We are looking at Ephesians 2:1-10, which contains three main segments: 1) Verses 1-3, which we looked at last time, focus on fallen man and his hopeless condition--he is dead as a result of his sin. 2) Verses 4-6, which we are going to look at today, focus on God and on His mercy, love, and grace in making a provision for man's salvation in Christ. 3) Verses 7-10, focus on the purpose of salvation--to the praise of the glory of His grace. All together, they spell out the essence of the Gospel of Yeshua Ha'Moshiach. The overarching theme of these verses is that salvation is totally of God.
To get the impact of what Paul says in verse 4, we need to go back and reread the first three verses:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. Ephesians 2:1-3 NASB
In these verses Paul wants us to feel the helplessness and hopelessness of our spiritual past. We were dead. Things can't get worse then dead! In contrast to that gloomy picture the apostle now says:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, Ephesians 2:4 NASB
"But God..."--our salvation hangs entirely on those two words. We were dead, but God! We were enslaved to sin, but God! We were trapped, but God! We were self-destructing, but God! We were lost in sin, but God!
This is the same thing that Paul did in Romans. In 1:18-3:20 Paul demonstrated the sinfulness of man and the need to have a right standing before God. Then in 3:21-31, he reveals God's redemption in Christ. Paul always starts with man's lost and dead condition. In Titus 3,Paul is telling us what we were like, and then what God has done to change our state:
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Yeshua the Christ our Savior, Titus 3:3-6 NASB
In our text in Ephesians Paul uses an adversative coordinating conjunction de (but) to introduce God's actions toward us in contrast to our plight in verse 1. You were dead, "But God..." McDonald says, "It's one of the most significant, eloquent and inspiring transitions in all literature." Because it indicates a stupendous change, something that I could not change, you could not change, no church could change, or minister or system, or philosophy of belief could change, "but God..."! Hallelujah!
What man cannot do, God can! After the rich young ruler walked away from Yeshua He explained to the disciples:
And Yeshua said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. "Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:23-24 NASB
Contrary to a popular idea, Yeshua was not talking about a certain low gate in the Jerusalem wall. He was talking about a literal needle! This is evident by the disciples response:
When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" And looking at them Yeshua said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:25-26 NASB
We were dead, but God changed all that, only He can raise the dead! Up to this point in the paragraph no subject or main verb has been mentioned. Now the subject God is introduced. Paul begins verse 4 in the Greek with, "But God..." and doesn't get to the verb, "made alive" until the end of verse 5.
"...Being rich in mercy..."--this is the Greek word eleos translated here a mercy. Aristotle, in his discourse on "eleos," states that it is an emotional concern for those who undeservedly suffered some calamity. This is abstract, we need the concrete Hebrew meaning of this word. This word appears 238 times in the canonical books of the LXX translated from seven Hebrew words. In over 200 times it is translated chesed, which means: "goodness, kindness, faithfulness." It has the idea of loyal or covenant love.
Mercy shown to another human being is illustrated in the Good Samaritan's action. Yeshua asked who proved to be a neighbor to the wounded man:
And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Yeshua said to him, "Go and do the same." Luke 10:37 NASB
So he is saying that the Good Samaritan showed mercy. What did this mercy look like? Was it just an emotional concern as Aristotle describes it? No!:
and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. Luke 10:34 NASB
That is mercy! A good definition of "mercy" would be: "to help one afflicted or seeking aid, to bring help to the wretched." Mercy is the outward manifestation of pity. The verb signifies a feeling of sympathy with the misery of another, especially when manifested in action. Our text says that Yahweh is "rich" in mercy. The word "rich" is plousios, which means: "abundant." Our God is abundant in mercy.
Last week we talked about Yahweh's wrath, and I said that many feel that the God of the Tanakh is different from the God of the New Testament, which is crazy because one of Yahweh's attributes is that He is immutable, He is the unchangeable God. Malachi 3:6 says, "I am the Lord I change not"; we read in James 1:17, "With [God] is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
Yahweh cannot change, because a change is either from better to worse or worse to better. So we cannot have an eternal God and a God who changes. We must have immutability because all the promises of God depend upon divine immutability.
