Sunday nights has been a time of Bible study at my church and we have been walking through the book of Ephesians. Last night we came upon my favorite stretch of 10 verses in all of Scripture: Eph. 2:1-10.
This passage is so meaningful to me because it so accurately captures the truth about me, and I suspect you, too. In this post I want to address a few high points from last night’s discussion and close by giving you a way to personalize this scripture in a way that I hope blesses and encourages you.
Paul begins by saying you were dead in your sins and trespasses. Dead. He does not mean physical death here but spiritual. There was a time before coming to know Christ (he is writing to the saints of Ephesus) where our spiritual capacity was flat-lined. Nothing within us could say yes to God. Nothing within us could please God or be of use to Him. We were dead.
Dead in our sins and trespasses, Paul says. The word translated as “sins” here is hamartia, a Greek word which literally means to “miss the mark.” Far too often we relegate “sins” to the very egregious acts of wickedness we see on the evening news, but Paul has more than that in mind when he writes we were “dead” in hamartia. To “miss the mark” means we fail to be who we ought to be or could be. It is to say that despite our best intentions when we wake up in the morning we so often fall short of the glory of God by breakfast time. William Barclay, a prolific commentator of the Bible, while describing hamartia asks these pointed questions:
Is a man as good a husband as he might be? Does he try to make life easier for his wife? Does he inflict his moods on his family? Is a woman as good a wife as she might be? Does she really take an interest in her husband’s work and try to understand his problems and his worries? Are we as good parents as we might be? Do we discipline and train our children as we ought, or do we often shirk the issue? As our children grow older, do we come nearer to them, or do they drift away until conversation is often difficult and we and they are practically strangers? Are we as good sons and daughters as we might be? Do we ever even try to say thank you for what has been done for us? Do we ever see the hurt look in our parents’ eyes and know that we put it there? Are we as good workmen as we could be? Is every working hour filled with our most conscientious work and is every task done as well as we could possibly do it?
If you felt the stabs as I did when reading those questions, you understand how true it is that “all have sinned (missed the mark) and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Paul goes on to describe what being dead in sin looks like. It is to follow blindly the “course of this world” and the “prince of the power of the air” which is the spirit at work in sons and daughters of disobedience. It is to be a slave to desire, desire being defined as that which is forbidden. There is something inside all of us that wants what we ought not want. Something in our very nature makes us desire not God but our own passions. Our will, or what I call our “wanter,” is dead, able only to please the self (even our good deeds are over-shadowed by a desire to please selfish interests rather than bring glory and honor to God, which is why God calls all our good deeds “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6)).
I remember what it was like to have a dead wanter. I didn’t wake up and decide one day to ruin my life, but a series of bad choices to indulge my own desires led me down a road that deadened whatever spiritual life I once had. My will was completely enslaved to my own desires, and I could not say no to temptation. When I woke up in the morning I knew that when the opportunity presented itself, I was going to cave. Self-control, a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), was elusive to me.
Enter into this mess, this mess of being dead to sin, enslaved by a will that wants to please only oneself, dragged along by the course of this world and the passions of it, enter the most beautiful two words in all of Scripture as far as I’m concerned: BUT GOD! (Eph. 2:4).
BUT GOD, who is RICH IN MERCY, because of his GREAT LOVE, even when we were DEAD in our sin, made us alive with Christ! It is a supernatural work of the same God who breathed stars into existence who took this dead heart and made it alive and sensitive to the things which please God. Over time, this God took a dead “wanter” and made it new! God will take a will that is bent on pleasing self and free it to do His will and His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). Rather than being under the spell of this world which makes us sons and daughters of disobedience, and therefore subject to God’s righteous wrath, we become obedient children of God whom Jesus calls “friends” (John 15:14). How awesome it is to know that God wants you and I to be his partners in ministry in His world, that He has work for you and I to do and has made us alive in Him so that we can be about His work, bringing Him glory in all we say and do! (Eph. 2:10).
We closed our study last night by handing out the following re-write of Ephesians 2:1-10, and reading it while listening to the song Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave. It’s a good practice to make the scriptures personal, to read it as a letter addressed personally to you. I’ve adapted it for you here, and invite you to read this incredible passage as you listen to the song (included below the text). Feel free to print it off and read it often, every day if you have to, until they become a reality in your life. You were dead….But God!
I was dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which I once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3 I once lived among them in the passions of my flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and I was by nature a child of wrath, like everyone else. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved ME 5 even when I was dead through MY trespasses, made ME alive together with Christ—by grace I have been saved— 6 and raised up with him and seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward ME in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace I have been saved through faith, and this is not MY own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of MY works, so that I may not boast. 10 For I am what he has made me, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be MY way of life.