Read Ephesians 2:1-10
As we continue our study of Ephesians, we come across a passage most Christians know by heart. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). But first, a little background on the Ephesians and why Paul was spending so much time instilling in them the knowledge that they are loved by God and saved.
Ephesus was the centre of idol worship and the occult in the ancient world. Much of its commerce stemmed from the worship of Artemis, also known as Diana. Yet Artemis was not the only idol worshipped in Ephesus. There were over fifty other idols as well. This was why Ephesus was so wealthy. It was the centre of travel and commerce in the Roman world. In fact, at one point, those merchants who profited off the sale of idols were enraged at Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's travelling companions from Macedonia. A mob formed and dragged them into the theatre to exact vengeance because too many people believed in Jesus, and their businesses suffered because of it (Acts 19:23-41).
There were two kinds of people residing in Ephesus, pagans and Christians. There were Jews living there too, but they were almost completely Hellenized, embracing the gods of the city. So those who became Christians came out of this pagan lifestyle. They had worshipped idols and they would have dabbled in the occult. They would have been sexually immoral and drunkards. Yet these men and women repented of their sins and served the Lord with a holy zeal. However, they based a lot of their beliefs on good works, believing that they had to make amends or try to "work" their way into heaven to make up for their former decadent lifestyles. They struggled to accept that they were saved because of their faith in Christ alone. This is why Paul spends so much time reminding them of who they are in Christ.
Sometimes, new believers also need reminders of who they are in Christ and how much God loves them. So today, I want to show you, through Paul's letter, what has happened to you now that you are saved.
Who You Were Before Jesus
Who You Are Now in Jesus
So this is why we have no reason to boast about good works. Clearly, we have done nothing to merit our salvation and any good works we do, come about because we love the Lord. And one of the best "works" each Christian has had prepared beforehand by God to do, is to tell others about Him. So you can see that trying to "work" your way into heaven is pointless. You can do absolutely nothing by yourself that would make you redeemable in God's eyes. Only Jesus' sacrifice for you can do that. And that was a gift of grace.