Summary: We were dead in sin, but we are alive in Christ! It is by grace, through faith (the core of the gospel). But there is more: God re-created us to do good works for his glory.
In Christ, I Am…Re-Created for Good—Ephesians 2:1-10
(Series on Ephesians: In Christ, I Am…)
Verses 8 and 9 are the gospel in about 30 words, and you would do well to memorize them as a summary of the gospel. You might go through verse 10: (Reread Ephesians 2:8-10.)
The gospel is good news. In fact, that is literally the meaning of the Greek word euangelion, from which we get the English words evangelism and evangelical.
The gospel tells us how we can be SAVED. Christians like to use that word, but what does it really mean? It means we are saved from hell, from an eternity apart from God, in the company of the devil and his angels. But what impact does salvation have on us now?
Some people think of salvation like a card in the game of Monopoly—the “Get out of Jail Free” card. Or, they think it is like a concert ticket, which gets someone into the gate that leads to heaven. So they stick it in their wallet, and forget about it until the time comes to use it. Being saved, then, has little to do with everyday life.
The Bible has a much more comprehensive view of salvation. When we are saved, we are saved from wasting our potential and missing what God intends for us, and we are saved for the fullness of the life God has for us. Salvation takes us from death to life—beginning now, and more gloriously when life on earth is finished.
Our text begins by identifying what we need to be saved from. It is not a pretty picture, but the diagnosis is good news!
Suppose you go to the doctor, and you say, “I haven’t been feeling like my normal self.” You go on to describe a variety of symptoms of poor health, but you don’t really know what the problem is. Would you rather hear from the doctor, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you. I guess you will just have to learn to live with this, as your new normal. Maybe when you die, we can do an autopsy to figure out what is really wrong with you”? Or would you rather have the doctor tell you what is wrong, and tell you how it can be fixed?
The good news of the gospel begins with God identifying what is wrong with us, apart from Christ. Read Ephesians 2:1-3.
“You were dead in your transgressions and sins…” Transgression is slipping up, and sin is missing the target. Your life wasn’t on track. When Paul says, “You were dead,” he implies that we were unable to do the right thing. Sometimes we might even say, “I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself.”
“You were…walking in the way of the world.” In other words, we tend to go with the flow, even when the flow is going down the toilet! Sometimes, it gets even worse: “…walking in the ways of…the ruler of the kingdom of the air.” Greek philosophers like Philo and Pythagoras identified the rulers of the air as evil spirits, and Paul focuses on the chief evil ruler, which would be the devil.
“All of us were…gratifying the cravings of our flesh (our sinful, broken self), following its passions and thoughts.” Paul is talking about the times when we say, “Why did I do that? I should have known better. I don’t want to be like that.”
“We were by nature children of wrath.” (Note to preacher: This is a literal translation; the Greek word is tekna.) With children, we understand that if punishment comes, it is not the parent’s fault.
This is not a pretty picture of humanity without Christ! In fact, our diagnosis is deadly, until verse 4, which begins, “But God…” (Note to preacher: This is the original Greek word order, although some translations change the order to make the sentence less awkward. The Greek speaks of mercy first, and then love; the NIV puts love first, and then mercy. Adapt to the translation you are using.)
Read Ephesians 2:4. The good news is that God loves people who are dead in sin. God loves people who are walking in the ways of an evil world, and even walking with the devil! God loves people who are following their own evil passions. God loves people who deserve to go to hell! God doesn’t just feel compassion for them; he lifts them out of their misery. Read Ephesians 2:4-5. We were dead in sin, going with flow of evil, when God gave us new life in Jesus Christ. He gave new life through a relationship with himself.
On the television series “Shark Tank,” entrepreneurs present their business ideas to five wealthy, well-connected venture capitalists, hoping that one or more will invest in the business. One of the “sharks” is known for expressing his disdain for an entrepreneur by saying, “You are dead to me.” He means that there is no possibility of a relationship between him and the entrepreneur; as far as he is concerned, the proposal is dead. Sometimes, however, another “shark” will decide to invest, bringing the idea to life. The shark provides money, expertise, and opportunities that would not otherwise be available, and the business has new life.