Our whole saving experience depends upon the fact that He is immutable. He has never changed and He will never change in the future. Therefore, the promises of eternal life are valid forever. If ever He loved me, He loved me forever!
Many wrongly think that in the Tanakh God is portrayed as a stern God of judgment and wrath, whereas in the New Testament, He softened into a tolerant God of love and mercy. But love and mercy are not just seen in the New Testament, we see throughout the Tanakh that Yahweh is a God of mercy.
When Moses asked to see God's face, He told him that he could not, because no man can see God and live (Exod. 33:20). But then Yahweh told Moses to hide himself in the rock, and He would pass by so that Moses could get a glimpse of His back. Then we read:
Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; Exodus 34:6 NASB
The Hebrew word translated "lovingkindness" is the Hebrew chesed, which is often translated: "mercy," His compassion for our miserable condition due to our sin.
Later, when Moses is predicting to the nation her apostasy and idolatry, and how God would scatter them among the nations because of their sin, he added that they would then return to Yahweh and listen to His voice. He adds the reason for this:
"For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them. Deuteronomy 4:31 NASB
When David rehearsed God's many blessings, he wrote:
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. Psalms 103:8 NASB
"Lovingkindness" is the Hebrew chesed. The theme of God's compassion and mercy runs throughout the Tanakh and, as you may expect, into the New Testament also, where the Greek word for mercy appears over 70 times. Most people would have no problem with saying that the God of the New Testament is merciful. But most would have a problem with the fact that God is sovereign in His mercy. He chooses to whom He will be merciful.
For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." Romans 9:15 NASB
This is a quotation from Exodus 33:19. The context of this quote is all important. This statement of the freedom of God in mercy is given by Moses as an expression and manifestation of Yahweh's name, His character, His glory. The story takes us to that time when Moses was on the mountain receiving the "Ten Commandments." As he delayed in returning, the children o f Israel began to worship a golden calf and engage in immorality and drunkenness while abandoning Yahweh. The Lord told Moses that they were "an obstinate people," so He would destroy them and make of Moses a great nation (Ex. 32:9-10). Moses interceded for them, pleading for God's mercy. Yahweh declared that judgment was about to fall, but some would be spared. He would spare whom He chose to spare. His mercy was selective.
Yahweh says, "The principle upon which I work is this, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." That is a formal declaration of divine prerogative. Election is based upon the mercy of God. For God to choose some for salvation is for God to show mercy to those individuals. God is free to show mercy to whom He will. God showed that mercy to Israel, that's why they weren't destroyed as a nation when they built the golden calf.
God is sovereign in the exercise of His mercy. Mercy is not a right to which man is entitled. To speak of deserving mercy is a contradiction of terms. God gives mercy to whom He pleases and withholds mercy as it seems good to Himself.
Back to our text in Ephesians Paul says, "...Because of His great love with which He loved us..."--this states the cause of Yahweh's abundant mercy. So it is by reason of His great love that He exercises mercy toward us.
What Paul has in mind here by "His great love" is the cross, and, behind it, the whole story of Yeshua's coming to Earth. That is the sign of the love of God. How do we know that God loved us? Well, because He gave:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 NASB
This verse reveals God's motive for providing salvation. God wasn't motivated to save us through pity or even a sense of obligation as our Creator. He was motivated solely by love.
One of the best attempts outside of Scripture to describe God's love is the hymn, "The Love of God." A Nazarene pastor, F. M. Lehman, heard what is now the third verse recited at a camp meeting. A Jewish rabbi had composed it in Arabic in 1096. Later it was found inscribed in English on the wall of an insane asylum after the inmate had died. Pastor Lehman added the other verses and chorus (from Amazing Grace, Kenneth Osbeck [Kregel], p. 47). The third verse reads, "Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made, Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade, To write the love of God above, Would drain the oceans dry, Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky."
