In His Grace

May 19, 2024 | Jess Rainer

Passage: Ephesians 2:1-10

Opening Illustration: I saved Rachel from a speeding car in the Walmart parking lot. There’s a story that I love to remind my wife about. And I like to share it with some regularity to you, as my church family, as well. When my wife and I were dating in college, we spent a summer with a missions team down in Florida. It was a summer learning to grow in our faith and share our faith. One afternoon, my wife (then girlfriend) and I were making a Walmart run. We are walking toward the front doors and were at the end of the parking lot. Well, the very last spot, closest to the doors was open. You know that feeling when you see that spot open! Some guy took that feeling and turned it into a NASCAR race and almost ran over my now wife. I caught the car out of the corner of my eye and was able to stop her before the car came barreling in. My reaction to the guy when he got out of the car probably wasn’t the most Christ-like, but after he apologized, we all went on our merry way. Why do I like to remind my wife of that story? Because I want to be her hero! I want her to remember that time I saved her life.

We are in our Sermon Series: Ephesians: Masterpiece in Progress.  Today, we reach one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. It’s a passage that clearly articulates the core message of the Bible. In His amazing grace, God gives us spiritual life. Read Ephesians 2:1-10. Pray.  What did we see so far in the book of Ephesians? We spent two weeks in chapter 1. The first half of chapter 1 painted this beautiful picture of the spiritual blessings we receive in Jesus. The second half of chapter 1 was about seeking God to understand the fullness of God’s blessings. We saw that God’s power is available to us through the Holy Spirit. What God leads Paul to do next is to show just how powerful God is. That’s what these first 10 verses are about in chapter 2. The power that God has to bring someone from death to life. We are going to start with the first three verses of chapter. Here’s what we see first: Everyone needs a Savior.

1) Everyone needs a Savior. (vs. 1-3) These first three verses are tough. Paul describes the spiritually reality that exist for those who do not know Christ. But let me say this: The backdrop of these verses are positive. In order for us to understand the heights of God’s salvation, we must first understand the depths of depravity. So, don’t run out of here during the first three verses because you’ll miss all the goodness that comes with the next seven verses. What does verse one say? 1Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. Paul is sprinting right of the gate. Paul makes a bold and offensive statement. Who is Paul talking about in this verse? He says “you”. He’s writing to a group of Christians to remind them what they used to be. Very quickly, he dismisses the idea the main problem of the world is other people. That’s how we like to think about it at least. We love to people to point to other countries or people groups or political views and say “They are the problem”. But here, we see that’s not the case. The problem exists in each one of us.

And what’s the problem? He says that everyone has sinned and everyone is spiritually dead. There’s a big myth in our culture that people are basically good. That’s not the case. I’m already making some of you mad because I just ruined your favorite country song. I told you the first point was hard. The problem is that each one of us begin life was a spiritual condition of death. When Adam sinned in the garden of Eden, sin not only entered into humanity, but humanity inherited Adam’s sin. We enter this world with a guilty status. You may be thinking, “That’s not fair! I didn’t sin, so I shouldn’t be held responsible.” Let me just say two things about that: 1) If you were in Adam’s shoes, you would have done the same. 2) You’ve sinned. What Paul says at the end of verse one is that our spiritually guilty status means we are spiritually dead. That phrase is said a lot in church, but have you ever thought about what that means. It’s hard to wrestle with because we look out at people in the world and we activity, we see living – there seems be vibrancy.

Let me try to illustrate it this way: We are getting ready to go on family trip. Part of the process is going through the fridge[1] Inevitably, what is there always in the back corner of the fridge? It’s that small Tupperware container that you’ve forgotten about. And you know what going to happen when you open it. Whenever you put that half of a hamburger in the fridge, it was already dead right. On a side note, I don’t why I do that – I never come back and eat half of a burger. That hamburger meat went into the fridge dead. Now, for a little while, it will keep. The fridge is simply slowing the decay. It doesn’t matter how bad that meat smells when you open up the container, there is no amount of ketchup that cover it up. Spiritually, we may seem okay at first, but it doesn’t change the reality we are dead. That you are dead.

