Sermon: But God… (Ephesians 2:1-7)

But God…

Ephesians 2:1-7 (ESV)

    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- [3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- [6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 

Paul has finished his prayer for the believers. Remember, his prayer was focused on the topic of seeing Christ clearly through knowledge of Him and that they would see where they were going. He prayed that the Ephesians would be Christ focused and heavenly minded.

One can best appreciate his current standing before God if he remembers where he was before Christ. The old saying, “Don’t forget where you came from” can well be used here in this text. The Apostle Paul was reminding the believers where they came from.

The outline today is fairly simple. I want to make this text personal. If you are a Christian today, then what happened to those Christians in Ephesus has also happened to you. What was true 2000 years ago is true today. Paul is writing to believers. Aren’t you glad God didn’t leave us in our former condition? Aren’t you glad He is currently saving lost people?

1. Who We Were (Ephesians 2:1)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins

We must see that prior to conversion we were not in danger of death, we were not in danger of God’s wrath, we were not sick with sin…we were dead in sin and God’s wrath was already on us. No ifs ands or buts we were 100% dead as a doornail. We were born in a state of death.

Nekros– Spiritual condition of the natural or unconverted person.

Where the confusion comes from is that we didn’t look dead, we didn’t act dead. We speak, move around and are as much alive as anyone else.

The first step to seeing clearly where we are is to understand fully what our condition was. In Adam all humans are born spiritually dead. Adam as our representative head fell into sin and took everyone with him. From generation to generation this disease is transmitted.

It’s also important that we establish that this is, in fact, the case.

Theologians call it Original Sin. However, it’s best understood as Inherited Sin. What the Bible teaches is that all humans are born corrupt, with a fallen nature, and diseased by Adam’s sin. We have inherited his sin.

Romans 5:12-14 (ESV) 

    Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned- [13] for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  [14] Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

On the surface it seems as though Adam sinned and died because of his sin and then we die because we commit our own sin… so death spread to all men because all sinned.

What Paul is getting at is that we all have sinned in Adam.

It’s clear as we read the verses in context because Paul is speaking of the difference between Jesus and Adam.

Romans 5:18-19 (ESV) 

    Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  [19] For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 

All who are in Adam have inherited his sin and guilt. All who are in Christ have inherited His perfect righteousness. All humans are in Adam and some humans are in Christ.

2. How We Lived (Ephesians 2:2-3)

Paul seeks to prove to us that what he is saying is true. Exhibit “A” is our lives.

[2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- [3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

What is the case in point that Paul uses to show that the Ephesian Christians were spiritually dead? He shows them what they were like prior to conversion. He also shows us what we were like prior to conversion.

A. We used to follow the course of this world

By this statement Paul means that those dead in sin are alive to the world and its ways. All lost people follow the same heading and are going the same direction as the world is going. Whatever the priorities are for the culture as a whole, all lost people share those priorities. They share goals and whatever culture says is important all lost people are right on track with this.

Paul would have us understand that we were like this as well. We were on this course. It’s important that we continually remember that where lost folks are today, we used to be there as well. We cannot look down on them or somehow think we are smarter or we cannot have a holier-than-thou attitude. Our current state of being In Christ didn’t come about because we were able to clearly see the choice and choose correctly. It didn’t come about because we were smarter than those ignorant lost people. It came about completely by God’s work.

            B. We used to follow the prince of the power of the air,

Here, the Bible is referring to Satan and his dominion. He is currently reigning over the earth. He is Lord over this world system. We were dead to God but we were very much alive to Satan and his leading. We followed him just like everyone else. We were slaves to sin and to Satan before our conversion. There was no escape possible for us. We were enslaved because our nature was alive to sin and dead to God.

We should never look down on lost people because there is nothing they can do to escape their slavery to Satan. Why do lost folks sin? They sin because they are slaves to sin. They cannot do anything else. They have only one nature and it is forever bent toward sin. Paul plainly explains to the Christians that the proof of their deadness to God was their relentless, unwavering, consistent following of Satan.

