In Ephesians 2, Paul lays out the theology of salvation for those who would read it:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, 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 ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as 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 so that we would walk in them.
Ephesus was a large city with a mix of ethnic and socio-economic groups. It is probable, too, that the church was of the same make-up. If so, there were likely several ideas of salvation floating around. Paul spells out the one true salvation. He knew his readers were probably influenced by other ideas and so-called gospels, but he wanted them to understand the only one that saves.
He described man’s condition before salvation by explaining how man was dead in trespasses and sins. He also explained the process of salvation and how God makes man alive and raises him up to sit with Him in the heavenly places. But this isn’t the end. Paul also describes man’s future salvation and how God shows His immeasurable mercy on His children. Then, in a stroke of genius, he sums everything up by showing that it is a done deal. He wants his readers to understand the impact that grace has on their lives. He is trying to show them that salvation is by grace, from start to finish.
What are some implication for believers today? Paul shows that man contributes nothing to his salvation. It is an act of mercy and grace solely on the part of the Giver. For the Christian, this is a doctrine that is essential to his understanding of Scripture. It is too easy for pride to sneak into ones life without a proper understanding of salvation. If a Christian believes that it was an act of himself to become saved, there is no grace. There is no humility. There is only the ground for boasting of his wisdom in making the right choice to be saved.
There are many ideas of various ways to be saved. Many believe that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and even Buddhists worship the same God and are on different paths to salvation. Of course, this simply isn’t true. Of all the religions out there, only Christianity’s salvation is based on the grace of the Giver. All others are based on the efforts of the individual.
How does this benefit the Church? Once we understand that salvation is by grace, we can begin to witness and evangelize with great joy and comfort. It will no longer be a burden to try and explain the gospel to someone, because it is God who saves anyway. It doesn’t depend on our presentation, or choice of words. It depends on God. We do not have the ability to convince people of the Gospel. We cannot reason someone into salvation. But we can tell of the gospel’s life changing power!