September 17, 2017
We have been hearing a lot about people being rescued. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma brought great destruction and put people’s lives in jeopardy. Many were trapped in their homes hoping for someone to come and rescue them. “Salvation” is not a word commonly used, but salvation refers to being saved, being rescued. These people were saved from the flood.
Today in Eph.2 we are looking at a different kind of rescue. It is a rescue from the judgment of God. And amazingly enough it is God himself, who brings about this rescue. In Eph.2:1-10 we see that salvation is a gift of God’s grace.
I. WE WERE DEAD. Eph.2:1-3
Paul refers to an interesting kind of death. Obviously it’s not physical death because the people he was writing to were physically alive. This is a kind of living death. Talk about “night of the living dead!” That was all of us. We were spiritual zombies. Our deadness came from the fact that we were spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins. Since Paul is writing to believers, he puts this in the past tense. You were dead. But Paul takes the opportunity to expand on what he means by being dead in our trespasses and sins.
He tells us that trespasses and sins characterized our entire lives. Daily we walked in trespasses and sins. At the heart of this is an unwillingness to acknowledge God and his good commands for living. What is more Paul tells us that this sinful way of living was and still is promoted by the world we live in. Our world thrives on the quest to fulfill selfish desires and ambition, participate in antagonism and deceit, and selfishly pursue power, control, wealth, achievement, and recognition. Now of course there are many wonderful people in this world. These hurricanes have revealed selfless acts of compassion and goodness in people. It’s not that every one of us is the worst we could possibly be. Paul’s point is that at the core of our beings we are driven by self-centeredness, pride and the desire to secure our lives in this world apart from God.
Not only is this way of living promoted in the world, but it is promoted by “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” What is that all about? Well, most believe this is a reference to the devil. In 2Cor.4:4 Paul calls him the god of this world. In Eph.4:27 Paul tells us to not give the devil an opportunity. In Eph.6:11 Paul refers to the schemes of the devil.
On the one hand, believers need not fear the devil since he is defeated. But on the other hand we need to recognize that such a being exists and does great damage. We believe that before he was the devil, he was an angel created by God. He rebelled against God and many other angels rebelled with him. The devil and his demonic army are very active in the world. They dwell in the unseen heavenly places. The devil seeks to foment trespasses and sin. The devil is always seeking to steal, kill and destroy.
You notice in v.3 that Paul refers to this life of trespasses and sins as carrying out the desires of the body and the mind. That is how deeply entwined with our human nature sin is. When God created mankind he gave us bodies and minds and said that it was all good. But our bodies and minds have been corrupted through our rejection of God and his ways. When we reject God we use our bodies and minds in sinful ways that quickly become habitual ways of acting and thinking.
As a result of this, Paul tells us that we were by nature children of wrath. Whose wrath? Well, God’s wrath. Our sinful nature comes into direct conflict with God’s righteous and loving nature. Please do not get the picture of an angry God who is just waiting to catch someone stepping out of line. Don’t get the idea that God has a short fuse and, “look out!” if you cross him. The Bible tells us that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. The Bible tells us that God is love. So when we think about the wrath of God we recognize that it does not carry the selfish, sinister, vengeful feelings that we have when we become angry. The Bible never says that God is wrath.
In trying to understand the wrath of God I see that God’s wrath is an expression of his love and righteousness. Wrath is his righteous reaction to our sin and rejection of God and all that God is. Let me try to illustrate what I mean.
I think I have a general love for all people. When documentaries on slavery and the civil rights movement come on PBS, I feel deep grief and anger as I see white people brutalizing black people. In these moments, wrath is an expression of love. And while I feel anger, I also feel pity and sadness towards those white people because they are controlled by sinful pride and hate. Something must be done to right the wrongs committed. Wrath is an expression of love.
Sometimes out of love a parent will just embrace the screaming child to bring comfort. But the child does not feel it as comfort and love. They scream all the more. “It hurts!” To the child it’s an unwelcomed restriction. For the one who embraces Jesus Christ, God’s love is wonderful. For the one who rejects Jesus, God’s love seems like wrath.
To be dead in trespasses and sins, is to be dead to the love, goodness, and life of God. If God is the giver of life and you don’t want God, you don’t want life. I have no doubt that some here this morning are part of the walking dead. You do not know God. To not know God is to be dead.
II. WE HAVE BEEN SAVED. Eph.2:4-9
Verse 4 is one of the most dramatic verses in the Bible. We were dead in our trespasses and sins. But God made us alive together with Christ. We are about to hear the best news one could ever hear.
Angry people want to take revenge and inflict pain on the object of their anger. Sometimes they are so angry they will take out their anger on anyone and everyone. Obviously God is not angry in that way. Instead of pursuing his wrath against us, God responds in mercy and love. Instead of giving what we deserve, he shows mercy by giving what is undeserved. Instead of giving us death, he goes to great lengths to give us life. How did he do this?
Well first he did this while we were still sinners. In other words, God does not demand that we first clean up our act. God doesn’t demand that we stop being sinners before he shows his mercy and love to us. He shows his mercy and love while we are sinners. The truth is no one can stop being a sinner by his or her own effort. Sin is endemic to our nature.
