Because of the Resurrection
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written when Paul was in prison. This was an imprisonment that began when he was arrested at the Temple, recounted in Acts 21 and 22. When Paul is questioned he asserts two things – first, that he has a clean conscience (Acts 23:1), and second, that he believes he is actually being arrested because of his belief in the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6).
Pharisees Versus Sadducees
This appeal to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead revealed a division between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, a division which Paul seems to be
exploiting. The Sadducees only received the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, and rejected the oral tradition which was received by the Pharisees. Because of this, the Sadducees did not believe in angels, miracles, or the resurrection of the dead. The question is, when Paul appealed to the doctrine of the resurrection, was he bringing up the subject merely to exploit the difference between the two parties? Or was Paul really convinced that the doctrine of the resurrection was the reason for his persecution?
A Good Conscience and the Resurrection
Paul links a good conscience and the resurrection again in the next chapter, when he testifies before Felix, the Roman governor, where again maintains that it is because of the resurrection that he has been arrested (Acts 24:15-16, 21). In fact, throughout his letters, Paul regularly connects his message to the idea of the resurrection. But he does this most pointedly in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:12-19). Here Paul explains the close connection between the concept of a resurrection, the resurrection of Jesus, and the hope that we all can have of a good conscience.
This brings us to Paul’s letter to our text from Ephesians. In the previous chapter, Paul has just explained how the power that is at work in us is the same power that raised Christ from the dead (1:19-20). We have what Christ has because he is the head and we are the body (1:22-23).
2:1-3 Now, we who were once walking in death, have been made alive in Christ. This is true of both Gentile and Jew.
2:4-6 This resurrected life is made possible by the mercy of God, which flows from his eternal character.
2:7 And, lastly, this mercy is poured out on us with the purpose of preparing us for more grace.