Christian, Who Were You? Ephesians 2a
Stephen Caswell © 1999
Charlie Brown and Linus
In a Charlie Brown comic strip there is an interesting discussion between Charlie Brown and Linus. Charlie Brown went hiking with Linus. At the end of the first day he got out a deck chair and went to the top of a nearby hill. Linus also went along to see what he was up to. Firstly, Charlie Brown set up the deck chair and looked out from the hill in the direction that they had just traveled. After a while he pointed the chair in the direction of their campsite. Then a little bit later he pointed it in another direction. Curious about all of this, Linus asked what he was doing. Charlie Brown told him that he was reviewing their progress! The first things he looked he took in was the track they had hiked along that day from home base. Then he looked over the camp where they would spend the night. After this he looked at where they were going to tomorrow to complete their journey.
Over the last 4 weeks we have seen God's great work of salvation. We saw how Paul prayed that God would help the Ephesians to comprehend the riches they had in Christ. In today's passage Paul reflects on their spiritual journey. He looks at their past, present and future. However Paul reminds all believers of their spiritual journey in Ephesians 2:1-10. Because the world seeks to change us at every turn, it is easy for us to lose focus of the purpose God has for us. So it is good for us to review our spiritual journey. It is good to refocus our attention on Christ.
Firstly we see How God Found Us - Our Former Position in Sin - (2:1-3)
Secondly we will see What God Did For Us - Our Present Position in Christ - (2:5-6)
Thirdly we will discover Why God Saved Us - Our Future Position in Christ - (2:4,7-9)
And lastly What God Requires of Us - Our Present Walk with Christ - (2:10)
I. How God Found Us - Our Former Position in Sin - (2:1-3)
a. Dead Ephesians 2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
Paul begins by giving us the bad news first. He lays it all out on the table. He describes the life of unsaved people before God. The first attribute is death. People are dead because of their sin. Paul repeats this again in verse 5. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden they died immediately. They no longer had God's life in them and therefore were dead. This is how every person enters the world, they are born spiritually dead. This was once our position.
Illustration of a Brain Dead Person.
If someone is starved of oxygen to their brain for more than 5 minutes they may become brain dead. The person can be revived physically but their brain does not function. They are warm and breathing and alive in a physical sense. But you can't talk to them or reach them. They are unable to communicate with you or have any sort of relationship. They are just like a vegetable and it is very sad when this happens to people.
In the same way people who are spiritually dead cannot have a relationship with God. God is Spirit and they that worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth. Unsaved people are spiritually dead. They are like living corpses or brain dead people. They have no real life. They cannot communicate with God and are ignorant of their spiritual need.
b. Disobedient 2:2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
Following on from this it is no surprise that Paul says we were disobedient. Without God's life people are unable to live in obedience to Him. Disobedience describes people walking, [literally living] in rebellion to God's revealed standard. This is how society conducts itself in every generation. This is the normal way of life for unsaved people. They continuously live in sin. Before we were saved this was our position. The Prince of the power of the air rules over the lives of the unsaved. They are lead by Satan's wicked spirits into continual sin.
Illustration of the Arrow and the Path
Paul used two words to describe disobedience in verse 1. The word trespasses has the idea of a false step. To step outside the right path. This may not be premeditated but is still contrary to God's law. Whilst the word sin has the idea of an arrow veering off and missing the target. Although this doesn't mean that the arrow was ever aimed at the target. Even though sin often affects other people it is always against God.
c. Depraved Ephesians 2:3 a among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind,
Paul shows the progressive nature of sin here. What starts out as disobedience to God 's law, leads to rejection of God and the knowledge of Him. This ends up in total depravity. When people reject God they start on an ever descending spiral into moral perversion and wickedness. One look at the newspaper soon confirms the depravity of society. This is described very vividly in Romans 1:18-32. Their corrupt nature leads them into corrupt lifestyles. Of course this does not mean that every unsaved person becomes as corrupt as they might. The total depravity of lost people means that of themselves they cannot please God. Even their good works are unacceptable to Him. The sinful nature we inherited from Adam leads us to sin.
