This continues my series on Ephesians 2. The lessons come out of a small Bible study I teach every Friday at a local high school. Please pray that the Lord would be pleased to save sinners there.%%
There is nothing more important than the gospel. People have been killed for believing it. And people are still being killed for it. And yes, people will continue to be killed for it.
But why? Why did Christians think it was worth dying for? What makes it so critical, so worthy, so valuable that you'd give your life for it? Simple: without the message of the gospel, there is no salvation.
Ephesians 2:5 Even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)
In this lesson, I want to stress a few particulars of this worthy gospel. Here is our outline:
I. The Deadliness of Sin II. We Must Be Born Again III. Salvation by Grace Alone
I. The Deadliness of Sin
Even when we were dead in our transgressions
The first topic that I wish to speak of is sin. Yes, I know that we already spent several lessons learning that are more sinful than we could ever imagine, yet the truth is quickly suppressed and forgotten, and it is good to call to mind again what God says about us.
I want to focus on one aspect of sin, namely its double cause of a double death. The double cause: Adam's sin and our sin. The double death: physical and spiritual.
1. The Double Death
First, let's speak of the double death. Remember, in the beginning God promised that if man sinned, he would surely die:
Genesis 3:15-17 Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
We must ask, "What did God mean when He said that Adam will die?" Now, we know of course that this sin transformed Adam into a mortal, one who would eventually decay and die physically; before sin there was no death in the world.
But, God's judgment upon the human race was not carried out solely when Adam died physically. No, God judged Adam that very moment Adam sinned, for when Adam sinned, he died spiritually. His perfect relationship to the Life Giver was severed. He was cast out of the garden because God cannot dwell amidst wickedness (Psalm 5:4). Adam had become a sinner. He had become not just a man who would die physically, but a man who was dead in his transgressions.
This is the double death. Man is born dead spiritually and will die physically. The ramifications of this are tremendous. Dead men do not seek after God. Dead men are not righteous or holy. Dead men cannot raise themselves from the dead. Dead man cannot have a living relationship with the Living God. They are helpless, sealed in the grave, enslaved to the cords of death. This is, across every age, the plight of man.
2. The Double Cause
Second, let us speak of the double cause of this double death. The first cause of our double death is our inherited sin, the original sin. Romans 5:12 says, that Adam's sin had monumental implications beyond what he could have ever imagined, for "through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin." Through Adam, sin entered the world. And through sin, death came upon all the world. When Adam sinned, it was not he alone that would die; every one of his descendants would inherit his corruption, his wickedness, his sinful nature — and die.
We are Adam's descendants. We have inherited his corruption, his wickedness, his sin nature. And when did we inherit this? At the beginning of our existence! We began on this earth guilty in Adam, and thus spiritually dead, . We were "brought forth in iniquity…in sin [we were] conceived" (Ps 51:5). Adam was our representative, and in him, we sinned. We are guilty.
Yet, our death is not solely because of Adam's sin, although that would have been enough to condemn us. There is a second cause our death! Our text says that "we were dead in our transgressions." We, by our own sins, have become guilty of death. God is not mocked; the soul who sins will die (Gal 6:7-10, Eze 18:4). The wages of sin is death (Ro 6:23). We deserve a just punishment for what we have done against God.
So then, this is the double cause: by Adam's sin, we are guilty, and by our own sin, we are guilty.
II. We Must Be Born Again
Made us alive together with Christ
But the story does not end in death! For God made us alive! This is the doctrine of regeneration, of God raising us spiritually from the dead that we might see and believe and respond to the gospel of His Son. Let us see this from the Savior's own mouth:
John 3 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
Christ says, "You must be born again," meaning, "You must be born out of your spiritual deadness unto spiritual life. You must be made alive." Christ, of course, is speaking not about a physical rebirth but a spiritual rebirth. Note the following truths:
First, conversion is nothing less than being born again. Conversion is not a change of external behavior, habits, hobbies, activities. Going to church, reading the Bible, praying, going to Bible studies, doesn't mean you have been born again.
Secondly, conversion is nothing less than the work of God. It is not the work of man. Salvation "does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy" (Romans 9:16). It matters not what you will, how ingenuous you are, or what you do. God must cause spiritual birth. How responsible are you for your own physical birth? Not at all! Even more so, so it is with spiritual birth. God births us. He is our Father.
So then, what is conversion? Conversion is new life, a new way of thinking, a new way of feeling, a new way of seeing everything! It is the change of the internal disposition, of the heart. God explains this in the Old Testament:
Ezekiel 36:25-27 "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances."
Note that God says He will do this. God "made us alive." We certainly did not make our own selves alive! He will give us a new heart of flesh, a new spirit, His Spirit. And thus, He deserves all the credit and glory for our salvation.
III. Salvation by Grace Alone
(By grace you have been saved)
Finally, we come to the last phrase of our verse. "By grace you have been saved." After realizing that it is God who made us alive together with Christ, this statement is nothing but logical. If God has done it for undeserving sinners, prompted by no merit of our own, how then can we be saved? By grace, and grace alone — God's condescending love to undeserving sinners.
No one in their right mind, who as been brought to the very brink of physical death, comes back to flaunt his experiences. There are no swaggering war heroes. No one who survives near death credits his life to his strength, nor to his ingenuity. Noble men are quick to place the credit elsewhere.
A person in their right mind, if he lives, tremble and begins to ponder life anew. If he is wise, he walks more carefully, with a great appreciation for the fact the he breathes. Seeing the cliff of death makes one thankful for his life.
But, who should be more thankful, the man who came close to death and kept his life, or the man who was actually dead, and has been given a new life? Who is more indebted, a veteran who lives or regenerate sinners to God? Who is more indebted, a cancer survivor to his doctors or regenerate sinners to their God? Who is more indebted, the rescued tsunami victim or adopted sinners to their God?
Undoubtedly, the sinner. Knowing the gospel of regeneration, that we were saved by grace ought to drive us to our knees in thankfulness and ought to compel our hearts to obey. What a gracious God we serve!
This is why Christians stood to die for the gospel — it is the message of life, and without it, there is no salvation. The very core of what a Christian is — a sinner brought to life by the grace of God — is contained within the gospel. Embrace it, Christian, and be who you are in Christ!