I. God's Church: Its Doctrinal Foundation (the Indicative) - 1:1-3:21
A. Prologue 1:1-2
1. author 1:1a
2. addressees 1:1b
3. greetings 1:2
B. Praise 1:3-14
1. the extent of our spiritual blessings 1:3
2. the essence of our spiritual blessings 1:4-14
a. election by the Father 1:4-6
b. redemption by the Son 1:7-12
c. sealing by the Spirit 1:13-14
C. Prayer 1:15-23
1. its cause 1:15
2. its constancy 1:16
3. its content - 1:17-23
D. Our Salvation 2:1-22
1. its individual implications 2:1-10
a. our condition before conversion: dead in sin 2:1-3
b. our condition after conversion: alive in Christ 2:4-10
2. its corporate implications 2:11-22
a. Gentiles before Jesus 2:11-12
b. the barrier abolished - 2:13-18
c. Gentiles after Jesus 2:19-22
"Against the somber background of our world today Ephesians 2:1-10 stands out in striking relevance. Paul first plumbs the depths of pessimism about man, and then rises to the heights of optimism about God. It is this combination of pessimism and optimism, of despair and faith, which constitutes the refreshing realism of the Bible. For what Paul does in this passage is to paint a vivid contrast between what man is by nature and what he can become by grace (Stott, 69)."
We must never lose sight of either of these truths. If we neglect God's saving grace and become obsessed with the depravity of the human soul we will fall into despair and cynicism. If we focus on grace and forget the condition from which we have been and are being delivered we stand in danger of naivety and presumption.
Note well the relationship between 2:1-10 and the preceding context. It would seem that Paul is resuming in 2:1ff. the theme that he had broken off in 1:20.
He prayed that the Spirit would reveal to us the surpassing greatness of God's power toward those who believe, a power exemplified and expressed in the resurrection of Jesus from physical death. That very power, that self-same divine energy, is no less exemplified and expressed in the resurrection of the elect from spiritual death! Indeed, even as Christ was made alive (1:20) and exalted and seated at the right hand of God (1:20), so also the elect have been made alive (2:5) and exalted and seated with Christ in the heavenlies (2:6)! In sum, Christ's destiny has become ours.
Even as there are unmistakable parallels between Christ's destiny (1:19-23) and ours (2:1-7), so also there are unmistakable contrasts between our previous condition outside of Christ and our current state in him. Whereas once we were dead (2:1) we have now been made alive (2:5). Whereas we once followed the ways of the world and were subject to Satan's rule (2:2) we are now seated with Christ in the heavenlies (2:6). Whereas we were once under God's wrath (2:3) we are now the objects of his mercy, grace, love, and kindness (2:4-7).
A. Our condition before conversion: dead in sin 2:1-3
In describing our condition before conversion, Paul makes five statements:
(1) We were dead by reason of (because of) our transgressions and sins (2:1-2a)
The "and with which" v. 1 opens may be translated "also, or "better still," and "you also," i.e., just as Jesus Christ was physically dead and was raised by God's power "you also were spiritually dead and were raised by his power." Observe that the main verb of the sentence, of which "you" is the direct object, is "made alive together with" in v. 5.
* In a fashion quite similar to what we find in Romans 1-3, Paul's description of the sinful condition of humanity extends to everyone: (1) "you" in 2:1-2 = Gentile believers in Ephesus; (2) "we all" in 2:3a = Jewish believers, including Paul; and (3) "the rest in 2:3b = all remaining people, whether Jew or Gentile. In Romans we see the same thing: (1) Rom. 1 = Gentiles; (2) Rom. 2 = Jews; (3) Rom. 3 = "we have charged that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin (3:9)" . . . "that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God (3:19)." Thus Paul's description is not restricted to some unusually depraved tribe or degraded segment of society or even the pagan world of his own day. Rather "it is the biblical diagnosis of fallen man in fallen society everywhere (Stott, 71)."
