He Made Us Alive – Ephesians 2:1-7

Prologue: This message was delivered to the people of Shepherd’s Fellowship Baptist Church this past Resurrection Sunday.

INTRODUCTION (Read Ephesians 2:1-22)

Upon reading Ephesians chapter 2, we have seen in verses 1-8 that the work of Christ is brilliantly displayed in calling us up from the dead and making us alive in Him by saving us through faith apart from works. We see in verses 8-10 that He saves us not because we’ve done good works but so that we will do good works; works of service for His kingdom, for the building up of the church, works that are pleasing and acceptable to Him (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 5:9; Eph. 5:7-10; 1 Tim. 2:1-3; Heb. 11:5; 13:21; 1 Peter 2:5; 1 John 3:22). We see in verses 11-19 that the Gentiles who were formerly strangers to the things of God have been united to Christ by faith because the barrier between the Jew and Gentile has been torn down by the sacrifice of Christ. And so, according to verses 19-22, the Christian Jew and Christian Gentile are no longer two separate and distinct groups of people, but are now one body called the church, the gathered bride that is built upon the foundation of the New Testament apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself being the very One that holds it all together (verses cf. Rev. 5:9).

And my friends, it is because of the resurrection of Jesus, that He, as the now ruling King of Kings and Lord of Lords has the power and authority to make all of these things happen. It is because He, when experiencing glory with the Father as part of the Triune Godhead in eternity past, before He became flesh as a baby in a womb in Bethlehem, He chose us to be in fellowship with Him (Mic. 5:2; John 17:5; Eph. 1:4-5). That is a hard concept for us to grasp because when a person chooses something it means that they make a decision in time. In other words, when a person makes a decision, there was once a time when they had not yet made that decision and a time that existed after they had made that decision and that entire process of decision making assumes the passage of time. But the Bible tells us that Christ’s sovereign election of believers was before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-5) and that it occurred in eternity, a place where timeless existence is the norm. To put it in a cliché: Has it ever occurred to you that you have always occurred in the mind of God? What an amazing thought! What’s more amazing is to take note of the fact that just as Jesus is referred to as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8 NKJ), so also His death and resurrection was eternally in the mind of God the Father (Isa. 46:9-10; Psalm 16:10). And my friends, it is Christ’s powerful resurrection from the dead that builds the entire foundation of Paul’s argument in Ephesians chapter two. With that in mind, let us consider the past, present, and future of the redeemed saint as it relates to the great and glorious work of Christ’s resurrection because it is His physical resurrection that provides the basis for our spiritual resurrection and eventually our physical resurrection. We will look at verses 1-7 under 3 points:

I. What We Were (vv. 1-3).

II. What We Have Become (vv. 4-6).

III. What We Will Be (v. 7).

TEACHING/APPLICATION

NAU Ephesians 2:1-7 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, 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 ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

And so, in verses 1-7, Paul gives us a panoramic view of the great work of our resurrected High Priest, Christ Jesus; wherein He gives life to formerly dead children of wrath (v. 2-3, 5) because of the great love that He had set on them from all eternity (v. 4-5 cf. 1:4-5). He brings them to faith in historical time through resurrection power provided by the means of the Holy Spirit (v. 5 cf. Rom. 8:11), and He does so for a glorious purpose (v. 6-7). With that in mind, let us consider point number one.

I. What We Were (vv. 1-3).

Notice the words used in the past tense in verses 1-3, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

1. A Shameful Depravity – The words and phrases “were dead”, “formerly walked”, “formerly lived”, and “were by nature children of wrath” points us to the great pit of spiritual death and despair that we were once in. My friends, this is the sad state that every fallen son of Adam is born into and what makes it so sad is that those who are still in bondage to their sins are those who cannot see it because they refuse to see it (Matt. 11:25-27; Lk. 8:10; John. 3:3). Contrary to what they may say and contrary to the popular opinion polls of many “whiskey-Calvinists” , those who are dead in their trespasses and sins are not seeking God but are actually running the opposite direction, being fueled by the fumes of inward hostility while having their spiritual guns aimed at destroying the church of God in the process (John 6:37-39, 44, 65; Rom. 3:10-11; 8:7-8). This explains why they cling to their sins, mock your gospel, and hate your Christ (John 3:19-21; Acts 17:32; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14). To make it pure and simple, they are spiritually dead to the things of God and His word. Such spiritual death serves as the basis for understanding the Reformed doctrine of Total Inability or what is also called Total Depravity. The doctrine of Total Inability/Depravity is defined by the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith as follows:

Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. [2]