How easy it is for us to think there's something in us that caused God to exercise His mercy in behalf of us. But there is nothing that caused God to exercise His mercy to us except His sovereign love. That's all. It's not because He saw we would believe. It's not because He saw that we would do some particular work. It is because of His sovereign love.
even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), Ephesians 2:5 NASB
"...We were dead..."--in verse 1 Paul said, "You were dead." Now he says, "We were dead." Everybody was dead. There are two questions that we need to answer here. How did the Ephesians get dead? And what does he mean by dead? To answer these questions look at:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- Romans 5:12 NASB
Notice the Results of Adam's sin--"...Sin entered the world...." Adam introduced sin into the human realm. The story is found in Genesis 2. Adam was placed in a perfect environment in the Garden of Eden. God gave Adam one prohibition. All those trees and Adam could eat of them all except one. Well, you know what happened, Adam ate of the forbidden fruit--he sinned. Sin is violating the commands of God. When Adam sinned--"...sin entered the world...."
Paul tell us that death came as a result of sin--"...and death through sin..." As a result of Adam's sin, he died. He is not speaking here about physical death. Adam did not die physically that day, but he did die spiritually. He died spiritually the moment he disobeyed. Spiritual death is separation from God, who is life.
So, in answer to the question: "What is death?" The death referred to here and in our text in Ephesians is spiritual death, which is separation from God, who is life.
Paul goes on in Romans 5:12 to say, "...and so death spread to all men." Spiritual death spread to all men. Every human being born is born separated from God, dead in sin. The question that arises here is, "Why?" Why do all die? The answer is given in the end of verse 12. All men are born spiritually dead--"...because all sinned." The Greek here employs the aorist tense, which indicates that at some point in the past all men sinned, and that point must be when Adam sinned. When he sinned, I sinned. If Adam is guilty, I am guilty. We sinned in Adam. He represented us, and what he did, we did. His act is put to our account. So we are all born dead.
Dr. John Cereghin, in his commentary on Ephesians writes, "Dead, but not totally." One of the lines from the movie Princess Bride was, "Mostly dead is somewhat alive." But death is an absolute state, you either are or you're not. You can't be partially dead. Partially dead is alive. Cereghin goes on to say, "The body of the unsaved man is still alive as is his soul, or his self-consciousness. His spirit, or his God-consciousness, is what is dead." I agree with him on that.
Cereghin goes on to say, "The Calvinist has God regenerating sinners before they believe and then saving them later. The Calvinist thus believes that men are saved before they believe." Well this Calvinist believes that God must regenerate sinners before they can believe. But I believe that in the ordo salutis man believes and then is saved. The teaching of The Reformation is: "Regeneration precedes faith." We must have life before we can believe. The Scriptures clearly show that faith is the evidence and not the cause of regeneration:
Whoever believes that Yeshua is the Christ is [has been] born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 1 John 5:1 NASB
The Greek text reads: "Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Christ has been [perfect tense] born of God."
Dr. Cereghin goes on to say, "Now we were 'dead in our sins' yet it is obvious from the Scripture that that deadness did not extend to the will of man for God is constantly telling 'dead' men to repent. Why command a dead man to repent and believe the Gospel unless he was able to do so?"
Luther said, "It is not in your power to turn to God. If you think that it is in your power to turn to God, you have missed the whole point of The Reformation and don't understand total depravity. It is not in your power to turn to God. You are a sinner, you're dead, you're eaten up with corruption. Every choice of yours is evil and not good. So how can we turn to Him who is light, righteousness, holy, and good?"
Luther taught that you have a duty to return to God, but you do not have the ability. RESPONSIBILITY DOES NOT IMPLY ABILITY!
"While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light." These things Yeshua spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. John 12:36 NASB
Yeshua said, "...believe in the light...." Most believers today would say that because Christ commands us to believe, we must be able to believe. That is not correct! Look at the following verses:
But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?" For this reason they could not believe... John 12:37-39 NASB
They did not believe because they could not believe. And they could not believe because they were dead, not mostly dead, but dead.
Dr. Cereghin goes on to say, "The sinner is in a state of spiritual deadness in that he is not alive or sensitive to the things of God. Yet the dead man can make a decision to accept or reject the Gospel and God will hold the dead man responsible for the choice."
