Ephesians 2

1 As descendants of Adam, we are contaminated by sin (separated from God) at birth. Thus, people are doomed from the beginning. Without God, we can not help but break His laws (transgress) and miss the purpose of our lives (sin), which is to have a loving relationship with Him.

Note that the phrase "He made alive" is not in the original Greek. Translators have borrowed this phrase from verse 5 so that the sentence that stretches over these first ten verses could be broken into smaller sentences without losing their meaning.

2 Satan, the "prince of the air," defines the worldly mindset. Satan's overall purpose is to replace God, and his methods involve enticing people into all kinds of acts and beliefs that separate them from God. Satan has a strong influence on worldly people, similar to how the Holy Spirit influences Christians. Satan enjoys this sense of god-like power.

The worldly mindset affects all aspects of the lives of people without God. However, the ultimate outcome is death, because life comes only from God. Thus, worldly people are the "walking dead."

3 Christians must remember that we once had the worldly mindset. We can not become arrogant or insensitive to non-Christians because we were in just as much need of Jesus then as they are today. This worldly influence manifests itself both physically and mentally. Physically, it appears as gluttony, immorality, lies, etc. Mentally, it appears as greed, pride, the desire for power, etc. These things are offensive to God because the are counter to His nature and purpose for human beings. These things destroy people's relationships with Him and other people. Without a good relationship with God, made possible by Jesus' sacrifice, it would have been impossible to escape God's wrath.
4 Sin separates people from God. Those who persist in rejecting God will be completely separated from Him forever after death. This separation is a state of mind and body that is far worse than the "hell" we commonly imagine. God wants to save us from this fate. He made us and loves us, and for this reason freely offers salvation to all who will come to Him. This was not a passive love, but it was a love demonstrated by a great sacrifice.
5 Although we were doomed by sin and seemingly "unlovable," God saves those who believe in Him, and guarantees us true, eternal life with Him.

Before a person believes in Christ, he is dead in his sin. However, when he comes to believe, he is dead to sin. Rom 6:8-11 indicates that when we die to sin, we live in Christ.

Salvation by grace is visited in verse 8.

6 When the resurrection occurs, we will be with God forever. We will be constantly surrounded by His perfect love and goodness, and we will be in perfect fellowship with Him because there will be no sin to separate us from Him. It will be true life -- the life God intended for people in the first place. Jesus is already in the heavenly places, and we will join Him there at the Resurrection.
7 Intuitively, we know that we do not deserve God's grace and kindness. By nature, we are sinners and offensive to God. However, He is so rich in grace that He will forgive the greatest and the least of sinners who will begin a relationship with Him. Our presence in heaven will be a permanent memorial to the greatness of God's grace, which was able to make a way for hopeless people to find eternal hope. We will be the undeserving benefactors of the full extent of God's love and goodness, which will become even clearer once sin is completely removed from the world.
8 God loves all people, but His love for us can not nullify His justice. His justice demands that we all be punished forever because of our turning away from Him. However, God also has grace, which means He allows a worthy sacrifice to take the punishment for us. The sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament was a picture of this, but the atoning effects were short-lived. When Jesus came, He became the perfect sacrifice. He voluntarily bore our punishment despite living a completely sinless life. Accepting His sacrifice brings eternal salvation (i.e., a permanent escape from the punishment we deserve). The only thing needed to complete this transaction is a person's willingness to begin a relationship with Him, starting with the acceptance of His salvation through Jesus.

Throughout this chapter, Paul has emphasized what God has done for us. Here, he makes it explicit. Our salvation is from God alone. It is a gift offered freely to anyone willing to accept it.

The verb tense of the word "saved" indicates that it is a past event that continues into the presence. Thus, the Christian is saved forever when he believes, and this salvation continues to work in his life on a daily basis.

9 We can not earn our salvation. We can not turn back time and undo the sins we have committed. Neither can we pay the price required by sin. Our religious activities and good works can not earn us a place in heaven. The debt of sin is not possible to repay by human effort. Instead, we must choose to accept God's grace to save us.

Some object to the idea that we have a choice whether to be saved or not. They consider "choosing Jesus" to be a work, which would be disqualified by this verse. However, when we accept a gift from another person, we do not consider it work. We did not earn the gift -- we simply accepted it.

Gift giving is an expression of our relationship with someone else. We might gladly accept the smallest gift from a friend or loved one but reject an expensive gift from someone we dislike. Our acceptance or rejection of a gift indicates whether we are willing to be obligated to our relationship with the other person.

In a similar way, God offers the same gift of salvation to every person, but very few seem to accept it. Those who do accept it are not any more worthy, based on their merit, they simply accepted the gift. For those willing to accept it, God's grace is a priceless treasure that marks the beginning of the most valuable relationship a person can have -- a loving relationship with God.

God alone can be glorified because of what He has done for us. We can not boast about anything, because God alone made salvation possible. We have been the recipients of His favor, and our response should be thankfulness, not pride.

10 God created people to fellowship with Him and do the things that please Him. Sin ruined that purpose, but Jesus made it possible to restore us to a proper relationship with God.

Once we are restored to God, we are to do the good works for which He designed us. In fact, He commands it, and at the same time empowers us to do them. The Christian recognizes that he is already saved and that good works do not add to his salvation. Instead, good works are an expression of gratitude, love, and obedience.