* The word translated "transgressions" = false step, a blunder, a crossing over a known boundary; the word translated "sins" = missing the mark, falling short of a specified standard. See Rom. 5:20 where they are used interchangeably. As Eadie points out, they "denote every species, form, and manifestation, of intent as well as act, of resolve as well as execution, of inner meditation as well as outer result (119)."
* Paul says we were dead "in," i.e., because of or by reason of transgressions and sins. But this word "in points not simply to the instrument or cause of spiritual death but also to the state or condition of spiritual death in which people languish."
* What is the meaning of the word "dead?" At first glance, this strikes people as odd, for lots of people who make no Christian profession whatever, who even openly repudiate Jesus Christ, appear to be very much alive. One has the vigorous body of an athlete, another the lively mind of a scholar, a third the vivacious personality of a film star. Are we to say that such people, if Christ has no saved them, are dead? Yes, indeed, we must and do say this very thing. For in the sphere which mattes supremely (which is neither the body, nor the mind, nor the personality, but the soul) they have no life. And you can tell it. They are blind to the glory of Jesus Christ, and deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit. They have no love for God, no sensitive awareness of his personal reality, no leaping of their spirit towards him in the cry, "Abba, Father," no longing for fellowship with his people. They are as unresponsive to him as a corpse. So we should not hesitate to affirm that a life without God (however physically fit and mentally alert the person may be) is a living death, and that those who live it are dead even while they are living (Stott, 72). George Whitefield, great revival preacher of the 18th century, put it this way:
"Come, ye dead, Christless, unconverted sinners, come and see the place where they laid the body of the deceased Lazarus; behold him laid out, bound hand and foot with grave-cloaths, locked up and stinking in a dark cave, with a great stone placed on the top of it. View him again and again; go nearer to him; be not afraid; smell him. Ah! How he stinketh. Stop there now, pause a while; and whilst thou art gazing upon the corpse of Lazarus, give me leave to tell thee with great plainness, but greater love, that this dead, bound entombed, stinking carcase, is but a faint representation of thy poor soul in its natural state: for, whether thou believest or not, thy spirit which thou bearest about with thee, sepulchred in flesh and blood, is as literally dead to God, and as truly dead in trespasses and sins, as the body of Lazarus was in the cave. Was he bound hand and foot with grave-cloaths? So art thou bound hand and foot with thy corruptions: and as a stone was laid on the sepulchre, so is there a stone of unbelief upon thy stupid heart. Perhaps thou hast lain in this state, not only four days, but many years, stinking in God's nostrils. And, what is still more effecting thou art as unable to raise thyself out of this loathsome, dead state, to a life of righteousness and true holiness, as ever Lazarus was to raise himself from the cave in which he lay so long. Thou mayest try the power of thy own boasted free-will, and the force and energy of moral persuasion and rational arguments (which, without all doubt, have their proper place in religion); but all thy efforts, exerted with never so much vigour, will prove quite fruitless and abortive, till that same Jesus, who said 'Take away the stone'; and cried, 'Lazarus, come forth' also quicken you (quoted in John Gerstner, A Predestination Primer [Winona Lake, Ind.: Alpha, 1979], 20)."
* Ernest Best makes this important observation: "The idea is not that people are born alive and slowly die through sinning and are then made alive again at conversion. Still less is there any suggestion that people begin by being spiritually alive and then die because of sin. . . . [Paul] does not have in mind a process of slow dying or moral degeneration. . . . He is not indicating that there is a certain point in the development of human life at which 'death' takes place . . . People are born dead and remain so until they come to believe . . . . Those who are dead in this way cannot come to life of their own accord; only God can make them live; so the passage goes on to speak of the way God gives life (vv. 5,6) (201)."
* It would seem that the unregenerate are 'dead in two senses: (1) insensibility 'The beauties of holiness do not attract man in his spiritual insensibility, nor do the miseries of hell deter him. God's love, Christ's sufferings, earnest conjurations by all that is tender and by all that is terrible, do not affect him (Eadie, 121); (2) incapability 'The corpse cannot raise itself from the tomb and come back to the scenes and society of the living world. The peal of the last trump alone can start it from its dark and dreamless sleep (121).
