Summary: Sermon on the address to the saints at Ephesus, Ephesians 1: 1 - 2 and 2: 1 - 3
Sinners and Saints
Ephesians 1: 1 – 3; 2: 1 – 3
A king sits on a throne thinking about all of his accomplishments—the foes he has slain, the armies he has conquered, the cities he has built, all the things that he has achieved in the course of his life.
A prophet of God appears before him thinking of some of his less famous acts; and the prophet tells him a story.
“There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” (2nd Samuel 12: 1 – 4)
Then, the Scriptures tell us, the king
…burned with anger against the man and [he] said to [the prophet], “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
And then, I imagine there was a moment when the prophet and the king locked eyes, and even before a word was spoken, the king knew—he knew in his heart what that next word would be.
“You are the man,” said Nathan, the prophet of God.
And David, the shepherd king, is undone. For all that he has accomplished, all of his victories, all of his self-righteousness is eclipsed in this single moment where he stands exposed before God for what he truly is and what he has become, an adulterer and a murderer, just another bad king of Israel.
And we are not surprised. The history of humanity, even that recorded in the Bible, is, time and time again, the history of a people overtaken and overwhelmed by sin. In Scripture we read of the failures and faults of all, from Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden to Noah to Abraham to Moses to the kings and prophets of Israel (David not least among those). And sometimes we are comforted, to think that the people of God who have gone before were really no different than we ourselves. But sometimes, we may be tempted to think, “If I had been there—if I had walked that path—if I had been in that one’s shoes, then things would certainly have turned out differently.”
But we must be careful, because in the moment that we begin to think like David, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay…” in that very moment the word of God stands before us as the prophet saying, “Truly; but it’s you. You’re the one. You have done this thing. You are no better.” Because the fact is, sin is endemic to the human race. It touches us at the very core of who we are, polluting everything that we think, and say, and do.
Didn’t we see this in Ephesians chapter 2 just a few moments ago? Remember? Paul wrote,
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.(Ephesians 2: 1 – 3)
As Martin Luther said, “We are all sinners, even in the best of lives.”
Or, if you prefer the old apostle to the old reformer, listen to Romans chapter 3.
As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.”