Illustration of a Pig in the Mud
You don't have to live on a pig farm to know that pigs love to wallow in the mud. You may wash them and put them in a clean pen with no mud for months. You could even take the pig inside like in Babe. But once you put the pig back in a normal pig pen where mud is available your clean pig will become dirty in no time. It's in their nature and no amount of training or washing will change that. Pigs wallow in the mud because they are pigs. People sin because they are sinners. That is their nature. Regardless of the motives or the amount of sin people commit, the fact remains that all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. The only way for sinners to change is for them to receive a new nature.
d. Doomed Ephesians 2:3 b and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
The apostle Paul now gives the verdict for those who live sinfully. Because unsaved people are dead, disobedient and depraved they are also doomed. God's wrath awaits them. In fact the Bible tells us that God's wrath rests upon [present tense] the wicked, those who reject the gospel. People love to talk about God's great love and His mercy, but they ignore His wrath. God is love, but He is also light. And because He is light, He will not allow sin to go unpunished. The Bible says that God is storing up wrath for the wicked on judgment day. Unsaved people are only moment away from eternal suffering in hell, since they do not know how much time God will give them here on earth. Their life hangs by a thread.
Illustration of Sodom & Gomorrah
The Bible tells us that Lot lived amongst some very wicked people. He lived in a city called Sodom. Homosexuality and wickedness of every kind was rampant in Sodom. So God told Abraham he was going to destroy it along with the neighboring cities that were just as bad. I am sure that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah had no idea that they were about to perish. They had no idea that God's wrath hung over them because of their wickedness. In the same way Paul brings the conclusion to the bad news in verse 3. We are worthy of God' wrath. Lost people are without God and without hope. If you haven't received Jesus Christ by faith, this is your position. But there is good news God has provided salvation to those who will receive it.
II. What God Did For Us - Our Present Position in Christ - (2:4-6)
a. Deliverance Ephesians 2:4-6 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Verse 4 starts with the wonderful words But God. We were unable to do anything to save ourselves from death, disobedience, depravity and doom. We deserved God's wrath. His punishment was our future expectation. But God stepped in because He loved us and is rich in mercy. Only He could change man's spiritual death, disobedience and depravity. Notice that God has done three things for us with Christ.
Firstly He made us alive together with Christ. At creation God breathed into man the breath of life's and he became a living soul. But when Adam and Eve sinned, they died spiritually. They were separated from God. But Christ has died for us, [He was separated from God for us] so that we might receive new life through His resurrection. He first had to die for our sins, because The wages of sin is death. Someone had to receive the punishment for our sin. The Lord Jesus Christ took our place on the cross. God's punishment for sin was borne by Christ our substitute. Those who believe that Jesus died for their sins and receive Him as their Lord are saved. The Holy Spirit comes into their lives at that moment and they are born again. 1 John 5:11-13 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe in the name of the Son of God.
A Heart Transplant Operation.
Many people today develop problems with their heart. Sometimes this results from smoking or drinking, or too much cholesterol; whilst sometimes it is hereditary. Very often their only hope is a heart transplant. They need to replace their old heart with a new one. This type of operation has been available for sometime and has a fairly high success rate. But before you can have this operation, a donor needs to be found. And for the patient to receive a new heart the donor has to die. This is what Christ has done for us. He has given us a new heart. A heart that gives us new life, eternal life. But He had to die so that we could receive this new heart.
Secondly He raised us up with Christ. Not only has God given us a new birth, but He has given us new power to live. This of course is resurrection power. If a terminal cancer patient died in a car crash, reviving them would not help them much in the long run. They also need to be cured from cancer. Similarly God not only made us alive but has also given us new life! Eternal life. A victorious life over sin. In contrast to being lead by the spirit working in the sons of disobedience, now we are lead by the Holy Spirit. He enables us to live righteously.
Thirdly He has made us sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. When Adam and Eve sinned they died. But not only this they could no longer walk with God as they had done previously. This meant that they lost that sweet fellowship they had once enjoyed through a right relationship with God. But now God has raised us up to sit with Christ in the heavenly places. In Christ, we have new life, victory over our old sinful nature and restored fellowship.
Illustration of Mephibosheth being invited to eat at King David's table
David had a special friend while he was awaiting God's time to be king. His name was Jonathan. However Jonathan was killed with his father Saul on Mount Gilboa. After David had become King he inquired if any of Saul's children were still alive that he might show kindness to them for Jonathan's sake. He found out that one of Jonathan's own sons was still alive and his name was Mephibosheth. He was a poor, crippled boy. So David sent word that he should come to Jerusalem. When he came he was very afraid and fell down before King David. But David told him not to be afraid. David gave him his grandfather's lands and invited him to eat at the kings table continually. David showed kindness to Mephibosheth and treated him like one of his own sons, because of the covenant he had made with his father Jonathan.
