Summary: All glory for our change goes to God. He provided us with salvation. We do not need to do good works to merit salvation, but we should do good works because we have received salvation. This is God’s plan for every believer.
Opening illustration: Can a man be officially alive after being declared legally dead? That question became international news when a man from Ohio showed up in good health after being reported missing more than 25 years earlier. At the time of his disappearance he had been unemployed, addicted, and hopelessly behind in child support payments. So he decided to go into hiding. On his return, however, he discovered how hard it is to come back from the dead. When the man went to court to reverse the ruling that had declared him legally dead, the judge turned down his request, citing a 3-year time limit for changing a death ruling.
That unusual request of a human court turns out to be a common experience for God. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us that though we were spiritually dead, God “made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:1, 5). Yet declaring and making us spiritually alive was a deeply painful matter for God. Our sin and its consequent spiritual death required the suffering, death, and resurrection of God’s Son (vv.4-7).
It’s one thing to show evidence of physical life. Our challenge is to show evidence of spiritual life. Having been declared alive in Christ, we are called to live in gratitude for the immeasurable mercy and life given to us. (Mart DeHaan, ODB)
Let us turn to Ephesians 2 in our Bibles and catch up with Paul’s address to the Christians living in Ephesus on why they are dead and only Christ can make them alive …
Introduction: If you're like me, you've had a debate with yourself about when to go to the doctor and when not to go, because things will probably clear up on their own. Not knowing when to go has terrible consequences. The Heart and Stroke Foundation says, "Thousands of Americans die from heart attacks every year because they don't get medical treatment quickly enough. Learn to recognize the signals of a heart attack, so you can react quickly to save a life." People die because they think that they're only experiencing some other type of pain, when they're really experiencing something far more serious.
A similar thing happens spiritually. Today’s text contains a number of things that most people don’t really believe. If the passage before us is right, then a lot of us have misdiagnosed our condition, and the consequences can be fatal.
Why did God make us Alive?
1. Saw our DIRE CONDITION (vs. 1-3)
In these first three verses, the apostle Paul gives us a true picture of the human condition. It's something that we're going to struggle with. This is a repugnant teaching, and for years people have objected to this. Ever since the Enlightenment, people have argued that children are born innocent, and we mess them up with our culture and education. Blaise Pascal struggled with this more than ever.
So what is the human condition? Paul unpacks it in three ways. First, he says, humanity is dead. "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins." We are spiritually dead. We are not in danger of death; we are not half-dead; Paul says we are actually dead. John Piper says, we're in the morgue, not the doghouse. In the doghouse, we can whimper, say sorry, and throw ourselves on God's mercy. But what can you do in the morgue? Nothing. This is the human condition. We are completely dead in our sins.
There are really three views of human nature out there. One is that humans are well, and there's nothing really wrong with us. They talk about the greatness of human potential. The second view of human nature is actually the most popular. It's the view that humanity isn't well; it's probably sick. We are capable of great evil, but with the right education, the right upbringing, we'll be okay. We're capable of choosing good or evil, and with the right effort and training, we can choose to be good most of the time. This is by far the most popular view, not just in the world but probably also in the church. If you believe that we're only sick, then what we need is someone to be our example or our teacher.
This leads to what is called Pelagianism, which is our default way of thinking, but it's also dead wrong. This taught that Adam's sin set a bad example, but it didn't affect the rest of us. Human nature is fine, and we can choose good or evil ourselves.
But here Paul says that we're not well, and we're not even sick. There's nothing we can do. We can't make the first move; we can't do anything. We're dead. We're completely hopeless. Theologians call this total or pervasive depravity. Every human has been affected in every area life, so that no part of the human person - mind, emotions, conscience, will - is unaffected by sin. Paul says that this is our condition. We're not well; we're not sick; we're actually dead in our sins.