The first ten verses of Ephesians 2 is one of my favorite passages, and it starts with a bang by declaring not that we were sick or weak or stuck but that we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Paul uses death as an image to describe where we were in his letter to the Colossians (Col 2:13) as well, though Paul is not the only one. Jesus also taught we were dead before we were made alive…see John 5:24.
What does a dead “life” look like? Verses 2-3 help with this, and notice how Paul includes himself as one of those who “formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh”. All of us, before we were resurrected, followed the rule of darkness rather than that of light. We obeyed the desires of our fleshly mind rather than what we knew to be right. As such, we were subject to God’s punishment…guilty of a crime no less than treason. We were created by God, blessed by God, ruled by God…but, we left Him; we rebelled and began to follow the evil one who commands us to obey the desires of our own flesh and mind.
The significance of the term “dead” is that this rebellion was permanent. There is no natural “unrebellion”, just as there is no natural means of becoming “undead”. It was over…the human race was lost and subject to exactly what we deserved: eternal condemnation.
But God is not limited, is he? No, He is sovereign over all things natural and unnatural. He is the One who can make the dead undead. He is the one who can redeem the rebellious. He is the One who can determine a means by which a sinful crimson-stained people can be washed white as snow. And He did that through the death and resurrection Jesus Christ; we apply this provision to ourselves personally through faith in Him alone.
Versus 4 and 5 might be two of the greatest verses in all of Scripture. Without any help from us (remember, we were dead, rebellious, and committed to darkness), God made us alive. But not only this…He seated us with Christ in the Heavenly places! That is, we share the same orientation toward God that the perfect Savior Jesus Christ has (our Father). What amazing grace…he not only redeems us, but gives us a place of blessing in the family of God!
Clearly, God did not have to do this. He is fully self-sufficient; He does not need us nor does he need our love. He would have been just to allow us all to suffer the consequences of our rebellion. He was not obligated, and He receives nothing that He did not already have. Why then would He do this? Why would he sacrifice His only begotten Son to redeem a people that hate him…to redeem the very people that put His Son to death?
Are you alive or dead?
I think Paul provides three reasons in this text alone. First, He loved us (v4). He did it for us, not for himself. Second, He desired to demonstrate His grace (v7). Grace needs an object, and this rebellious people made the perfect object to demonstrate His amazing grace. Third, He desired to demonstrate His workmanship (v10). God is not in the business of starting over; he is in the business of redemption. We are the pinnacle of creation…His workmanship…and He desired to rescue it rather than let it die or re-create it.
Let me close with this important question: are you spiritually alive or spiritually dead? God is allowing the “living” to exist in this world intermingled with those that are still dead. How can you tell the difference? Simple really, and it has less to do with your behavior and more to do with your belief. John 3:16 says that whoever believes in Jesus Christ will not perish (remain dead forever) but will have eternal life (be resurrected and remain alive forever). What do you believe about Jesus Christ? If you believe that He is the Son of God who died for your sins and was resurrected, then you are among the living. If not, you are among the dead.
It is indeed that simple, but genuine faith in Christ has a profound impact on your life. If you believe an airplane can fly safely yet refuse to board it, then it’s fair to wonder if you really believe the plane can fly. Similarly, if you believe in Jesus yet live the same way you always have, then it’s fair to wonder if you really believe in Jesus. Genuine faith changes a person…check out verse 10 one more time.
If you need help unpacking any of this privately, feel free to send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to help any way I can. In the meantime, I continue to pray for all of you.