Matt Blackwell speaks on Ephesians 2:1-7
Series: The Book of Ephesians
You and I were dead in our sins, but God has made us alive in Christ.
This is a simple, but absolutely foundational truth. If we miss it we miss the essence of the gospel.
In our passage today, we’re going to get some really bad news. It’s dark, but purposeful. If we don’t recognize the darkness of the bad news, we’ll never fully embrace the brightness of the good news that follows. If we don’t see how bad things were for us, we’ll never fully understand and grasp the good news of what God has done for us.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)
I’ve read this verse a lot. In the past, I would read it and not understand so I’d just skip on to the good stuff. What did it mean for me to be dead? Was the Bible being hyperbolic? The Bible must have just been using this word to make a point. It can’t possible mean actually being dead, because here I am, breathing, talking, walking around and living life. Or is there something to this reality? I started a journey to figure all this out. In my study I was taken all the way back to Genesis 2, where the Bible talks about death for the first time.
In Genesis 2, God had created the garden and all created things, including Adam. God put him in the garden, told him he could eat from anything except one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If he did, he would surely die. Here, in Genesis 2:17, we see the word die for the first time. Adam probably had no concept of death. He’d never seen or heard of anything like it before. He didn’t know what it was.
God then created Eve. Her and Adam got to experience life together. “They were naked and there was no shame,” (Genesis 2:25, ESV). It’s almost so far from our ability to comprehend what this kind of complete vulnerability and acceptance would be like.
Imagine the beauty of that relationship. There was no anger, brokenness or body image issues between them. There was no lust for another person. They were fully satisfied in the one God created for them. There was no shame. They were enjoying all God had for them, the richness of life. But it didn’t last very long.
In the very beginning of Genesis 3 death entered the scene. The serpent was crafty and whispered to Eve, placing doubt in her mind, telling her God was holding out on her. He said the exact opposite from what God had said, telling her if she ate from the tree she would surely not die. So she ate the fruit, gave some to Adam and death came. This is the first time we hear of death, but it’s not the last.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:15 (ESV)
For the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23a (ESV)
With sin comes death. There are three things death begins to takes hold of. Death begins to reign in humanity relationally, spiritually and physically.
Death separated Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2:25, they were naked without shame. Then after they ate of the fruit, the first thing they do is separate from one another and try to cover themselves with fig leaves.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:7 (ESV)
Shame entered the scene and they broke from one another. Death broke apart their relationship. We need to feel the weight and sting of this. On a global level, we feel the sting of relationships breaking apart through wars and international discord. But we also need to see it on a personal level. Death is at work in your heart. We ought to feel this weight and sting when selfishness rises to the surface, when most of our energy is be spent on self-protection or self-promotion rather than giving life to other people, when we want other people to serve, accept or praise us, whether at work, or at home, or in our marriages.
Death separated Adam and Eve from God. The first thing they did was hide from one another. But the second thing they did was run and hide from God.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 (ESV)
God knew their sin had happened and the ramifications that came with death entering the scene. He knew Jesus was going to have to die on the cross. Yet He didn’t rage into the garden with lightning bolts in his hand ready to strike Adam and Eve. He walked in the garden in the cool of the day. He began to talk with them, asking them questions. Yet, they hid themselves from His presence, showing the first spiritual break between man and God.
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 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. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:6-8 (ESV)
This is where we find ourselves because of spiritual brokenness. The mind of sinful man is death; there is brokenness between humanity and God. Because of this brokenness we are hostile toward God, nor wanting to submit to His law. We cannot please Him.
I’ve felt this, the distance between me and God. We try to get back to Him by praying, being faithful or being a nicer person. All those things are great, but you still feel a distance. When you pray your prayers hit the ceiling and you wonder if anyone is even listening. There’s a chasm, a gap, and there’s nothing you can do to find your way back to God.
There’s another group of people that just want nothing to do with God. We don’t want God’s affection. We want to avoid His attention and run fast and hard away from Him and His law, refusing to submit to Him and claiming to be our own god.
Whether we’re trying to gain God’s affections or flee from it, we’re broken people. When we’re cut off from the giver of life, the only reality for us then is spiritual death.
To be dead in our transgressions and sins also means that physically death will be our reality. There will be a point when our bodies will no longer sustain life and we will die.
God said if we eat of that tree, you will surely die.
God didn’t just say they’d get in trouble. When they did what they shouldn’t have done, he followed through and was faithful of His word. They ate of the tree and so their reality became death.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Genesis 3:19 (ESV)
Our physical bodies are limited.