            C. We used to live in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,

We used to gratify our selfish desires. We used to go after every natural desire. We sinned in every way possible following the impulses of our body and devising new ways to sin with our minds. We sinned with great passion and diligence. We lived to sin and enjoyed it. Our passions were toward sin.

            D. We were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Because of our fallen nature and sinful life God was passing judgment on us. The wrath of God was upon us. We lived in a realm of the judged. We were as much of that hell bound system as anyone else and there was nothing we could do to escape. God’s wrath and judgment was innate, it was a part of us. It was on us and a part of us. We had but one nature and all it lived for was sin and God’s wrath was on us.

John 3:36 (ESV) 

    Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

That’s the life of someone doing things their way. That’s the life of someone exercising free will. That’s the life of one who goes for the gusto and lives for himself. That’s our past, are you ready for the good news? It’s time to see what God has done for those who were enslaved by Satan.  

3. Who We Are (Ephesians 2:4-7)

[4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- [6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 

The Apostle has shown us the true reality of our condition. We were headed for the deepest and darkest part of hell with no escape and then God moves. We go from the deepest pit to soaring into heaven with our Father in two amazing words… But God!!!!

We are no longer dead but now we are alive. God has come to our rescue. Our past deadness is over. Now we are alive forevermore.

A. What God Did

-made us alive together with Christ. If we are to have assurance of salvation, we need to get this point that Paul is making. What does he mean by saying that God made us alive with Christ?

We were children of wrath

Isaiah 53:5 (ESV) 

    But he was wounded for our transgressions;

        he was crushed for our iniquities;

    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

        and with his stripes we are healed.

and…We were dead in the trespasses and sins

John 19:30 (ESV) 

    When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

God’s wrath that was meant for us as children of disobedience was inflicted on Jesus Christ. Now we are no longer children of disobedience but children of God.

1 John 3:10 (ESV) 

    By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

We have been made alive with Christ. Just as Jesus lay in the grave for three days and the power of God worked to cause Him to come to life, so this same power has worked to bring lost sinners to life. God is active and the sinner is passive. It’s something that happens to someone, not something in which a person cooperates. God determines who is saved not man. God determines the number in heaven not man. We are at His mercy.

Being brought to life by God is monergistic…one power, not synergistic… a cooperative effort. God alone brings sinners to life and all is for His glory, the glory of His wondrous grace.

Paul is continuing his theme of the power of God.

Ephes. 1:19-20 (ESV) 

    and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  [20] that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 

This same immeasurable power…

                        raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Because we are found to be in Christ, where Jesus is we are. Not only did God bring us to life but because Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father, so too we are there as well. Just as we may not have felt as if we were dead before Christ, we may not feel raised and seated with Christ but that is where we are. As believers, we are accepted by God because Jesus is accepted by God. In other words, our souls are already there. When we die we don’t have a journey to take, we wake up immediately with Jesus because the part of us that lasts for eternity is already raised and sitting with the Lord.

Notice the Bible doesn’t say we will be raised and will be seated but we already are there.

We are no longer dead in sin but alive in Christ. The instant you were converted you were raised and seated with Jesus.

            B. Why God Did It (Ephesians 2:4)

being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 

Salvation has occurred for God’s people because He is rich in mercy. Rich- overflowing, without measure. Salvation is for God’s glory and it’s motivated by rich mercy and great love. God didn’t just have great love, but He exercised this great love toward us.

We are rebellious, unloving, un thankful, sinners that want nothing to do with God. We are His enemies the Bible tells us. Then He moves and exercises His great love. He brings us to life, makes us His children and gives us the love we need to love Him back. So, the first reason God saved us was because He loved us greatly.

The second reason God saved us was for His glory.

[7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 

Salvation has two parts. We receive untold riches and are included into God’s family. God, on the other hand, receives praise and glory for all eternity because of the love shown to us.

Think of it…not only did God show kindness to us in saving us, but this verse tells us that this love will continue for all eternity. God will continually show grace to us and we will continually worship and praise Him for it.

What will this look like? The Apostle John caught a future glimpse of this taking place and wrote it down for us.

Rev. 7:9-12 (ESV) 

    After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  [10] and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  [11] And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,  [12] saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

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