* Paul says that we "walked in this state of spiritual death" (2:2a), i.e., we lived in death! To "walk" = ethical conduct, how one lives one's life (see Gal. 5:16; Rom. 6:4; 8:4; 14:15; 2 Cor. 4:2; Eph. 4:1; 5:2; Phil. 3:17; etc.). Transgressions and sins was the atmosphere in which we lived, in which our existence was enveloped.
* Lastly, note that twice in vv. 2-3 Paul uses the temporal adverb "once" or "formerly" (NASB) in order that the contrast between what we were by nature and what we are by grace might be seen.
(2) We lived in conformity with or patterned after the course of this world 2:2a
Literally, we walked/lived according to the 'age (aion) of this world. The Greek word aion usually means "age" or "time span" but was also commonly used in Greek literature for a personal deity (i.e., a demon) that exercised lordship over endless time. But Paul has already employed the term in 1:21 in a temporal sense and does so again in 2:7. The phrase thus 'signifies the world existing in that particular span of time. . . . Their behaviour has been determined by the powerful influence of society's attitudes, habits, and preferences, which were alien to God and his standards (O'Brien, 159). They were in cultural bondage, embracing the values and expressing the vices of their society. Lincoln summarizes:
"Instead of being oriented to the life of the age to come and the heavenly realm, the past lives of the readers had been dominated by this present evil age and this world. Their sinful activities were simply in line with the norms and values of a spatio-temporal complex wholly hostile to God (95)."
(3) We lived under the influence of Satan himself 2:2b
Satan is described in the gospels as "the ruler of the demons" (Mt. 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15) and "the prince of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), and in Paul as "the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4)." Observe five things:
* Here Satan is described as the "prince of the authority (exousia) of the air." The word translated "power" or authority denotes the realm or sphere or empire of the devil's influence (i.e., demonic hosts; see Col. 1:13). The word "air" could refer to (1) the literal atmosphere around us (hence the abode of demonic spirits); (2) or it could be synonymous with "darkness" (cf. Lk. 22:53; Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:13); or (3) it could be a reference to the nature of the demonic hosts; i.e., they are unearthly, spiritual, not human. (4) Or it could involve to some degree all these ideas and be another way of indicating the "heavenly realm," which, according to Ephesians 6:12, is the abode of those principalities and powers, the "world-rulers of this darkness" and 'spiritual forces of wickedness', against which the people of Christ wage war (O'Brien, 160)." The word does not have the modern sense of "moral atmosphere" or "world of opinion and ideas."
* There are several different ways of translating this next phrase. (1) It could be: "the prince of the power of the air (which is) the spirit that is now working" . . . The "air" would thus be the spiritual atmosphere controlling unbelievers. (2) It could be:"'the prince of the power of the air, (the prince being) the spirit which is now working" . . . (3) It could be: "the prince of the power of the air, [the prince of] the spirit which is now working" . . . That is to say, Satan is the ruling lord or prince over that evil principle (i.e., spirit, mood, temper, disposition) which operates in the lost (cf. 1 Cor. 2:12 and spirit of the world).
* Paul says Satan is "working" (energeo) in the "sons of disobedience" (cf. Mk. 3:17; Lk. 10:6; 16:8; 20:34; Acts 4:36; Eph. 5:8; 1 Pt. 1:14), a word used earlier of God's activity in the world (1:11) in general and in the resurrection of Jesus in particular (1:20). Here it refers to Satan's supernatural activity by which he exerts a negative influence over the lives of unbelievers. Note: this does not mean that all unbelievers are demon possessed. It does mean that 'the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19).
* Paul clearly says that Satan is working "now" in unbelievers. In other words, although the readers of this epistle and other Christians were in bondage to Satan in the past, this does not mean Satan's power ceased to exist. It is yet at work in the present in and among all who remain in unbelief.
* The Greek preposition translated "according to" (kata) must mean something more than simply that the lost live "in conformity with" or "after the manner of the devil," as if Paul were saying unbelievers live like the devil lives. The idea is that in some way they have come under the controlling influence of Satan. Paul speaks in Rom. 8:4 about believers walking 'according to (kata) the Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 10:2) rather than 'according to the flesh, again with the idea of controlling influence.