Last Saturday I did my grandfather’s funeral. He was 90 years old. We called him Grandpa Tex. He was the life of the party. A few days before he passed, I sat with him in the hospital. We sang some of his favorite old hymns. We prayed together. I said, “Grandpa, I love you. Will you do something for me? Tell Jesus I said hi.” He smiled. It was so sweet, but there’s nothing more sobering than holding the hand of a dying man. It brings to light all of life’s little vanities. All of sudden the things that seemed really important had no value. It brings such clarity. He died because sin entered the scene and with sin came death.
The dark reality that many of us want to sweep away is that that day is coming for us too. There will be a day when you die, because death is our reality.
The good news is that it’s not our end.
Right before Adam and Eve left the garden, leaving God’s presence…
And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Genesis 3:21 (ESV)
Adam, Eve and God were at the gate to Eden and they’re about to be ushered out. God kills a sheep, takes its coat and covers the nakedness and shame of Adam and Eve. This shows us the death of an innocent one being the covering of humanity. God sent them out and told them there would be a more sufficient and permanent covering, a sacrificial lamb that would die the death they deserved so that they would have life eternal. The seeds of the gospel are even here in Genesis 3.
John Piper said:
“The reason we need a savior isn’t because we’re in the dog house with God. But it’s because we’re in the morgue.”
I told you the bad news was going to be bad. It’s dark and grim. If we don’t recognize the darkness of the bad, we won’t recognize the brightness of the good. If we don’t know that we’re dead, we’ll never praise God for making us alive.
If we think we’re pretty good and God just needs to give us a little nudge to get into heaven, we’ll never fully grasp all that was done on the cross. We’ll never be fully thankful for all that He has given us.
When I was about six I was shopping with my mom and brothers at Target. My mom was on a mission just trying to get out of there when we passed the toy aisle. I had a passion for G.I. Joes. I remember moving down the aisle and seeing the new G.I. Joe with the Kung Fu Grip. Next to that was the new tank that Cobra had and next to that was the battle station. I veered off and began to dream big about what it would be like. I took the toys off the shelf and was looking at them. It was great until I realize that I was alone. My mom and brothers had moved on. I looked around passed the aisle and couldn’t see them. Two thoughts came to my mind. First, this is now my new home, I will live here forever. But this thought was immediately replaced by one of fear and trembling. I was six years old; I didn’t know any phone numbers or addresses. I didn’t even know how I got there. I just sat down, hopeless, helpless and crying.
I remember sitting there with all the boxes I had just taken down surrounding me. Just a few moments earlier they had captured my attention and were going to be my greatest joy. But when I realized I was lost and hopeless, the toys were no longer interesting. They were just trinkets with no weight or glory. All I desired was to be brought home and to see the face of my mom.
We spend so much of our lives goofing around with trinkets and toys, not realizing that we’re lost and in desperate need of being found. Not realizing that we are dead and that God has come to bring us back to life.
I hope we’d recognize this and feel the weight of all of it so the good news will actually become good news.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, 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 coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV)
Paul is giving us a contrast between the darkness of our depravity and the actions of God and what He’s accomplished for us.
We need to recognize that when the Scriptures say we were dead, there was nothing we could do to earn God’s affection. But God reached in and resuscitated you and brought you back to life. Your greatest need was to be saved. If you think you need an encourager, you’re looking for a friend. If you need somebody to motivate you, you need a coach. Maybe it’s just a vacation you think you need. These are all fine, but they’re not your greatest need. If you are dead, you need life. You need a savior to come and rescue you from death. That’s what Jesus came to do.
We are not here because we are playing church games. This is not a hobby. I hope the Spirit of God would drive these things into your heart, that you were guilty, dead, under wrath…
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, 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 coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV, emphasis added)
If you are coming in here and you feel the weight and sting of death and recognize the brokenness in your life whether relationally, spiritually or physically, hear these words…
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. John 5:24-25 (ESV)
Death may be your reality, but it doesn’t have to be your destiny.
If you receive the grace and kindness of God, if you believe in the One who sent Jesus, you will have eternal life.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 (ESV)
For the rest of us who have already received life, but still want to respond to the fact we have received life, remember that it is by grace you have been saved through faith.
If you are feeling the effects of death I urge you to trust Christ. Trust him with your sin, your relationships, your money, and your future. He is a great God who turns the dead to life.
If God has made you alive in Christ then let this cause tremendous joy and thanks to rise to your lips. Sing loud songs that say thank you to Jesus for giving you life when you were dead. Praise God for being rich in mercy, great in love, immeasurably kind toward us in Christ Jesus. We want to sing and worship with such loud, thankful songs because of what God has done to save us from death.