Adapted from a Jim Black sermonhttp://www.sermoncentral.com/print_friendly. asp?ContributorID=&SermonID=54344
Ephesians 2:1 NET And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you formerly lived according to this worlds present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom all of us alsoformerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 even though we were dead intransgressions, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you are saved! — 6 andhe raised us up with him and seated us withhim in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
7 to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, havingbeen created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
The beauty of our salvation is displayed as Paul contrasts life before Christ to life inChrist and reveals to his readers a future to look towards and a purpose to live for. In coming to the text just read to us, I haveto admit I am just a little bit intimidated! This is one of the most beautiful and grandest texts in all of Scripture! It is HUGE in language, in depth, in meaning, and in scope!
Preacher & teacher Fred Craddock talks about passages in Scripture that are just too big to preach. Either the language is so grandiose or the meaning so deep that a preacher can hardly do it justice. But he says, “Texts do not always have to bemastered. There is immense value in takingthe hand of a congregation and leading it up close to a huge passage where it can stand with face upturned in awe and wonder.”
What so many sermons lack is not truth or clarity or relevance, but size.” And so, it is with that in mind that I intend this morning to lead us to this huge passage where we can gaze at it „in awe and wonder‟ andmarvel at just what God has done for us! As I see it, the danger in preaching is in reducing a text such as this to three points and a couple illustrations!There is so much more here that God would have us see!
Here Paul begins making a clear distinction between “life before Christ” and “life inChrist” which will form the basis for much ofthe rest of the letter. Lets look at it again & notice the number of contrasts that Paul makes.1. Living in transgressions & sins vs. living in good works prepared by God2. This world vs. the heavenly realms3. Death vs. life
4. Sinful nature (lit. “Flesh”) vs. union with Christ5. Wrath vs. mercy & salvation6. Under the “ruler of the air” vs. seated with Christ7. By nature vs. by grace8. Not from works vs. thru faith
Paul wants to make sure that the Ephesians understand that this new salvation to whichthey are called makes a radical difference in their lives! It‟s not just a change of status,but a change of life! That‟s what chapters 4-6 are all about! How does this new salvation play itself out in real life? What does it look like? What difference does it make?
You‟ll remember that in chapter 1 Paul hassought to motivate his readers towards thatgoal by reminding them of the REASON to live for Christ. “God... who has blessed uswith every spiritual blessing in the heavenlyrealms in Christ..” (1:3b) AND by reminding them from where their POWER to change comes from.
1:17a I pray…18 — since the eyes of yourheart have been enlightened — so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19a and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, Now Paul turns to reminding the Ephesians of three other things:1 their past2 their present3 their future.
Ephesians 2:1 NET And although you weredead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you formerly lived according to thisworlds present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience,
3 among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and themind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest… Notice the language that Paul chooses to use. We WERE Dead.Do you remember your life before you came to know Christ? Was it anything like this?
Paul very much viewed life before Christ as spiritual death! Now, I think Paul was a pretty good fellow! He was a good Jew a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” a good Pharisee, a keeper of the law, & a zeal for God doing what he thought was defending the faith!
Philippians 3:4b NET ... If someone thinks he has good reasons to put confidence in human credentials, I have more: 5 I was circumcised on the eighth day, from thepeople of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, aHebrew of Hebrews. I lived according to the law as a Pharisee. 6 In my zeal for God I persecuted the church. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless.
He may have been a pretty good guy, butno matter how good he might have been, from the perspective of his new life “in Christ”, all life “before Christ” is characterized by death! Paul says that he was simply „dead‟. In Paul‟s letter to the saints in Rome he views death as a tyrant that dominatesunredeemed humanity, both in the here & now AND in the grave!
Romans 6:20 NET For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness. 21 So what benefit did you then reap from those things that you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now, freed from sinand enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end iseternal life. 23 For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“For the payoff of sin is death” This stands opposed here to eternal life, and proves that one is just as enduring as the other. (Barnes) I think it is interesting that he chooses the word DEATH to describe the reality of life without Christ. We understand a culture of death. Look at our world today and thinkabout how death controls our culture still! Inthe “third world” countries, famine, disease and death are everyday realities.
And not just in the “third world” countries, either!Death permeates our reality and as a result, threatens to control life! How many people have gotten rich from „miracle drugs‟ that were supposed to lengthen our life-span? How many people have bought into those things, frantically striving to stave off old age and death?
The cloning controversy stirred up in the last few years has been from a group who has been pursuing a way to have eternal life and eternal youth. Death still plaguesour present humanity and remains an ever-present threat! This shouldn‟t have come as a surprise! God told Adam & Eve in the garden that if they ate from the forbiddentree, they would surely die! How many of us are afraid to face death, either our own or the death of a loved one?
We WERE Worldly. This is the way we „used to live‟ when we followed the ways of the world, the “ruler of the kingdom of theair”. This was our former way of life; the way we used to walk. And Paul reminds us of just who is in control in this world, without mentioning his name. He‟ll come back to it in chapter 6.
But for now it‟s enough for us to make note that this „ruler‟ has been handed over authority concerning the affairs of this world. John confirms what Paul has said. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 1 John 5:19 NETThis ruler, this spirit, is at work in all those who are disobedient!
And ALL OF US (Paul is including himself) also formerly lived out our lives…of wrath even as the rest! We were one of them! So, we WERE objects of wrath! Whose wrath? God‟s! You might have thought of God as ONLY a „warm & fuzzy‟ lovinggrandfatherly type; you might have thought of Paul as ONLY the Apostle of Grace &Mercy; but even in his letter to the Romans (the gospel of grace) he talks of wrath.
