Our text is found in Ephesians 2:1-3. It states,
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.
In the first chapter of Ephesians we have seen Paul doing two tings. First, in Ephesians 1:3-14 Paul praised the Lord.
praising God for His saving plan which resulted in believers being adopted into His family.
He praised God for His glorious grace by which believers would receive innumerable spiritual blessings.
He praised God for the inheritance that believers have been given when they believed upon the gospel.
Secondly, In Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul prayed to God.
When reflecting upon the first chapter of Ephesians Dr. John Stott wrote these words, “What Paul does in Ephesians 1, and therefore encourages us to copy, is both to keep praising God that in Christ all spiritual blessings are ours and to keep praying that we may know the fullness of what he has given us.”
Because we are being encouraged to praise God and to pray to the Lord I would like to pose a couple questions.
Have you begun to pray and praise God since we have been studying the book of Ephesians?
Or over the last two months have you begun praying and praising the Lord even more even more than you previously had as you have considered Paul?
As we come to Ephesians 2 Paul is still trying to cultivate these two things in us by speaking to us as he does in the text today.
The first thing that I notice about our text is the abruptness of it. Paul finished praising the Lord and then immediately began to pray to the Lord. But when he finishes his prayer and says ‘Amen’, without taking so much as a breath, he says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 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—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.” (Notice the fact that Paul uses the past tense in regards to these things. This is worth Praising and Praying to God)
Let me ask a question. How do these words motivate believers to continue in praise and prayer to God?
I would argue that when we consider the total depravity of mankind before God...
we are compelled to acknowledge His mercy to save us,
to acknowledge His love which motivated Him to save,
to acknowledge our utter dependence upon Him every day of our lives,
and to see that our only response to God is to trust Him and thank Him.
Before we look at today’s text, let me remind us of a text that we looked at when we went through the book of Philippians. In Philippians 3:1 Paul says, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.”
Paul had to be concerned about many things.
But he says here that when he encouraged the churches to praise and rejoice in the Lord that it was no trouble at all. In fact, to do so kept them safe. This verse alone ought to show us the importance of worship and praise in our lives.
Paul can encourage believers to rejoice and to praise the Lord till he is blue in the face, but that does not mean that they will actually do it. My wife can tell the kids and I, even with tears, to keep the house clean but that does not necessarily mean that we will do it. Therefore, Paul has to do more than just continually tell them to rejoice. He has to build a spiritual motivation based upon truth.
Therefore, the ennoblement to rejoice and praise the Lord will be found in what Paul says in the next few verses, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evil doers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh...”. (Philippians 3:2-3)
One way, therefore, to recognize those who are described as dogs, evil doers, and those who mutilate the flesh; is by their inability to rejoice in the Lord. To the Philippians, however, Paul says, “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.”
According to these verses one of the things that will keep a Christian from praising God and rejoicing in Him is if they have begun to boast and have confidence in their flesh. Such a person will not continue to rejoice in the Lord.
This is not to say that they cannot have some form of worship or a prayer life; but what is sure is that they won’t praise and pray with the same doctrines at the foundation that the apostle Paul has spoken of in Ephesians 1. Their prayers and praise will be more focused upon themselves and upon others than they will be about God and what He has done.
Do you see how God-centered Paul’s words are? He says, “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3) God has done a profound work in the believer. As a result of this, the Christian worships by the Spirit and glories only in the Lord Jesus Christ. This type of worshiper puts no confidence in the flesh.
Similarly, in Ephesians 2:1-3 we are reminded to put no confidence in the flesh; we are to live and worship by the Spirit of God and to glory in Christ Jesus. (2:4-9)
As we come to Ephesians 2 Paul begins by saying, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked...”
What does it mean that we were dead in our trespasses and sins?
Paul does not mean that they were dead physically. Paul says this so clearly in the rest of what he says, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air...among whom we all once lived in the passions of the flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind”.
A person who is dead is someone who has no life at all in his relationship to God. Such a person is spiritually dead.
We were not partially dead.
We were not just really sick.
We were not on the brink of death.
We are dead and we have no signs of life in any way until the grace of God comes to us.
