Raised with Christ
Topic: Expository Passage: Ephesians 2:1-10
Ever since I was a little kid, I have always loved sports. I enjoy sports for a lot of reasons, but among other things, I really enjoy watching world-class athletes do something extremely difficult—something that only a handful of people on the entire planet are able to do, but they make it look so easy.
A quarterback has a 300 lb. beast closing in to flatten him, but throws a perfect pass to a wide receiver running with world-class speed, and he hits him in the numbers just before a defender arrives. Or a baseball player faces a pitcher who throws 4 pitches that cut 4 different ways and that vary from 75-95 mph. But in a split second, he identifies which pitch it is, decides to swing, and smacks the ball 400’. These are incredible feats, but these athletes are so smooth that we often miss how special they truly are.
We opened the service today by reading Matthew’s account of the resurrection, and I believe that we are often guilty of the same lack of appreciation when we read this account. Almighty God makes the resurrection look so easy that we think, “That’s nice.”
But the resurrection was an incredible miracle with incredible significance. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 1. Notice in v. 19 that he prays that they would grasp “the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.” In other words, God has blessed Christians with incredible spiritual power. And then in vv. 20–23 he describes the source of this power (read).
Folks, when the Father raised Jesus from the dead, he didn’t just revive a mortally wounded dead body; he conquered demonic powers we cannot comprehend, and he humiliated them by putting them under Jesus’ feet. The resurrection was magnificent display of power and glory. We should glorify God today for the resurrection.
But we should also give thanks because the resurrection was not just an impressive feat; Ephesians 2:1–10 say that it also secured the mercy, love, and grace that provides the only hope for sinners (read).
This is a rich passage full of significance. In fact, I was on Sermonaudio this week looking at sermons on this text, and two guys I enjoy listening to both took 13 weeks to preach through these 10 verses. That’s a lot of sermons, but it speaks to the fact that there is more here than we can exhaust in one sermon. Rather, I want to zero in on the good news that Christ’s resurrection from physical death means that those who are in Christ enjoy a spiritual resurrection that changes our lives today and for all eternity. But to appreciate this wonderful news, we must first appreciate the bad news of why we need a spiritual resurrection. Notice in vv. 1–3…
I. Apart from Christ we were spiritually dead (vv. 1–3).
Paul is speaking to Christians, and in v. 1 he reminds them of what they were before they knew Christ. They like all unbelievers “were dead in trespasses and sins.” Again this verse describes the condition of every person who is not in Christ. The unbeliever is just as spiritually dead as Jesus was physically dead when he was placed in the tomb.
It’s true that he unbeliever may be very religious, and he may appear to be a good person from our perspective, but God says that he is a spiritual corpse. In comparison to holy God, he is a train wreck of “trespasses” or violations of God’s law, and of “sins.” He consistently falls short of God’s perfect holiness. So spiritually speaking, he is a dead man walking.
Why is that? Paul goes on to say that he has 3 evil slave masters. First, he is a slave to the world. Verse 2 says the unbeliever “walk(s) according to the course of this world.”
Isn’t it ironic that our world boasts of how much it values individualism, yet it consistently presses people into the same mold? Every culture pushes people into an “acceptable” look and pushes a value system based on things that do not last. Folks, the world exerts massive pressure on all people. So as much as people like to think they are free, the world system dominates how they actually live their lives.
The unbeliever’s second slave master is the devil. Verse 2 says the unbeliever is dead in sin because he walks “according to…” This is clearly a reference to Satan and his demonic Even though Jesus conquered Satan in his resurrection, he still dominates and deceives the unbeliever.
Satan deceives many people by appearing as an angel of light. He creates attractive looking false religions, and he tells people that they can earn acceptance with God through these religions. People think they are so righteous, and they do not realize they are believing a lie.
Satan has also lured many in our culture into believing he doesn’t exist. He hypnotizes secularists into thinking that they are their own masters. They proudly boast of their intellect and autonomy, but they do not see that they are deceived slaves. Satan is the master deceiver, and the unbeliever lives under his domination.
3rd, the unbeliever is a slave to the flesh. Verse 3 again reminds the Ephesian believers that before we were in Christ, “We all once conducted…” In this context the flesh is not our bodies but our fallen, sinful nature. God says that pride, passion, and selfishness drive the unbeliever. True, they at times do generous, selfless things. But they never do them out of love for God and a passion for his glory. As a whole the unbeliever is a slave to “the lust of the flesh,” “the lust of the eyes,” and the “pride of life.”
I imagine that there is someone here that is still in this state. Maybe you have never thought of yourself as a slave or as dead in trespasses and sins. Maybe you have lived your whole thinking you can earn acceptance with God by good works. If so, Satan has deceived you.
Or maybe you proudly believe that you are your own master. But you’re not. Every time you beat your chest in defiance of God, the world, the flesh, and the devil are just tugging your chain. This is because you live in God’s world, and someday your Creator will hold you accountable for your life. So if you have never been saved, the first step to life and to freedom is to see that you are a dead slave to “trespasses and sins.” Your life as you know it is a lie.
