God's holiness and purity are so overwhelming in their brilliance that no human being could ever stand in the presence of God.
The Bible says that all of us have sins, that is all of us without exception have broken the law of God. No single person, even the best person, the kindness, the most sincere person in the universe by themselves in their own merit can stand in the presence of God. The chasm, the gulf between us and the holy God is so huge, is so immense that none of us left to ourselves could ever get to God, could ever get to heaven. Perhaps you're thinking, well, there are certain ways that we could cross that chasm. Perhaps there's some way in which I could get to the other side. Perhaps if I really were more sincere. Perhaps if I did better things. Perhaps if I looked within and I could work out a way, a path of enlightenment to God, I might be able to get there. Perhaps if I became very religious. Well, how sincere would you have to be?
Could you really be sincere every day, every moment? And if you're relying on your goodness to get to God, how good are you? If it's dependent on your good deeds, how many good deeds do you have to do in order to get to heaven?
And also, even if you were able to live, relatively speaking, a good life, a kind life, a generous life, a life of meaning, a life making a difference in people's lives, you're still left with a fundamental problem of your sinful heart, your impure heart. And we're going to read a passage of Scripture which is going to tell us a number of very very important things. It's going to tell us how sinners become saints, how those who have sinned, who have come short of the glory of God, how they can display the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And Paul in his verses is going to tell us and describe us, not in very flattering terms, who we are as human beings.
And then he's going to tell us what is a Christian. And then the difference that makes in our lives. This is a very important passage. We're going through Ephesians. We previously looked at Ephesians 1 and thought of our great salvation, the plan of our great salvation.
And we saw it was planned by the Father. It was implemented by the Son and is applied to our hearts through the Holy Spirit. And then last time as we looked at the last section of Ephesians 1, we thought of the power of the gospel and the power that is available to us, the very power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. And so we're continuing with this overall theme of our great salvation. And tonight we're thinking of the riches of our salvation.
This salvation is very, very rich. So let's open our Bibles and we're going to read the first 10 verses from Ephesians chapter 2. Again I'm reading from the English Standard version. I'm often asked by people what version of the Bible should they buy. Well, it's your decision, but we use at Calvary the English Standard version.
It's the version in the pew in front of you. And we'd like you to open your Bible so that you know that what I'm saying are not my ideas, but is the truth of God. Ephesians 2 then verse 1, Paul writes, 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.
Time familiar on this morning, Epithumea, the passions of her flesh, the lusts of her 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's a 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. Isn't that a magnificent passage of Scripture? Ephesians 2, verses 1 through 10. Now in the first section, in the first three verses, Paul is telling us what we are by nature. And he gives us a threefold picture of what we are by nature. That is what we are apart from the grace of God.
This is very important. First of all, he tells us that we're dead, did you notice that in verse 1? We were dead in the trespasses, we were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.
I'm not sure if that's deliberate or not. Only speaking, we are dead, we're not just slightly flawed, looking for improvement in some areas. We're not just lost, looking for direction. We're not just unfulfilled, looking to realize our potential. We're not just weak, looking for strength.
We're not just unhappy, looking for joy. Paul tells us that we're spiritually dead, dead in our trespasses and sins. Do you understand that? Spiritually speaking, you're dead. You may be intellectually brilliant. You may be socially well adjusted. You may be financially successful.
You may be culturally sophisticated. In terms of your education, you may be very well read, but apart from God's great salvation, you're dead, dead in your trespasses and sin. Now, it's important we understand that because if it is true that we are spiritually dead, the remedy then is not in reformation of character. It's not changing motivation in life as it were.
It's not depending on some political or social or economic improvement. That doesn't work on a dead person. What does a dead person need?
Life. And that new life comes from God. So this is the first picture that Paul describes what we are by nature. First of all, we are dead. Secondly, we are slaves, verses 2 and 3, in which you once walked, following the course of the 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 of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind. Paul says we're dead, but we're slaves. That is, we're slaves conformed to the course of this world. We think we're free, of course. We're told we're free.
We all live in a free country, but in actuality, we're following the values and the mindset of this world. We're slaves under the influence of our adversary, Satan. And we're also slaves, as we thought of this morning, to our flesh, to our sinful desire. We think we're free, but we're slaves to our pride, to our selfish ambition. Yes, as we thought of this morning, to our lust, to our greed, to envy and deception.
