Made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). What absolute rich words given to us in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He has just explained to us that we were dead in our trespasses and sins, and belonged to the prince of the power of the air. We were sons of disobedience and, by nature, children of wrath.
The first three verses of chapter 2 really show us our true identity with the world. I know that we like to put a lot of stock into our identity. Just look at the rest of my blog, it’s filled with bits and pieces of my identity. But the real identity of the world is that of “children of wrath.” We are dead in our trespasses and sins, and separated from God. This deadness that Paul speaks of is not physical death, but spiritual death. Remember when Adam sinned in the garden, there was an immediate change for Adam. That change was not only in his position before God, moving from being righteous, to unrighteous, but also a spiritual death that immediately came upon him and Eve. That was, as best we can understand it, a separation from God spiritually speaking.
Realize that to be spiritual means to be alive in Christ. We tend to think that we are spiritual beings by nature, but Paul begs to differ. We are not spiritual by nature because we are fallen by nature. Since this is true, we are dead spiritually. We have no spirit before conversion because we are dead spiritually. We only have body and soul. I know that some will take 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and say that Paul refers to us by saying “may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless.” I agree he says that. But he says that of believers, not of those dead in trespasses and sins. Besides, Paul gives far more references to us being just body and soul, than he does to us being body, soul and spirit.
The point is that we need to be made alive by God. That is why verses 4 through 7 are so absolutely wonderful.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Paul is showing us that it is God who makes us alive. He does the work. This is not something that we had anything to do with before He moved. Remember our state of being before God moves is that we are dead. Spiritually speaking, we were no different than Lazarus was physically speaking when he laid in the tomb. He was dead, nothing more than a stinking corpse and Jesus called his name, bringing him to life. The same picture we have of Lazarus being brought back from the dead is the same picture we have of us being made alive in the spirit. God has to move and do the work in us for us to be made alive together with Christ. The one doing the work is God, not us.
Why does God choose some to do this? (Remember, Ephesians 1 deals with God’s election of the saints). He does so in order to show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. The goal of the Triune God is always to be glorified and He is does this by taking children of wrath and making them into children and co-heirs with Christ.
I know this is extremely unpopular in evangelical circles, but our salvation is all His work on us and in us. It is not us. This is why Paul follows up with verses 8-10:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
His point is that there is no room for us to boast. When it comes to God’s grace, and the faith we have, both are a work of God in us, so that there is no room for boasting whatsoever. Far too many people want to claim that it was their decision and their faith that saved them. But that is not the tenor of this passage. The context of this passage is that all of our salvation was His workmanship, not ours, so that we could not boast at all.
I know of far too many Christians who want to boast about their salvation by saying that it was their decision that brought them to faith. Yet this passage prohibits that. There is no room for boasting in the Christian walk. If we believe, it is because the Spirit moved in us, caused us to be born again, worked faith in us so that we could and would believe in Christ for salvation.
Remember Jesus’ words to us:
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
The reason there are no Christians or non-Christians moving mountains is because we do not have the faith of a mustard seed. The faith that we need for salvation is worked in us by the Holy Spirit, it is a gift from God, so that we cannot boast. WE are the passive recipients of God rich mercy.
Do we deserve it? Absolutely not. Why? Because we were children of wrath. But out of His rich mercy, His Spirit moves in us, He shows us grace and works faith in us, so that we believe and are saved. That is why verse 4-7 are so precious. May God’s rich mercy be poured out in your life as well.