Thursday, March 5, 2009

From the Grave Yard to the Grace Yard

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10). Having described our spiritual possessions in Christ, Paul turns to a complementary truth: our spiritual position in Christ. First he explains what God did for the Gentiles in particular. The sinner who trusts Christ has been raised and seated on the throne (2:1-10), and believing Jews and Gentiles have been reconciled and set into the temple, that is the body of Christ. What a miracle of God’s grace! We are taken out of the great graveyard of sin and placed into the throne room of glory. We were taken off a patch of disgrace and planted on a patch of amazing grace. Perhaps the easiest way for us to approach this long paragraph is to see in it four specific works. Work number one, sin’s work against us (2:1-3). In these three verses, Paul gives us a full-length picture of the terrible spiritual condition of the unsaved person. He is dead (2:1). His spiritual faculties are not functioning. All lost sinners are dead, and the only difference between one sinner and another is the state of decay. Our world is one vast graveyard, filled with people who are dead while they live. He is disobedient (2:2-3a). This was the beginning of man’s spiritual death. Three forces encourage man in his disobedience-the world, the flesh, and the devil. He is depraved (2:3b). He is incapable of doing anything to merit salvation or meet the high standards of God’s holiness. Jesus said that lost sinners do good to each other, and to their children, but they cannot do anything spiritually good to please God. Some unbelievers have more character and integrity than some believers. He is doomed (2:3c). The sentence has been passed, but God in His mercy is staying the execution of the sentence. Man cannot save himself, but God in His grace steps in to make salvation possible. Work number two, God’s work for us (2:4-9). The focus of attention now is on God, not on sinful man. He loves us (2:4). God has two kinds of attributes: Those that He possesses of Himself (such as life, love and holiness). And those by which he relates to His creation (relative attributes such as faithfulness and justice). Love is one of God’s intrinsic attributes, but when this love is related to sinners, it becomes grace and mercy. He quickened us (2:5). This means He made us alive. This spiritual resurrection puts us in union with Christ. He exalted us (2:6). Our physical position is “in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” We have been called from the grave to sit with Christ and enjoy His fellowship. He keeps us (2:7-9). Grace means that God does it all for Jesus sake. The word "that" in verse 8, in the Greek, is neuter; while faith is feminine. "That" refers to the whole experience of salvation. Work number three, God’s work in us (2:10a). Our conversion is not the end; it is the beginning, the word “workmanship” gives us our English word poem. Christ is equipping us for our walk and our work here on earth. To do this He uses three special tools. The Word of God (I Thessalonians 2:13). Prayer (Ephesians 3:20-21). And suffering (1 Peter 4:11-14). As we read God’s Word the Word goes to work in our lives to cleanse us and nourish us. As we pray, God’s Spirit works in us to release power. As we suffer, the Spirit of God ministers to us. Suffering drives us back to the Word and prayer and the cycle is repeated. God cannot work through us unless He works in us. God spent 40 years working in Moses before He could work through him. Joseph suffered 13 years before God put him on the throne of Egypt. Paul spent three years in Arabia after his conversion. Work number four, God’s work through us (2:10b). The unbeliever walks “according to the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2), but the believer walks in the good works God has prepared for him. This means God has a will for our lives. We discover God’s will for our lives as the Spirit reveals it to us from the Word. The Word of God is the will of God. God has worked for you; now let Him work in you and through you, that you might have an exciting, creative life to the glory of God. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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