(4) We lived in bondage to fleshly lusts 2:3a
We indulged the desires (lit., lusts) of the flesh (cf. Gal. 5:16,24). The word 'flesh does not refer to our physical bodies (skin and bones) but to the whole of our fallen, self-centered and corrupt nature. Hence 'lusts of the flesh should not be restricted to sexual or sensual sins. Desires, in and of themselves, are not evil, but become such when they seek satisfaction in ways proscribed by God (e.g., hunger and sex are God-given desires but can become perverted when they turn to gluttony and lust). This self-indulgent lifestyle consisted of two things: (1) doing the desires of the flesh, and (2) 'doing the desires of the mind (lit., thoughts). In the latter he has in view intellectual pride, arrogance, ungodly ambition, malicious and bitter thoughts and intents, etc.
Note also the familiar evil triad of world, flesh, and devil. See James 3:15; 1 John 2:15-17; 3:7-10. Says Stott, 'so then, before Jesus Christ set us free, we were subject to oppressive influences from both within and without. Outside was "the world" (the prevailing secular culture); inside was "the flesh" (our fallen nature twisted with self-centeredness); and beyond both, actively working through both, was that evil spirit, the devil, "the ruler of the kingdom of darkness who held us in captivity (75)." Clinton Arnold concurs: "Paul's teaching suggests that the explanation for our behavior is not to be found exclusively in human nature or in terms of the world's influence. Similarly, an exclusively demonic explanation for deviant behavior is unduly myopic. Rather, we should explain behavior on the basis of human nature, environment and the demonic all three simultaneously." One part may play a leading role, but all three parts need to be considered (Powers, 125-26).
(5) Prior to our conversion we were all by nature the objects of divine wrath 2:3b
What is divine "wrath?" Cf. Nahum 1:2-3a,6-8. The doctrine or concept of wrath is thought by many to be beneath God. C. H. Dodd, for example, speaks for many when says that the notion of divine wrath is archaic and that Paul's terminology refers to no more than 'an inevitable process of cause and effect in a moral universe. In other words, for such as Dodd, divine wrath is an impersonal force operative in a moral universe, not a personal attribute or disposition in the character of God. Clearly, Dodd and others misunderstand divine wrath. It is not the loss of self-control or the irrational and capricious outburst of anger. But divine wrath is not to be thought of as a celestial bad temper or God lashing out at those who 'rub Him the wrong way. Divine wrath is righteous antagonism toward all that is unholy. It is the revulsion of God's character to that which is a violation of God's will. Indeed, one may speak of divine wrath as a function of divine love! For God's wrath is His love for holiness and truth and justice. It is because God passionately loves purity and peace and perfection that He reacts angrily toward anything and anyone who defiles them. Packer explains:
"Would a God who took as much pleasure in evil as He did in good be a good God? Would a God who did not react adversely to evil in His world be morally perfect? Surely not. But it is precisely this adverse reaction to evil, which is a necessary part of moral perfection, that the Bible has in view when it speaks of God's wrath (Knowing God, 136-37)."
Paul says that we were "children of wrath." What does he mean by the word "nature?" The word phusis refers to what is essential as opposed to what is incidental or accidental; what is innate as opposed to what is acquired, made, or taught. There are two ways it has been interpreted.
* First, "by nature" = in ourselves, as apart from divine grace; i.e., in our natural condition as lost.
* Second, "by nature" = by birth (see esp. Gal. 2:15). If the latter, Paul is describing our liability to wrath prior to acts of personal sin. Snodgrass defines it as "what one is by constitution rather than from experience or circumstance (99)." Observe Eadie's eloquent explanation:
"And so 'we are children of wrath,' not accidentally, not by a fortuitous combination of circumstances, not even by individual sin and actual transgression, but 'by nature' by an exposure which preceded personal disobedience, and was not first created by it; an exposure which is inherent, hereditary, and common to all the race by the very condition of its present existence, for they are 'so born' children of wrath. For phusis does not refer to developed character, but to its hidden and instinctive sources. We are therefore . . . organically children of wrath; not each simply by personal guilt, but the entire race as a whole; not on account of nature, but by nature (135-36)."
