Raised up together in Christ. The words “raised up” are often used to speak of the resurrection, and rightly so, but in this passage they refer more to the ascension. Having been raised from the dead, Jesus was taken up into heaven, and we are said to have been raised to heavenly places in him. This might not be the easiest phrase for us to understand.
Try to look at it this way, our being raised from the dead (in our transgressions and sins) with Christ means we have been given new life. Our being taken into heaven with Christ, our ascension, means that we have been given a new environment. We are no longer creatures of this world, bound by what we can preserve through our senses. We are now creatures of the greater, heavenly realm who now, because of our union with Christ, think, work, speak and behave in spiritual categories. As soon as we are called to Christ, as soon as we are forgiven of your sin, as soon as we ascend with Christ to the heavenly realms, we should asses things in an entirely different way.
More so, the Christian accepts that they belong more to the heavenly realm than the earthly realm. This is only possible through our union with Christ. No works we could perform would ever be enough to raise us to the heavenly realm. Apart from that union, we would not even be aware of Gods kingdom, let alone be any part of it.
Verse 6 says God has “seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”. Again, maybe a difficult line for us to understand as its written. Are we sitting there now? Have we been sitting there already? Consider the last supper, John writes that he was reclining next to Jesus. As John describes, Jesus has announced that one of the twelve will betray him, and Peter, unsettled by this revelation, motions to John to ask Jesus which of the disciples he was speaking about. John then wrote, about himself “Leaning back against Jesus he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” (John 13:25). Jesus answers, “it is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in this dish” (v26) He then dipped the bread and gave it Judas Iscariot. John was seated next to Jesus and as such was the only one to receive this revelation.
Now, going back to Ephesians, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (vs 6-7). That place, in Christ at the right hand of God the Father, is the place of intimacy and revelation. It is where God (like Jesus did with John) opens up his heart. And notice, it is where we are now. We are seated with God, in Christ in the heavenly realms now. God is speaking intimately to us now, through the words of Jesus written in the Bible.
Verses 8 - 9 “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” Possibly one of the most well known passages from the Bible. A way to consider this passage is by using the following analogy.
Imagine being on a beach, the tide is right out, you come across a sandcastle with a note that says something like “Keep this sandcastle in perfect condition for 12 hours and you will be given everlasting life” Seems simple enough, but you would soon realise, that as the tide comes in, whatever you try and do, however quickly you work at repairing it, you will never be able to keep the sand castle as perfect as it was when it was given to you.
Of course, the works and effort you would put into the castle would be utterly useless, there is no way you will ever be able to keep the castle standing as the tide washes over it. Even the most confident and arrogant person would know it’s pointless even trying. This should be the same when we consider our salvation, there is nothing that we can do that will “earn” forgiveness. Our own actions, trying to make assured our salvation, are as useless as trying to keep the sandcastle together when the tide comes in. It is only by the grace of God have we been saved. Once we accept that, once our own pride (or sandcastle), has been destroyed, we will be able to understand what that means, and accept that we cannot do it by ourselves and accept the gift that is given.
The first mention of works (vs 9) is said in a negative manor, and Paul states in no uncertain terms we are not saved “by works” but by God’s grace alone. Then Paul goes straight into verse 10 stating God has created us precisely ”to do good works”. We are created to do good works, and we are saved by grace.
Before we look at the necessity of works that flow out of a believer through Christ, we should look at the works human being are capable of doing outside of Christ. Consider an old fashioned set off scales, cast iron and perfectly balanced when no weight is applied. One side is placed a pound weight representing God’s righteousness, the standard which his own holy nature demands. We are then invited to put our “good works” on the side. Start off with the “worst” people in society, murderers, thieves, etc. They are not without any human goodness, maybe an ounce or two, but not enough to balance the scales, so therefore they pass under God’s just condemnation.
Next come “ordinary people”, they are better than the “great sinners”, they perhaps have eight ounces of human goodness, that makes them maybe 4 times as good as the ones who came first, but their goodness, great as it seems to be, does not balance the scale, and therefore pass under the God’s just condemnation. Finally, the morally “greats” turn. They are not perfect, their greatness causes them to recognise that fact. They may have 12 or 13 ounces of good works. But it is still not enough to balance the pound of God’s righteousness and they will suffer exactly the same punishment for their sin, regardless of the sin, as everybody else. Unless another way of salvation can be found.
BUT (what a glorious word!) this is where God comes with the message of free salvation, God doesn’t change the pound of righteousness, it is a constant. When Christ died for each and every person, he took the punishment that all sin from all time deserved. He took the full weight of our sin upon himself. God then comes with a great invitation, God tells us he loves us and wants to be with us in heaven. We stand on the scales with nothing more that a few ounces to put in and with no possibility of getting more. But God tells us he loves us, he came to die for us, we look to Calvary where Christ died on the Cross, we look at the empty tomb, proof Christ was raised from the dead. It is the proof the God is satisfied with what Christ did on the cross, and he will take that, as our side of the scales, if we throw away all the confidence we have in our own few ounces, and therefore come to Christ. A person who trusts that perfect righteousness of Christ, rather than their own righteousness is justified. A person who clings to their own good works, by any degree, is not justified, therefore salvation is “by grace… through faith” alone, as Paul says in verse 8.
This is where the “good works” Paul refers to come in, and is similar to what we have looked at previously. That there is no good or good works outside of Christ. When we accept what God says, use the scales analogy again, as we turn to Christ as saviour, we then look at his teachings and what he told his disciples to do. We then look to Christ to see how he behaved and set and example to his disciples. The Christian then has (or should have!) an overwhelming desire to be “Christ like” and do as much good for Christ as they can. Consider the alternative, consider a person who says Jesus is Lord yet doesn’t do any works for Christ, who doesn’t serve Christ… we instantly should have certain verse spring to mind. Luke 9:23 “If anyone would come after me (Jesus), he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”… or perhaps more so Luke 6:46 where Jesus says “Why do you call me “Lord, Lord” and do not do what I say?”
When we accept that we cannot save ourselves, and turn to Jesus as Lord and Saviour, we then follow Him as our Lord, and then, and only then, can our good works begin.
1) What thoughts, emotions, feelings come to you when we consider that, as Christians, we are tied more to the heavenly realms than we are to the world?
2) If we are more tied to the heavenly realms, should we give up on this world? Why not?
3) Consider the statement “There is no good, therefore there are no good works, outside of Christ.” Do you agree with this statement? Why? Why not?
4) We’ve looked at the power of the Holy Spirt before, one of his functions is to exalt Christ, if ANY works we do are not exalting Christ, can we say we are working for Christ? How? Why not?
5) We all have our own gifts and do“good works” within the Church. For some it is preaching, for some it is leading small groups, for some it is helping with Alpha, for some it is providing refreshments after a church service. What are your good works? (being mindful not to boast)
6) Where is the line between doing some “good works” well and doing lots of “good work” poorly?
7) “Good works” of course, isn’t limited to works carried out within MIE. What do you do outside of MIE that would be considered good?
8) With all the works that you’ve looked at through these questions, do they all glorify Christ?
9) How can you, as a small group, encourage and uphold one another in your good works.
10) Do we pray enough?