As a result, the news gets even worse at the end of v. 3. All who are outside Christ are “by nature…” God has wrath toward our sin. I want to be clear that God’s wrath is not like the uncontrolled rage of an abusive husband; rather, it is his just, reasonable response to our rebellion.
You see, God is our creator, and he will judge all people, not by the standards of men, but by his perfect holiness. And since we all have rebelled against his authority, his only just response to our sin is wrath.
If you are not in Christ, then you need to come to grips with this reality. You might be a great person compared to other people, but you don’t measure up to God’s holiness. Therefore, God’s wrath stands over you. And you will never see the true beauty of the death and resurrection of Christ and what it can mean for you until you see yourself as a rebel under God’s wrath.
And if you are saved, remember what you were apart from Christ. You were a spiritual corpse—dead as dead can be. You were a slave to the world, the flesh, and the devil, and you stood under the wrath of God. This is awful news. But v. 4 begins with the wonderful little phrase, “but God!” Because Jesus rose from the dead, v. 3 isn’t the end of the story. Rather, vv. 4–7 declare…
II. God raised us with Christ (vv. 4–7). The story of our resurrection begins in the heart of God. Notice in v. 4 what motivated God to act.
God’s Motive (v. 4): First, God is “rich in mercy.” When the Bible talks about God’s mercy or grace, it always describes his undeserved favor and kindness. And praise God he is merciful, as we saw in v. 3, what we really deserve is wrath. My sin is great, but praise God he “is rich in mercy.” May we never forget that my standing with God is not based on my value or righteousness. No, my only hope is God’s rich mercy is.
And God’s other motive is, “His great love with which he loved us.” John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” And Jesus shared the Father’s love, he endured the darkest day in human history. He endured the hatred of the Jews who demanded his death. He endured the cruelty of the Romans who shredded his body and subjected him to the agonizing process of crucifixion. But above all else, Jesus endured the infinite wrath of God against our rebellion and sin. He took our punishment, and he suffered in our place.
And John 19:30 states, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” Jesus died. He was so dead that when the soldiers drove a spear into his body, there was no response, only an explosion of blood and water. Jesus died because of “his great love with which he loved us.” God’s mercy and love are immense.
But praise God that he is not just merciful and kind. He is also immensely powerful. As we saw in 1:20–23 he raised Christ from the dead. As a result, spiritual death is not the end of our story either. Notice in vv. 5–6 God’s gift to us through Christ’s resurrection.
God’s Gift (vv. 5–6): Notice in v. 5 that Paul frames this wonderful gift by again reminding us who we are on our own. By myself I am “dead in trespasses, but God changed everything. Paul expresses this change through 3 verbs that describe God’s work through Christ. He “made us alive together with Christ.” He “raised us up together (with Christ).” And He “made us sit together (with Christ) in the heavenly places.”
To fully appreciate the glory of these gifts we need to understand 2 things about these verbs. First, all three of them emphasize our intimate union with Christ. We are alive with Christ, we are raised with Christ, and we sit with Christ. This means that being a Christian is not fundamentally about being born in a Christian family, going to a Christian church, living in a Christian society, or obeying Christian rules. No to be a Christian is to be in Christ! The fundamental need of all people is to be united to Christ and the benefits of his death and resurrection.
The second truth that we must understand about these 3 verbs is that they all describe a present change, not just a future one. It’s not just that I will live again after I die physically; no, if I am in Christ, I am alive today. And it’s not just that I will be glorified after death; I am glorified today.
This is so important. Christ doesn’t just change where I spend eternity. He radically transforms my life right now! So what exactly has he changed? Notice 2 radical transformations. First…
I am no longer spiritually dead. I am spiritually alive. We saw earlier that the unbeliever is as spiritually dead as Jesus was physically dead on the cross. He cannot please God, and he doesn’t want God. He is spiritually unresponsive. But if you are a Christian, you have been “made alive together with Christ.” You have the resurrection life of Jesus right now!
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things (meaning the lifestyle of the unbeliever) have passed away; behold all things have become new.” We are not the same people we used to be. We can see the beauty of God, and we can feel the warmth of his grace like a dead man can’t imagine. As a result we live with a whole new purpose and joy that changes everything. I’m alive! The 2nd radical transformation is that…
I am no longer a slave. I sit in a position of glory and power. Verse 6 says that God has “made us sit together…” This statement builds directly off of 1:20–23. After God raised Jesus from the dead, he seated him in a position of glory, and he gave him authority over demonic powers.
Incredibly, v. 6 says that we are seated alongside him. Yes we will not be fully glorified until after death, but a Christian already shares in the glory of Christ. Not only that v. 2 said that I was once a slave to Satan, but now that I am seated with Christ, I sit above Satan. He is no longer my lord, and neither are the world or the flesh. No, Christ enables me to see through their lies, to resist their pull, and to do God’s will. What a grace! And so God’s gifts of spiritual life and power are truly incredible. And then v. 7 tells us God’s ultimate purpose in doing this. It tells us…
God’s Purpose (v. 7): God says that the ultimate reason why God showed us such tremendous mercy and love, was so that, “In the ages…” This is just remarkable, because if you really get the gospel, you don’t feel like you are worth much.
