“FROM DEATH TO LIFE”
Ephesians 2:1-10 -Lent 4
Sunday March 14, 2021
Trinity – Creston/Mount Ayr
Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Our text for today is the Epistle Lesson from Ephesians 2 that was just proclaimed.
Dearest Jesus: Send your Holy Spirit to remind us that the message of the cross and what Jesus did and continues to do is not very popular by worldly standards but eternally essential for man to receive eternal life. Amen.
Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:
St. Paul takes us through a roller-coaster ride of sorts in our text. In the first three verses, he drops us in a terrifying plunge, a hair-raising free fall—speaking on the depths of the condition of all of humanity.
We are enslaved by our own sinful desires, and the world and Satan tied to control us. Then, just when we think we’re surely dead (no, actually, when we realize that we really were dead!) Eph 2:1), in verses 4–6 he pulls us out of it; we see God’s mercy and grace as he provides salvation for us in Christ.
That’s the big moment, the center of the ride! The moment when against all those g-forces we’re pulled up from death to life. As we first understand and recognize our problem (Law), we then are enabled truly to understand our redemption: because of what Christ has done for us (Gospel), we are made alive to him.
And, finally, climbing out of that center of the ride, in verses 7–10 we thank and praise God for his astonishing grace and, through him and by his grace, live a life for others.
We were dead in sin . . . and we walked like it (vv 1–3).
a. I remember the first time I saw a corpse in a funeral home as a young boy when my Grandpa Rutz died The body lay still, unable to move, no signs of breathing. The skin was off-color, almost like a mannequin. Like that corpse in the coffin, we can do nothing toward our salvation.
(1) To be dead means to be unable to help oneself. The “deadness” of our own sins means we are powerless and beyond hope.
(2) Without God’s grace, we don’t even see our lost condition. We have no “fear, love, or trust in God.”
b. We were dead in sin by our very natures. We are conceived and born in sin, having inherited the fallen nature from Adam (Ps 51:5; Rom 5:12).
(1) Natural man is corrupt and estranged from God. Our nature is hostile to God and opposes him. We are “children of wrath,” disobedient and evil. Natural man cannot accept the Gospel of Christ when it is preached to him (1 Cor 2:14).
(2) As Luther says, “A person is like a pillar of salt, like Lot’s wife, . . . indeed, like a log and a stone. He is like a lifeless statue, which uses neither eyes nor mouth, neither sense nor heart. . . . Indeed, all teaching and preaching is lost on him until he is enlightened, converted, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit” (FC SD II 20–21).
c. But we also “walked” as dead men, people dead in sin, following the world (Rom 12:1–2) and subject to the influence of Satan (1 Cor 12:1–2). We were “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (Eph 2:3).
d. Did you hear the switch from the pronoun “you” to “we” in verses 1, 2, and 3? Paul is not only describing the Gentiles but also the Jews. All people, Jews and Gentiles, are equally condemned and hopeless.
(1) Paul himself, that cruel persecutor Saul, thought he deserved God’s approval. Extremely religious and zealous, he tried dramatically to be more deserving than anyone.
As he proved to himself and to the world, religion with its attempts to “get right” with God is not the answer.
(2) The opposite is the truth. God wants to save people by his grace alone. St. Paul (who is also called the “Apostle of Grace” because of his conversion by the resurrected Christ) found out that his salvation was entirely a gift from God.
1. Because of God’s grace, we are alive in Christ (vv 4–6).
a. The word but in verse 4 introduces the great change section in Scripture, the center of the roller-coaster ride. The condition of mankind is not in fact hopeless. God has sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to save his lost and dead creatures.
(1) God’s love and mercy moved him to rescue us from our lost and condemned condition. God did not give us his grace because we were worthy nor because there was anything good in us. Rather, it is because of his goodness and mercy and love for sinners.
(2) So God sends his Son into the world to suffer and die in the sinner’s place—while we were yet sinners, while we were still dead, lost, and condemned. We receive his abundant grace through Christ and him alone.
b. We who were dead have been raised to new life with him. We who were slaves to sin have been set free from sin, the world, our flesh. We are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Now we are servants of the one who has given us new life and set us free.
c. And which words that say all this are the center of Paul’s chiasm, the key words that pull us out of that roller-coaster plunge? In verse 5,
This Is the Center of It All: “By Grace You Have Been Saved”; of It All, the Center Is This!
1’. Even our conversion, being made alive, is a miracle of God’s grace.
a. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, through the Word, we are changed in our moral condition. We are no longer aliens but God’s beloved children, called out of darkness into his marvelous light.
(1) We are now no longer seen by God in our condition of sin but seen in the light of what Christ has done in and for us. We are forgiven, brought about by the Word and Baptism.
(2) A change in our nature has occurred through the “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
b. There is an inner change. Because we are now justified by God’s grace, we have a new desire, a new will, and new thoughts centered in the Gospel.
(1) We desire not to sin (even though we continue to struggle with it). Our desire toward God is now to confess our sins, to repent, and by faith to receive forgiveness on a daily basis. Whereas before we were turned away from him, we are directed to God, to his Word and Sacraments.
(2) We now recognize God as the Father of all mercy, Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer, and in Christ, we recognize God as our Father. God and heaven are now opened to us.
c. Paul emphasizes that it is God who did all this. Conversion is solely God’s work. God has removed our spiritual inability to trust in him, given us new spiritual powers, given us spiritual understanding, a new heart, will, and spiritual emotions.
(1) God was moved by his love, mercy, and grace. This deliverance from our former life of bondage and sin excludes force or coercion.
(2) We are brought to faith through the Word, the Gospel, which alone changes us by God’s power.
2’. We are now alive by grace . . . and we “walk” in it (vv 7–10).
a. God’s purpose to save the sinner is not just temporal but eternal (v 7). The grace of God is on display for all eternity. Salvation is all of God’s doing: this brings him glory for all to know and see.
b. Verses 8 and 9 many can say by heart. How rich is God’s grace! We are saved by grace and not by our works, and this is through faith. No one can boast of what we’ve done; God has done it all!
c. In verse 10, Paul speaks of the effects of the Gospel in a believer’s life.
(1) Good deeds follow faith. Sanctification follows justification. Even our good works are wrought by God (Jn 15:5). These works that we do have already been ordained and prepared for us to do.
(2) Therefore, we simply “walk in them”—walking in the grace by which we’ve been saved!
Dear people loved and redeemed by God!! I confidently tell you that as a believer in the cross of Christ you are saved by grace, which comes from God by faith in Jesus alone. That is the center of it all! Amen.
Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.