In the last paragraph of our former article we were speaking of the fact, that grace, the grace of God is only experienced, seen and known by us as it is historically realized in Christ Jesus. This means that there is a definite date on the calendar in which this was realized, a time in history, a moment in time when grace had fully become a reality in Christ Jesus. At that moment the shadows and typical-levitical institutions were abolished, all righteousness fulfilled. That moment was when Christ said: It is finished. Nothing more needs to be added. It never can, or may, nor need be repeated. When Christ died He died once having offered Himself wholly through the eternal Spirit unto God.
That was the thrust of the former article, the concluding paragraph.
So strongly is this true that Jesus Himself has instituted the (Lord’s Supper that this His death should be remembered. Paul says that Christ instituted this Supper “in the night in which He was betrayed”. There was only one such night. And this night and the crucifixion on the day following we remember till our Lord comes.
It was the night in which grace and the truth in Jesus became a reality. Christ became from God unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and complete redemption.
It is interesting and also comforting to note that Christ became this unto us. He, the Christ of God, the Son in our flesh, who is not ashamed to call us brethren, He became or rather was made (egeneethee) righteousness of God for us. There was according to the idea expressed here, a time when this righteousness was not yet made to us. The Lamb had then not yet been slain. There was then always the not yet. And in close connection with this the cry of the saints: how long, O Lord, wilt thou wait in visiting Thy people! But when “grace and truth came” in Jesus then that element in the “how long” of the saints is no longer heard. We, the sons, obtain now the redemption, the adoption to sons.
And so when we read in the New Testament of “grace” it is the new covenant in Christ’s blood that is meant. Here is not abstract reasoning about grace, but it is the grace of God that liberates the captives, purifies the conscience, and gives a living hope unto the day of Christ’s return. Then the full grace of God will be revealed in “the revelation of Jesus Christ”. (: ).
It is to this “grace” that Paul has reference here in our Scripture passage.
That Paul has this grace here in mind should be self-evident to any reader of Scripture who lives by faith in Jesus. For this is the fullness from which we receive; it is the cup of eternal bliss and joy from which we drink. In ever greater measure it is ours: grace for grace. Still it can do no harm but it will greatly strengthen our faith to notice the following in the text indicating that Paul has this great grace of God in mind.
1. That Paul here not only contrasts this entire section of the verses 4-10 with that of the verses 1-3, but that he inserts the very heart of the contrast into this section speaking of God’s grace in Jesus. The core of the former section’s instruction was that we were “dead by reason of our trespasses”. Here this truth is contrasted with the grace of God. It is the truth of God’s unsearchable wisdom and understanding that “where sin abounds grace may much more abound”. Here Paul cannot wait to state all it implies to be made alive in Christ, but exclaims in the midst of this sentence in our text: By grace are ye saved! Here is the contrast of what “we are by nature” and what God has done for us in grace. Here we can only worship in the Lord. And how wonderful!
2. That it is also quite evident that, according to the presentation in the text, Paul here presents grace as the sum-total of salvation, in all its length and breadth, its height and depth! For the joyful exclamation of Paul in the text follows directly upon the statement: “made us alive together with Christ.” And this being made alive with Christ means that we have been fully delivered from being dead by reason of our trespasses and sins; that we no longer walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, according to the spirit that now energizes the sons of disobedience. Grace is, therefore, the term which stands for the fullness of salvation as it is realized in Christ and by Him and as it flows to us from this our rock.
3. The foregoing is corroborated by the consideration in the text, that this being made alive with Christ, is not simply a mighty act of God without consideration of divine justice, but that this is a being made alive with Christ. This implies that we who were dead in sins died unto this very sin in the death of Christ. Now it may be conceded that the apostle does here not mention the death of Christ in this passage which is so very rich in meaning. The apostle does not speak here of Jesus’ death but only of the resurrection and ascension. That is true, yet only in part. For in the first place Paul does here not merely speak of Christ’s resurrection, but he speaks of our resurrection and ascension with Christ. And our resurrection with Christ does not merely logically imply (we must be careful with mere logical implications), our having been crucified and buried with Christ, but is the plain teaching of Scripture. In the divine “must” of Salvation and in the satisfaction that must be rendered to the’ justice of God the resurrection and ascension of the believers with Christ is the reward of Christ’s labors. This it is taught in: “Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him, he hath put him to grief: when he shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand. He shall see the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied: by the knowledge of himself shall my righteous servant justify many, and he shall bear their iniquities.” Wherefore what God hath joined together, namely, that atoning death of Christ and His glorious resurrection and ascension to be Head of the church. We must not separate, but we must confess them both in their wondrous unity as being our undoubted Christian faith.
