God’s Glorious Masterpiece
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV
In today’s passage, Paul introduces two ages of man. These two ages are actually two worlds that overlap. One is the old creation—fallen under weight of Adam’s sin, and the other is the new creation—revealed in the resurrection of the second Adam. All of us are born under the old age, but by God’s grace can leave the old age (which is passing away) and enter into the new age which never fades: world without end.
1. The age of sin.
This old world is characterized by sin and trespasses (falling short of the glory of God). The sons of disobedience live in this world following the passions of their body and mind. This is the path of division between all peoples (Cain and Abel; Jews and the Gentiles). Notice the “you,” “we” divisions in verses 1 – 3.
The way of sin
This is this path where the ungodly walk.
There is a way that seems right to a man,
but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12) (See also Psalm 1; Proverbs)
The ruler of this age and air (aion and aeros).
Paul talks about a power that leads the unbelievers in their path of wickedness. This power might be referred to as World Age and it also might be referred to as satan. Notice how the word age (aion) is translated throughout Scripture. It is often translated as world. We may think of a physical planet but the text is referring to an age or an epoch that is passing away.
39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world (age); and the reapers are the angels.
40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world (age).
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (age). Amen.
30 Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world (age) to come life everlasting.
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever (age or age after age): and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever (age or age after age);
2 And be not conformed to this world (age): but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
2 Corinthians 4:4
4 In whom the god of this world (age) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world (age), according to the will of God and our Father:
5 To whom be glory for ever and ever (age or age after age) . Amen.
21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world (age), but also in that which is to come:
21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end . Amen.
The Old Creation is ruled by satan through fallen man.
The Scripture does not give us a comprehensive explanation of evil like it does of God. This should help us realize that we do not focus all our energy upon explaining or discussing it. And yet, evil is present in the world of Adam, the first creation, the first age. Adam gave up his rightful dominion to the evil one and now evil works through the hearts and actions of the sons of disobedience. Paul suggests that both Gentiles and Jews walk in this path. Their actions set up institutions and societies and cultures—as evil works in and through them, so evil is at work in the realms they create. How is evil defeated?
2. The age of grace.
Rich in mercy.
This is the Father heart of God: rich in mercy. He will not let his creation waste away.
He acts “because of the great love with which he loved us.” The Father showers his love upon his creation. In this shower of love, he comes to heal the breach between man and God and man and man.
Jesus’ resurrection changes everything. When he dies, the old world dies. And when he rises the new world rises. This present evil age has already died and passed away. The age (the new heaven and earth) is here. The two ages overlap temporarily. One is fading: one is growing brighter and brighter. He raises up divided man (Jew and Gentile together). Resurrection is not for individuals but for one new man. The people of God united as one in Christ.
What is resurrection?
Raised up to heavenly places.
He has raised us up to demonstrate his loving-kindness in and through us. We are the firstfruits of the new heaven and hew earth.
18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
3. We are God’s workmanship.
Raised up together as the people of God, we are empowered (not through our own strength) to show forth the works of God in all our actions. We are God’s masterpiece, displaying the excellent power of his grace to bring love and healing to a world wrecked by sin and division. What is our duty?