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Faith Bible Church, NY
July 21, 1996
The Dead Raised to Life
This morning we come again to Ephesians 2 to examine what a great and marvelous work God has done in bringing us to salvation. Many of you have heard wonderful stories of God saving people who were deep in the wretched depths of sin. And as wonderful as those stories are, from a drunk to a Deacon; from a slut to a saint; from a murderer to a missionary; from a pagan to a preacher, there is an aspect that is even more remarkable in every story of salvation. It is from the dead and decaying to life.
Paul states here in verse 1: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins. As I pointed out last week there is no stronger term Paul could have used. Dead. Not seriously ill, but dead. Death is marked by the ceasing of all senses and movement. A corpse is unaware of and it can do nothing for itself, not even wish. This is not physical death which is the separation of the soul from the body, but spiritual death, the separation of the soul from God. It is a case of living dead. Alive physically going through the motions of life, but not possessing true life. They breathe, but there is no intake of spiritual understanding. They no not why they exist. Their hearts beat but they cannot accomplish the purpose for which they were created. They are dead and unable to do anything about it.
They are only $1 and if you just borrow it we do not even charge that. Be sure you understand what this means. Dead in trespasses and sin. Inwardly and outwardly we display the evidence of our separation from God. We neither seek him (Rom. 3:11) nor obey Him (Rom 3:12,23). You were born into this condition. If you will, you were dead from birth because we inherit our sin nature from Adam (Rom 5). You are not a sinner because you sin, you sin because you are a sinner. Your action only proves what was already in your heart. A person lies because they are liars. Thieves steal because they are thieves. The same is true for another sin. Jesus said in Matt. 12:35, “The evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil.” He added to this in Matt. 15:18-19, “the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”
Everyone of us here was, and some may still be, dead in our trespasses and sin. Paul expands on this in verses 2-4 and describes the evidence of this death. In doing so he will further magnify the work of God to make us alive together with Christ (vs. 5). 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
What is the evidence of this death? First, walking according to the course of this world. Simply put is it living your life in conformity to the world’s standards. Your understanding of life and what is important is derived from other men and women and not from God. Society sets your standards. Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 “not to be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Spiritual death is manifested in valuing what is important according to the world’s systems.
For all the talk people make about wanting to be independent and different, all they really ever do is change their hair and clothing style. They reject some of the outward looks of the generation they are rebelling against, but they conform completely to the same basic values that have always dominated human systems. The four basic systems in the world are humanism, materialism, hedonism, and religion. The specific displays of how an individual walks according to the course of this world will vary, but it is always along one or more of these basic systems.
Humanism places man in the highest position. He thinks himself autonomous without need for a God. He sets his own standards and becomes his own authority. He does what is right in his own eyes. In short, he makes himself to be supreme. He is his own god and savior. It is evidenced greatly in our own society in that when the nation faces a crisis our leaders no longer call us to God with fasting and prayer pleading for his mercy. We fight AIDS with condoms and medical science when God’s cure is righteous living in a monogamous marriage. We increasingly look to FEMA and federal dollars fight against and recover from natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and flooding instead of looking for God’s provision through His mercy and His people. Our solution to poverty and societal decay is governmental handouts rather than responsibility and employment. Humanism makes man to be his own savior, but his very efforts only compound the problem.
Materialism places its value on physical possessions, especially access to money because it can be easily exchanged for more stuff. Life is worth living as long as you have enough stuff. Its slogan is “he who dies with the most toys wins.” The greatest single display of this is debt, both consumer and governmental. Consumer averages $3,800 for every person in the U.S. while governmental debt is $17,00.
The materialist is never content for he must always have more. A multimillionaire was asked how much was enough. He is said to have replied, “Just one dollar more.” Greed, jealousy coveting have replace the virtues of patience, saving and self denial. In this system you see it and you must have it now. Borrowing or renting items does not satisfy, you must have your own because you must possess.
Yard sales are great because I find it is one way Proverbs 13:22 is fulfilled: the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous. You can get great bargains, but don’t you think that a lot of the stuff that is sold at these things are simply moved from one garage to someone else’s?
Hedonism places its value on pleasure. It’s slogans are “whatever feels good, do it” and “go for the gusto.” It is written into our national fabric as the “pursuit of happiness.” You will always have to pursue happiness because once you think you have caught it, it slips away and you have to chase after it again. It is demonstrated in our society in so many different ways. Alcoholics and drug addicts seeking to anesthetize their pain. The average American diet which is tasty, but unhealthy. The so called “sexually free” society which exists today which has resulted not only in increased adultery, fornication and various perversions, and the decay of the family. In some subcultures of our nation, nearly 3/4 of all births are to unwed mothers. It has also resulted in a depraved entertainment industry who have turned large segments of our population into video voyeurs.