Following the course of the world, following the prince of the power of the air, that is Satan himself. So we sin. Our very nature is to sin. Now you may curtail a sinful habit, but you cannot stop sinning. Your nature is such that you are a slave to sin. Notice what Paul says here in verse 2. Spiritually speaking, we are sons of disobedience.
That characterizes all of humanity. We disobey God. We are rebels. We are defiant against the authority of God. We choose our own way, and as Jesus taught, the one who sins becomes a slave of sin. This is who you are apart from the grace of God. Spiritually you're dead. Spiritually you are a slave.
Third, you are condemned. Look at the end of verse 3. You were by nature children of, did you notice that, wrath, like the rest of mankind. Because of our sin, we're children of wrath. Paul tells us that in the beginning of Romans, Romans 1, verse 18, as he begins his exposition of the gospel, he says that God's wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. That's the picture, children of wrath, sons of disobedience, prisoners, as it were, in the condemned cell awaiting the death penalty. And apart from our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no shelter from the wrath of God. Now most of us are familiar with John 3, 16, that wonderful chapter of the new birth. And at the end of John 3, there is this wonderful verse, verse 36, which goes as follows, whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
Did you get the picture? You're a son of disobedience. You're a child of wrath. By yourself you defy God.
You go your own way. You've sinned. You've come short of the standard of this holy God. And because of that, God's wrath is against you. It's about to fall, prisoners in the condemned cell.
This is what we are by nature. We're dead, slaves in the chains of sin and condemned. I ask you this question, do you understand the weight of your sin? But sin is an offense against God. We trivialize sin.
We don't want to talk about it. I've had people who come to Calvary Church and tell me that I talk about sin too much. Well, you know why I talk about sin too much? Because this sanctuary every Sunday is full of sinners, that we have sinned. And there must be an acknowledgement of sin.
And this is what Paul is doing. Before he talks about the grace of God, he's telling us what we are by nature. So if you think that sin is only when you offend someone else and you've got to apologize, or perhaps you think, well, yes, there is a sense in which sin, I can sin against myself and harm myself.
If that's your definition of sin, you'll never grasp the marvelous grace of God. And you will think that the solution to life's problems is changing your behavior. You're working through the issues in your own way of spending a long time with your therapist trying to work out why you do certain things in a certain way. For example, if you see self-esteem as your main problem, you'll think that recovery, vulnerability, sharing, trying to be authentic should be your goals rather than repentance, redemption and forgiveness of your sins.
This is the critical point. If there's not a correct diagnosis of the problem, there will not be the correct cure. We know that in medicine. You go to your doctor and you expect her to give you a right diagnosis. Once we know the diagnosis, then we can deal with the cure.
But if the diagnosis is wrong, everything is going to be wrong. And if we have a true understanding of what we are by nature, we will end up having a false God to make ourselves feel good about ourselves, to help us get through life, to fulfill our dreams. Before John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, did you know he was a slave trader? He writes that before his conversion, he felt himself, quote, sinking under the weight of all of my sins into the ocean and into the silence of eternity.
You hear the picture? He was a sailor, so he pictures his sin as a great weight on him. And he's going down and down and down under the waves. You see, Paul is a master writer. He's a great understanding of the gospel. And he wants us to understand what we are by nature as he then can demonstrate God's great salvation.
No, you can't save yourself. And now we're going to see the contrast between who we were prior to conversion and who we now are. John Stott writes, Paul first plums the depths of pessimism about man and then rises to the heights of optimism about God. What are we by nature? Dead.
Slaves. Condemned. Now, in verses 4 through 10, Paul describes what we are by grace. This is the miracle and the wonder of the grace of God in our lives.
And he mentions at least, or gives us at least four pictures. The first is in verse 4, in spite of all of that, you're greatly loved by God. Verse 4, but God, isn't this surprising if you understand the first three verses? But God, being rich in mercy because of the great love with which He loved us.
The contrast between verse 4 and verses 1 and 3 is striking, isn't it? But this is the gospel of the grace of God. There is nothing in us inherently deserving of God's love and mercy. We deserve the judgment of God because of our rebellion. We're a son of disobedience, but we're greatly loved by God.
