Summary: In these verses Paul shows us how to move from Death Valley to Divine Victory. He tells us how to move from the graveyard to the throne room. Take off those grave clothes and put on the grace-clothes. Put on your climbing boots and let’s take a hike.
From Death Valley to Grace Mountain
Introduction: Dr. David Dockery, in his excellent commentary on Ephesians, offers an insightful thought that illustrates well the simple meaning of this text. He relates that Mt. Whitney in California is the highest point in the lower forty-eight states. It stands at 14,995 feet. From there one can see for miles. Less than eighty miles to the southeast is Death Valley – the lowest spot in the U.S., 280 feet below sea level. It is the hottest place in the country with temperatures rising to over 100 degrees in the shade. What a contrast!
Spiritually speaking, there are many living in Death Valley (2:1), but there is a way out of the valley to a higher plane of life (2:6). A lot of people want to know if there is life after death. Sure there is. Paul tells us all about it in these verses.
It is stated that this passage is a nightmare for Greek constructionists. Paul begins sentences he never finishes. William Barclay says, “He is pouring out his heart and the claims of grammar give way to the wonders of grace.” Leonard Sweet writes, “This passage is like a long, syntactical traffic accident: a ten verse pileup.” It seems to go on and on, uninterrupted from beginning to end. But there is a deliberate, meaningful message for us.
In these verses Paul shows us how to move from Death Valley to Divine Victory. He tells us how to move from the graveyard to the throne room. Take off those grave clothes and put on the grace-clothes. Put on your climbing boots and let’s take a hike.
Let’s outline Paul’s thoughts. Note:
I. The Position of a Person without Christ (v.1-3)
Paul describes the unsaved person.
A. He’s a Corpse (v.1): Look at the word “dead”. He’s not dead physically, intellectually or
morally. He breathes, thinks and can be kind. He is, however, dead spiritually (ITim.5:6). He possesses no spiritual life. Put a person in a box seat at a ballgame and he responds. Put a corpse in the same place and what does he do? Nothing! He’s dead. He’s not sick, he’s dead! The only difference in the dead is the state of decay.
B. He’s Controlled (v.2-3a): By what is he controlled?
1. The Domain of the World (v.2): He’s controlled by the values, attitudes and morality of this world.
2. The Direction of Satan (v.2): This is Satan and his demonic associates.
3. The Desires of the Flesh (v.3): The flesh here is not the body, but the old fallen nature.
C. He’s Condemned (v.3): See John 3:18. The sentence has been passed. The only thing staying execution is God’s mercy. He’s dead, disobedient, depraved and doomed. That, my friend, is Death Valley.
II. The Privileges of a Person in Christ (v.4-7)
Learn the saved person’s privileges.
A. He’s Resurrected (v.4-5): “Made us alive.” God has taken us from the mire to the choir. Study closely Paul’s words: “great love”, “rich mercy”, “grace”. All of that was demonstrated in Christ. God did all this while we were dead in sin. We don’t have to try to get God to love us, He already does. He proved that at the cross (I Cor. 5:21).
B. He’s Raised (v.6): We now share His glory. Our physical position is on earth but our spiritual position is in heavenly places. (John 11:41-46, 12:1-2).
C. He’s Reigning (v.6-7): We reign with Him that we might glorify Him.
III. The Possibility of it Happening to You (v.8-9)
Salvation is by grace through faith! But faith doesn’t activate until graces motivates. No person seeks God until that person is sought by God. It is through His love, mercy and grace that He seeks us.
A. God Extends His Grace in Christ for Salvation (v.8): “This” refers to the whole work of salvation. Salvation is a gift not a reward. It cannot be of works since the work has been completed at the cross. You can add nothing to it and you dare not take anything from it. It’s all of grace.
B. Man Exercises Faith in Christ for Salvation: It’s by faith not works. “Jesus paid it all – all to Him I owe.” Trust Him!
IV. The Purpose of it All (v.10)
What does this mean? We are saved from something for something.
A. God Desires to Work in Us: The word “workmanship” comes from a word related to a poem. We are His poem. We are a poem with a purpose. Our lives are to communicate something. His purpose is to continue to work in us to make us more like Christ. It does so through the word, spirit, prayer and suffering. The same power that saved you wants to sanctify you.