Lesson 5: "When we were dead...and (God) hath raised us up together..." (2:5-6)
Paul's Prison Epistles. This is lesson # 5. To begin this lesson, let's do a quickie review of Eph. ch. #1. Under the weight of that chain, undoubtedly connected to a soldier in a house of some kind that Paul had rented (according to Acts 28:30) located somewhere in Rome, probably very near to the imperial prison I would assume, the apostle Paul under these conditions addressed this scroll to the saints or the faithful at Ephesus. Now, which saints? Verse one says, "the faithful IN CHRIST JESUS." At the very outset, Paul identified himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ. And, this was not Paul's doing, you need to remember, Paul's apostleship was "by the will of God." That's the first thing Paul said. In v.2, Paul continued this salutation by delivering a message of "Grace" and "peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." Then in v.3, the apostle began with the idea (and the fact) that "all spiritual blessings [from God, are]...in Christ" and these blessings, bless us in heavenly places. Then, in v.4-5, Paul wants us to be aware: that, this was NOT just some afterthought. This was part of God's plan from the very beginning. God's plan has unfolded step-by-step. It is by this plan, that we can be accepted in the beloved, i.e. we can be accepted in Jesus Christ, (v.6). In this plan, God's grace has abounded toward us. We can have redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ and by this means we can have forgiveness of sins (v.7-8), i.e. a remitting of our sins. Then in v.8-9, the apostle agrees that God's plan (or God's will) is somewhat mysterious to us. But, at the appropriate time (v.10), God is going to gather together these redeemed ones; i.e. those who have accepted this grace and been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. You might think of these blessings (and a home prepared in heaven) as an "inheritance" (v.11). Then, v.12-13-14 is an allusion back to the Ephesians as they began to obey, back in Acts ch. 19 (we reviewed that scripture in our last lesson). Paul was with these Ephesian brethren for about three years after that small but important beginning recorded in Acts ch. 19. Since that time (according to v.15-23), Paul had continued to receive reports of their faith, the love and the spiritual progress of these Ephesian saints. On one occasion, about three or four years before; Paul had enjoyed an opportunity to meet with the Ephesian elders at Miletus, you will remember (Acts 20:17). Paul said (here, v.16) he ceased not to pray for them. In these verses (v.15 thru the end of the chapter), is a listing of those things which Paul prayed for on their behalf. Also, scrambled into this discussion are several remarks by the apostle in awe of the greatness of God's power through Jesus with reference to believers. Jesus is now (after his resurrection from the dead) been placed above all earthly powers and all civil authority. Jesus is now sitting on God's right hand in the heavenly places (v.20). God, the Father, has put all things under Jesus and made Jesus the head over all things to the church. This church, made up of baptized believers, is a body that belongs to Jesus and is subjected to Jesus the Christ. Jesus is the head of the church. This church is the only church mentioned in the bible. I recommend you read this chapter (i.e. ch. # 1) a few more times. Make sure you understand what the apostle is saying.
But, right now, let's read some more. Ephesian ch. 2, we'll read the first 10 verses. O.K.?? Are you ready. Please put your eyes'on the text. Here we go! Beginning in Eph. 2:1. "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
O.K., now before we start analyzing this; back up to v.7 in ch. #1, and let's re-read that verse again. Paul said in v.7, we have redemption through Jesus Christ, through Christ blood, the forgiveness or remission of sins. Why? This is "according to the riches of his grace," i.e. this is the plan. This is part of God's plan to redeem us from a lost and dying world. Now, read that last phrase again and connect it up with v.8, "according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence..." Most of us have no concept of how great our inheritance really is or can be. God has abounded toward us with the riches of his grace.
Now, what does all that mean? The first 10 verses of ch. 2 is a rephrasing of this thought and a deeper discussion of the verses we just read, i.e. v.7-8 of the first chapter. In v.1 of ch. 2, Paul went back to the Ephesians and their conversion. What does the word "quickened" mean? To be quickened is to be made alive, i.e. spiritually alive, a spiritual re-birth. A spiritual resurrection, if you will. In the last part of v.1, Paul said the Ephesians were once DEAD, i.e. dead in trespasses and sins. Then in v.2-3, the apostle elaborated on this DEAD condition. Please take a moment to think about this in depth. The Ephesians were once dead! Oh, they were walking around in the world. Red blood was surging through their veins. They were walking according to the course of this world, the apostle said (v.2). The world TODAY is just full of dead people walking around. Isn't that a little spooky? Dead people walking around! fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind! By nature, they are the children of wrath, Paul said (v.3). How could the apostle say it any better? "The prince of the power of the air" in v.2 is a reference to Satan. Things haven't changed much, have they?
These Ephesians were mostly Gentiles, I would assume. It had not been very many years before this, that these very people that Paul was writing to were dead in trespasses and sins, bowing down to idols and images, "walking according to the course of this world [v.2]." However, this was no longer true. Why? God had QUICKENED them (v.1). They had been made alive, spiritually. They were now saints, the faithful at Ephesus (according to v.1 of ch.1). How had they been made alive? They had obeyed the gospel of their salvation (1:13). They had been baptized into Christ (Acts 19:5). They had been raised to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). They were now, "in Christ," they had "put on Christ," (using the phrase in Gal. 3:27). Look at v.1, "you hath he quickened." Have you got it?
