From Death to Life - Ephesians 2:1-10
1 From Death to Life Eph. 2:1-10 20201129 Our lives have become inseparable from Christ’s and we are to walk accordingly! Introduc)on: It is not a topic we really want to focus on but it seems to be one that is constantly put before us. This seems to be especially true in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – the topic is death. This is going to be front and center here this morning too with our Scripture passage. For most of us death isn’t that far away. We experience its jolt into our lives at frequent yet unpredictable intervals. It was in the fall of 2017 that my oldest cousin on my dad’s side of the family passed away. It was a tragic death. A sobering one for me. He was just three years older than me. As soon as I was made aware of the phone call he had made to his mother the night before he disappeared and then how he destroyed his few worldly belongings I grieved what was already presumed to be lost. It wasn’t long aSer that his body was found. Now facing this part of life is challenging. It is raw. Most of you here know the feeling I am talking about. Some of you are grieving the loss of a loved one this very hour. (Please know that your grief and your tears can be expressed in this place – we as a church want to comfort you, you are not alone). So oSen we ask why? Why? This is oSen the ques[on we ask. Why? As Chris[ans we can mentally ascend to answering that it goes back to sin. Sin separates us from God. Sin is the turning away from God and going in another direc[on altogether – I’m not saying that that is an emo[onally sa[sfactory answer. We know this because once formulated in your mind you don’t just move on. No, not at all. It is never easy to just move on. Even as I was looking up some of the emails exchanged between Vanessa and I and my aunt and uncle about the loss of their son – my cousin - much of the emo[on of that jol[ng death rushed back over me like a wave, a wave I didn’t see coming. Which leads me to another thought I ponder around the subject of death – because even though the memory and the emo[on can rush back, even years later, the ﬁnality of death does not change. When we are alive here on earth, we have the opportunity to respond to God’s saving work through Christ but once death occurs that [me ends, it is ﬁnal. When someone we love suddenly dies, we realize our ongoing rela[onship with them as we had known it dies too. No ma_er how much we may want them to come back, no ma_er how fervently we plead with God for it to be another way, it remains a permanent transi[on. And dealing with death does something to us, dealing with death opens us up in a way that daily life doesn’t even come close to doing. The starkness of it all reminds us of our own deadness apart from Christ. In our sins and trespasses the Bible says we were dead. But, but even when we are made alive with Christ our old dead self seems to grip us from [meto-[me and drags us down some of those old familiar dark alleyways that we were freed from. We wander in and get caught up in lifeless and empty works that were characteris[c of our deadness – the deadness that was characteris[c of our life prior to Christ. This behavior is devasta[ng to our new life, our new crea[on status, this happens whenever we become comfortable ac[ng contrary to who God has made us to be through his Son. ASer all the glorious blessings Paul expounded upon in Ephesians chapter 1. The hearaul prayers and praises that were oﬀered up by him for the believers in the church of Ephesus. Everything that has been stated remains true – but Paul needed to direct the a_en[on of the church to death in order to remind them of the life they were saved to live. So, what Paul is doing is taking the recipients of the le_er not to someone else’s death but taking them back to when they themselves were previously dead. 1. Dead in Trespasses and Sin (vv1-3) a. v1 “And you were dead…” i. What do you think of when you hear this statement? It is a diﬃcult statement to comprehend – because even as I was just sharing about the death of my cousin and I’m sure you were thinking of your own similar situa[on – when someone is dead they are not simply unresponsive we have no way to interact with them. Here though, Paul is making this true statement about the Ephesians – and in fact it is a true statement for us. “And you were dead” 2 ii. v1 “And you were dead in the trespasses. And you were dead in the sins…” We have all trespassed and sinned (Rom. 3:23, 5:12). 