The saints of God in Ephesus to whom Paul wrote a letter were changed people. They had a changed attitude, changed conduct, and most importantly, a changed relationship with the Lord.
Prior to obeying the gospel, they were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). At that time, they were children of disobedience who fulfilled their fleshly desires and stood deserving of God’s wrath (2:2,3). As a result, they were without God, without the Christ, and without hope (2:12). That all changed, as we read in verses eight through ten:
(8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast. (10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
They went from being hopeless to hope-filled, from children of wrath to children of God, and in simple, bottom-line terms, from being lost to being saved.
They were saved by grace (2:8). Their salvation from sin was undeniable, as Paul twice affirmed to them, “by grace you have been saved” (2:5,8). How were they saved? By grace. “Grace” is from the Greek word “ /charis,” which means good will, loving-kindness, or favor [Thayer, word no. 5485]. Humans are able to show and speak with grace. Thank God that He shows grace, too. In fact, in the context of Ephesians 2, we see that our salvation is due to God’s mercy (2:4), love (2:4), kindness (2:7), and grace (2:8). As we contemplate the amazingness of God’s grace, let us not forget that we cannot earn it and certainly do not deserve it.
They were saved through personal faith and the faith. Read again this truth from Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” When a lost person hears the gospel, the proper response, which is the only response which results in a person’s soul being saved, is faith. Remission of sins is only for those who believe/have a personal faith in the Christ (Acts 10:43). At the same time, salvation is by means of “the faith,” which is the gospel. Jewish priests in Jerusalem were saved when they were “obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). This example shows clearly that salvation comes by an obedient faith . . . and it is by means of the faith.
They were not saved of themselves (2:8). There was no way possible for them to use their brains to devise a scheme, that is, a man-made plan, which could provide a remedy for their sins. There is a clear distinction between man’s righteousness and God’s righteousness (Romans 10:3). God’s righteousness is the means by which He makes humans righteous. Man’s “righteousness” is his effort to procure salvation on his own and not through God’s arrangement. When it comes to salvation, man-made ideas and efforts will not get the job done.
Their salvation was a gift from God. What was the gift which the Lord bestowed on them: was it their faith, or their salvation? (2:8). It was up to them to possess their own personal faith. God provided the evidence that produced faith, but He also gave them salvation. We read similar language in Romans 6:23, where it is written that the gift of God is eternal life. “Well, if salvation is a gift, would that not mean there is nothing humans can do to receive it?” Some of God’s gifts are unconditional (like the sunshine and rain, Matthew 5:45), but other gifts from Him are conditional. For instance, God gave the Israelites the city of Jericho along with its king (Joshua 6:1,2). However, He also laid out the conditions under which they would receive the city as a gift. When did the walls of Jericho fall down? After Israel by faith obeyed God’s instructions (Hebrews 11:30). Just as Jericho was a conditional gift (“You must do something to get it”), so is our salvation from sin.
They were saved, but not of works (2:9). The Bible speaks of various kinds of works. They surely were not saved by works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11), by works of the old law (Galatians 2:16), or by their own human-imagined works (Romans 10:3). Jesus affirmed that believing in Him is “the work of God” (John 6:29). If faith is a work, then not all works are eliminated from God’s plan to save sinners.
They were saved, but had nothing about which to boast (2:9). There is no room for saved people to pound their chest and praise themselves. No, if anyone is going to boast, let him have the mindset of the apostle Paul and boast not in one’s intellect or activity, but in the cross of the Christ (Galatians 6:14).
They were saved to do good works in the Christ (2:10). Saved people are in the Christ (Ephesians 1:7). In Him, every child of God is expected to be involved in good works, yes, to be zealous of good works (Titus 2:14). Please understand that the point in Ephesians 2:10 is not that we do good works in order to get into the Lord, but rather, once we already are in Him, our life is to be filled with good works.
— Roger D. Campbell