BY NATURE AND BY GRACE. CHAPTER 2:1 to 7.
Condition by Nature. Ephesians 2:1 “. . . Dead in trespasses and sins.”
The great work of Divine grace begins in men dead in their sins. Upon this dark background of man’s condition by nature, the marvelous and matchless grace of our God shows forth in all its splendor. Before we can fully appreciate the gospel of saving grace, “what we were” in sin must be fully recognized. Outside of Christ man is spiritually dead, without hope and without God. This is the foundation fact of the gospel of our salvation. If man’s condition by nature was not as bad as this, then he could seek for a lighter cure than the one God has provided; if he had a “spark of life” he could depend upon “cultivation” instead of “salvation”; the power of “reformation” instead of the power of the “resurrection”. But God’s word is emphatic, man is DEAD. Because man is dead he cannot live a better life; he has none to begin with, being by nature dead, so how can he look to that nature for life? The source of life cannot be found in himself, and left to his own resources man is lost and without hope. Therefore, nothing he ever does can satisfy God; “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 9:10); and “none is good save one, that is, God” (Luke 18:19). Let man be respectable, educated or religious but in the sight of God, and in the light of the Word, he has nothing in which to boast. He is helpless, lost and condemned, a respectable, educated religious sinner. He is dead in trespasses and sins and needs saving. Nothing but the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus can quicken him or bring him to life. Those who by faith have accepted the Lord Jesus as their Saviour have been quickened from their condition of sin and death; they have passed from death unto life.
“YOU” “WE” “US” “TOGETHER”.
I want to bring to your attention an important thought before proceeding to Ephesians 2:2. Notice the objects of Divine favor in Ephesians 2:1; how the Holy Spirit emphasizes the bestowment of God’s grace upon the Gentiles. “And YOU hath he quickened”. Also in Colossians 1:21, “And YOU that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.” Not that the Gentile is in a worse condition than the unbelieving Jew, for in Ephesians 2:3 the Apostle, as a Jew; unites himself with the rest of fallen humanity saying, “Among whom also WE all had our conversation in times past . . . and were by nature the children of wrath EVEN AS OTHERS”. Romans 3:9 brings this out plainly: “What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin.” Just as all are under sin and there is no difference by nature between Jew and Gentile, so God has graciously included all in his love for a definite purpose. In the 4th verse the Apostle speaks of “His great love wherewith he loved US” (Jew and Gentile) and Ephesians 2:5 and 6 reveal that God is doing something with the Jew and Gentile TOGETHER: stating that He has quickened US TOGETHER and hath raised US up TOGETHER, and made US sit TOGETHER in heavenly places in Christ. Watch these words carefully as we go through this chapter.
Ephesians 2:2 tells of the walk of the natural man: “Wherein in 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”. This chapter opens with men as the habitation of “Satan” and closes with men as the habitation of “God”. The walk of the natural man is seen to be under the dominion of the devil and the Apostle uses no argument to prove his existence, neither does he underestimate the devil’s power. He accepts him as a real personage and as an enemy of God, pointing to the “sons of disobedience” to show his presence operating in their lives. We can thank God that while Satan has “power”, and “works” in the lives of men and women to their destruction, those who have been “quickened” have the power of the risen Lord operating in their hearts. (Ephesians 1:19 and 20), and they can be more than conquerors through Him (Romans 8:37). So that though we wrestle against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world (Ephesians 6:12), we can be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Ephesians 6:10 and Ephesians 3:20. That this power “worketh in us”! What a contrast with the power that worketh in those who are the children of disobedience: Ephesians 2:3, “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.” This passage of Scripture is self-interpreted as it follows in natural sequence to Ephesians 2:2, finding expression in the realm of conduct and experience. Ephesians 2:4, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us.” “But God”—When human help is of no avail, when all is dark and hope is gone, when all that we deserve and can expect is wrath, God is rich in mercy. He steps in and reverses the whole situation. What music this is to the sin sick soul. God intervenes for the hell-deserving sinner—A new day dawns, death is turned into life, and despair is changed into the hope of glory.
“Rich in mercy” for His great love wherewith He loved us”.
