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"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved." NIV translation
This passage gives us three very important terms that we must understand to really appreciate God and what He has done for us. The first is love and we see that it is giving the ultimate gift to one that is your enemy. We throw the term around these days and its meaning has been diminished in our culture but that is the standard for love. The second term is mercy and it simply means that a punishment that is deserved is not given. The penalty for sin is and always was death but God's mercy is that He does not kill us. The third term is grace and that describes how God gives us what we do not deserve (a gift). Instead of the death that we deserve, God gives us life and that demonstrates His grace.
"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." NIV translation
Christ was resurrected from the dead and raised up as the firstfruits of the earth. We, too, are raised up with and through Him and have access to the Father.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." NIV translation
Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve. The standard for salvation is and was perfect obedience and none of us meet that standard. Therefore, we do not have any reason to boast about what we have done. Instead, we accept the gift of God which is salvation through His Son, Jesus.
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." NIV translation
After accepting that gift of salvation, we all have work to do. Many are looking for a purpose to their lives and the simple answer is that we were "created in Christ Jesus to do good works". Paul tells us here that God has already prepared things for us to do even before we have accepted His grace. It is tough to wrap your mind around but God knew you and I from the beginning of creation. He knew that we would become His children and He prepared things for us to do throughout our time here on earth as well as in eternity. This was even demonstrated in the meaning of the gates to the city of Jerusalem (see our study of Nehemiah 3).