The fourth major system is religion. Religion is man’s effort to appease God by his own efforts and thereby gain God’s reward. Religion is salvation by human achievement. All the various forms of Paganism; Hinduism and all its various offshoots including Buddhism, Shintoism, etc.; Islam an d all its factions; the many cult groups, Christian or other; Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and yes, even Roman Catholicism are all based on man achieving righteousness with God through good works of some sort. All religions except Biblical Christianity treat man as something other than dead in trespasses and sin. They might consider man very seriously sick from sin, but not dead in it. But Paul says otherwise. Man without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is dead in his trespasses and sin and walks according to the course of the world. Their very involvement with one of these religions proves the point.
But you say, these various things you have mentioned are not all bad. How, then can you say these things. For the simple reason of who controls them all. Paul goes on in verse 2 to say that we walked in this manner… according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Whatever little good you may find in any of these systems is still perverted by their ruler: Satan. Here he is called the prince (archon: ruler) of the power of the air. Paul is not talking about natural atmospheric events or radio waves, but rather to the realm in which the demons operate. It is the same thing he talks about later in the book in 6:12: “spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Apart from Christ mankind is in Satan’s realm. Salvation is even described in these terms by Paul in Col. 1:13 saying that God “delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” Paul goes on to say here in our text that these spiritual forces are “now working in the sons of disobedience.“
“Sons of disobedience” is just another descriptive way to refer to sinful man. This a Jewish idiom of describing a person characterized by disobedience, which is exactly what mankind is like. Disobedient to God in every way. Even the efforts of the unregenerate to do good fall short. All their good deeds are like filthy rags before God (Isa. 64:6). Demons are actively at work in the unsaved. That may sound sensational, but it is true. This does not mean that all non-Christians are demon possessed. it does mean that they are all influenced by the demonic. That influence could be blatant and obvious like in those who involve themselves in the occult, or it could be more subtle and exist in the twisted doctrine of those who call themselves Christians but lead people away from God’s Word. Remember in Matt. 7 Jesus warned about false teachers who would even prophesy, cast our demons, and do miracles in His name, but that He did not know them and would cast them away. Paul warned in 1 Tim. 4:1-3 against those would come “paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” and would teach things including “forbidding marriage and abstaining from goods, which God created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.” What groups do you know that claim to be “Christian” but teach either one or both of these doctrines. (Roman Catholicism, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventist, etc.). Paul says here that such teaching is demonic!
Paul goes on in verse 3 describing more of the nature of the spiritually dead. “3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind…“. Notice that Paul switches from the second person “you” to the first person “we” here. Paul was writing to Gentiles, now he makes sure they understand that even the Jews, God’s chosen race, were not exempt from this. “We too lived in the lusts of our flesh.”
This brings the matter into a more personal nature. The spiritually dead are influenced by outside forces, the world’s systems and the demonic, but they do not have to have those forces to get them to do evil. Demons may influence, but it is not true that “devil made you do it.” Men do evil all on their own.
Paul uses both “lust” and “desire” here to describe how deep longings within man to get what he wants. “Lust” (ἐπιθυμίαις) refers to strong inclinations and desires of every sort. “Desires” (θελήματα) emphasizes strong willfulness, wanting and seeking something with great diligence. Putting the two together Paul is describing the seeking out to fulfill the desires of the flesh. Exactly the opposite of what Paul tells Christians to do in Rom. 13:14: put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to [its] lusts.
What are the lusts of the flesh? Not just the physical cravings of the body for Paul adds here that it is of the mind too. The Apostle John describes this in three terms in 1 John 2:15, the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. It is trying to satisfy whatever your body wants: taste, smell, hearing, sight and touch. It is also trying to satisfy the longings within our mind for the non-material, like praise, position, power and fame. John says not to pursue these things because they are not from God and are all going to pass away. This is the pursuit of the foolish, of those that do not know God.
Paul goes on and says that we “were by nature children of wrath.” This does not refer to our wrath as in our being angry people, but rather those who are objects of wrath – God’s.
We must be careful not to apply the more modern connotations of the word “wrath” to God. The wrath of God does not in no way means that He loses His temper and fly into a rage of uncontrolled anger. Wrath is simply more than a manifestation of indignation based on justice. It is in fact the other side of God’s love. God is a God of love, but He is also a God of holiness, justice and righteousness. If God’s love is rejected by men then there is nothing left for them but the working out of His justice and righteousness. They are under the wrath of God, they are under His condemnation.
John speaks of this in that most famous of scriptures, John 3:16: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Men are by nature under God’s judgement and condemned to perish. God instituted a plan so that man could come out from under His wrath, but His wrath remains on those who do not respond to His plan. John 3:18 adds, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Paul speaks of God’s wrath in Romans 1:18 that it is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…”. The amazing thing here is that the manifestation of God’s wrath is not that He does things to the wicked, but that rather He simply removes His restraining hand so that they reap the consequences of their sin. Three times (vs. 24, 26, 28) it says that “God gave them over to…”. It would just as well be translated as “God abandoned them to…” as it does in the Amplified version. In each case as God lets them go further into their desires their lives become more corrupt and vile.