11 In the Jew's eyes, there were only two kinds of people: Jews and Gentiles. This was manifested in the flesh in that the Jews were circumcised according to the command God gave to Abraham (Gen 17:10). The term "uncircumcised" was considered a curse word by the Jews because it was physical "evidence" that the man was disobedient to God and disqualified to receive His blessing. Most of Paul's audience to this letter were Gentiles that had come to know Christ.
12 Jews held Gentiles in contempt because God had granted the Jews a special relationship with Him. In the spiritual realm, the Gentiles were excluded. God intended the Jews to be a witness for Him, but the Jews were more concerned about keeping themselves separate from Gentiles than telling them about God. The only other resource the Gentile had was nature which, as is still evident today, can be easily misinterpreted. Thus, Gentiles had no hope of a spiritual relationship with God.

Paul calls the unsaved Gentiles "atheists" (i.e., without God), even though most of them would have worshiped any number of gods. The point is made throughout Scripture that at best, idolatry is the worship of a lifeless piece of wood, rock, metal, or idea (Psa 115:3-8), and at worst the worship of demons (1 Cor 10:19-20). In either case, they are still biblically atheists because they do not worship the one true God.

Other religions leave people without hope. In some, people try in vain to appease the "gods" and control their environment. In others, the requirements of rules and self-depravation (or indulgence) are idealistic, and no person could possibly meet the standards. Christianity, by contrast, places all the work on Christ's shoulders. He alone is able to accomplish salvation for us. He alone can empower us to become the people God designed us to be.

13 So now, through grace revealed in the sacrificial blood of Christ, both Jew and Gentile can have a relationship with God. The Jews are no longer the soul recipients of God's favor and promises.
14 On the Temple grounds in Jerusalem was a wall that separated the outer court from the inner courts. Gentiles were allowed outside this wall, but to enter them was a capital offense. When Jesus died for the sins of all men, He broke down the spiritual barrier that the physical wall represented. Since all believers now have equal access, we are to live at peace with each other, just as Jesus has brought us to peace with God.
15 The Law of Moses called for physical enmity (i.e., separation) between Jews and Gentiles. Jesus' physical death led to the end of the physical separation and He calls all believers to be united in Jesus. We are no longer to be considered Jews and Gentiles, but we are now all Christians following Christ, the Jewish Messiah.

This does not mean that the Gentiles become Jews or vice-versa. The Gentiles must leave idolatry and godless philosophies behind for the great Truth revealed through Jesus. Jews must leave their hope in animal sacrifices and other regulations and place it in the sacrifice of Christ, which is both necessary and sufficient for eternal salvation. The two groups become one in the body of Christ, the Church.

16 Both groups are reconciled to God and there is no basis for rivalry between them. Their backgrounds may be different. Their ceremonial practices may be different. However, the reconciliation of both groups to God far overshadows these differences. When we focus on these differences, we lose site of the big picture. When we are reconciled to God, we must be at peace with others who are at peace with Him.
17 Jesus spent most of Him ministry with the Jews, but there is no doubt that He intended His message and work to extend to the entire world (Mat 28:19-20). Jesus continues His work of reaching people everywhere thought the work of His Church.
18 The work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to bring people to the Father is the same for everyone (John 14:6). There is not one way for Jews and another for Gentiles. Each person is separated from God until he is reconciled to Him in Christ.

This is a small picture of how the Trinity works in each Christian's life. Jesus' reconciliatory work on the cross makes it possible for the Holy Spirit to indwell us. The Holy Spirit allows us to have a relationship with God.

19 This letter was primarily intended for Gentile Christians, so Paul is addressing them directly here. Gentile Christians are not "second class." They should not feel in any way inferior to their Jewish counterparts because they have all become members of God's household through the same method of reconciliation.

Paul speaks of Christians in nationalistic terms. We are citizens of God's eternal kingdom. Each Christian, regardless of gender, skin color, talents, or position in life, is a full citizen of His kingdom. We must treat each other with the respect and honor due a child of God and citizen of His kingdom. We must also encourage one another to live up to the standards God has given to His people.

20 Jesus is the cornerstone because the universe was created through Him. He is the essential component of the foundation of our spiritual relationship with God. All the prophets and apostles point to Jesus.

The apostles are those who were appointed and sent by Jesus. Their special assignment was to lay the foundation for the Church. We, as members of that Body, are to help it continue to grow and strengthen. While some may disagree that the apostolic ministry extended beyond the faithful eleven and Paul, Rom 16:7 indicates that Paul considered others among them. Even today, those who are sent by Jesus to fulfill the role of laying a spiritual foundation among people who have not previously been reached with the Gospel might be considered apostles.

21 The strength of a building depends on the foundation and the all-important corner stone. Jesus is the only stable cornerstone and He provides an unshakable anchor on which the foundation and the rest of the building are set. The Church, which is founded on the word of Jesus, is unshakable. Those who try to build spiritually significant lives apart from the cornerstone of Jesus will see their building fall apart.

This temple is different from earthly buildings. It is built with living stones -- the people of the Church. We are called to be a holy people, i.e., our lives are dedicated to God. Thus, the temple built by our fellowship in Christ is also holy. This is one reason why it is important that we take responsibility for our personal purity before God. When we sin, we do not simply defile ourselves; we defile God's dwelling place as well. Fortunately, when we confess our sins and God cleanses us, then His temple is also cleansed.

22 God does not live in buildings built by people, nor is He confined to them. He has chosen to live inside human hearts and minister through people. He has chosen to bring Jew and Gentile together for this purpose, resting His entire plan on the work of Jesus Christ.

Again, we see the Trinity pictured here: Jesus is the cornerstone for the building, the Spirit builds it together, and God (the Father) lives in it.