Paul doesn't simply say God loves you, that's true. He says He's rich in mercy because of the great love with which He loved us. This is a great love. We who once were children of wrath, now in the grace of God, are children of God. This is a great love.
This is God's rich, rich mercy. One in his little epistle in 1 John 3 writes, verse 1, 1 John 3, verse 1, see what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called the children of God. Literally, the text goes, look at the sort of love the Father has given us. In 1 John 3, verse 1, John is not just saying that God loves us, he's not just telling us the fact of God's love, he's telling us the manner of the love.
He's saying, look at that. What kind of love is this? And as he writes, there's a sense of surprise that when you think of what we were by nature, aren't we surprised at the manner of the love that is not just that God loves us. He loves us so much that he has called us children of God. He adopts us into his family. That's great love, isn't it? Would you adopt me into your family? You say, not really. We love you a little bit, John, but not that much.
Say somewhere else tonight, you're not coming into my home. Think of it, that you're a son of disobedience, and God in his great love, don't ask me to explain it. It's all of God's mercy and grace that he has loved us so much that he reaches down and he is rich in mercy. In chapter 1, verse 7, Paul talks about the riches of his grace.
Here is the rich in mercy. He withholds what we deserve. Grace gives mercy in a sense, withholds us. We deserve condemnation, and rather than that, God who is rich in mercy, loved us with his great love, has brought us into the family of God. We're loved by God. Isn't that wonderful?
Would you go to bed tonight? I don't know how many people love you, but you can be absolutely sure of this. We're loved by God. And Jeremiah reminds us, we're loved with an everlasting love. This is a love that will never end. Human love can be strong, but can come to an end.
But this love, this great love, will never end for all of eternity. We who are saved by his grace are greatly loved. First and we're loved by God. Secondly, we are given new life, verses 5 through 7.
Even, follow Paul's argument, it's not all that difficult, I think, to get. Even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive. If you're dead, you need new life. This is what God in Christ has given us. He 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, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Once I was dead in my trespasses and sins, but I have been made alive, I've been given new life, I have been regenerated by God. This is miraculous.
This is not something that I can do. This is outside of me. This is the new birth, being born again, as Jesus says to the Nicodemus, not of the flesh. That which is of the flesh is flesh, but that which is of the Spirit is spirit. That's why Jesus says to Nicodemus and says to you and me tonight, you must be born again. You must receive this new life, this spiritual life.
Why? Because you're dead in your trespasses and sins. But did you notice as I read that not only are we given new life, God has raised us up, verse 6, with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places. Do you understand that you have been resurrected with Christ? That what God did for Christ, he does for us. This is grace upon grace. Tim began by reading chapter, verse 3 from chapter 1, that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. It's grace, raised up, seated with Christ in the heavenly places. We share in the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Think of the wonder of it.
Think of the grace of God. And not only are you loved, you're given this new life. My identity has changed. I am now in Christ. I've been raised up with Christ. I'm in the heavenlies with Christ, I'm blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. So first, we're loved by God. Secondly, we're given new life.
Third, we're saved. Don't you love that word saved? Some people don't like it. They think it's very old-fashioned.
And maybe it is old-fashioned, but it's good. It's a biblical word. And here it is, verses 8 and 9, when we have baptisms, the candidates for baptism often quote these verses, and I love to hear them.
Here it is in the ESV, for by grace, what is that? By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it's a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. We're saved. Saved from sin, that's sin. I'm saved from the power of Satan, who's a destroyer, who's a murderer from the beginning, and I'm saved from the judgment of God. That wrath of God, which I deserve and you deserve because of our sin, will never, ever fall on us, because my Lord Jesus Christ has come as my Savior and has stood in my place. He has taken that wrath. He has borne that judgment so that I can be saved.
We're saved. Notice verses 8 and 9, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Grace is an overflow of God's goodness, His love, His generosity. It is totally undeserved and merited on our part. Grace by definition is undeserved.
You don't deserve it. You don't think that you're a wonderful person. That's why God reached down and saved you.
No, that's not it. You are wonderful because God has saved you, but He didn't save you because you're wonderful. You're a son of disobedience. You're under His judgment, but now those of us who know Christ, there's been that fundamental transformation that now I am saved. And as Paul says in chapter 1, God has lavished the riches of His grace on us.
