Ephesians – And You Were Dead

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – And You Were Dead

September 14, 2014

Ephesians 2:1-7 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

How many of you love a good rescue story? If you are like me, I know you love a good movie or book where the hero arrives on the scene to rescue the damsel in distress or the soldier behind enemy lines. Or the hero could be the last one standing against the enemy. We love movies like Spiderman who rescues his MJ, Superman who rescues his Lois Lane, or Captain Miller played by Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan who does not give up until they find and rescue private Ryan. Who could forget Gladiator or William Wallace in “Braveheart.”

Just this week, we were reminded of one of the greatest stories of heroism is in our lifetime or at least my lifetime. The brave first responders who were on their way into the trade towers when every one else was one their way out were truly heroes. They offered their lives so others could live. That is the mark of a true hero. It was a true hero who spent days pouring through the massive amount of rubble in hopes of finding one more person alive. Michelle and I knew many of these brave men who risked themselves on behalf of others. They are our heroes. As we turn our attention to this passage before us what unfolds is the story of such a hero. Mankind entrapped by the power of sin and the curse of an evil nature is rescued by a powerful hero, Christ.

As we begin this morning, it is noteworthy that there is no separation from the end of chapter one and the beginning of chapter 2. These breaks are placed here by the translators so that the text is easier to read and it is easier to reference. Because there is no break between chapter one and two, Paul is in essence continuing his discussion on the immeasurable greatness of God’s power. Paul enters a discussion here that evidences the greatness of His power by comparing the depth of man’s sin to the power of Christ to save. John Stott suggests that “Paul plumbs the death of pessimism about man and then arises to the heights of optimism about God.” The immeasurable greatness of God’s power is evidenced in His ability to make a dead man live.

Paul begins the discussion with the emphatic statement “and you were dead…” The word used here in the Greek is the word “NEKRO.” It is a word that denotes a body without life. This term refers figuratively to the spiritual condition of those who are unable to attain the life of faith. They have no power to bring life in and of themselves. Lost men are spiritually and eternally dead. They are not merely weakened, incapacitated, disabled or sick, they are dead without any life. And most of all, this death is a separation from God and all that God has given as spiritual blessings. Sadly, there are two other components to a dead man. For one, dead men do not grow, in fact they are being corrupted and are in a state of deterioration. They are dead and yet are in the process of continuing to die. Secondly, dead men are impotent. They are powerless to accomplish anything of eternal value. Notice I said eternal value.

You might wonder why one could be dead and yet still seem to have such success in life. We look at athletes who run fast and accomplish great feats. We see those who have great intellectual ability to achieve greatness. These people are capable of great discoveries and yet they do not know Christ. The appearance is that they are alive and successful but outward success is not a measure of inward life. One can be successful and achieve great things but still be dead inwardly.  Jesus referred to these people as whitewashed tombs. They are clean on the outside but dead on the inside.

How are these people dead? They are dead in their trespasses and sin. Paul uses two words here for sin. The first is the word trespasses. The word trespass in the Greek is the word “PARAPIPTO” and means to fall aside or to stumble on something by chance. It is the idea of being led astray. It carries the idea of a sin that was unintentional. For example, in the Old Testament economy, when God established the law it is noteworthy that one of the elements of the law was a provision to offer a sacrifice in the case one who happens upon a dead body. For the Jew, this was a sin even though he did not plan it or execute the sin on his own. It was unintentional.

On the other hand, the word here for sins is the word HAMARTIA which means to miss the mark or to fall short. It is the idea of missing the bullseye. You know the target, you know the goal, but you miss it. Sin is therefore a violation of God’s righteous character and of His law.

Paul continues this discussion by using a familiar Hebrew phrase in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked. The idea presented in this phrase is that it is a former habitual lifestyle or behavior but there is also a sense of past bondage that relates to this phrase. With that in mind Paul continues by listing three influences that controlled the way we lived before Christ.

First, they followed the course of this world. The phrase of this world represents a whole social value system that is alien to God. This worldview permeates and dominates non-Christian society and it holds people in captivity. When human beings have a worldview that is foreign to God they are dehumanized by political oppression or bureaucratic tyranny by an outlook that is secular. They repudiate God, They are amoral. They repudiate absolutes. They are materialistic. They glorify the consumer market. When this occurs the tendency is that people do not have a mind of their own but they are slaves to the pop-culture of television and glossy magazines. This becomes a cultural bondage.

Secondly, they were held captive to the works and schemes of the devil. Here Paul describes the devil as the prince of the power of the air. You see the devil prefers darkness to light. At times he is not interested in total darkness but in establishing a foggy atmosphere of confusion and disruption. Earlier Paul discusses the powers that Christ is over. The fact is, we must know that these are the same powers and authorities which Christ has exerted power over. Remember from last week’s lesson that God through Christ has exerted absolute power over every authority, ruler or spirit. Certainly, the devil must be in subjection to God. Once again we must understand that the rule of satan was disrupted by the death and resurrection of Christ. We also know that there will come a day that satan and his minions will be cast into the lake of fire. That will be his ultimate judgement. But in this current world he is that roaring lion that seeks to devour. He seeks to rob, kill, and destroy all he can.

The third influence that holds us in captivity is the lust of the flesh. These passions are the desires of the mind, body and emotions. To lust is to desire what one cannot have. If not brought under control, one will act on the desire and bring greater consequences upon their life. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they were to live as holy and not be driven by the lust that was pervasive in their life before Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:5). In 2 Peter 2, we are warned that judgement will come to those who continue to live after the flesh.

When we began this message this morning we talked about how we all love to have a rescuer come save the day. The greatness of the redemption story is that God sent His son to save the day but not just the day but to rescue all of mankind. He did not ride a white horse or bring a army with him, but his rescue mission was not any less important or powerful.

It is for that reason that Paul transitions this part of His letter with “But God.” This is one of the most awesome phrases in all of the New Testament. What a powerful thought. Listen to Paul’s words. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Do you hear what Paul is saying? While we were dead. While we were hopelessly living in captivity and bondage to a mixed up way of living, Christ died for our trespasses. Notice here that there is no caveat that when we got better or did the right thing Christ did what he did. No, before we could, He did. Not only did he provide forgiveness of both our trespasses and our sin, He also made us alive. So think about that. We could be forgiven but dead but He breathed life into our spiritual being and has spiritually set us in heavenly places. How exciting is that.

Copyright © Robert W. Odom 2014 All rights Reserved

For Audio of Message go to PCCMinistry.org

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