Eph 2:8-10 Dead or Alive 9/8/2002

 

 

 

#1. But God, Who Is Rich in Mercy (Eph 2:4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2. Grace (Eph 2:8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3. No More Strangers (Eph 2:19,12)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Epistle to the Romans, chapter 3 (2X). The Title of our sermon today is: "Dead or Alive?". Are you spiritually dead or are you spiritually alive? What does it mean to be physically alive, but spiritually dead? Physically your body is jumping around like a happy dog, but your soul is dead to God. Your soul is alive to Satan, but dead to God. What does God mean by that?

In Romans, chapter 3 God has painted a perfect picture of someone who is spiritually dead: V.10,

Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Romans 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Romans 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Romans 3:13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

Romans 3:14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

Romans 3:15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

Romans 3:16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

Romans 3:17 And the way of peace have they not known:

Romans 3:18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

This is a ^ picture of someone who is physically alive, but spiritually dead. This person cannot do anything that pleases God. This person does not seek after God, and this person does not fear God. This is how every one of us comes into the world, because in Rom 3:10 God says: "There is NONE righteous, NO NOT ONE". This is the initial condition of the entire human race. We all are under the condition of God's wrath at the moment we are conceived in our mother's womb. If we would not be under God's wrath before we were born, then it would mean that we were righteous before we were born; but that is impossible because God says: "There is NONE righteous, NO NOT ONE".

Please turn to the Epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 2 (2X). God wrote this letter to the saints at Ephesus by the hand of the Apostle Paul. These were people whom God loved, and yet God says to them that they came into the world as sinners, rebelling against God, because initially they were:

God says the same to us. Do not think very highly of yourself. Before we were saved God says:

Ephesians 2:1 And you (hath he quickened), who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Eph 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Before we were saved we were dead in trespasses and sins, and we were by nature children of the wrath of God, even as others who never become saved. What does dead mean? Dead means there is no life at all. If we all were spiritually dead, it means that none of us were able to do anything pleasing to God, such as seeking for God, or making a decision for Jesus, or any such thing. When we were born from our mother's womb, we were born in the flesh, and we were born as sinners. God says: "They that are in the flesh cannot please God". Even the Elect of God, when they are still in the flesh, cannot please God. It takes a second birth, by the Holy Spirit, to be Born Again as saints.

That is exactly what God is referring to when God says in Eph 2:4,

#1. But God, Who Is Rich in Mercy (Eph 2:4)

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

God had mercy on us, because He loved us from before the foundation of the world. But Pastor, are you not confusing us? First you say that we were under the wrath of God, and now you are saying that God loved us from before the foundation of the world. Is that not confusing? A: Those are not my words, but that is what God says here in Eph 2:3 and 4. Why were we under the wrath of God? It is because God's righteousness demanded His wrath upon us. God is a righteous Judge, which means He is a just Judge. It means He must punish every sin, and He must give the same penalty for a sin that has been committed by someone He loves and someone He hates. "God is not a respecter of persons", and "God will by no means clear the guilty". The penalty has to be paid. That is why God's righteousness demands that we are under the wrath of God as long as our sins have not been dealt with completely. But God can love us at the same time that He must be angry with us. God can do that in a perfect way. We fathers can sometimes be very angry with our children, even though we love them. We do that in an imperfect way, that is tainted with sin, like the sin of anger without self-control, or we become angry and lose some of the love we have for our child. But God can have wrath and keep His love for His children perfectly, because He is God. His righteousness demands His wrath. He also loved us from before the foundation of the world, as it is written in Eph 1:4.

God knew that we were born as sinners, in the dominion of Satan, and in rebellion against God. "But God, who is rich in mercy" toward those whom He loves, did something to remove that wrath from those whom He calls His children. God gave us a new heart, or a new soul, which means that God the Holy Spirit made us "Born Again". In our soul existence we became "born from above". By the grace of God we were transformed into saints in the Kingdom of Christ. Before this transformation we were sinners. After this transformation we became saints. We cannot say that we are "sinners saved by grace". That is an oxymoron. You may have heard this expression many times: "I am only a sinner, saved by grace". But that is a false expression of humility. You are either a sinner, or you are saved by grace, but you cannot be both at the same time.

