07 January 2008

Verse by verse through Ephesians (2:1-2:7)

Ephesians 2:1-7--

1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Paul spends the entire first chapter of this letter breathlessly penning one long paragraph (1:4-23) about the new life they have been given in Christ. How God has adopted us as sons, given us every spiritual blessing in Christ, has seated us in the heavenly places in Christ, etc. he rattles off this long list of reasons we have to be thankful for what He has done for us, beginning that benediction by saying, “Blessed (adored, loved with the utmost reverence and respect) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” And what a life we now have! We don’t have to walk around worrying about our eternal fate. We can praise the name of God and live in the newfound freedom of our life in Christ. He opens this new paragraph by saying, in effect, “And to think you were happy before, living the way you were!”

Before we look at how he starts this paragraph, we really need to look at the actual Greek. Now, I love the KJV. It is my favorite translation; I love how it reads. That said, I am notKing James Only!” Never will be. In fact, to use only one translation is quite silly. The reason I say all this is: verse 1 in the KJV reads, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…” Just one problem: that phrase “hath he quickened” (“He has made alive” in the NKJV) is not in the original Greek. The Byzantine, the Textus Receptus, even the Wescott-Hort—none of the texts contains any Greek words that would be translated “hath he quickened.” The NASB and ESV come the closest—both reading And you were dead in the trespasses and sins. The other words were added later for clarity.

You see, when Paul says, “you were dead” (NASB, ESV), the word “were” is the Greek “ontas” (“ontas”). It is what’s called a “participle.” It’s kinda like a descriptive verb, along the lines of the gerundive tense. “Ontas” comes from the root word “on” (“on”) which means “to be.” Basically, he’s saying, “You were being dead in trespasses and sins, in which you walked…” He is describing them as being being dead. The addition of the words “hath he quickened” is not necessarily wrong. It just wasn’t necessary. There are many passages in the Scriptures that make it clear it is God who does the quickening. So, now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on.

We were dead. Period. When we were born, as we lived our lives, as we ignored Him and sought to please ourselves. We were dead. Doornails. No way around it. We were dead to God; God was dead to us. (I'll resist the temptation to insert the old “God is dead—Nietzsche; Nietzsche is dead—God” joke here.) There was nothing we could do about it. That’s just how we’re born—to die. And who do we have to thank for that? Adam, of course. Genesis 2:16-17And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Then he went and passed on the “death gene” to each and every one of his descendants. Romans 5:12, 17Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

See, this is where so many people have it wrong—why a “works-based” or “man-centered” salvation is not really salvation at all. Because no amount of “good deeds” can bring a dead spirit to life. God is not up there in heaven with some chart, sticking gold stars and smiley faces next to our names every time we do some “good deed”, making us hope we get enough stickers to go to Heaven Camp. We are dead. The only way we can be quickened is by the Holy Spirit. It is only by His grace (which we shall see later) that we are made alive to Him. Notice these verses from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi: Philippians 1:6—He who began the good work in you… Philippians 1:21—To live is Christ It is God who begins the work, it is God who quickens.

Because we were dead in trespasses and sins. There is a difference between the two. Paul is talking about the “trespasses and sins” we do before we get saved. When we don’t know what sin is. Trespasses are the times when you slip—paraptoma (paraptoma)—“a fall beside or near something.” Things that we, in our natural mind, did not think were morally wrong. We don’t realize something is a sin. Sins—hamartia (hamartia)—“to miss the mark… to wander from the law of God, violate God’s law, sin… that which is done wrong, sin, an offence, a violation of the divine law in thought or in act…” Those are the times when we walk wide-eyed into immorality and wickedness—even those who do not know the Lord can be fully aware that some things are wrong, and shameful, and sinful—knowing full well that we are disregarding and disobeying His holy writ. We say, “Yeah, I know. But it’s my life. I’m gonna live it however I want.” These are the things we do—when we do not know God—that cause Him to never know us (Matthew 7:21-23).

