STUDENT POST: Learning Grace from Ephesians

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series featuring outstanding excerpts from student papers at the BibleMesh Institute, which offers affordable online training for local churches, schools, and ministries. The author’s name has been withheld for privacy and security purposes.

I moved to South Asia as a single woman in 2007 and lived in one of the most overpopulated and spiritually dark cities in the world. I had the privilege to build relationships with several high caste Hindu girls who had never had the opportunity to hear the good news—that there is a God who loves them. I learned a lot about ministry to Hindus and, unintentionally, began to find my worth and value in the work I was doing. In 2010, I met the man who would become my husband, and after a short courtship and equally short engagement, we were married in April 2011.

By the next year we had moved to a new city in South Asia and had our first child. In 18 months my life had completely changed and I was no longer able to be out among the unreached sharing the gospel. Instead, I was sitting in a tiny apartment all by myself with a tiny, screaming human. I was wrecked and a big mess and would later realize that a lot of my struggle in that season stemmed from my idol of ministry being taken away. Martin Luther said, “Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your god.” My ministry had become my god. Thankfully, I serve a patient and longsuffering Savior who is faithful to bring me back to the truth: I am saved not because of any good work that I do, but because of God’s grace. When my daughter was about 10 months old, I started reading Ephesians for my quiet time. I read it over and over and over again for about six months and absorbed the reality of God’s grace. I couldn’t stop. Yet I am just at the beginning stages of understanding the depths of God’s grace, and I’m hungry to know more.

In Ephesians 2:1-3, the ideas of sin/transgressions and disobedience occur six times, with the phrase “dead in transgressions” appearing two times (vv. 1, 5). Paul describes the ways we have been sinful by saying that we lived among the disobedient, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. In the next section of Ephesians 2, Paul describes the merciful character of God six times, calling Him loving, rich in mercy, kind, and abounding in grace. Another meaningful repetition is the phrases “with Christ” and “in Christ,” which occur five times in vv. 5-10. Paul is communicating over and over that what God has done for us in salvation is through His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. And then we see the repetition of the phrase “by grace you have been saved” in vv. 5, 8, emphasizing that our justification before God is not by something we have done. It was done for us, even though we didn’t deserve it. The Greek word used for “grace” in this passage is “Charis.” In Thayer’s Greek Lexicon it is defined as “kindness which bestows upon one what he has not deserved.” It is God giving us what we don’t deserve—salvation.

During that dark season of my life, when I was a mess and had forgotten my value in Christ, the Lord retaught me the gospel. I had spent years sharing it with others but had never fully grasped the depths of God’s grace for myself. My daughter’s name is Karis, which means “grace,” and her middle name is Ann, which I learned means “full of grace.” Grace, full of grace—that is the message of Ephesians 2:1-10. That hard season of sitting on a couch in a tiny apartment in South Asia with a tiny screaming human was God’s grace to me. In His kindness, He used Paul’s letter to the Ephesians to bring me back to the truth—I am saved by grace, not by my ability to do or achieve anything. Only by His grace, His never ending, never stopping, immeasurable grace.