Summary: What would it have been like if Jesus had never been born?

(Showed Clip of “Clarence” trying to convince George Bailey he’d really had a wonderful life. Used scene where they were drying their clothes out after George “saved” Clarence from drowning)

OPEN: A Sunday school teacher once asked her class of children: “What is Christmas a time for?” Many of the kids gave the usual answers—Jesus’ birthday, a time of joy… but one child responded it was “a time for sportsmanship, because you don’t always get everything you want.”

Everybody gets gifts they really don’t want during this season and several years ago “USA Today” conducted a survey among adults to find out what they do with that not-quite-right holiday gift:

- 31%: Keep it

- 30%: Hide it

- 13%: Toss it

- 12%: Give it away

- 6%: Return it

Every once in a while, everyone receives gifts that they’re really not sure that they want.


In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” George Bailey had a gift that he wasn’t sure he wanted. His gift was the gift of life. And his life had seemingly fallen apart all around him. He just knew he was going to lose his business, his livelihood. He faced prison for something he hadn’t done. And as a result of all this… his family faced shame and poverty.

In desperation, he pleads with his arch-enemy (Mr. Potter) for a loan on his life insurance. Potter gleefully observes “George, you’re worth more dead than alive!”

And thus, George Bailey decides that his only solution is to throw himself off the bridge into the frigid waters below and at least supply his family with the money from his life insurance.

But God steps in and an angel is sent to earth to stop George Bailey before he can take his life.

But how do you convince a man that the gift he wants to throw away is in reality far too valuable to be destroyed?

The angel’s solution: to grant George Bailey’s wish and show him what life would’ve been like if he’d never been born. So, as George tries to get back to his home, he finds that…

• the town he’d worked so hard to build up and protect had become a den of iniquity and evil

• the pharmacist – who George saved from a tragic mistake – has become the town drunk

• his brother Harry whom he’d saved from falling thru the ice, dies because George wasn’t there to save him and the hundreds of men died that Harry would have saved during the war, because Harry wasn’t there to save them.

• and the beautiful woman he’d married and had had such wonderful children with ended up becoming a wretched, dejected and lonely spinster.

George Bailey finally understood how wonderful his life had been because he was allowed to see how much would have been lost if he had never been born. That - which he’d been tempted to throw away - he came to realize was too valuable to lose.

I. Here in Ephesians 2, Paul is writing to Christians who had been tempted to throw away their gift as well.

Before they’d become Christians, these Ephesians had been

• Gentiles

• Pagans

• dead in their transgressions and sins, (Ephesians 2:1)

• and objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3)

But, all that had changed, because “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions— it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4b-5)

But, now, False Teachers had come to town telling the Ephesians that what God had done through Jesus Christ wasn’t enough. They were teaching that it didn’t really matter that Jesus had been born.

The Ephesians were being told they needed to be circumcised according to the law of Moses.

To be acceptable to God (said the false teachers) they needed something Jesus couldn’t supply.

In essence these false teachers were saying it would be just as well as if Jesus had been born. Jesus hadn’t supplied anything that the Law couldn’t give.

In order to counter this vicious teaching, Paul decided to remind the Ephesians what they’d been like before Jesus had come into their lives. His objective was to teach them what would have happened if Jesus had not been born.

II. What would it have been like if Jesus had never been born?

Paul answers that question from the very outset. He tells the Ephesians they had once been objects of wrath and dead in their sins. AND if Jesus had never been born… they’d still be objects of wrath and dead in their sins.

BUT… what if they’d become Jews?

What if they had become circumcised and become part of the nation of Israel?

What if they went to the Temple every week and offered blood sacrifices to God for their sins?

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Talk about it...

Randall Bergsma

commented on Dec 19, 2006

Although stimulating to ponder, Mr. Strite makes one troubling explanation. The judaizers he speaks of sounds more like the context of Galations than that of Ephesians. Still, the shift in what the Ephesians once were without Christ to what they are in Christ is a great angle for the question "What if Jesus had never lived?"

Jeff Strite

commented on Jun 10, 2008

I truly appreciate Mr. Bergsma's comments, but I believe he is mistaken in his assessment of the judaizers. While the Galatian church was deeply troubled by the issue of circumcision, the Ephesian church (to a lesser degree) had been challenged on that same issue by similar judaizers. Thus Ephesians 2:11 says "...remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called 'uncircumcised' by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)". Too often, theologians forget how serious this conflict was in the early church and how damaging this heresy had become.

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