So a man who is spiritually dead, who is not sensitive to the things of God can make a spiritual decision to trust Christ? How do spiritually dead men make spiritual decisions?
In an attempt to prove the view that men are "dead in sin" is wrong, the Arminian will argue that the Bible plainly teaches that those who are dead in sin can resist the Holy Spirit. And then argue, Now have you ever seen a corpse resist something? Of course not. So if we adopt the implications of the Calvinistic definition of "dead in sin" then we must deny that anyone who is dead in sin can resist the Holy Spirit or reject the Gospel. Corpses can't resist or reject anything any more than they can see or hear anything. This, they reason, shows that Calvinists have misinterpreted the meaning of dead in sin.
What I am saying is that man is spiritually dead, dead to the things of the Spirit:
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB
Man is spiritually dead, but he is physically alive. That is why he can resist the Holy Spirit and reject the Gospel. Notice what Paul says is the solution to the problem of being spiritually dead. He says, God, "made us alive together with Christ..."--the subject of this verb is God in verse 4. Giving life is the only solution. Notice that the solution is not for God to convict us, woo us, scare us, He must give us life! Apart from regeneration, the sinner remains dead in sin or in his natural condition of original sin.
I would like to issue the following challenge to any Arminian: Can a natural person, left to themselves, even lift a finger toward their own salvation? Or have any response whatsoever to the Gospel APART FROM the work of the Holy Spirit? No, in fact traditional Arminianism teaches that unless the Holy Spirit grants "prevenient grace" then there is not even the possibility of any response.
The very necessity of prevenient grace to the Arminian excludes the possibility of a response by those dead in sin, and demonstrates beyond any further question that they fully embrace the term "spiritually dead" in the exact same way as the traditional Calvinist. This is not where these two camps differ. The difference is whether this working of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the unbeliever prior to salvation is monergistic or synergistic, whether it effectually accomplishes God's intended design or whether such grace can be resisted by man. That is really where we differ, not over the meaning of the phrase "dead in sin". At least the concept of total inability to respond is precisely the same apart from grace.
The biblical view is summed up in the short sentence, "Yeshua saves!" As the angel announced to Joseph concerning Yeshua:
"She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins." Matthew 1:21 NASB
The name Yeshua literally means: "Yahweh's Salvation, or Salvation from Yahweh." Who are "His people"? Israel? Yes, but all who trust Yeshua are true Israel.
He didn't say, "He will do all that He can, but He is limited by the sinner's stubborn will." He didn't say, "He will throw the rope to everyone, but they've got to grab on to be saved." God isn't frustrated in heaven, wishing that He could do more: "I'd like to save Saul of Tarsus, but the guy is so stubborn!" No, the hope of the Gospel is that God saves sinners. We were dead--but God made us alive!
"...Made us alive together with Christ..."--the phrase "...made us alive together with..." is one word in the Greek language. It is the Greek word suzoopoieo. It is a first aorist active indicative of the double compound verb "to make alive" and "with,found only here and in Colossians 2:13. The word zoopoieo literally means: "made us alive" and in Scripture it is used of God giving life, it is used of a resurrection--here is talking about a spiritual resurrection.
The word used here is suzoopoieo, which is zoopoieo with the sun prefix, which is a positional association. We were co-resurrected with Christ. We see this same positional association in Romans 6 (co-buried, co-crucified, co-resurrected with Christ); and in Colossians 2 (co-buried, co-raised, co-quickened). And in our text we are (co-quickened, co-raised, co-seated in heaven with Christ); These all utilize the sun or co- prefix and all demand a positional stance of the believer with the reality of Christ. Paul is stressing the believer's union with Christ. You see, we needed a new union. We had Adam as our federal head. We need a new federal head. We need to be "in Christ." And that is what Paul speaks of here. Those who were hopelessly dead in sin received new life through that union. Please get this: We were dead, and God gave us life.
Paul talks about the all-important place of our union with Christ often in his writings:
But by His doing you are in Christ Yeshua, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 1 Corinthians 1:30 NASB
Notice that it is God who creates the union. "By God's doing you are in Christ Yeshua." Literally, "From Him you are in Christ Yeshua." He creates the union by His grace. We embrace it by faith.
