Summary: Ephesians 2:4-5 shows us God's work in our salvation.
Last week, I began a new series of eight sermons on Ephesians 2 that I am calling, “God’s Plan of Reconciliation.”
Ephesians 2:1-10 is a single sentence in the Greek text. The theme of this sentence is God’s grace in saving sinners. Paul began in Ephesians 2:1-3 with a devastating description of the way we were before receiving the amazing grace of God. In verse 4 Paul began to explain how God saves sinners.
Let’s read how God saves sinners in Ephesians 2:4-5. For the sake of context, however, let’s begin reading in verse 1:
1 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. (Ephesians 2:4-5)
Tony Merida tells the story regarding the ministry of the eighteenth-century evangelist George Whitefield, who reportedly preached thousands of times on John 3. He was pouring out his heart one day during a Great Awakening sermon. A man with pockets stuffed with rocks came to physically attack the famous evangelist once the sermon ended. But after Whitefield’s powerful message, the man made his way up to the preacher, emptied his pockets, and said, “I came to hear you with my pocket full of stones to break your head, but your sermon got the better of me and broke my heart” (Dunn, Evangelical Awakening, 17). God gave this angry, hostile man new life through the gospel.
This story wonderfully illustrates what happens when God saves sinners. Before we were Christians, we were by nature hostile and opposed to God. That is because we were “dead in the trespasses and sins in which [we] once walked” (2:1). Before we came to know the grace of God in our lives, we were all – every one of us – in a hopeless, helpless condition before God. Listen again to how the Apostle Paul described every one of us in verses 1-3:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 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 – 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.
And then, in verse 4, Paul said, “But God”! These words teach us about God’s marvelous intervention in our lives. As D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “These two words, in and of themselves, in a sense contain the whole of the gospel.” And James Montgomery Boice said, “They tell what God has done, how God has intervened in what otherwise was an utterly hopeless situation.”
Ephesians 2:4-5 shows us God’s work in our salvation. I am borrowing heavily from James Montgomery Boice for today’s outline and message.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. Who Is This God? (2:4a)
2. What Has God Done? (2:5b)
3. Why Has God Done It? (2:4b, 4c, 5b)
4. What Must I Then Do?
I. Who Is This God? (2:4a)
First, who is this God?
Paul said in verse 4a, “But God….” He introduced the Person of God into the plan of salvation.
Most people today have a misunderstanding of God. Some think of God as a grandfatherly figure who loves everyone and will see to it that everyone gets saved in the end. Others think of God as powerful, austere, distant, and uninvolved in the affairs of men. And, of course, all the religions of the world have fashioned a god to suit their own religion.
This God about whom Paul was writing is not the god of human imagining. He is the God of the Bible. He is the true and living God. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the God Paul described in Ephesians 1 as the one who planned our salvation from eternity past. He is the God as described in our Westminster Shorter Catechism as “a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”
What else do we know about this God? Several things:
First, God is sovereign. The clear teaching of the entire Bible is that God is sovereign. That means that God created the world and everything in it. He controls it. He rules over it. Nothing happens apart from his knowledge; indeed, nothing happens apart from his eternal purpose. That is what Paul was teaching in the first chapter of Ephesians.