Paul describes exactly what this “physically alive, but spiritually dead” condition looks like. Look at verse 2: You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. In spiritual death, we are being controlled by our enemy. That’s what this verse shows us. Without Christ, we are in lockstep with Satan’s plan. Satan is creating a world system that is designed to keep you enslaved. It’s everywhere. Satan will use anything at his disposal to keep you under his control. I want you see the reality of this. Satan will use whatever is in front of you to keep you from God. Satan will use whatever is front of you to enslave you. It doesn’t have to be overtly evil; it just has to keep you from God. 

This spiritually dead condition isn’t just external, it’s also internal. In case we were tempted to sit back and go, “Look, Satan is my problem. He’s the one doing all these.”  We find out that the bigger problem is ourselves. Look at verse 3: All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. This spiritually dead condition produces a nature inside of that wants to do what it wants to do. Pre-Christ, our lives were controlled by the desires of our heart, mind, and body that go against God’s design. You can see the desires beginning to play out even in kids. Parents do not have to send their kids to a sin tutor or selfish school. They learn how to grab and say “mine” without anyone having to teach them. It’s this sinful nature that makes us subject to God’s anger or God’s wrath. Humanity has a problem. We are spiritually dead, spiritually enslaved, and spiritually condemned. That’s the picture Paul paints in these verses. What reality do these first three verses show us? Everyone needs a Savior. 

Why spend all this time on this topic? I think it’s fair to say, “Alright, I get it. Apart from Christ, I’m a sinner.” “Do you really have to keep going?” I could. In fact,  here’s a lot more about sin, but I’ll save that for another day (I know you are excited about that idea!). So, why so much emphasis on the first three verses? Because it’s going to make these last 7 verses even better. Until you grasp the fullness of your spiritual death, you can’t fully comprehend the magnitude of God’s free gift of eternal life. That’s where we turn next. We know come to what may be the greatest conjunction in Scripture. Here’s what we see starting in verse 4: Only God can save. 

2) Only God can save. (vs. 4-6) Take a look at the first two words in verse 4: But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, We can read those first three verses and go, “Well, it’s all hopeless! What’s the point then?” But that’s not the case. We were helpless, not hopeless. Think about those two words, “But God”. This is a long quote by John Stott, but it’s a good quote. Quote: “Verse four begins with a mighty affirmation: .. God. These two mono-syllables set the gracious initiative and sovereign action of God against the desperate condition of fallen humanity. We were the objects of his wrath, but because of his great love for us, God had mercy upon us. We were dead, and dead people do not rise, but God made us alive with Christ. We were slaves, in a situation of dishonor and powerlessness, but God has raised us with Christ and set us at his own right hand, in a position of honor and power. Thus God has taken action to reverse our condition in sin.” – John Stott.

Do you see the magnitude of this passage? We were dead, but God. We were disobedient, but God. We were sin-filled, but God. We were obedient to the devil, but God. We were controlled by our sinful nature, but God. We were subject to God’s wrath, but God. Do you see the power? Do you see the love? Are your spiritual eyes open? Look at verses 4 through 6 to get the full picture: But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. I want you to see two things from these verses:

  1. Only God can save you
    • Dead men can’t raise themselves from the dead
    • What did Jesus say to Lazarus who had been dead for three days?
      • 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”
      • The only way you can be saved and the only person who can save you is Jesus
      • And He does it by calling your name
    • God does all the work of salvation
      • That’s what we see in verse 8
        • We can’t save ourselves – salvation is a gift
        • GOSPEL PRESENTATION
        • Here’s the other thing I want you to see from these verses…
  2. God loves you – a lot 
    • Romans 5:8 tells us that “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” 
    • What kind of love does it take to die for someone else?
    • Illustration: A brother shares his blood with his sister[2]
      • There’s a story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. She had a rare blood type which she shared with her little brother. The fact that he had recovered from the same disease two years earlier made the chances of success even greater. The doctor carefully explained all this to the little boy, pointing out that without the transfusion his sister would die.
      • “Would you be brave and give your blood to your sister?” the doctor asked. Johnny hesitated. His lower lip began to tremble. Then he smiled and said, “Sure, for my sister.” The two children were wheeled into the hospital room – Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and healthy. He smiled at his sister, the watched as the blood travelled out of his body, down the clear plastic tube. Johnny’s smile faded, and as he lay there feeling weak he looked up at the doctor and said, “Doctor, when do I die?’
      • Johnny thought that giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life. Yet because of his great love for her he was prepared to pay the price.
      • That kind of love grabs at our hearts
        • That kind of love put a lump in our throat
        • That kind of love of rare
      • How much more should the love of God move us to tears?
        • Jesus paid the ultimate price for us because He loves us
        • Jesus absorbed the wrath of God in Himself because He loves us
        • Jesus took on the penalty of our sin because He loves us
        • Jesus did what we could not do because He loves us
        • Think about how much mercy and grace and love exists in Jesus for you!