It is important that we understand all this because it affects our understanding of the gospel. If we do not understand that natural man is dead in trespasses and sin with all its ramifications pointed out here by Paul, then we cannot understand the reason and importance of Jesus Christ becoming a man and dying for our sins. If we do not understand these things we will not understand the gospel message and therefore what evangelism is all about.
This state of spiritual death is what everyone of us was in, and some may still be, until God did something to us as Paul states in verses 4 & 5 –but God… even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). Salvation is the work of God alone. We were dead and could do nothing. God was the only one that could make us alive.
The Christian message is radically diff erent than what the world tells people. It is even different that what is taught in a lot of supposed evangelist. Man says: you are not what you want to be? Then we will change your environment. The gospel says you were dead, BUT GOD. Man says: you’re not feeling good about yourself? Then we will say some good things about you and cheer you up. The gospel says you were dead, BUT GOD. Man says: you’re feeling guilty? Then we will tell you why it is not your fault. The gospel says you were dead, BUT GOD. Man says: you think your life is a waste? Then we will put you in with other people who feel the same way so you can explore your feelings. The gospel says you were dead, BUT GOD. Man says: you’re feeling down and depressed? Then here, take these pills, do this, and get your mind off it. The gospel says you were dead, BUT GOD. Some preachers say: a little sin got you down? Then tell me about it and you will feel better. The gospel says you were dead, BUT GOD. Some preachers say: You’re worried about going to hell? Don’t fret, God won’t let anyone go there if it even exists. The gospel says you were dead and a child of wrath, BUT GOD. Some preachers say: I’ll get you to heaven, just send me some money and do what I say. The gospel says you were dead, BUT GOD. Some preachers say: just repeat this prayer, you’re life doesn’t have to change. The gospel says you were dead, BUT GOD.
But God what? But God, being rich in mercy. Mercy is the withholding of deserved punishment. God is rich in mercy. That is seen in every day that the world continues to exist because God would be just to destroy it all. It is seen in His restraining men from the depths their sin could take them. It is seen in His providing a way to escape His just condemnation of all mankind.
Why is God merciful? Not because there is anything in us that is attractive. Not because we in anyway deserve a break. Only because by His very nature He is love (1 John 4:8). He is also just and holy. His love could not just overlook our sin for that would violate His justice. Neither could He accept us in our sins. That would violate His holiness. Yet, “because of His great love with which He loved us” God did something on our behalf to change our condition. He did something for us, as verse 5 says, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). We could do nothing for ourselves, so He did it for us. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is able to make us spiritually alive, truly alive for the first time. A second birth, because of what Jesus had done for us on the cross in paying the penalty of our sins and imparting to us His righteousness satisfying both His justice and holiness in the supreme display of love. You were dead, but God made you alive.
But it does not stop there. Paul goes on to tell us what the future will be in verse 6: and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly [places], in Christ Jesus. Our future will be in heaven with Jesus Christ throughout all eternity. None of this is because we deserve it or did anything on our part. It is solely out of the grace and mercy that flow out of God’s love. Jesus died to redeem you out of your wretched condition, which was spiritually dead, walking according to this world, and seeking to fulfill your lusts. Again, we do not deserve it. that is the definition of grace: being given what we do not deserve. But God has done this out of His great love.
Praise to His name! And that is just what Paul wants us to do. Look at verse 7 and see the purpose …in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Should we not glorify God as we come to understand the wonderful hope of our calling, our inheritance and the surpassing greatness of His power that would do all this. Amen?!
Salvation begins not with the individual doing anything, but God working on his heart. Evangelism begins with prayer for individual people. It continues with proclamation of the truth: that all men stand condemned before God, but God has made a plan of escape through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit then brings conviction of the person of their sin and desperate need for God. The first spark of life comes like it did for the tax-gatherer in Luke 18, when he cried out “be merciful to me, the sinner.” It is the evidence of being poor in spirit (Mt. 5:3). Knowing that you have nothing and can do nothing except beg. So the sinner pleads with God. The Holy Spirit continuing to work brings the person to an understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He has done to provide salvation. Faith is born, the individual places his trust in Jesus Christ and His work alone and justification occurs. A sinner is saved by God’s grace through faith. This is the work of God in a person’s life.
If you are here this morning having already trusted Jesus Christ as your savior, then rejoice greatly. You were dead in trespasses and sin, you formerly walked in Satan’s realm and in your own fleshly desires, you were a child of wrath. Those are all past tense. “If any man be in Christ, He is a new creation.” God made you alive, you now walk in His kingdom, and you are His child.
If you are hear this morning and do not know Jesus Christ personally, you cannot say with confidence assurance that if you died this afternoon you know you would be in His presence forever, then know first of all that we are praying for you. Second, as the Holy Spirit moves on your heart, you start asking God to do a work in your life and you start seeking Him. If you seek Him with all your heart, you will find Him Jer. 29:13. The very fact that you would do that is already evidence that God is working on you, for man will not seek God on his own (Ps. 14). We are here and stand ready to help you in that search. Come talk with me and I or someone else will do whatever we can. You do not have to remain dead. There is life in Jesus Christ.
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