In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul explains three things: (1) The natural state of humans, ever since Adam’s fall into sin (2) What God has done to address humanity’s problem (3) God should get the glory in salvation! I cover the first and second aspects of this passage in other blog posts, but this post will focus on the third aspect: God’s glory in the salvation of sinners!
We’ve already seen that the Ephesian Christians were dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), but God, by his Spirit, made them alive in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:5). It should be so obvious that God should get all the glory for this saving work! After all, as Christians, “we are his workmanship…” not our own (Eph. 2:10)! We didn’t rescue ourselves from deadness in sin and make ourselves alive! God made us alive!
But don’t you hear people emphasizing their own part in the process? “I found Christ. I made a decision for Christ. I committed my life to Christ. I prayed the sinner’s prayer.” This is misguided because it emphasizes the recipient of saving grace instead of the Giver of saving grace! Now, to be clear, unbelievers do need to make a decision for Christ, and commit their lives to him! And unbelieving sinners certainly must pray some kind of prayer to him to save them from their sin! But the point here is that the way we think and speak about salvation should reflect the reality that we are God’s workmanship. The Psalmist says, in the KJV of Psalm 100:3 “It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves.” We could paraphrase and say, “It is he that hath saved us, and not we ourselves!” As Jonah prayed from the belly of the great fish, “Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (Jonah 2:9)
We are not Christians because we are wiser than our neighbours, friends, and family members who do not believe. We did not just decide one day of our own initiative to make a better choice and improve our situation while everyone around us foolishly just stays under God’s condemnation. And it is not the case that God saw potential in us that he just did not see in them and so decided to save us. There was nothing God saw or foresaw in us that caused him to extend grace to us. The difference between Christians and unbelievers is not to be found in our natural merits, abilities, or potential. We were as spiritually blind and spiritually dead as our unbelieving loved ones still are! Rather, the only difference between us and them is God’s undeserved, free, and sovereign grace to us while we were dead in our trespasses and sins. We are not our own workmanship. And we are not even partially our own workmanship. “We are his workmanship” (Eph. 2:10). Now, again, yes, we must respond to God’s offer of salvation and yes, we must exercise our wills in the process of sanctification. We’re not entirely passive in every stage of salvation. But we must recognize that God’s grace initiates and enables and sustains and undergirds and preserves all the way through and, therefore, give him all the glory! “What do [we] have that [we] did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7). The implied answer is, “nothing.” Therefore, since “we are his workmanship” (Eph. 2:10) God should get all the glory!