Pagan philosophers have always wrestled with the question of whether man is basically good or evil. But the Scriptures give us the answer, namely that man is described as evil, bad, corrupt, wicked, guilty, and sinful. Man is worse than he can imagine and is worse than he cares to admit. Mankind rejects the doctrine of total depravity/inability because it exposes the ugliness of his own personal sin and the depths of depravity within his own heart. Forensic psychologists have tried to understand the depraved depths of the criminal mind, yet their secular outlook on life denies them the worldview needed to provide the philosophical cash value to understand the depraved depths of their own minds! Thankfully, only God is able to plumb the depths fallen man’s depraved heart (Jer. 17:9) and knows the necessary remedy. But my friends, when the unregenerate sinner denies his own sinful depravity and utter inability to do anything pleasing to God, he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness because his own conscience calls him a liar when he seeks to proclaim his own goodness and it condemns him for his own evil actions (Rom. 1:18; 2:14-15). The unregenerate man seeks to continually suppress the truth of Scripture by proclaiming his own goodness, his own natural abilities to appease the divine, and to exalt his own good works and character over and against the testimony of his own conscience. He does this because he knows deep down inside, that he is totally depraved and when confronted with the reality of Scriptural truth regarding the sorry state of his own soul, he gnashes his teeth and clinches his fist against the God of the Bible because the God of the Bible has him pegged! When the Scriptures honestly and clearly proclaim the state of spiritual death that the unregenerate sinner is willingly enslaved to, and then those same Scriptures go on to command self-examination and repentance of the depraved soul in light of God’s holiness, that makes people very uncomfortable and even angry. However, it is better to be uncomfortable and angry for only a short while rather than be cast into an eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41).

John MacArthur has said,

Man’s basic trouble is not being out of harmony with his heritage or his environment but being out of harmony with his Creator. His principal problem is not that he cannot make meaningful relationships with other humans beings but that he has no right relationship to God, from whom he is alienated by sin (Eph. 4:18). His condition has nothing to do with the way he lives; it has to do with the fact that he is dead even while he is alive. He is spiritually dead while being physically alive. Because he is dead to God, he is dead to spiritual life, truth, righteousness, inner peace and happiness, and ultimately to every other good thing. [3]

2. A Present and Ongoing, Demonically-Influenced Depravity – Some have wondered if the unsaved can be influenced or controlled by demons today. I think we have our answer in verse two where Paul says that the same wicked spirit that influenced Christians before their salvation is the same “spirit now working in the sons of disobedience.” This spirit, “the prince of the power of the air”, is Satan himself, and he and his evil host to one extent or another, controls, influences, and dominates every person who is unsaved. Satan himself is a good leader for those who are spiritually dead and love disobedience to God because he is the supreme example of what it means to be in rebellion against God since he is the personification of what it means to be disobedient to God. Since Satan is the “prince” or ruler of this world’s evil system, and he influences and controls the “minds” of unbelieving people who are part of that system and as such, they are captive to do his will, whether they know it or not (John 8:44; 2 Tim. 2:23-26). Thomas Boston rightly says of such people,

The devil has overcome him, so he is his by conquest, his lawful captive (Isa. 49:24). The natural man is condemned already (John 3:18), and therefore under the heavy hand of ‘him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil.’ He keeps his prisoners in the prison of a natural state, bound hand and foot (Isa 61:1), laden with divers lusts, and chains wherewith he holds them fast. You need not, as many do, call on the devil to take you; for he has a fast hold you already, as a child of wrath.[5]

3. We Were People of Wrath – Now, take note of the phrase in verse three “and were by nature children of wrath.” The “were” in that phrase makes all the difference in who you are now as opposed to who you were before Christ saved you. People of wrath never think they are people of wrath. Most of the world thinks they are God’s children, when in reality they are God-hating “children of wrath.” “Children of wrath” is a phrase used by Paul to indicate a people that are enslaved to the devil and devoted to God’s just condemnation. Boston again says,

Every natural man lies under the displeasure of God; and that is heavier than mountains of brass. Although he be pleased with himself, and others be pleased with him too, yet God looks down on him displeased. . . His person is under God’s displeasure; ‘Thou hatest all workers of iniquity (Psa 5.5). A godly man’s sin is displeasing to God, yet his person is still ‘accepted in the beloved’ (Eph 1.6). But ‘God is angry with the wicked every day’ (Psa 7.11). A fire of wrath burns continually against him in the heart of God. They are as dogs and swine, most abominable creatures in the sight of God. Though their natural state be gilded over with a shining profession, yet they are abhorred of God; and are to him as a smoke in his nose (Isa 65.5), and lukewarm water, to be spewed out of his mouth (Rev 3.16); whited sepulchres (Matt 23.27); a generation of vipers (Matt 12.34); and a people of his wrath (Isa 10.6). . . He hates their persons, and so has no pleasure in, but is displeased with their best works (Isa 66.3), . . . Their duty as done by them is ‘an abomination to the Lord’ (Prov 15.8). And as men turn their back on those with whom they are angry, so when the Lord refuses communion with the natural man in his duties, it is a plain indication of His wrath.

