EPHESIANS-SERIES NR 3
Theme: Raised from the dead
Scripture: Ephesians 2: 1-10
In chapter 2 of his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul now arrives at a description of the radical change that takes place in the life of every believer. Not one human being is a Christian right from the beginning – quite the contrary! Something must take place that causes you to become saved. In verses 1-10 Paul is explaining that the Christian was dead, but is now made alive, and in verses 11-22 he describes how the Christian was initially far away, but is now drawn close. This morning we are looking at verses 1-10: Raised from the dead.
If we look closely at these 10 verses, we see how the Apostle explains what we WERE, what we ARE now, and what it is that has brought about the difference. We will divide the message according to these 3 questions:
1 WHAT WE WERE > Verses 1-3 > No one on earth is born as a saved Christ-believer (John 1:13). The true state in which every human on earth is really born, is explained in these 3 verses. Nobody is inclined to agree with this in the least. Nobody will believe this about him/herself. Indeed it gives great offence. And you will hear this nowhere else except in the Word. It is exactly this that the Holy Spirit convicts us of. We will never truly take refuge in the blood/wounds/death of the Lord Jesus unless the Spirit convinces us that Ephesians 2: 1-3 is an illustration of our life. Nobody takes refuge in a Saviour unless you do not thoroughly understand that you are completely lost – otherwise you remain merely religious/attending church, but not born again! This is the main reason why people find it so difficult to come to repentance: they do not realize how lost they really are. Everything starts at Ephesians 2: 1-3! The first thing that the Spirit convicts you of, is your utter lostness (John 16:8).
What does it mean to be lost? What is the spiritual state in which EVERY person is born?
Let us imagine someone, say Jack Sprat:
He has been in the church for as long as he can remember, he has a sunny disposition, a wonderful nature, goes out of his way to do good to others, has excellent musical talent, is artistic, a man every woman dreams of, the ideal elder in the church, etc.
Could one say of Jack Sprat that he is spiritually stone-dead, that sin characterizes his life, that he is following the ways of this world, that he is lead by the spiritual ruler of the kingdom of the air, that sinful desires rule him, that he does/says just what enters into his head, that he is living under the wrath of God only because of his sinful nature (excluding any conscious sinning) and that he must therefore be punished for ever? EXACTLY THE LIST OF THE 8 ISSUES IN EPHESIANS 2: 1-10.
Could one say something like that about Jack?
What sane person would compile such a profile in connection with the wonderful, exemplary and good person: Jack Sprat?
And yet he is exactly that. Because Eph 2:3 is saying perfectly clear that it is true of EVERY HUMAN.
The problem is: nothing or nobody will ever be able to open Jack’s eyes to his true state unless the Holy Spirit does not do it. And if his eyes are not opened, he will NEVER truly meet the Lord Jesus as Saviour. Because he does not realize his grave danger. That is why he does not suffer from sleepless nights and break out in cold sweats. That is why he is not rushing headlong to fall down before the cross of Calvary and surrender in full submission. That is why he is, and will remain, a good and faithful church-goer but without being born-again. Therefore he will eventually, even as faithful church-goer, be condemned to eternal damnation.
And what applies to Jack, applies to all of us. Every person who has a vivid testimony of salvation and is on fire for the Lord does indeed have a clear testimony that the Holy Spirit has brought him/her to Eph 2:1-3 somewhere along the road. Somewhere along the way you were so convicted of your utter lostness, and that the crucified Christ is your only deliverance.
What does this lostness mean? In your relation to God: stone-dead. Like a corpse (v 1). A corpse sees nothing, hears nothing, does nothing. Cannot react. In your lostness, true spiritual matters have no value, you have no taste for it, do not hear the Lord’s voice, do not care, do not choose Him. You cannot choose Him. Indeed you continue in sin and transgressions (v 1) and it does not concern you enough to drive you crazy.
In addition to being dead, lostness also means that you are living in active disobedience (vv 2-3). You are living in a particular direction.. and it is the direction that the world determines. You do what other people do. Think like them. Speak like them. Look in the same direction as worldly people.
The reason for all of this is that you are moved by an invisible spiritual power. Without exception all people are (before their conversion) moved by an invisible evil power (v 2). Without being aware of it, you are influenced by evil. That is why the essence of your life is your own selfish desires. You are ruled by the flesh (fallen human nature). The world, the flesh and evil form a system and every person is shaped within this system from their birth – without being conscious of it – until the Holy Spirit opens your eyes.
That is why it is no wonder that every person – before his salvation – is living under God’s wrath and vengeance (v 3). This is the most dangerous position a person can find himself in. To live every second of the day literally under the wrath of God – only due to your sinful nature you are already under the wrath of God (v 3b). Without having committed even one sin, only the mere fact that you have a sinful nature is enough reason to be condemned for eternity. That is the brilliant splendour of God’s holiness.
