The first word in the second chapter of Ephesians is “And.” Why would there be a chapter break in the middle of a thought? We must not start the second chapter as if it is completely disconnected from the first chapter. Rather, it is directly connected. Therefore, we must remember what Paul has been teaching in the second half of the first chapter. Paul has prayed for these Ephesians Christians that they would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened. Paul wants them to have spiritual perception and their spiritual senses awakened so that they would know the hope to which they were called, the riches of his glorious inheritance, and the immeasurable greatness of his power (1:18-19). Paul is describing where the immeasurable greatness of the Father’s power is seen. It is first seen in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus (1:20-21). Chapter 2 of Ephesians describes where else we see the immeasurable greatness of his power. It is through this power that we will understand another aspect of who we are in Christ.
The Old Condition: Dead To God (2:1-3)
Paul wants his readers to know who you are and your condition. You were dead. Do we know this? Do we appreciate this? I hope we have begun to grasp the significance of this after reading the first chapter of Ephesians. For us to be redeemed means that we were previously enslaved to sin with no hope of freedom. For us to be adopted means that we were previously separated from God with no rights or relationship to God and his family. For us to be heirs means that we were previously separated from the blessings of God, a covenant relationship with God, and were not part of his kingdom at all. The apostle Paul presses this image even deeper. You were dead. This is a serious spiritual condition. The dead have no power to bring themselves back to life. This is the significance of being dead in our trespasses and sins. You have no life and no power to be set free from this condition. This is not an accident. Paul emphasizes this by saying “trespasses and sins.” It is not that there is something fundamentally different between the two words. The point is that you did this to yourself. You walked in your own trespasses and your own sins. No one did this to you. You did it to yourself. You only have yourself to blame for being dead in your sin. You cannot look at your parents. You cannot look at your friends. You cannot look at God. God did not do this to you. You did this to yourself. You cannot look at anyone but yourself.
Here are the things that make us dead. As we already noted, you walk in sin and trespasses. Sin is what is the rule for your life. The ways of God are not the rule, but sin is the rule. This is further pictured as “following the course of this world.” This means that we are living by and following the standards of the world. We are only concerned with the activities and values of this present age and not concerned with God and eternal values. We are following the prince of the power of the air. Do you know what we are doing when we follow the values of the world? Do you know what we are doing when we live by the standards of this present age? You are following Satan! You are not being smart. You are not being wise. You are not “with the times.” You are not a modern thinker. You are following Satan. Satan is the ruler of this age. To conform to the ways and the thinking of this world is to conform to the ways of Satan. He is the one now at works in the sons of disobedience. What we see in this world is governed by Satan. Look carefully at what Paul says. Paul says that Satan is the one who is working in these people. Satan is behind the evil ways in government. Satan is behind the evil ways in your neighbor. Satan is behind the evil ways in you. We should know this to be the truth. What do the scriptures say happened when Judas betrayed Jesus?
Now by the time of supper, the Devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Him. (John 13:2 HCSB)
Who put that idea in his heart? Satan did. Am I the only one who has had sinful ideas and sinful thoughts and wondered where in the world that came from? Satan did it. He is attacking you. He is putting these ideas in you. The world acts on these ideas. Satan is at work in the sons of disobedience.
So what is the problem? We act on those thoughts just like the world does. Notice in verse 3, “Among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh.” We are obeying our passions. We are obeying our desires. We are obeying our thirsts. This is walking in sin. This is living life by the ways of Satan. Verse 3 tells us that we are carrying out our own desires rather than God’s desires. Sin is to not follow the desires of God. Now consider how Paul ends this. “And were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Without God, we choose the wrong path. We are children of disobedience. We are children of wrath. We are simply worthy of wrath. We are destined to wrath. We are deserving of wrath. We are dead and we are doomed.
The New Condition: Alive With Christ (2:4-6)
“But God…” These are the two greatest words. What is the immeasurable greatness of his power? “But God made us alive together with Christ.” Paul said that the immeasurable greatness of his power was toward us. Here is how that power is working toward us. We were dead but God made us alive with Christ. Why did God do this? Why did God exert the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us? First, because he is rich in mercy. God has a wealth of mercy. This action is in accordance with his character. God did not act out of character when he did this. This is who God is. He is rich in mercy. He is not occasional in his mercy. He is not sporadic in his mercy. He is rich in his mercy. Second, God did this because of his great love with which he loved us. His great love is what caused the action of mercy toward us. Even though we were dead in our sins, God acted mercifully because he has great love for us. The power that raised Christ from the dead raises us from death to life.
“By grace you have been saved.” God acted out of his own generosity and not out of any obligation. Who saved you? You did not save yourself. God saved you. You cannot save yourself because you are dead in your sins. There is nothing you could do to change that outcome unless God is first rich in mercy. We must add this language to our vocabulary: God saved us. Read these first seven verses again. What does the text say that we did to contribute to this salvation? Nothing except that we walked in sins and needed saving. That was our contribution to the matter. We are by nature children of wrath. That is all that we offer in this picture. Notice the wording that drives home that God did this without our power. Verse 5 says he made us alive. You have been saved. You have been raised up and have been seated with Christ (2:6). You did not make yourself alive. He made us alive. You did not save yourself. He saved you. You did not raise yourself up from the dead. He raised you. You did not seat yourself with Christ. He seated you with Christ. All past tense and all done by God’s power, not our own. What an amazing God! Rather than being dead, God has made us alive and placed us in a position to receive every spiritual benefit and blessing. We deserve wrath and he gives us life and mercy.
Why Did God Do This? (2:7)
Verse 7 tells us why God did this. “To show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” The surpassing wealth of God’s grace must be put on display. God wants to show for all future ages and for all eternity the depths of his grace. Sinners who deserve nothing but God’s wrath become the trophies of God’s grace. We are a display case for the amazing grace of God. This is a show of kindness toward those who are located in Christ Jesus. Those who are joined to Jesus are the recipients of this wealth of mercy and grace.
Understanding these things should cause worship to explode from our hearts and from our mouths. This should be the fountain that pours from our heart rivers of joy and desire in God. This is what drives us to serve the Lord. This is what drives us to obedience. This is what changes everything about how we live. We are saved by the mercy and grace of God. Live for God.