The day that my father-in-law died we all stayed by his side. The only time that we left was when the doctors asked us to leave so that they could do some things. Even then we stayed right out side the door. As soon as the doctor’s opened back up the door we went back in and sat with him and we talked to him even though he was unresponsive. But the moment that he died we went into another room for a short time and then we left. There was nothing more that we could do, see or say.
As we walked out of the hospital that day I still remember thinking to myself, “How can we just leave Gary there in that hospital?” If I left my wallet in that room I would have run back up there to get it; but now we were leaving something much more important in that hospital. The only reason we were leaving is because Gary had died. There was no doctor on this planet who could bring him back at that point.
Similarly, there is not anyone on this planet, or who has ever lived, who is able to save themselves or who can save others from death. Isn’t this what Paul says at the end of Ephesians 2:3, “...and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” All of us will one day die physically and all of us were born into spiritual death. Unless God acts to save by his mercy then no one will ever have eternal life.
Paul says that all of mankind were dead spiritually before the grace of God came. If God had left us in this condition we would be powerless to respond to God in any way just as Gary was unable to respond to us in the moment of death. If God had come upon us in this dead condition, and then walked away, as we did that day at the hospital, there would have been no hope for any one of us.
But God came to us in this hopeless condition and He had mercy upon us. He loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses and He made us alive together with Christ. This is what Paul says in Ephesians 2:4-6, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
We may find it hard to accept the fact that we were dead and unable to respond to God in any way. We want to think that there was some light or life in us that could respond to God.
We have an example of death in the immediate context of these verses. And if we look at it we will find four things that apply to our topic today. In those verses we have…
an example of someone who was dead
We see Who had to raise him from the dead
We see what it took to raise Him from the dead
And we see how this all applies to us
Consider again Ephesians 1:18-20 which says, “...having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and 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 heavenly places...”.
We see Who had to raise him from the dead - God
We see what it took to raise Him from the dead - The Working of God’s great might
And we see how this all applies to us – The immeasurable greatness of God’s power towards us who are in Christ.
Is not Christ a good example for us to consider as to what had to occur when God raised Him from the dead? Jesus had taken upon Himself our sins and iniquities and He was forsaken and crushed in that moment. His body was buried in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead!
Consider these verses:
“It was for our sake that God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (1 Cor. 5:21) Christ became sin; therefore, it pleased the Father to crush Him and to forsake Him so that we might have eternal life.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23) Christ died because he took upon Himself our sins. And eternal life is only found in Christ.
“We see Him who who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9) Christ now receives honor because He suffered and died. By the grace of God He tasted death for everyone. And now when we partake in Christ we have life!
John 6:6 – Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
Someone might say that Jesus says there that we need to come to Him; but how can someone come when they are dead? Jesus answers this in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
It would seem fitting to quote Paul from Acts 17:25, “The Lord is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” And then Paul says in Acts 17:28, “In him we live and move and have our being...”
Apart from Christ all mankind is dead in trespasses and sins.
We eagerly follow the course of this world into every manner of disobedience.
We blindly follow the prince of the power of the air that was at one time at work in us.
We live by the passions of the flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and of the mind.
We, like the rest of mankind were children of wrath.
Now we have been made alive together with Christ (v.5)
We have been raised up to God and seated with Him in heavenly places with Christ Jesus (v.6)
In the coming ages we will be given immeasurable riches of grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus (v.7)
This is not by works, so that no one can boast, it is a gift of God. We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works (v.9-10)
In all that I have quoted to you I have tried to convey two things. First, that the death and resurrection of Christ ought to be the source of great hope and joy for us. Secondly, I hope that we will begin to see that our life, our every blessing is in Christ. We were at one time without God and without hope in the world. But now a believer is in Christ and Christ is in him.
“For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3)
We are a people who praises God because He found us spiritually dead; but He had mercy upon us. He has miraculously given to us life. We are a people that prays to God because we are sustained by Him in all things. We have no life or light apart from Him. We live by the words, “Put no confidence in the flesh!”
Because of this relationship with Christ, are you realizing the intensifying presence of Jesus at this time, or are you more aware of the uncertainty of the present time. How can we be in despair when our Savior has been raised from the dead and is now sitting at the right hand of the Father?