Incidentally: Covenant and baptism do not automatically remove you out of this: One sometimes get the impression that some people think that because a child is baptized and grows up under the umbrella of God’s covenant, the child is not lost any longer. Well, that is exactly what the Roman Catholics teach, but not so the Scriptures. The Ephesian believers were included in God’s covenant, but Paul treats everyone the same in 2:1-3. And this includes the children in the church, because in chapter 6 he addresses them directly. Of course the PROMISE/GUARANTEE of salvation applies to everyone within the covenant, but that particularly should lead to every baptised child’s personal acceptance in faith of the salvation and redemption in the Lord. God’s covenant does not make conversion unnecessary, but is the strongest motivation to Faith-submission! That just as an aside.
2. WHAT WE ARE NOW > Now that you are saved and justified in Christ, what are you? Verses 4 to the end of the passage. Dizzying contrast: Made alive. Raised from the dead. One with Christ. In Christ. Accepted by God. Sitting in heavenly realms. Saved by grace. Incomparable riches in His kindness to us. Even though the present world will not exist for very much longer, there will be a future world where this goodness that He has expressed to me, will still be in evidence (v 7).
If we should understand the complete lostness we were in by nature according to verses 1-3, then the realization of what we are now should cause us to become dizzy – that is how wonderful it is. That God – while we were spiritually dead and did not/could not choose Him – chose us and made us alive – while He should have left us as we were! That we have undergone a spiritual resurrection (v 5). We are supernaturally brought to life: Suddenly we truly hear the Word speaking to us personally. Now we come to see the danger we have been in as an unsaved person. We feel the burden. We see the glory of the Lord Jesus. Our soul comes alive. There is movement. The first sign that a spiritual resurrection from the dead has taken place, is always that there is a hurried move towards the Lord Jesus. You are no longer dead!
Verse 5 > God has literally made you alive with Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. He has included you in it. Literally it is stated in verse 5: WHILE we were dead in our transgressions, God raised us up with Christ. He did it behind our back as it were, because He could not first ask our approval. We would’ve said “no”, because we were completely dead towards Him. God therefore literally included all the elect in Jesus’s resurrection. In that way He made them alive. He made them alive with Jesus’s resurrection. One could almost say that what Jesus suffered 2000 years ago, the believer suffered with Him. Resurrected from the dead with Him.
Verse 6 > Seated with Him in the heavenly realms. God also includes the believer in Jesus where He is seated at present. In heavenly realms. What happened to Jesus, God imputes to the believer! So much so, that the believer is already seated in heaven, while he/she is still living here on earth. That is why, when the Christ-believer dies, his/her spirit only passes over to where he/she already actually belongs. No long journey to make first.
In short: The believer’s present identity is: made alive and holding a future!
3 THAT WHICH MADE THE DIFFERENCE > We should actually say WHO it is that has made the difference. Look at that brilliant verse 4: BUT GOD… Verses 1-3: An explanation of the hopeless and irrecoverable lostness of every human being. If there was a period sign after verse 3, there would have been no hope for any person, because nobody can make themselves come alive spiritually!
And then verse 4: the good news: BUT GOD… who is rich in mercy (compassion) and who loves us dearly. “Because of His great love for us, who were dead in our transgressions, made us alive with Christ…”
Remember: He was not under any obligation to raise anyone from the dead. But He did, because He is so compassionate. Because we are dead in sin and not interested to be saved, He had to work with us behind our backs – without our assistance – single-handedly. And the way He did it, was to include us in Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. Everything from A-Z thanks to Him. That is why verse 10 is saying: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works”. We cannot take any credit for anything. That is what is meant by “saved by grace” as verse 8 says so forcibly. If He saved you behind your back and without your assistance – only with Jesus’s resurrection, it is the purest grace imaginable, because then we COULD not lend a hand at all. Therefore we cannot boast in anything we have achieved (v 9). Everything flows from His compassion and grace. Compassion = to not receive what you deserve (judgement and eternal damnation). Grace = to receive what you do not deserve (adopted child of God/ forgiven/ redeemed/ gifts/ future destination).
The question of course is how will this grace take root in your and my personal life? If God saved me 2000 years ago with Jesus’s resurrection, but I have been living as a lost sinner since my birth (and not as a saved person), how does this resurrection-salvation become a reality in my life here and now? Should I wait for something? Should I persue some or other feeling or experience?
No, verse 8 says: through faith. That is trust. Trusting what? Trusting God’s promise.
That means: You hear the Word, the Holy Spirit makes you aware of your state of lostness, you realize the deadly danger that you are in, you see the grace God showed you through Jesus’s resurrection, you are filled with remorse, you want to turn to Him, you desire that He will reign over you, you transfer your faith over onto His resurrection as your only hope, you say it with your mouth (Rom 10:9). You begin to truly BELIEVE. You begin to trust Him for your salvation.
As you can see, that is not something the Lord does. It is something you and I do. It is not our small part in the salvation process. We are too inclined to think that faith is the one missing part we must contribute. No. Verse 8: Gift from God. By His Word, God literally CREATE faith and repentance in our hearts. He even gives the devoted life with which a person lives after his salvation, as a free gift (v 10 – in the Greek). The good works of the believer are like robes God has made, in which His child lives (literal translation of verse 10).
Is this not breath-taking?
To summarise verses 1-10: Every true Christian can testify of two phases in their life: The earlier (lost) and the now (made alive). That which has made the difference is God’s free grace.
Translated by Marthie Wilson