This is the biblical doctrine of original sin, according to which we are born in a corrupt and therefore condemnable condition. Whence this condition? . . . Adam and his fall (see Rom. 5:12ff.; cf. Ps. 51:5).
Note also the contrast between what we 'were, and that 'by nature, namely, objects of wrath, and what we 'are, and that 'by grace, namely, the children of God!
Consider the words of E. K. Simpson:
"There are three outstanding schools of moral pathology traceable throughout the centuries. Pelagianism asserts the convalescence of human nature. Many merely needs teaching. Semipelagianism admits his ill-health, but affirms that the symptoms will yield to proper treatment, to a course of tonic drugs and a scrupulous regimen. But biblical Christianity probes the patient to the quick. Its searching diagnosis pronounces that mortification has set in and that nothing less than infusion of fresh lifeblood can work a cure. Nostrums and palliatives aggravate rather than allay the disease. Sin is an organic epidemical malady, a slow devitalizing poison issuing in moral necrosis; not a stage of arrested or incomplete development, but a seed-plot of impending ruin (46)."
Note: At first glance one might think that the "children of wrath" (2:3b0 is similar in force to "sons of disobedience" (2:2b), but the "of" in these two phrases functions differently. Sons of disobedience are "disobedient sons but children of wrath are not angry children," they are the objects of God's anger.
B. Our condition after conversion: alive in Christ 2:4-10
Paul's portrayal of our salvation can be broken down in terms of three questions: what (vv. 4-6), why (v. 7), and how (vv. 8-10).
(1) First, what? or the nature of our salvation in Christ 2:4-6
Stott is among a few commentators who believe that the three verbs "made alive," "raised," and "seated" refer to three successive historical events in the experience of Jesus: resurrection, ascension, and session at the right hand of God. But "what excites our amazement, . . . is that now Paul is not writing about Christ but about us." He is affirming not that God quickened, raised and seated Christ, but that he quickened, raised and seated us with Christ (81). Others would argue that "he raised us up" and "he seated us with him" are simply two further ways of explaining the statement 'he made us alive together with Christ (see O'Brien, 170, n. 67).
Note these three verbs, each of which is compounded with the preposition 'with to emphasize our union or solidarity with Jesus.
* "He made us alive together with Christ (v. 5)." "Dead people, says Best, 'cannot bring themselves back to life . . . and so the first step here, and the following two, come from God. We can arrange neither to be born nor to be reborn (215). The "life we now live is a sharing in the life which Jesus received when God raised him from the dead. See Col. 2:12; 3:1." Paul then states three reasons for this experience as well as one factor that played no part.
(1) It was because God is 'rich in mercy (v. 4a). This is simply another way of saying it was not God's duty to save us. Mercy is more than pity. It is heartfelt compassion that leads to concrete saving action. "And in this mercy, says Eadie, 'God is rich. It has no scanty foothold in his bosom, for it fills it. Though mercy has been expended by God for six millennia, and myriads of myriads have been partakers of it, it is still an unexhausted mine of wealth (140-41)."
(2) It was because of his "great love with which he loved us" (v. 4b). It is 'great because of the character of its objects. Any love that could embrace people who are what vv. 1-3 says they are must be great!
(3) It was in spite of the fact that we 'were dead in our transgressions (v. 5a). Our wickedness, our spiritual lifelessness, our enmity against God, were no barrier to the eternal purposes of his love!
(4) It was 'by grace that we have been saved (v. 5b). The word translated 'saved here and in v. 8 is an inclusive term that embraces God's acts of making us alive, raising us up, and seating us with Christ.
In summary, Paul could not have been clearer concerning the origins or the source of God's saving activity in Jesus: it was not in us but in Him and His inexplicable love!
