You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air… All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts… But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions… For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works… (Ephesians 2:1–5, 8–10)
Some say that Ephesians 2:1–10 is the best biblical summary of the gospel. As Paul moves in the previous chapter from an exultation of God through Christ on a cosmic level, he turns here to the level of humanity, showing how God has saved us from our sinful lives. He compares the old with the new: once we were dead, but now we are alive. Once we were ruled by the cravings of our flesh; now we are saved.
This is pure grace. God in his mercy pulls us out of the graves we dig for ourselves, through lies, slander, bitterness, unbelief, or unforgiveness. He releases us from the tangles of these deathly cords and sets us onto a solid foundation. When we are placed firmly on the rock of Christ, we are then propelled into a life of good works. And lest we claim this goodness for ourselves, Paul reminds us that these works too are a gift from God. We are God’s craftsmanship, his handiwork, his workmanship; in short, we are his work of art. And we, fuelled by grace, find joy in the release from our sinful nature.
Some people have had an amazing conversion story, having turned from a life of drugs, sex, or the occult. Others, like me, have been followers of Christ since they were children. Either way, we know that God is continually transforming us through his renewing Sprit, forming us into the glorious creation that he has always intended for us to be.
Prayer: Lord, you are renewing me day by day. Shape me into your masterpiece.