God doesn't give you just a little bit of grace. He lavishes on us day after day after day. And that glorious day when we were first saved, God lavished His grace on us. Now notice the ground of our salvation. Notice the basis of our salvation as Paul presents it here in verse 8. It is by grace you have been saved. That is the basis of our salvation.
It's entirely of God. We're saved by grace alone. Faith is the receiving, the response to what God in Christ has done for us. So technically, it's not our faith that saves us.
Paul doesn't say that. He says that we're saved through faith. It's Christ that saves us. How do we receive this salvation? We receive it through faith. For by grace you have been saved through faith. Faith is the personal receiving of the free gift of God.
Faith is the outstretched hand receiving the free gift. Last night I was watching the news with our grandkids jumping around. And some of you saw it, there was a story in New York of an apartment building that went on fire. And they showed the firemen way up, I think on the 23rd story, rescuing this woman. Brave firemen. I hope they're well paid.
It's quite amazing. And they get this ladder and they go up. And the woman is there.
And they didn't show her face, and the radio station they had kind of blocked out her faith. But here are the firemen carrying this woman down. Who saves her?
A fireman. But she had to respond. They came. Perhaps they called her. Perhaps she was at the window.
I don't know. But they're there and they put out their hands. And she is there. And she exercises faith in these firemen. I'm sure in her fear, in her trepidation, and no doubt they said to her, come. And she came. And they held her and brought her to the place of safety. There was her need. She was in a burning building.
And if she stays there, she would be killed. There is the provision of safety, the firemen. They're there. They do it all.
They do absolutely nothing but receive the provision of these firemen. Understand that? Saving faith, which is essential for salvation, saving faith looks away from ourselves. It reaches out and trusts in Christ alone. And you're sitting there and you say, John, I understand that, but my faith is very weak. I wish I had strong faith. Wish I had your faith. Well, my faith at times is very weak as well. But, you know, it's not the quantity of her faith.
It's the object of her faith. Perhaps this woman wondered if the firemen would hold her. Perhaps not. Perhaps she looked at them and thought, yes, these are strong firemen.
They can easily take me down. I don't know. It doesn't really matter.
What does matter is this, that the provision was made and she availed herself of it. You want your faith to grow? Don't look within. Don't think, well, my faith is small.
Perhaps it is small. Perhaps it's the faith of a mustard seed. But your faith will grow as you look to Christ. It is Christ who saves you through his work on the cross, through the blood of his cross as we thought of this morning. And as you look to Christ and believe in him, you will be saved through faith.
Have you never done it? Will you receive that salvation and the riches of his grace? Now, Paul emphasizes grace and he emphasizes grace alone by telling us and emphasizing, it should be obvious if we followed his argument to date, by emphasizing and underlying that we cannot work for our salvation.
And he does that in two ways. First he tells us it's a gift. It's a free gift, totally. It's not 99% a gift, it's a total gift. Christ has done it all.
You can't do anything. It is 100% a gift. Secondly, he excludes boasting. There's no boasting. Not one person here can boast that they did anything for their salvation.
That's what he says. This is not your own doing. He doesn't want us to be in any misunderstanding. It is the gift of God, not a result of works. Notice how he's clarifying himself, so that no one may boast. Bosting is excluded.
It is totally inappropriate. If we could work our way to heaven, we wouldn't need God. But we're dead, we're slaves, we're condemned. And our glorious, loving Father sends his Son to die for our sins. It's all of God's free, undeserved, unmerited, sovereign grace.
It's grace alone. Their salvation, our redemption, as we saw in chapter 1, verse 7, is through his blood. It's through his death on the cross for our sins, his burial, his glorious resurrection.
Yes, it's true, the wages of sin is death, but says Paul, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. You're loved by God. You're given your life.
You're saved. Finally, verse 10, we're God's masterpiece. You say, really?
Yes, really. For we are his workmanship. Talk about grace upon grace, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. And he tells us in verse 7, in the coming ages, he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.
Like all of eternity, God's people will display and marvel at the inexhaustible riches of God's infinite grace. F.F. Bruce writes that the church, he calls the church a society of pardoned rebels. I like that. Whether we were pardoned rebels, he was also Scottish and just spelt it out. I like that.