…in which you once walked according to the course of this world… In our unregenerated state, we look to the world around us to provide us with our moral framework—just as children look to their parents to provide them—not only for nourishment and protection, but also moral guidance. Therefore this world, being evil, provides us with a framework of evil, which we, being fallen humans, follow, believing we have no other recourse. “The Lord of the Flies” may not be Scripture, but is it that far from being truthful? Leave 5 children alone in a room with 4 toys and see what happens. Thus, if we were to follow “the course of this world,” we would be able to differentiate what is evil from more evil—not necessarily what is good from what is evil. It is true that even the natural man has a form of morality.

But this is only a horizontal morality. Many natural men know what they should not do to their neighbor—because they do not want it done to themselves. But, many natural men—knowing that they would not want something done to themselves—will do those things to others. Why? Why is it that some men can see a simple yellow line down the middle of the road and stay on the proper side of it? Why do they see a simple red light, and stop? These things do not have power, in and of themselves, to stop them. Yet they obey what they represent.

Nevertheless, these same persons will not heed to limits put on how much alcohol they can have in their bodies while operating these same vehicles within the aforementioned limits. These are those who pick and choose which laws to obey, and which ones to break.

The regenerated man, though, has a vertical morality. He reads the Scriptures which command him to “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44; 1st Peter 1:16); which tell him, You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48); which say, Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1). Thus, knowing these things which the Scriptures say, he will be led by the Spirit—that same Spirit which led him to read these Scriptures—to obey every ordinance of man, unless they go against the ordinances of God (Acts 5:29). He will keep his car on the proper side of the yellow line, he will stop at the red light, he will not drive his vehicle if he has too much alcohol in his blood—for if he obeys the Spirit, he will not have made himself drunk (Habakkuk 2:15-16; Ephesians 5:18).

This is the morality that does much more than just guide one to obey the laws of man and respect his neighbor’s person because of some accepted moral code. This is the morality that respects neighbor and authority because this is what is good and acceptable in the eyes of God—whose moral code does not change, cannot be overruled, and is eternally enforced. This is the morality the natural man does not know.

Why does he not know it? Because he is walking according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience… Disobedience. The Greek is apeitheia (apeitheia). “Disbelief. Obstinate opposition to the Divine will.” This is where we get the word “apathy.” But who cares? (haha).

The prince of the power of the air. Satan. The one we served since the day we were born. The one who was always whispering in our ears, leading us to seek our own pleasure—even leading us in that morality that made us think we were in pretty good shape, spiritually speaking. You see, Satan doesn’t always seek to do damage and destruction upon the earth. he doesn’t always seek to make us into Hitlers, and Pol Pots, and Stalins. Sometimes, he makes us more like Ghandi, or Confucius, or Buddha. Because he realizes that he doesn’t necessarily have to make a person purely evil to lead people to destruction. In fact, he does some of his greatest work in those who have a form of ethics and morality.

The apostle rightly prophesied this in his second letter to young Timothy. But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves… having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2nd Timothy 3:1-2, 6-7). And is that not what we see today? Ask a person “How do you get to heaven?” Consider how some people will respond. “Well, I’m a good person…” They may be considered by many to be a good person. Because they walk according to the course of the world—the way many people define “good.” But, as Jesus said, “There is but one who is ‘Good’…” And His is the only opinion that matters.

But, if Satan can make one influential person think that they are doing God’s will because they are what the world considers to be a “good person,” and make millions more believe that they too are “good people” who are doing God’s will, then he will take that over a thousand Hitlers, whom the world sees as “evil,” and whom millions—being “good”, and having a form of godliness—will turn away from. But we are to turn away from such as these.

…among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. Let us focus on one short phrase. That we were by nature children of wrath. We were dead. Have I mentioned that already? And if one is dead to God, they do not have Christ’s life in them, then they are the objects of God’s wrath—His “anger, wrath, indignation.” When we walk according to the ways of the world; when we walk according to the prince of the power of the air, when we are obstinate about our unwillingness to submit to God—we have no right to call ourselves “good.” Because we are not.

