PFOA: Ephesians 2:1-10
What is the gospel? In the letter to the church at Ephesus, we find one of the clearest and simplest description of salvation in the New Testament. There are two ways to live, and this is explicitly presented by way of five “formerly-now” constrasts. The Christian’s former life of sin, of being separated from God is constrasted against the life of faith in Christ.
We have the first of these constrasts in these 10 verses. Formerly we were living (actually dead) in our transgressions and sins; now we are alive and doing the good works prepared by God. To explain, Paul used a series of oppositions: living in this world as opposed to living in the heavenly realms; death versus life; sinful nature (the flesh) versus union with Christ; the wrath of God versus His mercy and salvation. Previously we were under the ”ruler of the kingdom or the air”, but now we are seated with Christ.
There is a current series on TV about the “Walking Dead”. If you’ve watched the show you’d be filled with revulsion by the horrible images. Sinful man without Christ are the “Walking Dead” before God. He is an “object of God’s wrath”. This wrath is not an uncontrolled outburst of anger, it is not impersonal; but the wrath of God is His constant displeasure and reaction against sin.
The picture of humans as walking dead is a terrible picture. They live to gratify the desires and cravings of their sinful nature. Thinking they are in control of their lives, they unwittingly serve the ruler who leads this world in disobeying God. They want God out of the picture.
But God will not stay out of the picture. This is the main point of this passage. Verse 4 begins with “But … God …”. God’s great love for us and his mercy towards us made us alive. There are two ways to live – and God, by His grace, saves us from death to life. Here is a description of reality – what life in the world is really like and what life with God is really like. In these realities we can find our identity. Identity of people without God, living in this world, in disobedience and sin, self-centred and seeking gratification of the self, under the ruler of this world.
Or the identity of people in Christ. These are people who have experienced being raised with Christ. By the grace of God they have new life in Christ, sit with Christ in the in the heavenly realms and enjoy privileges and riches now. Heavenly realms is better understood as in the spiritual area now, it is not heaven, and not just in the future.
Our problem is that these two realms, worldly and heavenly, overlap today. The old nature is still at work in us. Is the former way of life still true? For many Christians, the former reality is still theirs. They are still attracted to what the world offers; having found life, they continue to turn back towards death. We need to realise that our fleshly nature would want us to identify with the world. If our desires and motives are the same as the non-Christian’s and are met in the same way, then what identifies us as having been raised with Christ? What then is the use of the gospel?
For many Christians, it seems that the gospel is for the past, for our the forgiveness of sins and for the future, giving us eternal life. But the gospel is about the present also. We recite with joy and thanksgiving Eph. 2:8-9, but ofter forget v.10. The God who by His love, mercy and grace has saved us, has a purpose for us.
The new life He created in us is to be seen in two ways. (i) We are exhibits of His workmanship. Humans are made in the image of God, but this was corrupted by sin. Now He is reshaping each of us to be more like Him, to show to the world what He is like. (ii) He has created us for good works. God has a purpose or mission and He has chosen us, His people, to accomplish His purpose for this world – the redemption, restoration, and renewal of His creation.