his refutation of the Judaizers who emphasized the “works” of the law (the legalistic lives Jews had to live, including circumcision of males). In other words, they believed that the people of Israel had to “labor” to make themselves acceptable to God.
Further, in verses 1-10, living in “trespasses and sins” is described as being “dead,” and in verses 11-22 being dead is defined as being separated from Christ. Moreover, Paul states three times that salvation is by “grace” (vv. 5, 7, 8) in contrast to the notion of “circumcision” (v. 11) – a reference to the legalism of the Judaizers in the passage that follows.
Importantly, Paul again emphasized that the means of receiving the gift, or “grace,” is “in Christ” (vv. 6, 7, 10, 13); and he made this point through other references to Jesus, such as being “brought near by the blood of Christ” (v. 13), as opposed to being secluded behind a “wall of separation” because of our sins (v. 14).
Finally, he closed this chapter by rejecting the “works” of the law by taking aim at the temple, the center of the perpetuation of the works of the law. In verses 19-22, Paul described Jesus as the “chief cornerstone in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Paul told the Ephesians that they, too, were part of the sacred space where the Spirit of God dwells, because of the blessing of redemption, a gift, or the grace received “in Christ.”