You may say, “But, look at all the ‘good’ that person does.” According to the world, maybe. But whose opinion and favor are you living for? Did not the prophet say that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags? (Isaiah 64:6). So, although that person may stand before God with all of their “good deeds”, they are also standing before God with all of their sins. They tramped about all the days of their lives, thinking that God was adding to their collection of gold stars, that they were making themselves acceptable to Him, that they were doing everything they had to do to be good enough to stand there and say, “OK, now open up for me! Look at all of these wonderful things I’ve done!” Yet they stand there, apart from Christ, apart from His mediation, with all their sins, with all of their righteous rags—and He will say, “Depart! I never knew you!” These children of wrath, who could have been given whites raiment, who could have been outfitted for a Divine marriage supper. Instead they stand before God, clothed in dingy apparel, and watch as all of their little merit badges are set in a pile—and burned to ashes by God’s righteousness. Their spirit never being reborn, they are removed from His sight to await their second death.

Just as the others. Lest we think too highly of ourselves, Paul says, “You know, you were in the same boat as those whose spirits have never been reborn. Don’t get too cocky, that could have been you.” Oh, how overused is that saying, “There but for the grace of God go I.” It would be better if that were amended to say, “To Hell, but for the grace of God, go I.” For such would have been our fate—unless He had chosen us, and adopted us as His children (Ephesians 1:5, 1st John 3:1). What? Do you think you somehow deserved to be saved? That you were so good and so righteous that you did not need to be saved? Did you not need to be saved before you got saved? This is the answer to the question of “What about people who never hear?” We were “children of wrath, just as the others.” The ones who never hear are those “others.” Which is why we are told to go and tell.

Romans 10:13-14For “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

John 3:17“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Now, this is a verse that, if you do not follow it with the next, can cause a world of hurt. For, you see, God did not need to send Christ to condemn the world. the world condemns itself through unbelief. Watch:

John 3:18“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

You see that? When someone asks you, “What about those who have never heard?” the answer is, “They need to hear. Or are they saved without being saved?” As Paul writes to the Thessalonian believers …and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved (1st Thessalonians 2:15-16).

So, once again, who is it that saves us? Or do we save ourselves, and regenerate our own spirits so we are alive to God? Yes, that is an absurd question. The answer lies here. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. We were dead. I know this is something a lot of people don’t like to hear. But we were dead. Doornails. Put parentheses around who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses. You can do that. It will not change context, it will not make this passage read differently, it will not do anything to damage what this passage says. If you put those words in parentheses, what are you left with? But God…made us alive together with Christ. He made us alive. We did not revive ourselves due to any “good deeds” we may have done. Remember the phrase “filthy rags.”

Then, as if to emphasize the point and really drive it home in the minds of his listeners, gives us this to ponder—(by grace you have been saved). By grace! Grace is not based on works! In Romans 11, Paul tells us that if grace is because of works, it is not grace. By extension, if grace is from works, it is not grace. And if grace does not proceed from works, then we are not saved by works. Of course, Rome doesn’t want to hear any of that. After all, this was what caused Mother Theresa and even John Paul II to have such misery and doubt in their lives. They were very pious and dutiful in their affections toward Rome. But even they did not know if they had “done enough” to get to heaven. How outrageous!! If only they had known that they could not do enough, and that if they believed in the true gospel of grace, they would have had so much more joy in their works—for they would have come from a heart that was renewed by the Holy Spirit, they would have done their duties as to God, and they would have known if they were saved.

After all, why did John write his first epistle? These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1st John 5:13). But, alas, they died not knowing where they would be when they next lifted their eyes. And I will not claim to know. God knoweth. Had they availed themselves to the gospel of grace, they would have been doing their all for God’s glory, not their own spirits. And how many millions more are in the same spiritual predicament? Thinking that they have to do, do, do in order to “do enough” to save their own souls.

Or, they go the other way. They were baptized as an infant, and they think that has saved them. Preposterous! So you got dunked in water—big deal! That’s not salvation! Yet millions walk around with their little certificate, thinking they have their ticket to glory. Deceived, led astray, unsaved, headed for destruction. It is only the grace of God that saves us—not works, not infant baptism, no deeds of the flesh—by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

God has raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Just as He was in Christ, reconciling us to Himself (2nd Corinthians 5:19), so He has raised us up together with Christ. Just as He has made us accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6), so He has made us sit together with Him in the heavenly places. These things He has done—already done, past tense (OK, aorist tense), no regard to time. He did it, that settles it. He has raised us with His Son, and has sat us in heavenly places. Why? That we might know the riches (better: abundance) of His grace and kindness.

In Christ.

By grace.

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