How did it come about that we inherited this grace of God? Why is it that God bestowed His mercy upon us? God did not bestow His grace upon everyone in the world. Why me? Let's read on in Eph 2:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

Ephesians 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us (has made us alive) together with Christ; by grace ye are saved; (In the Greek text there are no parentheses there.)

Eph 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

We read here that we were dead in sins. We were not making a decision for Jesus, and we did not turn in faith to Jesus. We were dead. There was no spiritual life in us. We did not turn in faith to Jesus, because we were in the kingdom of Satan, spiritually casting stones at Jesus. But even when we were dead in sins, "God, who is rich in mercy", "has made us alive together with Christ". When did that happen, and why did God do that? We find the answer in Eph 1:3-7 (2X), where God says to us:

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

Ephesians 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

Eph 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

No one could say it as perfectly as God did here in Eph 1. Let me paraphrase it to say in my own words the way I have understood the Bible. Before the foundation of the world God decreed to have a Bride for His Son. This Bride initially consists of unworthy sinners who deserve to go to Hell. But God, who is rich in mercy, will transform these sinners into sons of God, and God wrote their names in a Book. They will be transformed from the deepest depths of depravity to the incomprehensible heights of being almost next to God, far above where the level of the angels is. God will show these sinners:

Ephesians 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

So, God decided to have a Bride for His Son. Let me just dream about how God worked out His plan. Now, to work out this plan, God created this world, and this solar system, and this universe, and the angels in heaven, and then He created Adam and He created all mankind in the loins of Adam. What could be more humbling for the angels than to have to serve these naked creatures that were crawling on this earth? My, they could not even fly! Therefore an unknown number of the angels rebelled against this task that God gave them, and they plotted the perfect crime: They tempted Adam and Eve into sin against God, so that Adam and Eve, and the whole human race would fall in disfavor with God. What a dumb idea. Those angels were creatures who rebelled against their creator. Their sin and the sin of Adam and Eve totally fit within the plan of God. Those whom God elected to become the Bride of Christ, as well as the rest of the human race turned out to be unworthy sinners, who deserve to go to Hell. Then God caused people to invent the art of writing, and God guided the hands of people whom He called prophets to write the Bible, which is the Word of God since God has dictated these words to His servants the prophets. Then God began to test people on their faithfulness to the Word of God, to show all mankind that they are sinners, rebelling against God.

To redeem His elect, God sent His Son, the second Person of the Triune Godhead, to this earth to take on a human nature. He did not just appear as a human being, but he was made in the likeness of men, except for sin. He carried the guilt of our sins, but those were not His sins. He never had any sinful flesh like we do. God called Him the second Adam. The first Adam gave all of those who were in the loins of Adam a sinful soul that was like that of the first Adam. Therefore the entire human race was born sinful. Just like the first Adam was our representative in the flesh, so the second Adam, Christ, was our representative in the Spirit. God gave all the elect to Christ before the foundation of the world, and God put all those in Christ. Just like the whole human race was in Adam when Adam sinned, and therefore all men sinned, so all the Elect were in Christ when Christ atoned for their sins. We were in Christ and with Christ when He was crucified, we died with Christ, we were buried with Christ, we were raised with Christ, we ascended with Christ into heaven and we are presently seated with Christ in the heavenlies, because we were in Christ and we still are in Christ. Whoever is not seated with Christ in the heavenlies, has not been raised with Christ, and therefore was not present as a nucleus in Christ when He began His work. This is how God redeemed His elect. This is how Christ knows His elect intimately. This is why Jesus can say to those going to Hell: "I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity". This is how God "shows the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus". What is grace?

