Summary: The remarkable contrast between what we were and what we now are, as Christians.
If you were a Martian, recently landed on earth, and you watched British TV, what would you think?! You would think that Britain today is obsessed with before and after stories. Home improvement TV programmes show a shabby home bought at an auction. Three months later it looks fabulous. Or a 40 something year old lady (sorry!), is handed over to a plastic surgeon, several fashion boutiques, a dentist and a plastic surgeon, and in a few short week she’ll look 10 years younger. Or perhaps more nobly, a group of youngsters from rough backgrounds who go on an expedition to darkest Peru. They come back proclaiming how the experienced has changed them.
The message is clear: ’You can improve your life. You can improve yourself. You can change your life. Try hard enough, get some help, turn over a new leaf’.
The Christian faith proclaims a before and after story for people like us. But the Bible’s version of it is very different. A human being without Christ is dead – not in need of improvement! Turning over a new leaf won’t help solve that long term problem! What we saw in __________ baptism this morning was a wonderful example of God’s version of a before and after story.
This passage is really very connected to the prayer Paul is praying from 1:15. A prayer for understanding what God has done for the Ephesians. They were dead but now they are alive. This is all part of knowing the hope, inheritance and power God has given them. Paul takes us here to the depths of despair so he can take us to the heights of heaven! This is a biblical before and after story, if you like.
I. vv1-3 What We Were
Paul says, before God got hold of you, you were dead, depraved, disobedient and doomed.
1. You Were Dead:
You followed ways of this world, says Paul. Your sins were the fruit of a dead life. You might have had a healthy body, you may have had a lively mind, you perhaps had a sparkling personality.... but you were spiritually dead. You were heading for an eternal death.
2. You Were Disobedient:
You followed ways of the ruler of the kingdom of the air. That was a Jewish way of referring to the devil, Satan. You followed him. Just like Adam and Eve followed his promptings, so did you. You chose to listen to him instead of to God. You chose your own way over God’s way. You were disobedient.
3. You Were Depraved:
You followed the appetites of your sinful nature. But here in verse 3 Paul changes from the ‘you’ to the ‘us’. Not only had the mostly pagan Ephesian readers lived to please their bodily appetites, so had Paul and all others who’d had a religious upbringing.
4. We were Doomed:
Second part of verse 3, We were by nature objects of wrath. John Piper defines God’s wrath as ‘God’s settled anger toward sin expressed in the repayment of suitable vengeance on the guilty sinner’. Because we revelled in our life apart from God we were under God’s terrible wrath. And there was nothing we could do about it!
For example, if you take a pig out of the pig sty, bath him, scrub him, spray perfume on him, and dress him in a suit and tie... you haven’t changed a thing! He’s still going to head for the nearest and smelliest pile of mud you can find. You see, he is by nature a pig! What he needs is a new nature! But what hope of that?! Dead, disobedient, depraved and doomed... So far it’s a very bleak picture... until verse 4 and the appearance of a humble word packed full of explosive power: But...
II. vv4-10 What You Are
1. But God has loved us back to life
Verse 4f, God’s great love and rich mercy have made us alive with Christ. Grace is God’s free acquittal of a guilty man or woman. Mercy is God’s compassion to one who’s in desperate need and with no claim to favourable treatment. We could say, God’s heart goes out to a dead sinner and raises him to life.
2. But God has seated in the heavenly realms in Christ
In a sense, as we are united with Jesus, and because he is in heaven, so we are seated there with and in him. Seated – it’s in the past tense because it’s as certain as if it’d already happened. And just as Christ has been resurrected, has ascended and is ruling.... just as certain is our resurrection and eternal dwelling and rule with Christ.
3. But God has made us trophies of his grace
Verse 7 (read...) There is a future aspect to our salvation. In the coming ages God will show us even more of his grace. But Paul seems to be saying here (and in 3:10) that God wants to make a show, a display, of his grace toward us. A lady, when asked, ‘Where are your jewels?’ calls her 2 children, points to them and says, ‘These are my jewels.’ And so we are! God will show us off to all the spiritual powers and authorities. He’ll show us off to the angels. And he’ll be glorified for what he did in us.