This is what God has done for us. A new covenant has been made between God and sinful men. This covenant was made through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who believe in Jesus Christ are adopted into God's family. They are given an eternal inheritance and seated in God's very presence to have fellowship with Him. Christians now have direct access into the presence of God. The fellowship that was lost in the garden of Eden through one man's sin has been restored through one man's righteousness. And this is all done because of God's great love for us. The work of sin against us is canceled out by God's redemptive sacrifice. Romans 5:1-2 says this: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
III. Why God Delivered Us - Our Future Position in Christ - (2:4,7-9)
a. Desired to save us. Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
We have looked at our past and what God did for us, now I would like to examine why He did it. Three words are used to express God's motive for saving rebellious sinners. The first of these is mercy. Verse 3 ended with the terrible condemnation of God's wrath. This is what sinners deserve. The wages of sin is death but Romans 6:23 finishes with the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. God's mercy enabled Him to provide salvation for His rebellious creation. It is only God's mercy that keeps us from the punishment we deserve. That's what mercy is! Not receiving the punishment you deserve. Secondly it was only God's great love that motivated Him to show us mercy, because of man's depraved state. There was nothing good in us that compelled God to save us. The word for love here is agape. Agape love is unconditional and seeks the highest good for the one loved. John 3:16 says it beautifully: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. We receive God's free gift by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you haven't yet received God's free gift can I encourage you to today! Receive God's gift by faith!
But God went further than this. Our Third word of course is grace. Grace is God's unmerited favor. It isn't earned or deserved in any way. Mercy is the reason God has not punished us for our sins, and why He has forgiven us. But grace is the reason why He has given us eternal life with untold blessings. He has adopted us into His family and has reserved an inheritance for us in heaven. We have the encouragement and instruction of His word. We have received the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to guides us and He is God's guarantee of our future inheritance. We will dwell with Him for all eternity. The words have been saved are in the perfect tense. This means we were saved through faith in Christ with the result that we will remain saved. Believers have eternal security. Like mercy, God's grace is motivated by love.
Paul picks up this same theme in Romans 5:8-10: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Love is what motivated God to act on our behalf, both in mercy and grace. But I would like to suggest that there is a more important reason than these, and that is the glory of God. The Westminster Catechism states: that chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
b. Displays of God's Grace Ephesians 7-9 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. God desires to shower undeserved blessings upon His people for all eternity. He will show all creation the richness of His grace in the salvation of man. We will also will be blessed immensely. God will display His great grace through the church for all the ages to come.
Illustration of Soccer Team Winning the trophy
Last year I had the opportunity to play soccer for the church soccer team. When I wasn't injured. We didn't win the trophy, but tried our best and sought to be Christian sportsmen. I have played soccer on and off for 30 years. I love the game and the team spirit you can share. But I would be lying if I said I wasn't really interested in winning the premiership and receiving the trophy. That's part of the goal that you aim for. I have a number of trophies at home like these, most of them are runners up trophies. But the one I remember best is that first year I played aged 9 and we won the premiership. We won more games than the other teams and finished on the top of the ladder. We had put in hours of training, played in all the games and given our very best to get there. We all received a pennant to keep as well as the big team trophy that you keep for a year. That pennant was highly treasured and I took good care of it.
God's Trophies are Believers
In the same way God highly treasures His people. They are like trophies that He has earned at great cost. Each one is different and special. God has obtained them for Himself through His finished work of salvation. The trophies have not taken any part in this. God has done it all. None of the trophies I have at home ever say to me that they are worth it, or that they helped me win the season. The soccer team has to do the hard work before it can win the premiership. The prize comes after the competition has been won. Similarly, God Himself has completed our salvation. He receives the trophy because he has won the victory. He alone is worthy of all the glory. In Ephesians 1 verses 3 to 14 we saw how Paul described the involvement of each member of the Godhead in our salvation. At the conclusion of the work of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, we found the words " to the praise of His glory. "
Christians are trophies of God's grace, but He alone will be glorified in it. He has chosen us, called us and redeemed us at great cost. He has renewed our hearts through the Holy Spirit. He will also glorify His church, but the glory will return to Him. We can't boast in our salvation. It is not of us or our works, it is all by God's grace. Grace is used 3 times in these 4 verses. It is only because of God's unmerited favor upon sinners like you and I that we are here today. Redeemed man will fulfill His Creators plans. God Himself will receive great glory for all eternity from the church, His great trophy of grace. God alone is worthy of this. This theme can be seen in many places of Scripture. In Philippians 2:9-11 where Jesus Christ is exalted above every name and receives universal worship He glorifies God the Father in it.
