We once were… …foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another…
What a list? Not exactly the kinds of qualities you would want to include on your resume. But Paul says they represent who we used to be. They are the things we despise in others, that we see as characteristics of the world around us, but Paul says we used to be the same way.
Something happened. Notice that Paul speaks in the past tense. When referring to his list, he says we "once were" those things. But not any more. Those are no longer the characteristics of our life. They are no longer who we are. Because something incredible took place.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us. – Vs 4
God saved us. He showed us love and kindness. How? Through sending His Son to die in our place. Jesus was the love of God manifested or made visible. God's love took on a tangible form and expressed itself in selfless, sacrificial service to man by becoming the sinless, spotless sacrifice that God's wrath required. God didn't have to do it, but He did. Out of love. Not because we deserved it or had earned it.
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy. – Vs 5
Remember the list. That is how we used to be. That is how God viewed us when He saved us. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:5 that "even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)." God saved us according to His mercy and grace. When I was at my worst, God gave me His best. And the most exciting thing is that He no longer sees me the way I once was. Even though I may still struggle with some of the issues on the list in verse 3. I can still be foolish, disobedient, hateful, and find myself enslaved to various pleasures. But that is no longer me. That is my old self. But my old self was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6). I am no longer a slave to sin (Romans 6:6). Yes, I still struggle and battle with my sinful flesh. It is alive and well. It tries to derail me and get me to fall back into my old way of life. But I no longer have to obey the flesh. I am a new creature. I am a new man. I stand before God as righteous. I am righteous. And I do not have to try and become righteous. I do not have to try and transform myself into something I am not. I just need to live as what I already am. I need to remind myself daily that I am a child of God, filled with the Spirit of God, and empowered to live the life of godliness. I am not a sinner attempting to become a saint. I am a saint who happens to sin. I am a saint doing battle with my sinful flesh. I am a saint living in a sinful world. It will be a battle. I will fail at times. I will fall. But I am no less a saint in God's eyes. We are "heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (vs 7). So the reality of who we are should impact the way we act. It should reveal itself in the good deeds that Paul talks about in verses 1 and 8. We don't have to act the way we used to act. We don't have to be controlled by our sinful flesh. We have the ability to say, "No" to sin and "Yes" to righteousness. We can do good deeds and Paul encourages us to do so. Why? Because they are "good and profitable for men" (Vs 8).
So let's remind ourselves daily of who we are in Christ. Let's remember who we once were, but never forget who we now are. We are saints. Saved by God through His love and mercy poured out on us in Jesus Christ. We have been redeemed, renewed, regenerated, and restored to a right relationship with God. Now let's live like it.
Father, thank You so much for the gift of Your grace. I did not deserve to be saved. I could not have saved myself. Yet You graciously gave Your own Son as a payment for my sins. He gave His life for mine. His sacrifice allowed me to become what I never could have become on my own: A saint. A child of the living God. Sin no longer represents who I am. I am not a sinner trying to become a saint. I am a saint who happens to sin. Help me see myself as who I really am. Don't let me undervalue what I have been given by underestimating its reality. When the enemy attempts to condemn me, remind me that there is "now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Roman 8:1). Amen