Romans 1:18 NET For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against allungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness,Wrath is an important concept in the Bible. Because of our sin we were at enmity with God! His wrath was against us!
No hope of relationship;no hope of reconciliation, because we had broken it! BUT, NO LONGER!Paul points out that God took care of that for us. That was the way we were.
Ephesians 2:4 NET But God, being rich inmercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive togetherwith Christ — by grace you are saved! — 6and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
“How Sweet it Is!” Paul points to our past and emphasizeshow good we have it NOW! In the present!Notice the words he stacks on top of each other;Mercy, love, grace, kindness, and gift, in an attempt to describe this awesome and incredible salvation!
It‟s as if simple words aren‟t enough to adequately describe the reality of thegospel! Each of these words carry a nuancejust a tad different from the others, but theirmeanings shade into each other. It‟s like “acascade of expansive language” attempting to describe the grandeur of God‟s work in Christ! Notice the key ideas here.
Even when we were dead he made us ALIVE! He didn‟t have to! But God, being rich in mercy and out of his great love for us, he took care of our sin! Romans 6:3 NET Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore wehave been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.
And so, if you‟re ‟in Christ‟; if you‟ve been baptized ‟into Christ‟ then you are quite literally a “Dead Man Walking”; though once dead we have been raised again to live a new life! By grace he saved us! Saved us fromwhat? Saved us from that death! We areNOT just saved from hell, but saved from life, a life on earth dominated by death; life lived in fear of death!
We are saved from that “worldly” lifestylethat only leads to death! Think about people you know that you‟d describe as just „worldly.‟ People who you‟d say are consumed by the pursuit of wealth or power, things of this world. People without God. Are they generally happy people?
By grace…he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,! Paul isn‟t talking about thefinal resurrection, this is something that God has already done for us. We, right here andnow, are raised with Christ & seated…in the heavenly realms! How? In what way? If we are joined with Christ now as Paul has already made clear…where is Christ?
1:20 This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead andseated him at his right hand in the heavenly realmsWhat is true of Christ is true of us if we are joined together. If he is exalted to God‟s right hand, so are we. In other words, we have been put in a place of honor next to God;
Our position has changed from being “in the world” to being “in Christ.” Its not that we WILL be “in Christ” but that we ARE “in Christ.” With that comes a sense of privilege, honor and security about oursalvation! That should make a difference in HOW we live life NOW, not just where we spend eternity.
7 to demonstrate in the coming ages thesurpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.Not only in the here and now, but God has afuture plan for his church and it will be full of grace! What is that future? Jump forward to Ephesians 3:10 just a second.
Ephesians 3:10 NET The purpose of thisenlightenment is that through the church themultifaceted wisdom of God should now bedisclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms. God‟s plan for thechurch: reveal God. Show Him to the world. As we look over the last 2,000 years of church history how have we done? How have we pointed the world to the multifaceted wisdom of God? How are WE doing right now? How do we show God to the world?
8 For by grace you are saved through faith,and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are hisworkmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
Paul doesn‟t want anyone to misunderstand: we‟ve never done anything to come close to deserving this salvation! God has done it all; „this is not from yourselves‟. We are saved by God‟s gracethrough our faith and NOT by works! Yet we are certainly saved FOR good works.
He created us in our mother‟s womb; he re- created us in Christ. We are his creation, his „workmanship.‟ We‟re His work of art! Sculpted, painted, crafted TO DO GOODWORKS! A life being lived „in Christ‟ is a life that is ‟purposeful,‟ always on the lookout for good works.
Is your life characterized by obedience &good works? It strikes me that many people have trouble in the Christian life because either; They‟ve forgotten „How Bad it Was‟ They don‟t appreciate „How Sweet it Is‟If we‟re really honest with ourselves, I don‟t believe many of us really believe our situation was as bleak as Paul says.
I don‟t know about you, but I saw myself as a pretty good person. But, I didn‟t know God. And I didn‟t know that I was dead in my sins! But, I was! My situation was as bleak as the murderer awaiting execution on death row! Your neighbors around you may be pretty good folks. They keep the yard cut, they love their kids, they‟re good citizens.
But do they know God? Do they have a relationship with Him? You‟ve probably heard this saying, “Before you can get a person saved, you‟ve got to get him lost.” There is tremendous truth to that! Beforeindividuals make a decision to follow Christ, they‟ve got to be convicted that they need Christ!
That‟s exactly what happened at Pentecost when Peter preached to the crowd. Acts 2:37 NET Now when they heard this, they were acutely distressed and said to Peterand the rest of the apostles, "What should we do, brothers?" 38 Peter said to them,"Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
They were convicted and responded.Acts 2:41 NET So those who accepted hismessage were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added. Have you ever really been convicted thatyour life WITHOUT Christ was dead? You‟ll never appreciate „How Sweet it Is‟ (in Christ) until you remember „How Bad it Was‟ (without Christ).
Another problem many have is in truly taking hold of just how good it is to be in Christ! Can it be THIS good? Isn‟t this just too good to be true? The answer to that, ofcourse, is NO, it IS true, when you‟re talking about a loving God who would rather die than spend eternity without you. 8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast.
What good news! Have you been savedfrom death? Are you ALIVE with Christ? Are you enjoying the good works he has prepared for you? If not, how can we encourage you to leave your old life of death, take a step of faith today and commit yourself to being adisciple of Jesus Christ by being buried with him in baptism and raised to walk a new life!