Eph 2:1-10 (Part 1)
Man by nature has a big problem and it’s not with one another, you spouse or a friend or even an enemy domestic or foreign. Man’s biggest problem is sin, and in that sin, God see’s us as dead to Him. It’s one thing to say about someone you knew well and the relationship broke apart for whatever reason and your bitter and resentful and you end you saying “That person is dead to me” Though that’s not a nice thing to say but that’s nothing in comparison to how God looks at creation apart from Christ and His saving work. Man’s basic trouble is not being out of harmony with his heritage or his environment, but being out of harmony with his Creator. God sees creation; you and me before Christ came and took up residence in our lives….. As dead! I remember going with a friend from the Moosehorn Church who was a mortician/funeral director and I would go for the ride and help him load and take the body to Winnipeg to the Coroner’s Office and when you go to a place like that there is no escaping or doubting if these people are truly dead. The smell, the look and even the feel of a person as you put them in the zipper bag for shipping…. there is no doubt to the fact that they are dead. One of the first indications of physical death is the body inability to respond to stimulus. A dead person cannot react, they are no longer responding to light, sound, smell, taste, pain or anything else. He or she is totally insensitive to the reality that they are dead.
This is how God sees you or saw you, before the gospel penetrated your life.
Dead by definition is…. “no longer alive, passed on/away, expired, departed, gone, no more; emotionless, unemotional, unfeeling, impassive, unresponsive.”
The bible says those who are dead spiritually are….
A Being without a spirit “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:26
Incapable of motion “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last,” Rev 1:17
Ignorance of all human affairs and absent of human passions “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.” Ecc 9:5-6
And most of all…..
The inability to glorify God “The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence.” Psalm 115:17. That’s big problem and Ephesians chapter two clarifies that truth and reality. Before Christ saved us we were dead and God saw us as dead. Sadly though good intentional people fight the fact that God is the one who does the saving and they believe they played a part in their salvation. If that’s true then the Bible is lying that you were completely dead…..I guess you and I were only a little dead. The Bible declares the opposite! “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” 2 Cor 5:4. We face a sad predicament that we are not morally good and we are not neutral when it comes to our natural state. To quote Miracle Max in “The Princess Bride” “We were not mostly dead.” We were totally dead. And we need a miracle that only God could perform.” Paul is very clear about our inability and man’s true state as it lines up with God and His perfections. We are, and were once dead! In order to have eternal life we need resurrection from the dead!
Apart from Christ, we were spiritually dead (v1-v3)
The wages of the penalty of sin is death! Our biggest problem isn’t that we cannot make meaningful relationships with other people, but that he has no right relationship to God. “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” Eph 4:17-18
Paul begins with our pre-Christian past. The picture is not good “And you were” talking about the gentiles, but includes everyone in (v3) “all and then others”. This is the biblical diagnosis of our sinful nature. Paul describes who we were before Christ saved us from our sin with these three descriptions.
“We were dead” (v1)
This is referring to our previous state. Now we need to understand….. We were not dead because we had committed sin, but because we were in sin/sinners. “Trespasses and sins” do not refer simply to acts but first of all to the sphere of existence of the person apart from God.
“Trespasses” draws attention to acts of sin which means to slip, fall stumble or go the wrong way. In the spiritual realm is referring to “missing the mark”. As Paul wrote “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Rom 3:23. Naturally the world speaks opposite to this biblical truth. The world tells us that “We are basically good and if we just believe in ourselves, then we can do anything.” While a spiritual dead person may do some amazing things, they still are dead because they are not connected to the Vine. John MacArthur said this in his commentary on Ephesians “Throughout history people varied greatly in their levels of human goodness and wickedness. But in relation to achieving God’s holiness they are equal failures. This is why the good, helpful, kind, considerate, self-giving person needs salvation as much as the multiple murderer on death row. The person who is a good parent, loving spouse, honest worker, and civic humanitarian needs Jesus Christ to save him from the eternal condemnation of Hell as much as the skid row drunk or the heartless terrorist. They do not lead equally sinful lives, but they are equally in the estate of sin, equally separated from God and from spiritual life.” We are all guilty of trespasses and out natural state before the gospel is we are all dead.
