Elon, North Carolina
We have been studying the Book of Ephesians. In Ephesians 2, Paul gives us the BEFORE and AFTER picture of salvation. He shows us what it was like before we were saved and what it is like after we were saved. There is a big difference.
Many people who try to sell a product also give a before picture and an after picture. We see this on many weight loss commercials on TV. They give a before picture and an after picture. The before picture is of a person who is fat and out of shape. The lighting is bad. The after picture is of someone who is slim and muscular and looks happier.
Paul also gives us a before and after picture in Ephesians 2. He tells us what they WERE (Ephesians 2:1-3) before we were saved and he tells us what they BECAME (Ephesians 2:4-10) after we were saved. Paul tells us what were like before Christ (BC) and after Christ (AC). He does it all in one sentence. Paul likes long sentences.
Ephesians 2 gives us another one of Paul’s long sentences. We saw two long ones in chapter one. One went from Ephesians 1:3-14. This one is seven verses long. The NIV makes it five sentences. ESV and the KJV makes it two sentences in English but in Greek it is all one sentence.
You do not get the subject of the sentence until verse four. The subject of the sentence is God. You do not get the verbs until verses five and six. There are three verbs. There are three things that God does. They are all one word in Greek and Paul coined these words. They are not found anywhere else. What three things does God do? He makes us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5). He raises us up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6) and He seats us in heavenly places with Christ (Ephesians 2:6).
God does not just give these dead souls life and leave them in the graveyard. He raises them up and places them in the heavenlies with Christ. Every Christian not only has a physical location on earth (e.g., Burlington, NC) but a spiritual location in the heavenlies with Christ. The contrast is shocking.
The before picture is the lowest possible point. We were sinners by nature. We were guilty before God. We were ruled by the Devil. We were under God’s wrath. We were spiritually dead. We were not only dead but enslaved in body and mind, addicted to sin. We were living in lusts, following our own passions and desires. We were totally depraved (children of disobedience) with no hope in the world. All of that is found in Ephesians 2:1-3.
It is a description of the entire race. That is the before picture. The after picture is that dead souls are given life and they are not with Satan but with Christ. They are not in the world but raised up and seated in heaven with Christ. Someone said that, instead of the extreme make over: home edition, this is the extreme make over: spiritual edition.
Last week, we looked at the biblical view of man. We looked at what Paul said about human nature and we looked at what Jesus said. It is consistent with what the OT says as well. The biblical view of man is radically different than the liberal secular humanistic view of man. Before we look at the good news, we have to look at the bad news.
In the first three verses of this chapter, we saw what man’s problem is. He is not merely depraved. He is not merely deceived. He is not merely diseased. He is dead. We were not just a little sick. We were dead. We were far worse off than most people imagine. What Paul says is even different than what some Christians teach.
In God’s eyes, we were all spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. Before our salvation, we were all dead. We were all born with a dead soul. It is a problem that affects every person born into this world. We were physically alive but spiritually dead. We encounter people every day who are in this condition. We probably work with some of these people. The majority of the race is in this state. They are like zombies. They are dead but are walking around.
What the Dead Need
Everyone in this world, falls into only two categories. There are those who ARE dead and there are those who WERE dead. Before we were saved, we were dead and that is extremely significant. What do dead people need? They do NOT need education. They do NOT need religion. They do NOT need reformation.
They do NOT need rehabilitation. They do NOT need medication. They do NOT need therapy. They do NOT repair. They are dead. The only thing a dead person needs is LIFE. Man needs resurrection. When we get saved, God does not just patch us up a little. We become a new creation.
In Ephesians 2:1-3 we see dead men walking. In Ephesians 2:4-7, we see dead men coming to life. Ephesians 2 describes a resurrection, but it is not the resurrection of Jesus. It is OUR RESURRECTION. We were spiritually dead. Salvation involves a spiritual resurrection. God has to make us alive. Jesus talked about this.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come WHEN THE DEAD HEAR THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD AND THOSE WHO HEAR WILL LIVE (John 5:24-25 NIV)
Jesus is NOT talking about the future. He is NOT talking about something that happens on the last day. He is talking about the present. He says that THE TIME HAS NOW COME. Lazarus heard Jesus’ voice two thousand years ago and came to life but Jesus is still bringing dead souls to life today. He is in the business of raising the dead.
How the Dead Come to Life
No matter how dead they are, no matter how long they have been dead, even if they have been in the hot sun for thousands of years and their bones have been scattered everywhere (Ezekiel 37), He can make dry bones come to life.
This raises a very important question. How do dead souls come to life? The lost are not only dead, and enslaved and deceived, they are blinded by Satan. If Satan has blinded their minds, how can any of them believe. How can souls dead in trespasses and sins believe?
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (II Corinthians 4:4 NIV)
They get eternal life by believing but how do they believe? Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life” but many hear the message of the gospel and do not believe. Why do some believe and some not believe? In order for us to believe, certain things need to happen.
Before We Believe
1) We have to hear the voice of Jesus
The dead can only come to life when He speaks to them. They have to hear His voice. When the dead hear the voice of the Son of God, they live (John 5:25). R.L. Hymers said that the dead soul comes to life through Jesus’ voice, not just through the voice of a preacher, as Hymers points out. Only one voice can penetrate a dead soul and can bring it back to life. It is the voice of Jesus. Jesus is the only one who can give life to the dead. Nothing else can give life
A person can hear a thousand sermons and still be dead. People can go to church for fifty years and be dead but they hear one more sermon, Jesus speaks to them. They hear his voice speaking to them and they suddenly come to life. They may not hear an audible voice. His word is found in the pages of Scripture.
