From “Explore the Bible” curriculum, LifeWay
Stephen V. Allen, senior pastor
Tabernacle Baptist Church, Carrollton
Even the most uninformed movie-goer can recognize the iconic 1933 movie poster for King Kong. The image of the mythical primate hanging off the Empire State Building holding a damsel in distress makes us long for his defeat and her rescue. There is something compelling about the plight of a person crying out for help. The idea behind the image is certainly not novel to King Kong, nor is it only reserved for damsels. Rather the desperate desire for rescue lies in the very heart of human frailty – in the dilemma of us all. Paul clearly states that human beings are in a state of existential dilemma because of sin. However, in this passage Paul shines a brighter light on your rescuer, Jesus Christ, who brings life out of death.
Every person faces the dilemma of spiritual death
Paul pulls no punches when he says that humans are spiritually dead. The eternal and temporal consequences of sin haunt every human being. Most notably, spiritual death looms over every person. Spiritual death comes from three influencing factors:
1) Sinful trespasses. This living death is characterized by trespasses and sins that inhibit spiritual advancement. Paul says that we “walk” in the confines of our sins. Not one act by human efforts can get outside the circle of sin.
2) Following the course of this world. Human activity in this age and this world has been organized in opposition to the will of the Creator. This world-system is imposing and powerful, but it is opposition to the plans and purpose that Christ desires for your life.
3) The ruler of the realm of the air. The Bible is explicit that there is a malevolent force that does everything in his power to attack you spiritually, to deceive you logically, and to callous you emotionally. Satan is the architect behind the order of this world and he has fed humanity lies to deny the human dilemma.
We battle against things far beyond our control. Despite these things, there is deliverance in God’s decisive action to change the course of your condition.
You were helpless, but God took decisive action to deliver you
God took decisive action to deliver you (v.4-5). With these words, Paul’s mood changes from one laden with doom to one of exultation. God’s initiative to deal with the human plight was launched on the basis of His rich mercy and great love revealed in Jesus. It is not merely rescue – it is triumph through His action. Union with Christ extends in sharing His triumph over these cosmic powers. With a bright gaze into our shared inheritance in Christ’s triumph we find a newness of life in the present (v. 6-7). As believers, we find solidarity “with Christ” in the implications of the “saved” life.
Through grace you have been rescued
This whole rescue procedure was designed to show God’s grace. “By grace” means that it has not originated from a human source but comes from God as a gift. That it is “by faith” means the exclusion of human effort and, therefore, of any pride or boasting in the presence of God. Everything about a believer’s new life demonstrates His masterful stroke. God, and not humans, receives all credit for salvation.
Paul transitions from the story of salvation to an evaluation of your essence. Grace is literally a touch of the presence of God. For that reason, Paul states that it is not your human efforts (v.9 “works”) that determine your worth, but it because you are his workmanship (v. 10) – created and shaped by his hands.
Paul emphasizes the Greek word “poema” to indicate that you are a kind of unique, artistic form of creation. God’s saving power reaches its intended goal when there is a changed lifestyle. Paul contrasts walking in darkness to walking in good works. Only in the actual practice of good works is the contrast between then and now, between death and life, completed.
Rescued to thrive for His purposes
The overall effect of the passage is to leave you wondering not at your own exalted position but at the immensity of God’s grace which produced it. Gloriously, salvation is more than surviving – it is thriving. In that, we remember that Jesus came to grant us spiritual life for an eternity ahead and abundant life in the here and now (John 10:10).