Who are we at Calvary Church that were pardoned rebels? He says, throughout time and in eternity is designed by God to be the masterpiece of his goodness. And for all of eternity, we will worship the inexhaustible Christ and be shown his immeasurable riches of his grace. We sometimes think, don't we, when we've been there 10,000 years, bright, shining as the sun, there'll be no less days to sing his praise than when we'd first begun. Not yet there, but meantime, if you're saved by God's grace, you are God's masterpiece.
You say, well, I don't know if I feel that. You know, this is an interesting word. The Greek word emphasizes a work of art. The only occurrence of this word in New Testament is in Romans 1, verse 20, where it refers to God's creation of the universe. This universe is God's masterpiece. I understand it's fallen, but it's created. Good night.
We're admiring the beautiful sunset as we're driving here. It's a masterpiece, isn't it? And you and I are God's masterpieces, not self-created, but created by God, that God saves us. And he doesn't leave us to his own devices, but in his grace he molds us, he shapes us.
So for what reason? For good works. And God has prepared these beforehand that we should walk in them. It is true that we're saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is not alone. Good works, a change of our identity resulting in a change in our attitude and agenda and behavior follows. These good works are not the condition of our salvation, but they're the consequences of our salvation. And God has planned these beforehand. Amazing.
Do you think it's as marvelous? Here you are, dead, condemned, a slave, and God in his grace reaches down and saves you. This doesn't leave you there, gives you his spirit, and guides you in life, and that God has a plan for you. And God is going to shape you.
Sometimes that shaping is difficult, isn't it? And we are God's masterpieces. Remember that when that brother or sister irritates you, God's masterpiece, the transformation of grace. And Paul is going to explain in chapters four, five, and six of Ephesians some of these changes that take place in us, that those who are genuinely saved can't remain and live as they once were, that there is this divine transformation so that the Holy Spirit within us is conforming us to be more and more like Jesus. Through the grace of God we experience regeneration as death to life. Through God's grace we experience illumination, darkness to light. Through God's grace we experience liberation, slavery to freedom. Through God's grace we experience justification, condemnation to parliament. I have to ask you, have you personally received this salvation?
I realize some of you have been coming here for many years. That doesn't mean you're saved. I have to ask you, do you know this, Christ? Have you believed in the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you played you personally? Have you responded to what God in Christ has done as He offers you salvation? Have you responded to that?
Have you personally reached out to Christ as He says, come to me? And all of this work has been accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ. You say, well, I'm a terrible sinner. You're right.
You are. You are a sinner than you really know you are. But God's grace is not withheld because of your sin and God's grace is not decreased because of your sin. Augustine said that God always pours His grace into empty hands.
Isn't that good? That's how we come to Christ, isn't it, with empty hands, leaving aside all our religiosity and our good works. And with nothing other than our sin. And God does what only God can do. He pours grace upon grace upon grace into our hands.
Because there's always more grace in the Lord Jesus Christ than there is sin in you. True faith reaches out and trusts in Jesus Christ. And if you've ever done that, I invite you to do so tonight, to place your trust in Him. And if you are a believer, rejoice in your salvation. And these verses will help you, I trust, to communicate the true gospel to others and also to ask God to help you become that wonderful masterpiece that as we live our lives, as we go around, that people will see we're different because we're becoming more and more like Jesus.
And shining with His beauty. Let me pray. Let me give you an opportunity, if you've never yet trusted Christ, to say, Lord, come and save me. I'm a sinner. I don't deserve your salvation, but I turn from my sin. Thank you, Lord, for dying on the cross. For my sin is the Son of God rising from the dead.
Come and save me and I trust you. And help me to live and to display this glorious grace to others. Father, we thank you for this. These verses we realize we're only paddling in the shadows as we think of the inexhaustible grace of God, but we thank you for it. We're utterly undeserving and so we appreciate your grace, that grace which is always greater than our sin. May we be gracious to others and may through your spirit may you conform us to be more like the Lord Jesus and display this grace to others which begins in our own hearts. And may we as a church be a church that stands strong on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his name we pray, amen.
Whisper: small.en / 2022-11-08 10:04:50 / 2022-11-08 10:12:34 / 8