Eph. 2: 1-10: “ And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 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: 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 shew 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.”
This scripture is a celebration of life! It is also the clearest definition of the Gospel that exists in scripture. The first century believers were so excited about this “Good News” that they spread it throughout the entire known world despite persecution, hardship and martyrdom. Why is it that believers today are not as excited as the first century believers? Many are not excited enough to even get to church on time, let alone share the gospel with anyone, particularly someone they don’t know. How can we continue to hear this “gospel” and remain silent about it? What is the difference between now and then?
Perhaps the reason is that we are not hearing the same gospel as the first believers. Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 1: 16). If the gospel is the power (dunimas) of God, then where are our results? Are we really preaching the gospel or a poor substitute?
If I were to ask the average believer to give me a definition of today’s gospel, I would probably hear, “Jesus died for me on Calvary so my sins are forgiven and I now have a home in heaven.” This is an incipient version of the gospel that came straight out of the Middle Ages making the gospel nothing more than a memorial to God on a crucifix. By contrast, the apostles’ gospel is: “Jesus Christ swallowed up death at the Resurrection, ascended to the Father, and now lives in believers through Holy Spirit. The invisible person of Christ now lives in us, demonstrating His life through us, as us! Believers are now re-connected to LIFE Himself through Holy Spirit!” This is the true gospel that energizes and compels a believer to share with others.
Perhaps this new life in Christ has never been compared to the old life of sin and corruption. Many say, “I’m not that bad. Really, I’m pretty good compared to most others.” This attitude comes from hearing a substitute gospel. They have never seen their own sin nature – their rebellion against God. They have never experienced the conviction of Holy Spirit. Others have been inoculated and sedated by religion – pretending to keep all the rules in order to meet man’s expectations. They have never heard the “Good News.” Why do you think jewelers display their precious jewels and diamonds on a background of a black velvet cloth? It is to contrast the darkness of the cloth with the brilliance and spectacular beauty of the diamond. Men will never understand how glorious salvation is until it is contrast against the depravity of sin and sin’s consequence – death. Eph.2: 1-3 provides a portrait of sin. “We”, Paul includes himself, were all members of the realm of the “living dead.”
We need a new understanding of LIFE and DEATH. 1 Jn. 4:8 says that God is love. God’s choice is love. Love is the active pursuit of the highest good for others, even your enemies! God is love, and He is life – ZOE – the God-kind of life. Man was created to be God’s ultimate “expresser and container of Himself and His own love nature.” Man was to be God’s communicator to spread His Glory throughout the universe. Man was to express the true meaning of life, to know fulfillment, peace and joy. Man has always been given a choice. Choice is the reason for the two trees in the midst of the Garden of Eden. Original man had to choose to disobey God. Satan was brilliantly subtle in his approach to Eve. “Eve, you’re so wonderful! You’re meant to be much more than an expresser container! You are worth so much more than that! You can be your own god!” What is sin? Sin is very simple. It is man’s choice to be independent from God, to do your own thing – to find your own meaning to life by exalting self above God. This results in the beginning of death. This is what caused Adam to die – not with a casket and funeral, but a spiritual death, which is really “backwards life”. Adam left his connection to God – LIFE - and entered the “realm of the living dead!” DEATH is backward living. Life is man vitally connected, in union and relationship with God. Death is being cut off from God and united with corruptible life. Jesus told the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil.” The word “of” is the Greek word “eck” which means “to be out from.” In other words the Pharisees were out from corruption, dead in their own sins. Eph. 2:2 states that we walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience. Every person is born in the darkness of sin and sin’s ultimate consequence –death. The choice that man now has is much different than Adam’s choice. Adam had to choose to disobey God. We must choose to obey God!
Sin caused man to experience a whole new set of emotions. After sin entered, fear, rage, pride, envy, jealousy, lust, murder, rejection, bitterness, lying, and self-pity followed. All these emotion caused racism, separation, segregation, denominationalism, materialism, humanism, divorce, war, etc. The worst insult that sin ushered in was RELIGION. Religion offered the pretense of being alive on the outside, while all along being dead on the inside. 2 Tim. 3: 5 defines religion as, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” Religion is from an anti-Christ spirit. To be “anti” does not mean to be against, but over and against. For example, if I were to open an ice cream shop on a street corner and someone who did not like me and threw a rock through my window, they would be against me. However, if someone set up another ice cream shop right beside me, they would be anti-Wade’s Ice Cream Shop. To be “anti” means to be a “substitute for”. Religion is man’s substitute for Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.
Eph. 2: 4-7 provides our hope, “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 ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” God loved us hostile, rebellious people so much that He became Man to bring salvation through His great grace by moving in our helplessness through Christ Jesus and His finished work which resulted in Holy Spirit living in you and me. Amen.