IV. What God Requires of Us - Our Present Walk with Christ - (2:10)
a. Demonstrate His Righteousness
Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Salvation is a special work of God, not human works.
The word translated workmanship here is only used one other time in Romans 1:20 where it is translated the things that are made. This of course refers to the work of creation. This word denotes a work of art or a masterpiece. A unique creation of God. When people are saved through Jesus Christ it is totally a work of God from A to Z. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. God has made us new. What He has done is complete; nothing can be added to it.
Service, Good Works prepared beforehand by God for believers to appropriate.
God has made us new for a purpose. He has created us in Christ Jesus for good works. God intended that mankind should glorify Himself since creation. Now the new creation is able through God to fulfill His Makers plans. God has prepared the works for us to do. These good works are done according to God's plan and through His power. They are appropriated by faith since we are to walk in them. God has chosen a path of good works for us to walk along. The Christian life is one of faith. Colossians 2:6 says: As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him. God Himself performs the good works in us as we walk by faith. We need only ask for opportunities and the grace to live spiritually.
Building a Model Airplane
When I was young sometimes I would buy a model airplane or car. The whole thing comes in a kit with instructions. All the pieces are cut to shape and simply have to be joined together in the right order. Everything you need is there, nothing else is needed. All we have to do is follow the instructions using the materials they have provided. And that's what I did and the model turned out just like the picture on the box. The maker knew what they were talking about.
In the same way Paul details how we are to live in Chapters 4-6 of Ephesians. He uses the word walk five times in these chapters. Believers, new creations of God are no longer to walk for themselves but rather for their Lord and Savior. This of course is in complete contrast to verse 2 where we once walked according to the course of this world. In the past we lived for ourselves and our own glory. But now we are to live for God's Glory. Matthew 5:16 says: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Today we have had the opportunity to reflect on our Spiritual Journey.
Conclusion Firstly we saw How God Found Us - Our Former Position in Sin
We were dead, disobedient, depraved and doomed. We had no hope until God sent a His son to save us. Have you received Jesus Christ as your Savior? If you haven't God's wrath rests upon you. But the good news is that God has done something about our hopeless state!
Secondly we saw What God Did For Us - Our Present Position in Christ
We saw how God gave us new life and raised us up with Jesus Christ. We now have spiritual life, eternal life, victorious life. Then He has seated us in the heavenly places in Christ also. Our fellowship with God has been restored. Are you enjoying sweet fellowship with God? If you are lost in sin can I encourage you to consider what Christ has done for you. Will you come to Him today and receive eternal life and the richness of His grace? God desires to show mercy, grace and love to all. But His wrath will be poured out on unbelievers. Don't take God's grace for granted. The day of grace will one day end. Today is the day of salvation today is the accepted time! Come to Him today.
Thirdly we will discover Why God Saved Us - Our Future Position in Christ
We then took a glance into the future and saw a little of what God has in store for the redeemed. This showed us the purpose God has behind it all. God has saved us at great cost, He has made us new, each of us an exquisite masterpiece of grace. He has done a wonderful work in the life of every believer. And when it is completed in glory this will be much more evident. We saw how God wants to shower the church with His grace for all eternity. Ultimately He will receive glory through believers who will be like trophies that honor His victory. And certainly God deserves such glory and honor.
And lastly What God Requires of Us - Our Present Walk with Christ
He desires that we might live for Him and bring glory to His name. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says: Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. This is our makers intention. Are you fulfilling the intention God has for your life? Are you walking in the good works He has prepared for you to do? Or are you still living for yourself and walking after this world? If you have been distracted from the calling that God has on your life then I would encourage you this morning to repent of that and re-consecrate your life to God. Only as we live according to the makers instructions will we be truly happy. Only when our lives glorify God will we accomplish something of value.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.