“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
Unlike some other important Biblical concepts, the word “grace” has a pretty easy definition: “God’s undeserved favor.” This word “grace” appears over 100 times in the New Testament and you’ll often it linked with other attributes of God such as His mercy, love or compassion. In fact, “grace” is actually one of the central elements of God’s character.
For example, Psalm 86:15 says, “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (NLT). In the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 8:9 tells us, “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich” (NLT).
So God’s grace towards humanity flows from who He is and because God’s grace involves His unmerited (or undeserved, unearned) favor, it’s free and there’s nothing that you can do to earn it. After all, if there was something that you could do to earn God’s favor then you wouldn’t need God’s grace (see Romans 11:5-6 and Galatians 2:21 for more on that).
These two verses are so important in understanding God’s grace that they really deserve a closer look. To do that, we can expand on this key Biblical teaching like this:
- For it is by grace (God’s undeserved favor)
- you have been saved (or delivered from punishment and eternal separation from God)
- through faith (trust in and reliance on God)
- –and this not from yourselves (in other words, you didn’t do it on your own),
- it is the gift of God– not by works (or anything that you could accomplish through your own ability)
- so that no one can boast (or brag and show off).
The best thing is that God’s grace is available to everyone who comes to Him through Jesus. Hebrews 4:14-16 sums it up like this…
“…Jesus the Son of God is our great High Priest who has gone to heaven itself to help us; therefore let us never stop trusting him. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses since he had the same temptations we do, though he never once gave way to them and sinned. So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
When this verse says that we are God’s workmanship it uses the Greek word poiema, the word that gives us our modern-day word poem. This word workmanship means handiwork or “work of art.” This tells us that God works and expresses Himself through His people much like a human artist finds creative expression through the various arts. For a Christian, this means that your life is like a poem that God writes each day.
Now you may not feel like your life is very poetic but remember that every poem is not the same. For example, some poems have sad parts and other poems are joyful. Some poetry is highly structured while other poems are free-flowing and refuse to conform to the accepted laws of spelling and grammar. Some poetry is soft and flowery while other poems are raw and emotional and some mix many different styles and emotions.
So what kind of poetry is God writing in your life right now? While you may not always enjoy the poetic section of your life that God is writing at any given moment, just be patient and see what God is going to write in your life next. Remember that you are God’s work of art and every day is like another line that God is writing in the poetry of your life.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:13-14 NIV).
The Apostle Paul (the man that God used to write the book of Ephesians) spent years traveling through the Roman province of Asia, an area that included the city of Ephesus. Because of this, Paul was well aware of the racial divisions that existed among the people of his day (see Acts 21:17-30 for an example). So in speaking of how Jesus eliminates this dividing wall of hostility, Paul tells us that Jesus not only breaks down the barriers that exist between people and God, He also breaks down those barriers that can exist between people and other people.
You see, people of different cultures, races, and colors can all find a common ground in Jesus Christ because Jesus is every Christian’s common denominator. Jesus didn’t simply make peace between people- He became our peace by becoming a human being and making a way for us to be reconciled to God and to each other.
“Now you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but you are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian. What a foundation you stand on now: the apostles and the prophets; and the cornerstone of the building is Jesus Christ himself!” (Ephesians 2:19-20 NIV).
Now you don’t need to be a building contractor to know what a cornerstone does: a “corner-stone” is a stone that joins two walls together. So Jesus serves as the cornerstone for everyone who has real faith in God; He is the One that joins all sides together in creating a home for God to live among His people:
“We who believe are carefully joined together with Christ as parts of a beautiful, constantly growing temple for God. And you also are joined with him and with each other by the Spirit and are part of this dwelling place of God” (Ephesians 2:21-22).