Our text this morning is in Ephesians 2:1-10.
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. 4 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. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
On September 13, 1884 the famed preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote a letter to a friend saying,
Dear Mr. Page, I thank you and your people with all my heart. I intend to give you as a birthday present a complete set of Calvin’s works. I believe the books will be at the Tabernacle by Thursday. You will want a cab to take them home. You have earned them so there will be no need of thanks. Yours ever lovingly, C.H.S.
Notice briefly with me four things about this letter.
First, Spurgeon is thankful with all of his heart for this man and his congregation. He says, “I thank you and your people with all my heart.”
Secondly, out of gratitude Spurgeon has purchased this man an unexpected present. A present so large that a cab will be needed to get it home.
Thirdly, Spurgeon loves this man and his congregation saying, “Yours ever lovingly, C.H.S.”
Forthly, Spurgeon says, “You have earned them so there will be no need for thanks.”
Spurgeon’s love and gratitude for Mr. Page and his congregation played some role in the giving of this gift, but Spurgeon clearly believes this man has earned it in some way. Therefore, Spurgeon said that this minister did not need to give any thanks. He simply instructs him to get a cab and pick it up on Thursday.
Contrast that letter to what Spurgeon preached to his congregation. He said, “The constant tenor and spirit of our lives should be adoring gratitude, love, reverence, and thanksgiving to the Most High.”
Spurgeon worked tirelessly for his congregation. However, notice that Spurgeon did not tell his congregation that they ought to adore, be grateful for, love and reverence and to be ever thankful for his long ministry to them. No, they were to have adoring gratitude, love, reverence, and thanksgiving to the Most High.
Spurgeon could admonish his congregation in this way because a Christian has not earned by their own merits any good thing from the Lord. All that they have received: salvation, the innumerable spiritual blessings, and their eventual glorification, is a gift from God. As Paul will say in our text today, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Note those last six words, “...so that no one may boast”.
There are so many people boasting of so many things but we can be sure of this one thing; there will not be two types of people in heaven.
There will not be those who can boast and those who can’t.
There will not be those there who were saved by their own merits and those who made it in only by the merits of Christ.
There will not be those who added some degree of their own righteousness to get into heaven and those who had no righteousness of their own to offer.
Let me give you two verses from Ephesians that show us that God’s plan is to make one new man by the grace of God.
This is what Paul will say in Ephesians 4:5-7, “There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
Or consider what Paul says in Ephesians 2:14-17, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”
Last Sunday we spent all of our time in Ephesians 2:1-3. It was there that we discovered that we were in a hopeless situation. Because of our sins and transgressions we were spiritually dead. There was no life in us at all that could respond to God.
If this is the case, how will we be made alive?
I would like to take a few moments to consider a passage in Job. Consider Job 10:8-13,
8 Your hands fashioned and made me,
and now you have destroyed me altogether.
9 Remember that you have made me like clay;
and will you return me to the dust?
10 Did you not pour me out like milk
and curdle me like cheese?
11 You clothed me with skin and flesh,
and knit me together with bones and sinews.
12 You have granted me life and steadfast love,
and your care has preserved my spirit.
13 Yet these things you hid in your heart;
I know that this was your purpose.
Let’s first consider Job 10:8-11. Job recalls in these verses that God is the creator of all things and specifically that He had created him.
In Job 10:8 he says, “Your hands fashioned and made me...”.
In Job 10:9 he says, “Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust.”
In Job 10:11 he says, “You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews.”
Take a moment and consider the wonder of Job’s words. God carefully made us. He wonderfully fashions every person. And in doing so He uses a most surprising substance: clay and dust. We might had hoped that he made us out of something more precious and costly.
We were made to reflect God. We were to be His image bearers. In Genesis 1:26-27 we read, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Genesis 2:7 describes the moment that God created Adam, “...then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground...”
At this point, man did not immediately have life. His body was there but there was no life in him. As we continue to read we discover what happened next. We read, “...then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature.”