We were disobedient (v2-v3a)
Paul expresses how we were just like our parents disobeying God and followed after the pleasures and schemes of this present evil world. Our utter deadness to spiritual things was evident in our behavior, because we walked according to the course (age/period) of this world.
“We followed the world” an unsaved person is controlled by the influences of this present world system.
The natural man values what this world values over what God values, and these are contrary to His Foundation standards and plans for His creation. The values of this age are affected and consumed by the attitudes, habits and lifestyles of this present culture. Paul warned Timothy and the church about this “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” 2 Tim 3:1-5. The Apostle John wrote this as a warning “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17. According to these verses we desperately need rescuing from this present evil world.
“We followed Satan”
In the gospels Satan is ruler of demons and the god of this age John 12:31. Apart from Christ, Satan has always been our master! Why? Look what Paul writes “Now at work in the sons of disobedience” referring to how Satan’s works on unbelievers. They are not completely possessed by Satan but they do live in a world of darkness in which Satan has a strong swaying influence in the life of the unbelief. This is why Paul mentions this again in chapter five “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Eph 5:4-6. The influence of Satan because we are spiritually dead apart from Christ and saving work.
“We followed after our sinful desires” Paul calls this fleshly desire and the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts. What are those strong fleshly desires and inclinations of the flesh? It’s anything that is contrary with God and His perfect will for our lives. It’s the complete opposite of finding God and His grace. Its passions like: Anger, sexual immorality, idolatry, sorcery, jealousy, strife, dissensions, and drunkenness as it written in Gal 5:16-21. In the letter to the Romans such things or lifestyle is contradictory to God and the gospel. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Rom 8:5-8. Living according to flesh is living on dangerous ground with a holy God, especially when He sees creation as spiritually and completely dead. Outside of Christ and in our dead state this is where we get the doctrine of “Total Depravity” This means all aspects of our being have been infected with the deadly disease of sin. Not only are we completely depraved we are also have “Total inability” this is, morally we are not capable of responding to God apart from grace. As David Platt said “The fact is we do not want to respond to God. But Oh, how we need God’s grace.” Why? This leads me to the third point Paul is trying to remind the church of which they were before Christ and the grace of God in the gospel.
Apart from Christ we were doomed (2:3)
“by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” We were born of sinful parents into a sin cured world. We were born possessed of a bent and inherently sinful nature, and exposed to God’s wrath. The disobedience of this world is destined to wrath and sadly many people then and today do not see the course they are on. Reason? Blinded by truth, lovers of self and the pleasures of this world and they hate God. And most of all they are incapable and completely dead to God and things of God. The spiritual state of fallen mankind is they are dead and unable to save themselves from this future wrath. See no one can make or manipulate God in the end to say “He will change His mind when he meets me.” Our spiritual state could not be more tragic and hopeless apart from Christ. The same state a person who is lifeless lying on a stainless cold table awaiting coroners examination. And as the Hebrews writer said “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Heb 10:31. We need to understand our spiritual state before Christ saved us. God is holy and He will not sweep sin under the rug. Many people think God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath and in the New Testament He is a God like Mr. Rogers who says “Won’t you be my neighbor”.
Know this! God will judge and destroy sin and sinners alike because He can only do what is perfect and just. The good news for us is that He takes dead people and brings them back to life. The good news is that God poured out His flaming wrath on His Son. Jesus drank the cup of my wrath so that God could raise me from the dead. You do not raise yourself, God is the one who breaths into these dead bones and makes us alive to be with Him for all eternity.
As R C Sproul said “God just doesn't throw a life preserver to a drowning person. He goes to the bottom of the sea, and pulls a corpse from the bottom of the sea, takes him up on the bank, breathes into him the breath of life and makes him alive. Apart from this grace a person may be present and walking amoung us, but they are dead until God gives them life. We saw this truth in the life of the prodigal son “And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:23-24
Jesus drank the cup and we drank grace. He took our helpless state and made us alive with Him through the gospel. And we will see that next week as Paul draws our attention to this depravity in order to magnify the mercy and grace of God in saving us from our helpless and dead state. And He does it with two sweetest words in the Bible “But God…”