#2. Grace (Eph 2:8)

Let us read about God's wonderful grace in the next verse, in Eph 2:8,

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

What is grace? Grace is unmerited favor. Grace is the unmerited kindness of God toward salvation. The meaning of this verse is this: "For by unmerited favor are ye saved through faith". Can you merit unmerited favor? Absolutely not! Therefore, who favors us in an unmerited way? God does! God gives us divine assistance toward regeneration entirely "according to the good pleasure of His will". It is not based on anything we did or anything we are going to do, otherwise grace is no longer grace. God decides to whom He will give grace unto salvation, and God decided that already before the foundation of the world. In fact, God created this world for the purpose of saving His people. God knew before He created anything that sin would enter the world, and that Christ would have to come and go to the cruel cross of Golgotha to purge the sins of His elect people.

God knew that most people in this 21st century would no longer read the Bible, but they would believe what their teachers and their pastors tell them about grace and salvation. That is why most people believe that Christ died for everyone in the whole world, so that everyone in the whole world will have an equal chance to accept or reject this salvation. This is what their teachers tell them, so they swallow it hook, line and sinker. This is human philosophy, but it is not what the Bible says.

Have they forgotten that grace has two operations? Yes, you heard me right: grace has two operations. There is not only the grace, the unmerited favor of God, which has been completed and finished for more than nineteen centuries. That was the grace of God completed and finished on the cross in AD 33. But also the work of grace, the unmerited favor of God, is being performed and accomplished daily in the souls of the elect. God is still in the business of saving people by giving them new souls. These two points in time are connected. If someone is being regenerated today, it must mean that the Lord Jesus Christ has suffered and died for that person on the cross. How many ways are there to forgive sins? Only One! Christ must have suffered and died for those sins in AD 33, or else those sins must still be paid for. Some people argue that Christ did not die for any specific sins but that He died for sins in general, and in this amorphous way He died for everyone in the whole world, so that everyone will get an equal chance. But who are those whom they label as everyone in the world? Do they refer to the 2 billion people who have been baptized and have come under the hearing of the Gospel? Or do they refer to the 6 billion people now living on the earth? Definitely the doctrine of "general grace for all" refers to the 6 billion people. But two thirds of those 6 billion people live and die without ever having heard the Gospel, so how can they receive an equal chance? There is no equal chance for everyone in the world.

You see, what people tend to forget is that on the cross Jesus said clearly, for everyone to hear: "IT IS FINISHED". What was finished? The ransom has been paid. Should we now claim that whenever a person turns to Jesus, that at that time Jesus fulfils and satisfies the ransom for this person's salvation? This would mean that what was affirmed and promised at Golgotha really remained unfinished. And so you see that "general grace for all" is really no grace at all.

Let us continue with Eph 2:8. The next word in question is the word:

Can we conjure up a faith that brings about our salvation? Can we produce a saving faith, or can we have a faith that saves us? Can we by our faith merit salvation? Let us look again at Eph 2:8,

Ephesians 2:8 For by unmerited favor are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Can we be saved by our faith? NO! We are saved by grace. Both in verse 5 and in verse 8 God says: "By grace are ye saved". Why then are there people who claim to be saved by their faith? Why do preachers everywhere speak about "saving faith"? There is no "saving faith" in the Bible. We are saved by grace through faith. What does that mean? It means that by grace God has chosen us eons ago to come to live with Him forever; by grace the Lord Jesus Christ carried the guilt of our sins to the cross and endured for us and in our place the equivalent of an eternity in Hell; by grace God created the circumstances so that we came to hear the Gospel; by grace our dead souls have been brought to life; and shall we now say that by our faith we have become saved? NO! This faith also was a gift by the grace of God. That is why we read in Eph 2:8, "and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God". Our faith is given us as an evidence of salvation, not as the cause of salvation.

Please turn 3 or 4 pages to your left, to the Epistle to the Galatians, Gal 2:16 (2X). This verse also speaks of faith, and here both the "faith in Christ" and the "faith of Christ" are mentioned.

Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but through the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

What is this faith of Christ mentioned twice in this verse? The Lord Jesus Christ carried the guilt of our sins, and while He was physically hanging on the cross, in His Soul or in His Spirit essence He had to endure the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. He was accursed for us and suffered the full penalty in our place in a condition called Hell. The Lord Jesus trusted His heavenly Father when He says in Acts 2:27, "Thou wilt not leave My soul in Hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption". This was the faith of Christ. He trusted that His sufferings would be finite. Since Christ faithfully endured the torments of Hell until the last of our sins were paid, that is why we were justified by the faith of Christ. But what is the faith that we receive as evidence of our salvation? Is it the faith of Christ? No! We receive the faith that is like the faith of Abraham, as we read in Romans 4.

Please turn again to Ephesians, chapter 2. We have looked at Grace, and Faith, and now:

Ephesians 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

We are saved by grace through faith, but not of works. Absolutely not of works, "for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified". Before the moment of becoming "Born Again" all our works were sin, and "we were by nature children of wrath, even as others". We had nothing to offer. People, who believe in salvation by works, are offering to God what is abomination in the sight of God.

Works cannot save us, but the work we do after our salvation is a whole different matter. God commands us to do good works after we have become saved, as the evidence of our salvation.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

We are His workmanship, indicating again that our salvation does not start with us, but it starts with God's grace. And our faith does not start with us, but Christ is the Author and Finisher of our faith. We have been created in Christ Jesus from before the foundation of the world. God's decree for us is that we shall do good works, because in God's decree those good works have been "ordained before the foundation of the world that we should walk in them". However, God is not talking to robots. We do not just sit back and wait. Our relationship with Christ is a dynamic relationship.

Remember the title of our sermon today is: "Dead or Alive?" Are you still dead, or have you been made alive? We read in James, chapter 2 that "faith without works is dead". If we say that we are saved, if we say that we have faith, but we do not have good works, which are the evidence of our salvation, then our claims are hollow, and most likely we have never been saved. Paraphrased God says to us: Now that you are saints, are you living like saints? Are WE living like saints?

For example, does our life show that we love our heavenly Father? How does our life show that? Well, I don't murder, I don't commit adultery, I don't steal, I don't lie. Most dogs that people have don't do those things either, but this does not prove that they are on the way to heaven. We say that we love our wives, and the wives say that they love their husbands. That is good, and that is required of you. "For he or she that loveth not their spouse, whom they have seen, how can they say that they love God, whom they have not seen"? We find those character traits also in people who do not believe in God at all. What then really distinguishes a saint from someone outside the faith? Here it is: We say that we are the Bride of Christ, but do we really love to hear the voice of the Bridegroom? Do we love to read and study the Word of God? Really? How much is that worth to us? Do we give God our leftover time? Should God be happy that we spend an hour in the week on Bible study, but spend 5 hours a week or more watching TV? Let us face the problem honestly. How much is it worth to us to hear the voice of our Bridegroom? Are we willing to sacrifice time that is presently dedicated to other things? And if you are willing to do that, do not take credit for dedicating such a portion of your time to study the Word of God. It was your Bridegroom who prompted your mind to take such action.

To all those who are secure in the sovereign grace of God, God says in Eph 2:19, You are:

#3. No More Strangers and Foreigners (Eph 2:19,12)

Ephesians 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

Who are strangers and foreigners? For example, when we walk into another church not familiar to us, we are in that congregation as strangers and foreigners. They do not know us, and we do not know them. It takes some time for them to know us, and for us to know them. We tell our children in this day and age, "Do not trust strangers and foreigners. We first have to get to know them".

Can you now see the privilege and the honor that God bestows on us when we have come to believe the Word of God as it stands, and we have come to trust Christ. We have come to trust that Christ on the cross really paid for all our sins, every single one of them. Paraphrased, God now says to us, "You are no longer strangers and foreigners, you are no longer visitors from the kingdom of Satan, but you have become One with the citizens of the Kingdom of God, that glorious everlasting Kingdom, and you have become One with the household of God". Do we realize what that means?

What were we before? Look at verse 12 (2X) where God says what we were before:

Eph 2:12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

This is where we came from: Having no hope. "But God, who is rich in mercy", has raised us up out of the dust where the Serpent crawls, and lifted us up from the dunghill of the filthiness of this world, and has set us among the princes around His throne. God has elevated us to the status of sons of God, and made us inherit the glory that we shall receive on the Last Day. And then we will know the wisdom of God that created the world and all that is in it, for the purpose of saving a people for Himself, whom He calls the Bride of Christ. Can we appreciate what God has done for us, and what He will still do for us? How much do we really appreciate it?