We need to pause for a moment to reflect more deeply on the reason, ground, or cause why God loved us so as to send his Son to die for us. Paul is inescapably clear in Eph. 2:4-6 and elsewhere that God loved us in spite of our unloveliness, not because of our loveliness. Nothing in us stirred God's heart to send his Son. He sent his Son solely because of his character as a loving God. When God contemplated the objects of his redemptive love he saw only sin, rebellion, enmity, resistance. This is what magnifies the love of God in Christ is that "it was while we were yet sinners" that "Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). It was as "helpless" and "ungodly" people (Rom. 5:6), not treasures, that God saw us. The only thing we stirred in God's heart was wrath. The only thing we could have moved or induced or inclined God to do was to judge us eternally. The fact that he gave his Son in love was not because of anything in us that he regarded as worthy of his affection but solely because of his great and unfathomable determination to love those who were the moral antithesis of himself and enemies of everything that he regards as holy and true and right.
If what moved God's heart to send Jesus to die for us was anything in us, what becomes of grace? The cross is an expression of grace because those for whom Christ died merited only wrath and hell. If those for whom he died were contemplated as treasures whom God valued, do we not diminish the nature of grace? Do we not, to that degree, "merit" his atoning sacrifice? If God saw something in us that stirred him to send Jesus for us, the gift of his Son ceases to be grace and becomes a matter of debt.
When we say to Jesus: 'Who were we that led you to do this for us? Jesus does not then says: 'You were a treasure hidden to yourself but seen by Me. When we ask, "Who were we that led you to do this for us?" the only answer is: "You were hell-deserving rebels who had no claim on anything in Me other than to be the recipients and objects of eternal wrath. I did this for you not because you were a treasure or because of anything in you; indeed it was in spite of what was in you. I did this for you solely because of what was in Me, namely, sovereign and free and gracious love for those who deserved only to be hated."
Certainly God saved us in Christ in order that he might make treasures of us, but not because we already were treasures. Che cause or ground or reason why God loved us in Christ could never be our loveliness or our value as treasures. If that were the case, we can no longer speak of the cross as an act of grace. It was grace because the cause/ground/reason for it is found wholly in God's good pleasure and decision to shed his love on people whose only distinguishing feature was the fact that they deserved his wrath. When people think about why God smiled on them in the cross of Christ they should say: "It certainly wasn't because of anything in me. In fact, I should have brought only a frown of judgment to his face. That he should have smiled in redemptive love is traceable only to his sovereign and gracious good pleasure. Thanks be to God that he has chosen to make a treasure out of a dungheap. But it was not because I was a treasure but in spite of my being a dungheap that he was moved to love me in the first place." It was Calvin who said, 'for it cannot but happen that we shall be moved and influenced to bless God's name, seeing that he has sought us in the bottom of hell, in order to bring us up to the kingdom of heaven (128).
* "He raised us up with him (v. 6a)."
* "He seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (v. 6b)."
It is stunning, is it not, that people like you and me, who still live in our mortal bodies and still struggle with the sinful impulses of the flesh (see Paul's exhortations in Eph. 4-6) can be said to have already been raised and seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenlies?! In fact, since we are still on this earth and continue to struggle with sin, in what sense can it be meaningfully said that we have been raised and seated with Christ?
(2) Second, why? or the purpose of our salvation in Christ 2:7
Making us alive in Christ and setting us free from the guilt and bondage of spiritual death was only the penultimate purpose of God. The ultimate motivation in God's heart for saving lost souls was so that they might become, throughout all eternity, trophies on display for all to see the magnificence and the surpassing riches of God's grace in kindness in Christ! See 1:6a. Says O'Brien,
"The plural ages" is not simply a stylistic variation of the singular, but a more general conception, implying 'one age supervening upon another like successive waves of the sea, as far into the future as thought can reach'. In the light of this meaning it may thus be claimed: "Throughout time and in eternity the church, this society of pardoned rebels, is designed by God to be the masterpiece of his goodness (173)."