And so, the very hostility, malice, and hatred toward God that makes up the present spiritual condition of the unbeliever is also the former spiritual condition of the God-lover, and that is what Paul wants to emphasize in Ephesians two. God lovers only have to be encouraged and properly taught and they will continue to grow and bear good spiritual fruit that blesses the church and glorifies God. This brings us to point number two.

II. What We Have Become (vv. 4-6).

Beloved Christian, why I have I focused on the total inability of the unregenerate man to do anything that is pleasing to God? Because (1) the lost here need to be very afraid of God since their resurrection will not be unto eternal life, but to eternal damnation should they refuse to turn from their sins and put their faith in Christ, and (2) it makes two words that you are about to hear much sweeter to your regenerated soul, “But God . . .”. Ephesians 2:4-6 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, 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,

1. Two Words That Make All the Difference“But God . . .” These two words in our English Bibles mark a strong contrast between what was just said about who we were before salvation (namely, “sons of disobedience”, and “children of wrath”) as opposed to who were are now after our salvation (“alive . . with Christ”, “raised up . . with Him”, and “seated . . with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”). And what was the motivation for God’s merciful action in saving us?

2. God’s Rich Mercy is rooted in His Electing and Saving Love“ . . . being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions . . .” It is important to remember that the “us” mentioned in verse 4 is a reference to the church, those, whom God had chosen to set His saving love upon from eternity past, even before the world was created and even when they were still dead in their sins, just as Paul said in Ephesians 1:4-5, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,”. It is God’s nature to be kind, merciful, and loving. Were it not for such attributes we’d all be in hell right now! And it is His salvific love, rooted in His predestined plan to save a people for Himself, that He gives spiritual life to wicked sinners.

3. Christ Raises the Spiritually DeadBut God . . . made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) . . .”. Christ raises the spiritually dead because spiritually dead people have to be made alive so that they can be enabled to respond to the truth of the gospel. You want to know why spiritually dead people think the gospel is bunk? It’s because spiritually dead people don’t have the ability to receive things that are associated with true spiritual life (Rom. 8:7-8; 1 Cor. 2:14). Jesus has to give them the ability to respond by resurrecting them spiritually, and He does so when He makes them “alive together with [Him] (1 John 5:1; John 6:44, 65; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 2:25). Christ said the same thing in John 5:24-25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. 25 Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” John 5:24 says that those who have passed out of death into life are those who have heard and believed Jesus’s gospel and verse 25 says that the time exists right now when the “dead” (i.e., the spiritually dead) hear the voice of the Son of God and live! They live becauseHimself did the work of making them “alive”[8] together with Christ Jesus and that work of God is not dependent upon any action or work that the sinner has done or could have done. This is indicated by the parenthetical statement provided next by Paul, “(by grace you have been saved)” (cf. Rom. 11:6, where the apostle shows that the antithesis of grace is works – “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”). they have been granted life by God, as our text says in Ephesians 2:5. In other words, God

4. The “Now and Not Yet” Principle – Verse six tells us that we are now spiritually“raised . . . up with Him” and “seated . . . with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” through salvation. This is the “Now” aspect of the “Now and Not Yet” principle. The words “raised” and “seated” show us that what Christ did for us is so sure and certain that all the future promises of a physical resurrection from the dead, eternal bliss in heaven, and sweet communion with the saints in the eternal state is as good as done for those who are “made alive” by Christ Jesus. The apostle John shows us what the “Not Yet” is of the “Now and Not Yet” principle when he says regarding our physical resurrection being in the likeness of Christ’s physical resurrection, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 John 3:2) This brings us to point number three.

III. What We Will Be (v. 7).

Verse seven says, “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” In this verse, Paul not only tells us about the spiritual blessings that born-again believers will experience in heaven after death, but more importantly, he points to the blessings of salvation that will culminate in their physical resurrection on the last day; a time when the tombs will open up, and the saints will receive glorified bodies in which they will enjoy the eternal state with Christ forever (John 5:28; 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). This “showing” forth of God’s “grace” and “kindness” toward us is the final phase in the order of salvation called “glorification”, which includes the physical glorification of our bodies at the resurrection on the last day, bodies which will be patterned after Christ’s glorious, resurrected body (Romans 8:29-30; 6:5). This brings to mind a few observations from verse seven.