I mention all of this because Job seems to pick up on this narrative in Genesis as he prays in Job 10:12-13, “You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit.”
Job says that God provides to him three things: life, steadfast love, and God preserves his spirit. We see that Job is aware of something more than even this. He knows that these things are only found in God. Job is not to be autonomous. He is not to be self-sufficient. He is not to be self-contained. Job is not a deist who says that God created everything and then left everything alone to run on its own.
Notice the importance of Job 10:13, “Yet these things you hid in your heart; I know that this was your purpose.” Job says these three things are contained in God.
God has created all of mankind in such a way that there would be no lasting life or any spiritual life apart from Him. He has hidden these things; life, steadfast love, and the preservation or our spirit, in the heart of God. Job says, “These things you hid in your heart; I know that this was your purpose.”.
It was God’s purpose that apart from Him there would be no life.
When Adam fell through disobedience he died. God commanded him in Genesis 2:16-17 saying, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”
In the moment that Adam ate he and all mankind immediately died spiritually and physically died over time. As if to emphasize the separation that had now occurred because of Adam’s sin we find God coming into the garden calling out and asking, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)
These words are not meant to show us that God had lost Adam. No, God called out to show all of us that in that moment, through that sin, all mankind was now separated from God. In light of this God’s question actually seems a bit under stated.
Consider Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned...”.
How is man to ever to have life again?
He must receive it from the One who gave it to us in the first place. Just as Adam received life when God breathed into him, so now, the LORD will have to breath His Spirit into each of us. Life, steadfast love and preservation of our spirit are found only in Him.
This was His purpose: that apart from Him there would be no life.
David understood this when he says in Psalm 16:1-2, “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’” David says in Psalm 16:9-10, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”
Consider what Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
Lately, there has been many discussions about the term social distancing and isolation. And yet, this is not the greatest danger we face. Our greatest danger is that so many are dead in their sins. They are disconnected from their Maker and the giver of life. Consider Ephesians 2:12, “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in this world.”
Having said all of this, consider hope that we see in Ephesians 2:4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ...”.
It is breathtaking to consider the fact that God gave life to Adam after he fashioned and formed Him in the perfect environment of the garden that He had created.
It is another thing altogether to consider that God would give life to us when He finds us dead in our transgressions and sins, having hearts hardened into an unbreakable stone, and our very natures changed and deserving of His wrath. He has done the unthinkable and the unimaginable. God has made us alive.
He does not give us a life that enables us to live for ourselves apart from Him. No, He has made us alive together with Christ.
There was not anything in us that necessitated God’s response to us in this way. He was not obligated to do this because of anything that was good in us. His only motivation was that He is rich in mercy and because of the great love with which He loved us.
Dr. Michael Reeves says, “If sin is not much of a problem, then Christ is not much of a Savior. And we don’t need much grace. Only if we see that our plight is so bad that I cannot fix it myself, only then will I turn to Christ and depend upon Him and not in myself. Only then, will I despair of my efforts and look outside of myself for hope.”
We find that hope in God.
We find that hope by looking to Christ, who will go to the cross and die in our place; so that, we might have life. A life that is not apart from Him for that is no life at all. But a life that is found in Christ. Indeed, Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Just as God formed Adam and breathed into Him; we are now a new creation. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:10)
As we come to communion let us consider this quote by Martin Luther.
Martin Luther said, “I could not have faith in God if I did not think that He wanted to be favorable and kind to me. This in turn makes me feel kindly towards God. And I am moved to trust Him with all my heart and to look to Him for all good things. This is how you must cultivate Christ in yourself, faith must spring up and flow from the blood and wounds and death of Christ. If you see in these that God is so kindly disposed towards you that He even gives His Son for you, then your heart in turn will grow sweet and disposed towards God.”
As we come to communion and consider Christ and His cross consider the favor, kindness and love of God for you.
When you consider what Christ has done for you let your faith grow and abound. Let your heart grow sweet and be disposed to turn towards God in whom you have life.