Sometimes I wonder about the casualness of people in this 21st century. Everything comes so easy that nothing is appreciated anymore as having great value. We are living in a throwaway society. Every week the trashcans are overflowing with things that are cast out. These days people are even trashing their cars and simply buy another, on credit, they are trashing other people's lives in reckless car accidents, they are trashing their children by taking them through experiences which affect their minds forever, they are trashing their wife or husband and simply take another, they are trashing their own minds with drugs, they are trashing their church and simply look for another that they can criticize, and the list goes on and on. How much do we really appreciate our church? Are we no longer strangers and foreigners there? Do we realize that our church, if it is a faithful church, and that we ourselves, if we are faithful to the Bible, that we are:

What is the foundation upon which our lifestyle has been built? Is it built on that which we believe is of value and is important? What then do we believe? Is our spiritual life built upon worshipping only Christ, and I mean only the Christ of the Bible? If that is so, don't take any credit for it, because it was God who took you, and molded you, and placed you as a valuable stone into His building. Verse 20,

Ephesians 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

What an incredible honor that we can be part of a building that is set upon the foundation, which is Christ and the Apostles and Prophets. We have to understand this two ways. The first is that we are part of a real spiritual building which is called the temple of God. Don't try to imagine what this building looks like. It will be revealed later when we see Christ. We are part of this building as living stones. Every stone in this building will be perfect, and fits right in place. The Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation of this building. Do we appreciate this building? Does it show that we appreciate to have been chosen to be part of this building? Secondly, when we bring the Gospel we are teaching from the Bible. I hope that is what you do. The Bible is a collection of teachings straight from the mouth of God. The Apostles and Prophets wrote down those teachings, or doctrines, of which Christ crucified is the chief doctrine of this foundation. That is why Christ is called the chief cornerstone. Our entire building of doctrines of faith must be built on a solid foundation, which is Christ crucified, "for no other foundation can man lay than that which is laid". And why was He crucified? He was crucified so that His sacrifice could be given as a FREE GIFT to those whom God wanted to give it to. This is what we need to keep in mind when we tell someone of the wonderful things that God has done for us. Only then can we claim that we are:

We read in Eph 2:21-22,

Ephesians 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:

Ephesians 2:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Verse 21 begins with the words "In whom". In Christ as the chief cornerstone of the foundation the entire building is fitly framed together, as it will be revealed unto us when we arrive in the NH & NE. Presently this building is still growing. Collectively we form one gigantic temple of God.

Verse 22 again begins with the words "In whom". Now God speaks of each one of us individually. Paraphrased He says: In Christ you are also built together for a dwelling place of the Spirit of God. Now let me make it personal: How can I know that I am built together for a dwelling place of the Spirit of God? Remember the title of this sermon is: Dead or Alive? Are you still dead, or are you made alive by the Spirit of God? How can I know that I am made alive? Well, God has placed me in situations where I could hear the Word of God preached faithfully. God has given me the faith to believe His Word, from cover to cover. God has given me a fervent desire to hear the voice of the Bridegroom. God has given me a fervent desire to live my life worthy being called a son of the King. God has given me an urgent need to do those things that are pleasing in His sight. God has given me the ability to study and teach the Bible to all those who want to hear. God has given me a desire to be faithful in the understanding of His Word, and to preach His Word fearlessly. God has given me a desire to be together with the saints as much as I can. God has given me a desire to pray to Him. God has given me a beautiful wife so that I was qualified to be in the role of Pastor. I feel honored that I can serve Him this way. And so on. All these are not things that come naturally. When I begin to think of the many ways in which God has changed my life, I cannot help but believe that He chose me from before the foundation of the world. "I am saved by grace through faith, and that not of myself, it was a gift from God, not deserved for any of my works". That is how I am a habitation of God through the Spirit.

Amen. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.