1. In the trespasses, is referencing the false steps that are taken that lead us oﬀ the path we are to be on (Ps 101:6) 2. In the sins, is referencing how we miss the mark and the standard that God says must be met – which I’m conﬁdent enough to say we all have missed because the standard is perfec[on. 3. These two qualiﬁes are meant to encompass all types of sin – sins of omission and sins of commission – trespasses and sins. All have separated us from God. b. v2 “in which you once walked,..” Yes dead men and women walking with no life in them. The context is clearly spiritual death but it is meant to be received with the seriousness with which we were just considering physical death a few minutes ago. As we con[nue on you will see of even greater seriousness. i. Because the idea being presented by Paul is a way of conduct, a way in which one lives or behaves. When you or I walk in sin and trespasses we walk as spiritually dead. Separated from God. 1. Paul once again gives us some useful qualiﬁers to see what dead walkers walk like. He says, v2 “…following the course of this world,…” a. That means going along with this world system – the system that is characteris[cally opposed to God. A system that shows its clear disdain for God’s values, with clear apathy for His morals, and mocking those who believe His word. This all demonstrates outright rebellion against God. 2. v2 “…following the prince of the power of the air,..” That is the devil! The one who has been opposed to God since before our own race rebelled against God in the garden. a. v2 “…the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience…” The emphasis here is clearly upon the spiritual realm, an area we need to be careful not to discount but rather become more aware of in a world that con[nues to impress the importance of the material. The devil is working his plan and he is using those who aligned themselves with him to carry out his work. c. v3 “…among whom we all once lived…” and we did so… i. v3 “…in the passions of our ﬂesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,…” 1. This is taking what is normal and natural beyond where it ought to be taken. It is right to eat and drink, it is right to rest and sleep, it is right to enjoy sexual in[macy in the covenant bond of one-man one-woman marriage. (J. Sto_) 2. We demonstrate our ‘deadness’ when the passions of our ﬂesh take over our way of being – when they dictate our decisions by consuming our thoughts. ii. v3 “…in the passions of our ﬂesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,…” 1. All areas related to pride seem to make up this area of sin and trespass. They can be well known or hidden from others but work destruc[on nonetheless. iii. v3 “…and were by nature children of wrath,…” 1. This is the consequence of such a way of life – such a life inevitably must face the judgement of God. Please don’t hear the word wrath and think vengeful or hate ﬁlled. This wrath belongs to God – the same God who also works salva[on through Jesus. 3 2. John Sto_ says this wrath is “God’s personal righteous, constant hos[lity to evil, his se_led refusal to compromise with it, and his resolve instead to condemn it.” iv. v3 “…like the rest of mankind.” 1. Dead in our trespasses and sins, following the devil, walking in all manner of sin, des[ned to receive the wrath of God, just like all who are apart from knowing Christ as Savior. 2. This was the Ephesian church, this was Paul, this has been every person who has ever lived (apart from Jesus), this can rightly be said to have been us. 3. Sadly, we can behave in our former manner of being. We can give ourselves over to following the course of this world. Illustra[on and Applica[on Transi)on: This can no longer be true of who we are, we are not dead, and we are not to live as if we s[ll belong to the devil. The glorious transforma[on that takes place from death to life is where we will now look. 2. Alive in Christ (vv4-7) The beginning of v4 Jumps out from the center of our passage today and returns us to the glorious truths we have been observing from chapter 1. v4 “But God…” all that Paul was just sta[ng in vv1-3 rela[ng to our deadness in sin and trespasses is overcome by the two words But God…But God. It is like the lights are suddenly turned on in a dark room and the whole atmosphere changes. a. The pivot of the passage begins and God acts through the resurrec[on power of Jesus. i. God steps into the human dilemma of being separated from him. He does so by combining two of his marvelous characteris[cs – those being mercy and love. 1. First, v4 “But God being rich in mercy,…” He shows his abundance of leniency and his compassion - (we will touch on it later but his leniency is not granted without proper sa[sfac[on). This mercy, this compassion, is given from one who has authority to change the situa[on for the be_er – the one who is suﬀering is relieved. 2. Second, the mercy is coupled together with the powerful statement, v4 “because of the great love with which he loved us,…” This is how God in his very essence demonstrates his mercy and his love, his strong aﬀec[on for us. He loved us for our good and he con[nues to love us for his glory! a. We know it is for our good because Paul reminds his readers that this all happened, v5 “even when we were dead in our trespasses,...” b. I know the weight of this isn’t missing you because we had no intrinsic worth in our state of being dead. No rela[onal a_ributes, no helpful quali[es, nothing but deadness. “But God, being rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses…” ii. The working of God is done through the mystery of his Son and as believers we are formed into an inseparable union with Christ. First and foremost, he allows us to overcome death with Jesus – we par[cipate with him in resurrec[on power. 1. v5b “made us alive together with Christ…” Resurrec[on power of Jesus to conquer the consequence of sin by overcoming death and God makes our dead and previously separated from him bodies alive together with Christ. It is all together with Christ. For there is salvaAon in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must 4 be saved (Acts 4:12). Every part of who we are is to be characterized as being together with Christ the ﬁrstborn from the dead (Col 1:18). 