Now, why were they quickened, or made alive spiritually? Because they were good people and they were dipped in water! Is that it! They deserved it! They were entitled to it! It was their birthright! Is that it?? WRONG! Absolutely not! We have no entitlements in this old world. O.K. Why? Why did God quicken these Ephesians? i.e. Why did God make them alive spiritually?? i.e. HOW and WHY had they "obtained an inheritance?" (using the language of Eph. 1:11). Now, the answer to these questions, is down in Eph. 2:4-10. It is a gift! God gives it to us; because, it is God's good pleasure to do so. It is by God's grace, God's mercy, God's great love for us, God's kindness toward us (v.7); that God bestows this inheritance business up on us. We do not earn it. We do not deserve it. We have no claim to it, in and of ourselves. The explanation is in v.4! Put your eyes on this! "God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus." What? "His kindness toward us;" did you get that? May I emphasize: this is very important in Paul's book. Paul doesn't want us to forget this for one minute. Salvation is a gift of God. To look at it in any other way, is the wrong attitude. We must have the right attitude. The statement "in heavenly places in Christ Jesus [v.6]" is undoubtedly a reference to the church. Please study that phrase as it is used here (as well as in 1:3, 1:20, 3:10). Paul repeats these thoughts in v.8-9-10. HERE is the reason we are QUICKENED! "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
How are we saved? By God's mercy (v.4). What is mercy? This means God's charity and God's sympathy. We are saved by God's grace (v.5). Grace means, unmerited favor, bestowed without obligation. Salvation is through God's kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus (v.7). You see, this is an inheritance, God gives it to us. We can't work it out; we can't earn it; we can't purchase it. There's no way! God is in control! You can't manipulate God! It's just that simple. But, God is no monster! It's quite clear, God WANTS to give it to us. However, according to God's plan, God has made this inheritance conditional. Can an inheritance be conditional? Can it? Put a few brain cells on this one! Absolutely it can! The one who gives you a gift can superimpose conditions for your receiving that gift, if they choose. It's their prerogative! If I invite you out and give you a steak dinner; it wouldn't be uncommon for me to superimpose the conditions that you eat it yourself...i.e. because I gave it to you, doesn't mean that I'm going to chew it for you and swallow it for you. The very idea of a gift carries with it certain conditions in accepting the gift. One of the conditions for accepting God's gift of salvation is FAITH in Jesus Christ as God's Son. Look at v.8 real close, "by grace are ye saved through faith." Do you see that? But, although, faith is required: salvation is still a gift. In the same breath, Paul emphasized: "THAT not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." (v.8). Thus, there is a sense in which the gift of salvation, this inheritance (using the language in ch. 1) depends upon your meeting the conditions laid down by the giver of that gift. However, we must NOT think of meeting these conditions as working it out, it is not of works (v.9). It simply does not fit in that realm of purchase or working it out. Salvation is not a meritorious thing. It is not something that is deserved, if you will. So, we must think of meeting the conditions (God has imposed) as obeying God, i.e. obedience. And, obedience, as I use the term here should imply a desire to comply, i.e. a craving to submit to God. The apostle is very meticulous on this point. For example, in Rom. 6:23, Paul said in effect: you can work for the devil...the devil will pay you a wage. That wage is death. However, eternal life is a gift from God. Here's the verse: "For the wages of sin is death [i.e. to be lost in a devil's hell]; but [are you listening] the GIFT OF GOD [did you get that?] is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." At another time when the apostle was emphasizing only OUR PART in that conditional process; i.e. our obedience, the same apostle said to the Philippians, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [Phil. 2:12]." But, even in that verse, the apostles was not saying "work out your own salvation" in terms of earning it. Paul was emphasizing obedience. Paul did not mean to work it out, in the sense of wages. To work out our salvation (there) means to comply with the conditions by which God has promised to give us salvation. To this Philippian instruction: "work out your own salvation," Paul added these words: "with fear and trembling." The idea is not just to fear God; but, to appreciate the greatness of that task AND the consequences of failure in our complying with God's conditions. Describing the apostle Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, Luke said, "with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation." Was Peter saying they could work out their salvation as wages? Of course not! Peter was urging voluntary human compliance to God's plan.
In the last verse we read (i.e. v.10), the apostle reminds us, "we are his workmanship." You see, God created us! We have no control over God. All we can do is obey! We are servants. We are not judges, we are not managers, we do not make the doctrine. We must obey the doctrine of Jesus Christ. If and when we obey, i.e. to the appropriate degree, God quickens us, who were dead in trespasses and sins; just like Paul said God had quickened the Ephesians (2:1). They were made alive in Jesus when they were baptized into Christ (Acts 19:5). In other words, when they were baptized into Christ, they were translated into a saved state. Born again, as Jesus said to Nicodemus (John ch. 3). In the phraseology of Acts 2:47, the Lord added them to his church. Paul said, God "hath raised us up together, and made us sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Please notice, THAT is past tense. The Ephesians had ALREADY been raised up. They were sitting in heavenly places then, at that time (v.6), did you get that? Read that again!
Not long ago, I talked with a man who had a sad story to tell. He lost his wife to cancer after a long battle of radiation and chemotherapy. This man by his own admission had never been concerned about spiritual things during his wife's lifetime. However, he had promised his wife on her death bed (or not long before that), as an encouragement to her, that he would go to church. Out of guilt, in trying to comply with his promise to his wife before she died; he told me words to this effect: "I made a deal with God, I promised God that if he would save me, I would give so much money, attend with a certain regularity," and there were a few more goody-goody points in that deal or contract that he imagined. Can you see in his thinking, the idea of earning his salvation? Paul is saying here, it cannot be done. You can't earn salvation! You can't make a deal with God. Please take a moment to reflect on this. God, through his word, has spelled out the condition(s) he expects. It doesn't matter how moral you are or how benevolent you are or how good you are, you cannot EARN salvation. Salvation "is a gift of God" (v.8). You cannot make deals with God. All you can do is obey his word faithfully unto death AND he will GIVE IT TO YOU (Rev. 2:10). No bargains, no deals! God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). Please, have a good day!