We’ve hit on 2 of 3 major parts of this passage. The first being that we are in a dreadful spiritual condition without Christ. The second being that God loves us so much that while we are still sinners, Jesus died in our place. The third and final part gives us the reason behind all of it. You become new in Christ for Christ. 

3) You become new in Christ for Christ. (vs. 7-10) I won’t be able to give these verses all they need in the time we have left, but let me highlight four things in these final four verses: So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  Go back to verse 8:

  1. God saved you by his grace 
    • Salvation is God’s act
    • Salvation is God’s pursuit
    • Salvation is a free gift that God offers to everyone
  2. You are saved through faith
    • Most translations word this verse “For you are saved by grace through faith”
    • This goes back to our time in Hebrews 11
    • Remember this definition of faith?
      • Quote: “Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.” ―W. Tozer
    • God pursues and we respond by seeing who God is and believing Jesus did and said what He did
    • You can’t work your way into heaven (vs. 9)
      • It’s only by grace through faith
    • What happens when you receive salvation?
  3. You are created new again (vs. 10)
    • You have a new nature
    • You are a new creation
    • Your spiritual death now gives way to spiritual life
    • You no longer fall under the rule and regime of Satan, but are now a child of God
    • You are God’s masterpiece
    • God made you a masterpiece so that the world would see His glory
      • Illustration: The Northern Lights
        • I don’t know if you caught the Northern Lights that showed up in TN recently, but it was quite the sight
        • To see these bursts of light go through the night sky was beautiful
        • And it was by random occurrence that I found myself in my front yard with a handful of people from this church family
        • We all just marveled at God’s handiwork
          • There was worship in my heart as we gazed on what God was doing
        • That’s why we read these verses and our first response should be worship
          • We see what God has done, not only in our hearts, but in the hearts of each other
            • It should cause worship to explode in our hearts!
            • It should cause you to go and live your life for Jesus
          • Which is the final part of these verses I want to highlight
  4. Go do the good things God has planned for you!
    • That’s what the end of verse 10 tells us to do
    • You now have the power to live out who you were created to be – which is someone made in the image of God
    • If there is one thing I want you to see so far in the book of Ephesians, it’s this:
      • Open your eyes to see the power of Christ that has recreated you in Christ for His glory
      • Open your eyes to see the resurrection power in you to go do the good things God has planned for you
      • The power to do things you feel called to do comes from seeing who you were, seeing who you are now, and seeing that it’s all because of Jesus

It’s one thing to grab someone from a car that’s speeding towards them. It’s another to willingly to the place of the entire world on a cross so that they can move from spiritual death to spiritual life. I want to close with a quote from John Newton, the one who penned the hymn, Amazing Grace. Quote: “I am not what I ought to be! Ah! how imperfect and deficient! - I am not what I wish to be! I 'abhor what is evil,' and I would 'cleave to what is good!' - I am not what I hope to be! Soon, soon, I shall put off mortality: and with mortality all sin and imperfection! Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was - a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the Apostle, and acknowledge; By the grace of God, I am what I am! – John Newton. In His amazing grace, God gives us spiritual life. And that’s the most incredible thing anyone could ever imagine. Let’s pray. 

[1] Idea taken from https://summitchurch.com/GetFile.ashx?Guid=46725201-ffd1-492d-9948-e796255eb34d

[2] https://www.ilooys.com/post/2017/02/11/when-do-i-die

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Series Information

This sermon series walks through the book of Ephesians, emphasizing God’s action at work in our lives both to restore us to himself and to restore our relationships with each other.

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May 12, 2024

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June 02, 2024

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June 09, 2024

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June 16, 2024

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