2. v5b – “By grace you have been saved” – Your deadness merited no favor, your sins brought nothing of value, your alignment with God’s enemy in rebellion only took you further from God. By grace you have been saved. By God’s unmerited, freely given, working of salva[on through his perfect Son have you been saved. His mercy was granted because Jesus paid the price you and I were to have paid for our sins and trespasses. Jesus took those for us and took the penalty for them as well. In exchange for our unrighteousness his righteousness was granted to us. We are now and forever seen as treasures in Christ. b. Paul uses another phrase here to further elevate what has been done in this divine transac[on and we can see the dis[nc[on in English. Having just covered resurrec[on in v5 in v6 we see two addi[onal workings of Christ that we have been joined to. The ﬁrst is his ascension and the second is being added to his eternal and divine counsel. i. v6a “and raised us up with him…” The ascension of Christ as being dis[nct from the resurrec[on of Christ. Not only has death been conquered but the ability to enter into the presence or the realm of God has also been accomplished for us. This again is only together with Christ. With Him! We have been raised up. ii. v6b “…and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,…” This shows the in[macy with which our rela[onship with God entails. Seated with Christ! Do you see the with Christ phrase here again? We were made alive together with Christ. We were raised with Christ. We are also seated with Christ. Every part of who we are is to be characterized as being together with Christ. 1. As I was medita[ng upon this passage and this vital necessity of being together with Christ, I couldn’t help but consider my rela[onship with my son Jonathan. You see Jonathan is working really hard to learn how to communicate with his words. This is challenging for him. He can’t ar[culate well his desires or his hurts. The beneﬁt though is that to communicate eﬀec[vely with Jonathan I have to be with him. I have to really listen when he speaks. I have to engage my understanding and discernment. I have to be loving and tender with Jonathan. Of course, he has to work and be pa[ent as well. Some[mes in order to communicate Jonathan takes ahold of my ﬁnger because he wants me to walk over to what he is trying to describe so he can then point to it. All of my communica[on with Jonathan is improved by being right with him – by us being together. 2. Then I have to ask, is this form of togetherness something I crave in my rela[onship with Jesus? What about you? Do you devote [me to the study of his word, the Bible, so you can be_er understand him? Do you block out the distrac[ons that can build up to Tsunami propor[ons so you can interact with God in prayer? Do you submit yourself to the will of God, allowing him to lead you to places you may not want to go? Chris[an, do you see the beauty of a life lived this way together with Jesus? This is what God has done. vv4-6 “But God being rich in mercy because of the love with which he loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” 3. He did all of this for a purpose, for a good purpose, abundantly beneﬁcial to us as the recipients. v7 “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” a. How is more than being together with Christ even possible? I don’t really know. But I recognize that when I don’t keep my focus on where he has already eternally placed 5 me I am prone to wander. To grasp at things present in this world that will not last. If I stop and consider the lives of Chris[ans over the last two thousand years across the globe I am sobered. The result of being with Christ is the same for all believers but the lives lived here on earth have varied widely. Some Chris[ans have been imprisoned for a majority of their earthly lives only experiencing freedom upon their death. Others have had their lives cut short because they proclaimed the gospel and its oﬀensive message of forgiveness and love enraged the ruling authori[es who were following the prince of the air. b. I bring up these examples because they help us to see that the immeasurable riches being spoken of are not earthly possessions, immeasurable riches do not guarantee a comfortable life, the immeasurable riches are ours but will not be fully realized by us un[l the coming ages. I believe we may catch glimpses of the riches that are being spoken of and as we grow in faith we can experience their reali[es in powerful doses now. I’ll use Stephen as an example here. An early leader in the church, a man full of the Spirit, who powerfully tes[ﬁed to the truth of the gospel in direct opposi[on to the ruling Jewish religious authori[es was stoned to death. His death was brutally brought about but he clearly had the immeasurable riches of Jesus’ kindness shining upon him at his earthly end (Acts 7). Transi)on: It may seem like once we are saved by Jesus, we would be_er oﬀ to be beamed immediately into his presence. It would be glorious, but God saves us by the work of Christ so we can partner with him in furthering his kingdom through good works. 