Godly Christians are very aware of their sin, and they are often frustrated by their own foolishness. This is because when you really appreciate the holiness of God and you love him and want to honor him, you see the darkness of your sin in a new light, and you hate it. As such godly people feel very small, and yet v. 7 says, you are God’s trophy of grace. God will hold you up for all eternity as a symbol of his glorious grace.
I want to be clear, it’s not to show off how wonderful you are; it’s to show off how wonderful he is. The glory is not that you are some beautiful wonderful trophy; it’s that God found you broken and worthless and transformed you into the beauty of Christ. But still what a thought that God chose a lowly sinner like me to create a beautiful trophy of his infinite glory. It’s just incredible.
And so vv. 4–7 describe how God made us trophies of his grace through a radical transformation that God accomplished through the resurrection of Christ. I went from death to life and from slavery to authority.
As such, the resurrection is not just a neat story about stones and angels. It’s not even just a great story about someone coming back to life. No it is a climactic display of power, mercy, and love.
And it changes everything for us who are in Christ. It means that I will live forever with Christ in heaven. But God also says that the resurrection changes everything about my life right now. I’m alive, and I don’t have to serve the world, the flesh, and the devil. I can live for God. I can have real joy and peace. I can devote my life to things of eternal significance.
And the clear implication is that I will make this change. This is very important, because so many people see the gospel and Christianity as little more than a badge of honor that I can hold up when I need to keep God off my back or to make myself look good to others. Or it’s a loaded gift card of grace that I can cash in when I want to sin but not face the consequences.
But God is clear that being in Christ is revolutionary. It changes everything. If your Christianity is just a label you wear that doesn’t transform your life, you may not have the real thing. Or you may need to see with fresh eyes how wonderful it is to be in Christ. And then take advantage of all that you have in him. Live for him. Enjoy him, and glorify him. Live a resurrected life. Then in vv. 8–10 Paul pulls the paragraph together with one of the most foundational NT statements regarding the truth of the gospel (read). I’d like to close today with 2 important applications from these verses.
III. Applications (vv. 8–10)
Believe on Christ for salvation (vv. 8–9). Of course the key concept in vv. 8–9 is that God saves. So what does it mean that you can be saved? Well, to be saved is to be rescued, right? If you are about to get hit by a bus and someone pulls you out of the way, he saved you from becoming a pancake. And we saw in vv. 1–3 that all people face a far more severe danger than a bus. We are sinners who are enslaved to the world, the flesh, and the devil. As a result, we stand under God’s wrath. We need to be saved from our bondage to sin and the judgment we deserve.
And incredibly, God says there is hope that we can be saved from these awful threats. So, how can you be saved from bondage and wrath? Verse 8 answers that you can be saved “by grace…through faith.” So we are saved by grace alone. Verse 9 makes this explicit, when it says salvation, is “not of works.” There is nothing you can do to make yourself spiritually alive or to avoid God’s wrath. And there is nothing you can add to the salvation Jesus provides.
It is all grace. Christ is the one who brings you to life. Christ is the one who frees you from bondage, and Christ is the one who covered the wrath of God on the cross. So if you want to be saved, then you must see that you are hopelessly condemned and that only the grace of God in Christ can save.
And then v. 8 adds that this grace is applied to the sinner “through faith.” I want to be clear that this faith is not some general belief in God or the facts of the crucifixion and resurrection. No, this faith is a faith that clings to Christ. It believes that Christ’s righteousness is enough to cover my sin, and Christ’s resurrection power is enough to break the chains of my sin. And so it comes with empty hands but absolute confidence like a scared child crawling into his mother’s arms.
If you have never believed on Christ in this way, I pray that you will do so today. See the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, not just as a great story but as something that can change your life forever. Repent of your sin, and believe on Christ. If you do, you can walk out of here today secure in the arms of Christ. Believe on Christ for salvation. The second application is for those who are already saved…
Be what God made you to be (v. 10). Verse 10 says of Christians, “we are His...” The word for workmanship could also be translated, “God’s masterpiece.” It was often used of the work of a skilled artist or craftsmen. Incredibly, God says that Christians are God’s artwork. He has radically transformed us from dead sinners into trophies of grace.
But why did God make you a trophy of grace? God answers that he has “prepared beforehand” a series of good works for you to do. In other words, God didn’t just predestinate you to spend eternity in heaven, floating down the river of life. He also predestinated you to serve him today. God called you to glorify his name by reflecting his character, by proclaiming his name to all people, and by serving his people in the church and all people in the world.
Christian, it is so important that you see that. Jesus didn’t just rise from the dead so that you could go to heaven someday; he rose from the dead to give you spiritual life today that results in passionate service. So give thanks that you are alive with Christ and seated with Christ, and then do the good works God has ordained for you.