We didn’t save ourselves
The walking dead come to life1 As far as God was concerned, you were spiritually stone-cold dead. You let your sins kill you. 2 Like nearly everyone else in the world, you stumbled around as one of the walking dead. The devil was your leader. He’s the evil spirit who controls all evil power. He’s the same spirit who feeds his evil energy to rebel souls who disobey God. 3 We all used to live like that, if you can call it living. We let our animal nature run wild, and we did whatever sinful thing we felt like doing. We were all disobedient children and God had every right to punish us. 4 But he didn’t. God is rich when it comes to mercy. That’s because mercy is a side-effect of love. And God loves us like you wouldn’t believe.
5 Even though we were the walking dead, killed by our own sins, he brought us to life through the Messiah. You have been saved by kindness. 6 God resurrected us, just as he did the Messiah. God also reserved seats for us beside the Messiah in heaven’s spiritual dimension. He did this for those of us who believe in Jesus the Messiah. 7 For the rest of time, people will see us as the first examples of God’s kindness expressed through Jesus the Messiah.
8 Here’s what I mean. You’re saved out of the kindness of God when you take that leap of faith and believe. You didn’t save yourself. Salvation is God’s gift to you. 9 You didn’t do anything to save yourself, so don’t take the credit. It’s not yours. 10 We’re a piece of work. God’s work, created in the spirit of Jesus the Messiah to do good things, like Jesus did. God planned this a long time ago.
Jews and non-Jews become one11 A note to those of you who aren’t Jews. Remember what the Jews called you: “The Uncircumcised.” Not a compliment. They called themselves the opposite: “The Circumcised.” But the circumcision they’re talking about is only physical. There’s nothing spiritual to it anymore. 12 Back then, you had nothing to do with the Messiah. You didn’t have anything to do with the Jews, either. You weren’t citizens of Israel. You knew nothing about the promises God made to take good care of them. You were without God and without hope.
13 It’s sure different now. You were far away from God, but now you’ve come close to him. It’s the blood of the Messiah that drew you to God. 14 The Messiah made us who we are. We have peace because of him. He’s where peace comes from. He tore down the wall that separated Jews from non-Jews. He did it by dying for all of us. His death is a call to end hostility between the two groups.
15 We are now one people. That’s because his death also marks the end of Jewish Law. Rules the Jews observed are now obsolete. Jesus unites us and brings peace to our relationships. 16 When Jesus died on the cross, hostility between Jews and non-Jews died with him. Jesus is bringing to God both groups, united as one. 17 Jesus came and preached peace to you. Some of you were far from God. Others were near God. Jesus preached the same message of peace to everyone. 18 Because of Jesus, everyone can reach the Father through the Holy Spirit.
God’s at home in you19 You know what that means. You aren’t strangers or foreigners living outside your comfort zone. You are family in the household of God. You are full citizens, alongside other saintly souls devoted to him. 20 God’s household is built on the foundation of his apostles and his prophets. Jesus the Messiah is the cornerstone. 21 Jesus holds everything together, and we’re part of our Lord’s growing temple. 22 Think of it. God the Spirit is building his home on a foundation that includes you. You are home to God.
God had raised the Messiah, Jesus, to life as well.
The Greek word is charis, often translated as “grace.”
Jewish law requires all Jewish males to be circumcised, Genesis 17:10-14.
See a similar note in Hebrews 8:13.
Apostle means “official messenger,” such as a delegate or an ambassador sent to deliver a message. The title “apostle” came to mean disciples hand-picked by Jesus to tell his story and spread his teachings. The title usually referred to the 12 original disciples of Jesus and to Paul, who met Jesus in a miraculous encounter while Paul was traveling to Damascus to arrest Christians (Acts 9:5).
In ancient building projects, the cornerstone was the first stone set in a brick building. It was important because all the other stones were set in relation to the cornerstone. That cornerstone determines where the others would go. Today, the cornerstone is often ceremonial, put in a prominent place with an inscription.
Paul talks about the devil as though he’s a sentient “evil spirit” (2:2) who commands a coalition of evil forces. Do you think most people today think of Satan in those terms? Or do they think of Satan as more of a metaphor, a way of expressing the power that can latch onto people and get them to do hurtful things?
Paul told the Christians, “You have been saved by kindness” (2:5). What do you think he meant by that? And have you ever seen anyone saved by kindness or what the Bible often calls “grace”?
Paul wrote to the Christians, “You’re saved out of the kindness of God when you take that leap of faith and believe. You didn’t save yourself. Salvation is God’s gift to you” (2:8). Some might argue that we have a role to play in getting saved because we have to take the leap of faith. So at least to that degree, we do save ourselves. What would you say to defend Paul’s idea that we have nothing to do with saving ourselves?
“It’s the blood of the Messiah that drew you to God” (2:13). That’s what Paul told Christians in the letter of Ephesians. Do you think he was right back then? Did the death of Jesus draw people to God? And does it still draw people to God, or is the image of a sacrificed Jesus more repulsive than attractive?
Paul said the era of Jewish Law came to an end when Jesus died. These laws given by Moses are preserved in the first five books of the Bible, which Jewish tradition says Moses wrote. The prophet Jeremiah some 600 years before Jesus wrote that one day God would retire the contract agreement he made with the Jews. No more written laws to observe. In the new contract between humans and God, God said, “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33 New Living Translation). If the old contract died with Jesus, why do you think it survived among observant Jews?
Sinners and saints, it didn’t matter. Paul said Jesus preached the same message to everyone—the “message of peace” (2:17). Why do you think Paul said something like that to his readers?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul said “God is rich when it comes to mercy. That’s because mercy is a side-effect of love” (2:4). If that’s true when it comes to people, too, what stories could you tell to prove it?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul said God’s household is built on the foundation of his people: “apostles and his prophets. Jesus the Messiah is the cornerstone” (2:20). In what way do you think our local churches and our families operate in pretty much the same way?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul’s closing words stop the show: “You are home to God” (2:22). If we really believed that, what difference would it make in the way we lived?