1. We Are Spiritually and Physically Resurrected For a Purpose – Verse seven tells us that God does this for the sheer purposes of (a) eternally blessing His chosen people and (b) displaying them as vessels of mercy, prepared for glory – “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (cf. Rom. 9:22).

2. Christ’s Physical Resurrection is the Guarantee of Our Physical Resurrection – It is only because Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth through His resurrection (Matt. 28:18), that He has the power to “show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us.” As we’ve already looked at in John 5:25, His resurrection power not only raises us from spiritual death to spiritual life, but one glorious day, He will exercise His power to bring about our physical resurrection too (Job 19:25-27; Dan. 12:2; 1 Cor. 15:51-55; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). He said in John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” As you ponder your own resurrection, consider what the church will experience as I read Revelation chapter five,

“I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. 4 Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; 5 and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” 6 And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. 7 And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. 8 When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” 13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Revelation 5:1-14)

CONCLUSION

For those of you who are still lost and enslaved to your sins, you must be raised to spiritual life by the resurrection power of Christ or else my efforts in talking to you are no better than talking to a brick wall. My friend, if you are convicted of your sins by what you’ve heard today, if you are weary from carrying your sins, if you are plagued by guilt because your own conscience continually condemns you of the ungodly things that you have done, then turn from your sins, and follow Christ (Matt. 16:24). I pray that God will enable you to do just that, because it is only after you’ve been given the ability by God to see your own sin-sickness that you run to the Great Physician, Christ Jesus for spiritual healing. Jesus said that He did not come to call the self-righteous, but sinners to repentance (Lk. 5:31). My friend, are you still displaying a bit of self-righteous by thinking that you are good enough to get into heaven by your own bootstraps? My friend, the very fact that you would still think there is something within your own depraved soul that merits the grace of God shows that you are still in the bonds of iniquity; that you are still stiff-necked and hard of heart as you clinch your fist and shake your pathetic self-righteousness in God’s face! I pray that you’ll repent and place your faith in Christ because your arrogance will cause you to store up more of God’s anger; an anger that will burn against you on the day of judgment with unhindered fury! (Psa. 7:11; Rom. 2:4-6; Rev. 20:15) As Luke the beloved physician said in Acts 13:48, only those who are appointed to eternal life will believe the gospel. My friend, will you be enabled by God to fall down, beg Him for mercy, and worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Christ Jesus, or will you get His justice?

O’ Christian, is it not a tremendous blessing to ponder the great love that God has blessed you with through the resurrected Christ? You know that you can’t earn heaven’s blessings and you’re grateful for God’s electing, sovereign, and saving grace applied to your soul through the power of the resurrected Christ. You are eternally grateful to God for calling you into the Kingdom by His Holy Spirit (John 6:44; Rom. 8:29-30). You realize there’s nothing you can ever do to repay God for His great love, and so you show your eternal gratitude by following His ways, by praising His name, and by using your spiritual gifts to build up His church, realizing that it is solely by His grace that you are a vessel of mercy, fashioned by His hands to be a trophy that displays His saving love. What a great and wonderful resurrected Christ we have! What great power is present in Christ’s resurrection power! It is no wonder that Isaiah calls him our “Mighty God” (Isa. 9:6).


[1] A “whiskey-Calvinist” is tongue-in-cheek term used by some Calvinist Baptist pastors in the Southeastern United States to describe Arminian Baptist pastors who hold to the first four heads of classic Arminian doctrine while claiming to hold to a “fifth” of the doctrines of grace. Thus, the “Whiskey-Calvinist” in rejecting the fifth head of Arminianism, holds to what is commonly known as “eternal security”, a doctrine that is held by those of the Zane Hodges/Bob Wilkin free grace antinomians.

Taken from section IX of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith found at http://www.vor.org/truth/1689/1689bc09.html

[3] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Ephesians, (Chicago, Ill: Moody Press, 1986), 52-53.

[4] The phrase “now working” translates nu/n evnergou/ntoj, a present active participle indicating continuous, ongoing, and active controlling influence of a demonic spirit working within the minds of the unregenerated “sons of disobedience.” The use of evn for “in” indicates an intimate, controlling, influence working in the “sons of disobedience.”

Thomas Boston, Human Nature In Its Fourfold State, (Carlisle, Penn: Banner of Truth, 2002), 157.

[6] Ibid., 154.

[7] The phrase “But God . . .” at Eph. 2:4a consists of three words in the underlying Greek text: o` de. qeo,j, lit. “But the God . . .”.

[8] “He made us alive together” in verse 5 translates the singular verb sunezwopoi,hsen, the aorist active third person singular of suzwopoie,w

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