I only brief note the suggestion of a few that the word translated "ages" (v. 7) may refer, not to periods of time, but to evil supernatural beings. Thus one would translate: "in order that among the aeons which come against us He might show . . . This is a highly unlikely interpretation and is motivated solely by the struggle some have with why God would need or want to show his grace to those who are already convinced of its glory and reality.
(3) Third, how? or the basis of our salvation in Christ 2:8-10
Here Paul says five things:
* It is "by grace (v. 8a)."
* It is "through faith (v. 8b)."
* It is a "divine 'gift (v. 8c)."
What exactly is the "gift (v. 8) of God?" Arminians have often appealed to a point of Greek grammar that they believe makes it impossible for "faith" to be the "gift" to which Paul refers. The word faith, they argue, is feminine in gender, whereas the pronoun translated that (and that not of yourselves) is neuter. Had Paul intended to describe faith as the gift he would have used the feminine form of the pronoun. To what, then, does the word that refer? What is the 'gift of God?
Some point to the "grace (v. 8)" by which we have been saved. But the word "grace," like "faith'" is also feminine in gender. Therefore, if 'that which is not of ourselves' cannot refer to "faith," far less can it refer to "grace," which has the added liability of being even farther removed in the sentence from the pronoun "that.". So what is Paul saying? What is the antecedent of "that?"
Clearly the '"gift of God" is salvation in its totality, a salvation that flows out of God's grace and becomes ours through faith. From beginning to end, from its inception to its consummation, salvation is a gift of God to his elect. Consequently, that faith by which we come into experiential possession of what God in grace has provided is as much a gift as any and every other aspect of salvation. One can no more deny that faith is wrapped up in God's gift to us than he can deny it of God's grace. All is of God! Salvation is of the Lord!
* It is not of human works, thereby excluding boasting (v. 9).
Here "works" is not "works of the Mosaic Law" (as in Romans and Galatians) but human effort in general, any and all deeds generated by the human heart in an attempt to put God in our debt. As Stott says, "it is neither your achievement ('not your own doing') nor a reward for any of your deeds of religion or philanthropy ('not because of works'). Since, therefore, there is no room for human merit, there is no room for human boasting either (83). Again, as Lincoln says, 'salvation by grace through faith destroys boasting; it leaves people no contribution of their own which they can bring to God (113)."
* The gracious foundation of our salvation is evident from three facts (v. 10).
(1) We are God's workmanship (2:10a). Self-creation is non-sensical. "You see then, says Calvin, 'that this word 'create' is enough to stop the mouths and put away the cackling of such as boast of having any merit. For when they say so, they presuppose that they were their own creators (162)." Paul's point is that just as we contributed nothing to our initial physical creation neither did we contribute anything to our spiritual re-creation. This concept of our being the 'creation of God is linked to the anticipation in the age to come of the creation of a "new heaven" and "new earth". Paul's point here, as in 2 Cor. 5:17, is that the 'new creation that is yet to come has already come in part, in God's work of salvation in us.
(2) Good works are the purpose, not the procuring cause, of salvation (2:10b; see esp. Titus 3:8). Salvation is not by works but for works. In order to procure salvation works would have to precede it, whereas Paul says that good works follow salvation as its pre-ordained fruit. Works are excluded as the antecedent cause of salvation (v. 9) but essential as the subsequent evidence of it (v. 10). To use the language of the Protestant Reformers: sola fides iustificat, sed non fides quae est sola! Or: faith alone justifies, but not the faith which is alone!
(3) The good works themselves were preordained by God (2:10c). The NEB renders this, "the good deeds, for which God has designed us." But Paul clearly states that it is not us but our "good works which God prepared beforehand. The only other use of this verb is Rom. 9:23 which is an obvious predestinarian context. God's determination to bring us to glory entails the intermediate steps of conforming us through good works to the image of his Son. And it was not only our initial reception of salvation that God purposed in eternity past (1:4-5,10-11) but also our ethical activity: our deeds, our thoughts, our works.
Note that the paragraph ends (v. 10) where it began (v. 1), namely, with our "walk". But because of God's grace it is now in "good works" and no longer in "trespasses and sins!"