Notice the importance of this union with Christ. If you are in Christ, by God's doing, Christ becomes for you "wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption." All that Christ is for you, He is for you because you are "in Him." Because you are united to Him.
Chrysostom wrote, "The life of the whole body is in the head, and therefore when the head rose, the body rose. Each in his order however; first Christ, and then they that are Christ's."
I take this miracle, "He made us alive," to be virtually the same as what Yeshua calls the new birth. Once we had no spiritual life, and then God raised us from that state of spiritual deadness. And now we are alive. This is the same as Yeshua's saying that we must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5) and "It is the Spirit who gives life" (John 6:63).
Paul teaches in the previous passage that God raised Christ from the dead by His great power, and now he indicates that because Christ is the head of the chosen ones,
Christians have been raised together with Him. The same power that God exerted in Christ's resurrection has effected our spiritual resurrection.
Why did God give us life? It's a one word answer: grace: "By grace you have been saved..."--it's as though Paul can't wait to say it, so he interjects it parenthetically. Grace means that we did not deserve it. We deserved God's wrath because of our sins, but He saved us by His unmerited favor.
God didn't have to make us alive. He was not constrained to do that by His character, or any promises that He made. No, it is all of grace; the unmerited favor of God to sinners.
That salvation is by grace is clearly illustrated by Paul's description of us as being dead. Dead people can't help themselves. They can't move, talk, or respond in any way, because they have no life. We were given life through Christ when we were dead in our sins. This was an act of grace independent of our efforts and works (Romans 3:27 and 11:6).
In the Reformation the cry was, "Sola Gratia!" It means: "by Grace Alone." And that is Paul's emphasis here. We can do nothing to effect our salvation. God must first move in us to bring us spiritual life. He must do this before we even realize that we have sinned and are in need of a Savior:
and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Yeshua, Ephesians 2:6 NASB
"...Raised us up with Him..."--the Greek word used here for "raised up with" is sunegeiro. The verb actually means: "to be co-resurrected." This is a second "with" verb that Paul uses. Again, we need to understand this was the work of God in Christ.
Since "made us alive" is referring to a spiritual resurrection, maybe this is referring to a co-ascension. God did not just raise Yeshua from the dead (resurrection), but He raised Him up into the heavens--the ascension. Whether this is a reference to the resurrection or ascension, we have both. Whatever happened to Christ happened to us. "...Seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Yeshua."--this is the third "with" verb that Paul uses. We are seated with Christ. Paul speaks to this back in 1:20-21. Here in 2:6, though, it is used in reference to us. Christ is now in perfect fellowship with the Father. He is at the Father's right hand, the place of favor. He is above every name. We, too, are seated with Him.
The words "with Him" were used three times in our text. It is describing our union with Christ in being "made alive" (Eph. 2:5), "raised" (Eph. 2:6), "and seated "in heavenly places" (Eph. 2:6). None of these things are possible on our own. It is only through our union with Christ that any of this is attainable. The greatest fact of all is that we are joined to Yeshua the Christ. So from here on our identity is no longer "in Adam," but it is "in Christ."
Our destiny is identified with Christ's destiny, His work. He was made alive; we were made alive together with Him. He was raised up, we were raised up together with Him. He was made to sit at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places, we have been made to sit together with Him. Why have we been identified with Him? For this simple reason: He is the covenantal head of the redeemed family. What He does, He does for us.
Everything that He did He did as a covenantal head. So when He bore the penalty for sin, our penalty was borne. That's why heaven cannot punish one iota those for whom Christ died. You see, He has borne the penalty. There is no further penalty. We have borne our penalty in Him.
What a magnificent thing it is to realize that my acceptance with the Father is the acceptance Yeshua has with the Father. That's why Paul talks about being in Him so often, united to Him.
Why would He make us alive when we deserve death? Why would He raise us instead of leaving us to wallow in the hole that we preferred. Why would he seat us in the place of favor, when He should have separated us eternally? Paul tells us the reason in vs. 7, and we'll look at that next week.
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