“But God, in His abundant compassion and intense love for us, even though we were spiritually dead because of our offences, has made us alive together through Christ. Remember it is by grace and not achievement you are saved. Christ has raised us up with Him from the dead and enthroned us with Him in the heavens. He has done so that in the ages to come He can demonstrate the immeasurable wealth of His loving kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. You are not saved on your own merit, but through God’s gift of grace. Because you did not earn it, it is impossible for anyone to boast. For we are God’s own handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has ordained for us as our way of life.” (paraphrased)
The preceding passage pictures the inevitable hopelessness of a sinful lifestyle. Paul now proceeds to convey powerful imagery regarding salvation.
Men may be wealthy in silver and gold, but only God is rich in mercy. “Mercy” (charis) denotes “empathy and compassion extended by one who has the willingness, ability, and resources.” The Creator offers His priceless salvation neither reluctantly nor sparingly, but freely to those He has created. His abundant mercy defines His nature.
God formed His plan of salvation eons before Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden. But God does not turn His back on those immersed in sin. Being “made alive through Christ” is not abstract mysticism, but a current vibrant display of power.
Three powerful Greek verbs describe what God has done for Believers:
1. sunezoopoiesen – He has made us alive together with Christ, implanting spiritual life within us.
2. sunegeiren – He has raised us up together with Christ, elevating us to a new level of life.
3. sunekathisen – He has seated us with Christ, allowing us to maintain an eternal relationship with Him.
Christ died for sin that we might become dead to sin. We become alive to God by virtue of His resurrection (Rom. 5:10 & 8:17). This analogy is based on the connection between the physical body of Jesus and the soul of every Believer (Jn. 11:25). As Christ was raised from physical death so His followers are raised from spiritual death (Rom. 6:5). Jesus promised: “Because I live, you shall live also” (Jn. 14:19). Every Believer is crucified with Him, raised with Him, lives through Him, is a joint heir with Him, and reigns with Him.
Paul seeks to remind his readers at every turn that the grace extended to humankind is absolutely unmerited. The phrase “are saved” (sesosmenoi) is better translated “have been saved,” for it depicts a completed action with continuous results.
The resurrection and enthronement of Christ finds its counterpart in the born-again experience. Being “raised together” means our spiritual resurrection guarantees our physical resurrection. We are delivered from defeat, discouragement, and death and given joy, hope, and life.
In addition, God has enthroned us with Jesus in the heavenly realm. Although we live in mortal bodies while on earth, we are already citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20). “Sitting together with Christ” is an analogy which helps explain the privilege of serving Him both in the terrestrial and celestial spheres. We are assured of perpetual association and participation with Him throughout eternity.
Paul further expounds upon our glorious future with Jesus by explaining why God implemented His plan of salvation. Followers of Christ are blessed by their association with His atonement, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation. His grace is so magnanimous it will take eternity to illustrate it fully. This perpetual exhibition is the everlasting proof of the success of God’s redemptive program. Even angels marvel as the saints bear ageless testimony to God’s redeeming grace (I Pet. 1:12).
Paul repeats his previous statement regarding salvation by grace (v. 5), but expands and further clarifies this concept. Only an omniscient God could devise such a plan and only an omnipotent God could implement it. Paul reminds his readers that God’s grace alone is the basis of salvation, not the result of human activity.
Faith bridges the gap between a Believer and the grace of God. But even though faith is required, it is not to be supposed that man’s faith and God’s salvation are a joint venture. Faith does not cause salvation. It is not something man generates to complete the salvation process. No amount of faith can force God to be gracious. God’s grace and the faith necessary to procure it are both gifts from God. “God gave to us eternal life and that life is in His Son” (I Jn. 5:11). Every act of contrite repentance must inevitably be traced back to God. Man is free only to accept or reject what Paul calls “God’s unspeakable gift” (II Cor. 9:15).
Good works are denounced as a means of gaining favor with God. We are not saved by good works but in order to do good works. Although man is prone to brag concerning his accomplishments, Paul excludes the possibility any human achievement could implement salvation (Rom. 3:27). Because God created us and gave us abilities, all grounds for boasting are completely eliminated. In the end, those who have been redeemed cast all crowns of achievement at His feet (Rev. 4:10).
God’s love is the motivating force behind the plan of salvation. It follows that His love inspires action in others. Being “zealous for good works” serves to validate one’s walk with Christ (Titus 2:14). Christ’s nature within us provides the energy and desire to be effective for God. “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father that we might live in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Every Believer gives evidence of their faith through a godly, proactive lifestyle (Jas. 2:14-26).
Points to Ponder
1. What does Jesus call His followers in John 15:13-15?
2. What were we prior to our conversion (Romans 5:10)?
3. Read Matthew 27:53. When Jesus died, what happened that foreshadowed the resurrection of all Believers?
4. What does Jesus call Himself in John 11:25?
5. According to Revelation 3:21, what is promised to overcomers?
6. From Revelation 21:2-23, describe the citizenship we will enjoy.
7. True or False: Only those with great faith can be saved.
Explain your answer.
8. What gift is Paul referring to in II Corinthians 9:15?
9. True or False: According to Titus 2:14, we are saved by our good works. Explain your answer.
10. According to James 1:18, what can good works verify?