2) God has to give us a revelation of Jesus
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:15-17 ESV).
Jesus has to speak to them. He has to get them a revelation. How did Peter know who Jesus was? God had to reveal it to him. He did not figure it out on his own. No one taught him. God revealed to Peter who Jesus was.
3) God has to open our eyes.
And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized (Acts 16:13-15 NIV).
What do we know about Lydia? She was a foreign woman. She was a Gentile. She wasn’t even Jewish. She was rich. She was a rich business woman. She was a convert to Christianity. She was Paul’s first convert to Christianity in Europe during his second missionary journey. The first convert was a woman. She became a founding member of the Church at Philippi.
What caused her to convert? Paul preached to her but even that did not convince her. Before she believed, God had to open to heart (Acts 16:15). She did not open her own heart. Paul did not open her heart. God had to do it.
4) God has to draw us to Jesus
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:44 NIV).
The dead have to believe to be saved but before they do that, Jesus has to speak to them. God has to open their hearts. He has to draw them to Jesus. God has to give them a revelation of who Jesus really is before they get saved and Jesus says that He will raise them up at the last day.
We are going to be raised twice. Our soul was raised at salvation and seated with Christ in the heavens but one day Jesus is going to raise our bodies as well.
Many believe that salvation is a joint venture. God does His part and we do our part. That gives the idea that we contribute to our salvation in some way. We will see next week why that is not the case. Salvation is by grace. It is not a joint venture because we were dead. We were spiritually dead. We did nothing to earn salvation. We did not deserve it. We deserved wrath. We were children of wrath.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 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— 3 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. 4 BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5 ESV)
It begins with two words. The two words are NOT “but man.” They are “but God.” God is the only one who can raise the dead. It takes supernatural power to do that. We were dead corpses. We could not make ourselves alive. There is no way that we could raise ourselves from the dead. We could not climb out of the casket. We were completely helpless. We were completely hopeless. People who are dead cannot move. They cannot talk. They cannot communicate. They cannot do anything.
We did not make the first move. We were spiritually dead. We were not interested in God. We were not seeking God. We were living in disobedience to God. We were following Satan. We were doing what other people in the world were doing. We were following our own lusts and passions. We were not reaching out for God and God met us half-way. We were dead but God.
Ephesians 2:4 begins with just two words in English. These two words are powerful. These are two of the two greatest words of the Bible. John Stott calls these the greatest two syllables ever spoken in the English language. They are only six letters but these two words have changed the course of history.
These two words contain the essence of the gospel. It is the gospel in a nutshell. The gospel can be summarized by these two words. These two words sum up the whole Christian message. James Montgomery Boice said that if you understand these two words, you will save your soul.
Big Buts of the Bible
We see these two words all throughout the Bible. Someone should preach a sermon on big buts of the Bible. What are some of the big buts of the Bible? These are not all of them but there are three that stand out to me.
1. The “but God” of Divine Sovereignty
What does this “but God” say? It says that no matter what happens to you, no matter how bad things are in your life, God is sovereign. He is in control. We will see that He was sovereign over the evil actions of Joseph’s brothers who sold him into slavery. He was sovereign over the wicked people who put Jesus to death. He was sovereign over the worst crime ever committed on the planet.
And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 BUT GOD sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. (Genesis 45:5-8 NIV)
His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, BUT GOD intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:18-20 NIV)
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (Acts 2:22-24 NIV)
13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, BUT GOD raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this (Acts 3:13-15 NIV)
We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 BUT GOD raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. (Acts 10:39-40 NIV)
28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. 30 BUT GOD raised him from the dead (Acts 13:28-30 NIV)
2. The “but God” of Divine Judgment
Right now, evil seems to be winning in our society. Sin seems to go unpunished, sometimes in the church but God one day will judge the wicked. It looks like the wicked are getting away with evil but the Bible assures us that the wicked will not go unpunished.
21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 BUT GOD was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him (Numbers 22:21-22 NIV)
Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel… BUT GOD was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel. (I Chronicles 21:1, 7 ESV)
Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death. 21 BUT GOD will strike the heads of his enemies, the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways. (Psalm 68:20-21 ESV)
16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 BUT GOD said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ (Luke 12:16-20 ESV).
3. The “but God” of Divine Mercy
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 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— 3 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.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:1-5 ESV)
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 ESV)
This is the “but God,” not of judgment but of mercy. This is interesting. It is shocking. God loved us when we did not deserved to be loved. We deserved wrath. We were children of wrath. He did not love us because we were so lovable.We were stinking corpses but God loved us. He did not love us because He had to love us. He did not have to. He did not love us a little. He loved us a lot. He was RICH in mercy and He did not have a little love for us. Paul says that his love was GREAT.
What does this “but God” mean practically to us? If God can raise dead souls to life, it means that He can save the most wicked soul on the planet. He can make the most hardened criminal and give him a soft heart. He can do this to rapists, murderers and child molesters. How does He do it? He gives them a new heart at salvation.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV)
God can bring that dead soul to life. He can also intervene in a completely hopeless situation. That is what he did for the Jews at the Red Sea. God is bigger than any problem that we will face. There is no problem too difficult for him to solve. He can intervene when we have completely given up hope.
 James Boice, Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary, p. 55.