How did God do this? Well, he did this through his son, Jesus Christ. Paul writes that God made us alive together with Christ. The implication is that Christ died. Look at 1:19-20. There Paul prays that we might know, “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.” Christ died and was raised from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God. In his death on the cross, Jesus entered into the death and deadness of our sin, bearing our sin upon himself so that we might receive the forgiveness of our sins and life in Christ.
Because of our sin we were objects of God’s wrath. But God, in Christ, bore his own wrath towards us on the cross. In Christ, God interposed himself and bore his own wrath so that we could have the opportunity to receive his forgiveness and life. Who does that? God does.
In Eph.1 Paul says that Christ died and was raised from the dead. In Eph.2, Paul continues by saying, “And you were dead…” But in v.5 he says, but God, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive with Christ and not only made us alive, but actually seated us with Christ in the heavenly places. Our life is with and in Christ. In all of this God is showing his mercy and grace. In v.8 we see that our salvation is the work of God and is completely undeserved. Paul goes on to say that we are saved through faith. In other words, seeing that Jesus Christ has provided the only way of escape from certain death, we embrace Jesus, trusting him for the forgiveness of our sins and eternal living in him. Faith involves a humble recognition that we deserve death because of our trespasses and sins. Faith involves a humble recognition that we can do nothing to save ourselves. Our faith is placed in Jesus Christ. We begin to depend upon him for life. We transfer our allegiance to Jesus. He becomes our Savior, Lord and King. Faith is an ongoing trust in and reliance upon Jesus.
When a person’s kidneys are no long able to function they need to go on dialysis. Usually a person must have dialysis 3 or 4 times per week. The average life expectancy with dialysis is 5 to 10 years. But some have lived as much as 20 or 30 years. A person on dialysis puts their confidence for living in that procedure. But clearly it is not a one-time event. Neither is faith in Christ a one-time event. Faith in Christ is part of our daily living. So have you been saved from your trespasses and sins? Have you received the life of Jesus? Are you daily trusting him to save you?
III. WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP. Eph.2:10
This morning we had the joy of dedicating Judah and Aleah Kott to the Lord. Judah and Aleah did not enter into life on their own effort. They did not create themselves. They are a gift from God through the love of Steve and Danielle.
Those who embrace Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and King are created in Christ Jesus. In other words believers are new creations in Christ. Believers receive the resurrection life of Christ. It is a new kind of life living in them. We don’t create ourselves in Christ. We don’t become new creations through our own efforts. It is all the gift of God, through his mercy, grace, and love.
But Paul also calls believers God’s workmanship. We are God’s masterpiece. The Greek word is “ποιήμα.” We get our word “poem” from this word. God is crafting our lives. He is transforming our lives to be like that of Jesus. After all, we are living out Jesus’ life in us. What this specifically means is that we begin doing good works. Good works do not bring us salvation. Salvation comes by faith in Christ. But good works are an essential fruit of our salvation. When Paul refers to good works he’s not just talking about doing nice things for people. He’s talking about doing the works of Jesus in this world. The good works we do are those consistent with the life of Jesus. The good works we do express the righteousness, joy and peace of God found in Christ Jesus. They are works of mercy and grace. They are works consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
At one time we were walking in trespasses and sins. But when we embrace Jesus by faith we begin walking the pathway of good works. Why is this so important? I believe it is important because our good works reveal the reality of Christ in us. When we live lives that are characterized by righteousness, joy, and peace, that is an encouragement to us that we are in Christ. But there’s more.
In v.7 we learn that God made us alive with Christ so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.” God is revealing his grace and mercy through what he is doing in our lives. I want to suggest that the Christ-like lives we live reveal God’s grace in this world. The church must seek to be known for its good works motivated by the saving grace of God in our lives. We want others to see the difference knowing Christ makes in our lives. Why? Because we are the light of the world. In the words of Sean Palmer, lead pastor at the Vine Church in Texas, the church is the steward of the “radical message that everyone matters and everyone is loved by God, and so anyone can belong.”
Do you live with the awareness that in Christ you are God’s workmanship, God’s handiwork? Does your life reflect this reality? Are you known for your Christ-like goodness? Is that what you strive for, Christ-like goodness?
While on my prayer walk this past Tuesday, the question came into my mind. I wonder how many people in our community have any awareness of their need for Christ. That question only encouraged me to pray all the more that Jesus Christ would be made known through his church. But it is very possible that someone sitting here today may think their being in church makes them a Christian. What makes a person a Christian? It is repenting of one’s sin and embracing Jesus Christ by faith. It is taking Jesus Christ as one’s Savior, Lord and King. This is a lifelong decision to follow Christ. Have you entered into that kind of decision in regard to Jesus Christ?
And then if you have embraced Christ in this way, have you entered into the life of good works? Are you walking in the way of Jesus? Is that what you desire? God has graciously provided salvation for all who call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. Do you know Jesus Christ? Amen.