Besides, it ought to be observed that Paul does speak of the death of Jesus very elaborately in this chapter. In the verses 13 ff. we read: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometime were far off have been made nigh by the blood of Christ.” It is needless to say more. That we have been raised with Christ and exalted with Christ is according to God’s own Word rooted in the satisfaction of Jesus’ death. It is the reward for His meritorious labors.
And this salvation in Christ is all of grace. Yea, it is called grace itself. This is the grace of God manifested and realized. . . .realized in the death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus!
4. Finally, it is quite evident, that grace is here the very real historical grace in Christ’s death and resurrection, that it is the all-inclusive grace of God in Christ once and forever performed on the cross, which Paul has here in mind. Paul very clearly emphasizes this in the text. Twice he speaks here in the text of our being saved by grace. But he does not fall into mere needless repetition. In the first instance he shows us what he has in mind with salvation by grace, namely, to be made alive with Christ and to be raised and exalted with Christ and seated with Him in heavenly places. But in the second instance (verse 8) the well-known text, Paul uses the definite article. Says he: For by the grace have ye been saved! R. T. Robertson has the following interesting note on the Greek Article: “It is not polite for children to point out objects with their finger. But that is what the Greek article does. It points out objects”. So here the article points out, Paul by means of the article points out to us, calls our attention once more to the amazing and wondrous grace of God in Jesus: the grace. The well-known grace. Yes, it needed pointing out. The saints at Ephesus needed this. And we do too. Let it sink deep into our souls: by the grace of God we are saved. Nay, not by any man-conceived grace of God, but by the grace of God according to the eternal good pleasure of God.
This grace has indeed saved us.
About this too we need to say just a word. It is true, that we have mentioned this already in the foregoing paragraphs. However, there we were interested to focus all of our attention of the truth that grace has been concretely manifested and realized in Christ. We also emphasized that Paul has this in mind here. What still calls for a word is what really the implication of being saved by grace, that is, what Paul here so very emphatically places on the foreground.
First of all we notice that in the Greek original Paul employs a form of the perfect passive tense which by grammarians is known as the periphrastic perfect. It is a paraphrased form of the regular perfect tense. And it is employed to denote that the degree of action in the verb is complete up to the very present, but also that it is completed once and for all. There is some dispute among the learned about this subject as to whether these perfects are employed to denote an intensive or an extensive idea. We will not enter into it. Suffice it to say that the well-established idea of the perfect tense is not that of point-action but rather of durative action, and then action completed up to the present. The meaning of the verb largely determines the exact rendering of the tense. And then, again, as in this case here in our text, the entire context sheds light on the meaning of the verb. Here the verb means to save. And salvation is here amply circumscribed by Paul. To that salvation we have alluded above and wish to call attention presently. For the present it is sufficient to say that Paul by the use of this perfect tense wished to underscore the completeness of salvation in Christ. It is a salvation which is once wrought and now endures forever. And always it is complete salvation up to the present. The believer never needs to add anything. And thus the whole glad tidings of salvation is reflected in this wonderful form of the verb used here by Paul. If salvation is by grace then it is not of works, but then it is also complete, full, rich and ever enduring.
What does this spell for us who are by nature children of wrath? What does this mean for us who are “dead by reason of our trespasses and sins”?
That we are saved by grace means first of all that legally we are accounted by God as being righteous. That we are made alive with Christ means first of all that the guilt of our sin has been removed from us. It was the guilt of sin that came upon us in Adam’s first transgression that is the legal basis for our condemnation to the servitude of sin. And on the transgressions that follows this first transgression in Adam always the verdict is more guilt and corruption. Dying we indeed die in our original as well as in our actual sins. To be made alive with Christ therefore means that the redemption price has been paid for us, that full satisfaction for sin has been made. That there is nothing to add. So very really we are righteous before God in Christ, that even though our conscience accuses us that we have kept none of God’s commandments that yet for the sake of Christ’s merits we are as really righteous before God as though we had never sinned, yea, as though we ourselves had fulfilled all righteousness. The basis of our being made alive is: the righteousness of God in Christ, without works that we have performed.
However, to be “made alive with Christ” legally also implies the right to be called the children of God, the place of saints in the light. It means that the Father’s house with its many mansions we have a place prepared for us. We have the right to draw near unto God in faith, in the full assurance of faith and to lay humble claim to the rights of children. God we may call our Father and Christ our elder brother, and we may in hope look forward to the time when we shall be manifested heirs of all things. And that is the salvation by grace in Christ.
Legally we have our citizenship in heaven. Christ has entered into the capital city of the whole world, the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city of God, which He has prepared for us, for which sake He is not ashamed to be called our God. For Jesus’ high-priestly prayer is for us: Lord I will that those whom Thou hast given me may be where I am. And this prayer will certainly be realized. He is able to realize this salvation to the uttermost for those who through Him go unto the Father, since He (Christ) ever lives to pray for us!