3. Created for Good Works (vv8-10) a. v8a “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” This is the parenthe[cal statement Paul made in v5 that just couldn’t be contained. This is truly good news and comes out here again. God has saved you by his goodwill, he has delivered you from sin and the consequences of judgment and we know this we place every ounce of our conﬁdence in the saving work of God – this is our faith. i. v8b “And this is not your doing” God saves us completely within the power of his own will and ability and in his [me. This is a blessing that we may not fully grasp at [mes. Remember as I was talking earlier about when a loved one dies and we plead with God over them? Don’t we ﬁnd ourselves similarly pouring our hearts out for the spiritually lost? If salva[on were dependent upon our doing, do you see what kind of burden that would be? Tremendous. It was such a momentous burden that God liSed it for us. Jesus, the perfect man, the Son of God liSed the burden required for salva[on. We therefore have no work in it, our faith in his completed work is what we are dependent upon. ii. To put this in perspec[ve, when my family went to the Ark Encounter this past summer, I couldn’t help but just stare at the door in the side of the ark. To consider what it meant that God shut in Noah and his family (Gen 7:16). God provided the seal of their salva[on. It was like a hundred years earlier that Noah was faithful to respond to God’s leading and to do the work laid out for him. That path most deﬁnitely took him to a place he had not intended to go. iii. v8b “it is the giE of God” This is how God works church. We are to ﬁnd great comfort in the way God works, great freedom, and great amounts of worship are to burst forth from us. iv. v9 “not a result of works” This allows us to remain grounded and humble. We have no room to boast except in the work of Christ. vv8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the giE of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” b. All credit is his. “In the beginning God…” is how Genesis starts – here in this passage in v4 we have “But God…” God is the very reason we exist. He is rightly called the creator. We get that imagery here in v10 “For 6 we are his workmanship,…” When a master is at work the telltale signs of the work are present. We are created in the image of God, that was the plan from the beginning. We have been created and we have been saved for a purpose that goes beyond what we can conceive on our own. We are part of a bigger cosmic plan for God’s ul[mate glory. i. v10b “created in Christ Jesus for good works,…” This idea comes up again in chapter 4:24 when we are told to “put on the new self, created aEer the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” In 2 Cor 5:17 we hear Paul say, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creaAon.” ii. Why would God bother to make someone who was dead alive? Why would he make a new crea[on? This passage is poin[ng empha[cally at God’s glory and that he wants us to join him in that ul[mate aim. Do you see it here at the end of v10? We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” 1. Now comes the tough ques[on – the one the message has been driving towards. Are you walking in the way of the Lord? Are you dependent upon him to guide you by his word and by his Spirt? This is to be characteris[c of our new life in Christ. Or do you ﬁnd it easier to walk in the works of the ﬂesh? Do you follow the world system that is contrary to God’s kingdom because it is easier to relate to, you can see it, you can understand it, it is more comfortable, and less costly? But of course, that is a lie. 2. None of us will be able to answer these ques[ons as well as we would like. When we boil down our response to the verses we have looked at today we have to ask what we are doing about being made alive, we were dead, and now as followers of Christ we are alive in him – with him – together. Are we walking as followers of Christ or are we walking as the rest of mankind? Conclusion: When Paul is wri[ng to the church in Colossae, right aSer he talks to them about having a new self in Col 3:10 he encourages them as God’s chosen ones, as Christ’s holy and beloved, as his workmanship for good works to put on the following: put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and pa[ence. These a_ributes help us as believers to bear with one another, to work through our complaints against each other with forgiveness because we have been forgiven. Most of all we are encouraged by the Scriptures to put on love. The challenge of living this way is only possible for those of us who have been made alive with Christ – if you are dead you probably cannot even comprehend how to begin on such a list. Of course, even as we are made alive in Christ the puqng on is not instantaneous, it sure hasn’t been for me, but as I place more faith in Christ’s work, and collec[vely the more we place our faith in Christ’s work the easier it becomes. It shows our togetherness with him. Because as believers our lives have become inseparable from Christ’s and we are to walk accordingly! We are to walk in fullness of life together with him now and forever.