We deserve “justice” but we receive “mercy”. Oh! how rich God has been to us! Surely we can say with the Psalmist in Psalm 103:1, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” Psalm 103:8, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy”. Psalm 103: 10 to 12: “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgression from us”.
Ephesians 2:5: “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by Grace ye are saved).” What a revelation this is of God’s (boundless love and grace! He loved us “even when we were dead in sins”. It is not difficult to love the lovable, but God commendeth His love toward us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). A sinner deserves death, but grace saves him from what he deserves, and provides him with life and righteousness which he never deserved. Yes! amazing though it may seem the believer in the Lord Jesus is saved from his sin, and for the sake of the risen Lord, stands justified in the sight of God as though his past sins were never committed; and the righteousness of the Lord Jesus is imputed to him or put to his account as though it were his own (Romans 4:24 and 25). That is GRACE. This theme will be further amplified when we reach Ephesians 2:8.
THREE BENEFICIAL ASPECTS OF GOD’S GRACE.
As a result of the working of God’s grace, three outstanding benefits have been bestowed upon us which are related to the past, present, and future, and are revealed to us by the prepositions “with” “in” and “through”.
1. WITH CHRIST, Ephesians 2:5 and 6. “Hath quickened us together WITH, Christ . . . and hath raised us up together.” The little word “with” in the above passage tells of the believer’s identification with the Lord Jesus in death, burial and resurrection. In Luke 12:50 the Lord Jesus, facing Calvary, said: “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished?” When He died upon the cross this was Christ’s deathbaptism. We deserved death but He died in our stead and when, by faith, we accept the Lord Jesus as our personal Saviour we accept God’s righteous judgment of sin as born by Him on the Cross, and we are identified “with” Him. When He died, we died; His death baptism was ours, and when He was raised from the dead His resurrection was ours; we were raised up “with” Him. Romans 6:3 to 5 makes this identification with Christ’s death baptism very plain. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death? Therefore, we are buried “with” Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection. And again in Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ”. Colossians 2:12, “Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead”. And Colossians 3:1, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.” These are passages of Scripture that make our identification with Him unmistakable and bring before us, in an undeniable way, the only baptism that saves, which is the ONE baptism of Ephesians 4:5.
We would call attention to this word “together” in Ephesians 2:5 “Quickened us `together’ with Christ. Many expositors interpret this word as though “TOGETHER With Christ” brought out the truth of identification, but we have already pointed out that “quickened WITH Him” brings out this truth and the word `together’ speaks of the believing Jews and Gentiles who are being made `one’ and are the subjects of his identification with Christ.
2. “IN CHRIST”. Ephesians 2:6. “And made us sit together in heavenly places IN Christ Jesus.” By virtue of His resurrection and ascension, and the blessed truth of our identification with Him, positionally, we are made one with Him in the heavenlies. Where He is, so are we. This is a glorious fact for the `”Present” and is the theme that gives Ephesians its transcendent and lofty character. The Body is vitally united to the Head and since the Head is in the Glory seated at the Father’s right hand the members of the Body are also seated in the Heavenlies in Him.
3. THROUGH CHRIST. Ephesians 2:7. “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in. His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus”. We have been “loved”, “quickened”, “raised”, and “seated”, for what purpose? This passage of Scripture tells us, it is a mountain peak in the revelation of God’s eternal purpose and one of the richest and deepest in the Word of God. The word “shew” means to “exhibit” or to “display”. God is planning an “exposition” for the ages to come, displaying the exceeding or surpassing riches of his grace. Just as sure as the fact of Christ’s death, and our identification and conformity to the likeness of His death (Romans 6:5, Philippians 3:10), and as certain as anything He has done or is doing for us, so sure can we be that the power that raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will take a redeemed Church to glory to be the display of His grace. And “He shall change our body of humiliation that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the Working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.” Then will the Church which is His Body and the Lord Jesus the Head be joined in the Glory bringing to realization Ephesians 4:13, the perfect man, the stature of the fulness of Christ. Colossians 3:4 states that when He appears we shall appear with Him in Glory. This will be the display of His Grace in the Glory; that all the principalities, angelic powers and intelligences, good and bad, might know that God’s grace has triumphed, not in wrath, but in love and kindness and mercy.