After Paul’s expression of thanksgiving for the spiritual blessings we have in Christ and his prayer for the believers, he turned to what God has done for us. We were dead in our sin and separated from God. But God, through his grace, made us alive and seated us with Christ in the heavens.
Dead or Alive?
What is life? What does it mean to be alive? Surprisingly enough, scientists are somewhat divided in trying to define this term. Some things are alive, and others are not. But some things, like viruses, could fall on either side of the line, depending on how you define life. As humans, though, it is pretty clear whether we are alive or dead. Or is it?
The New Testament writers, Paul especially, use the terms dead and alive in two different ways. One way is our common usage referring to physical life, functioning, or not functioning, in the physical world around us. But he also uses the term to refer to our relationship with God. Our spiritual life. In this sense, if we are connected to the life of God, we have life; we have been made alive. If we are separated from the life of God, we are dead.
Disconnected from the Power Source
In my kitchen are some appliances; an oven, a refrigerator, and a microwave. Each of these appliances has a power cord that attaches them to its power source. If it is plugged in, then the appliance is alive, useful, and able to fulfill its purpose. If it is not plugged in, it has the appearance of usefulness, but it is dead and of no value.
For the first 18 years of my life, I was like a disconnected kitchen appliance. I had grown and developed physically, mentally, and emotionally. I gave every appearance of being alive, a fully functioning human being, ready to take on the world. And in the physical sense, I was. But I was dead spiritually, not plugged into the life of God.
In the first few verses of the second chapter of Ephesians, Paul uses dead and alive in both ways, referring to physical life and connection with God.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.Ephesians 2:1-3 NIV
Gratifying the Cravings of the Sinful Nature
I used to live in this world, functioning just like everyone else. I conformed to all social standards and fit in as best I could. During that time, I was in charge of my life, following the pull of my desires and thoughts. Most of the time, those thoughts and desires led me on a good path, sometimes even into generous and laudable actions. And yes, sometimes my thoughts and desires led me into activities that I now regret and am ashamed of. But all of that, whether good or bad, is described here as sin. Sin, or missing the mark, describes anything I do or even think that is not directed by God. And so, as one who was not connected to God, everything I did was sin, whether good or bad.
Objects of Wrath
Paul has several things to say about people in this condition. First, they are dead, separated from the life of God. Even while I was alive physically, I was dead spiritually. Secondly, while I was disconnected from God, I was actually under the rule of another, Satan. I did not recognize that at the time and did not pledge allegiance to him or often even acknowledge his existence. But I am either in God’s kingdom or Satan’s. There is no other choice. And finally, I was by nature an object of wrath. I was facing destruction. There was no future for me apart from being connected to the life of God.
Made Alive In Christ
Paul has painted a pretty bleak picture here of man in his natural state, disconnected from the life of God. Fortunately, he does not leave it there.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV
In this passage, Paul is not referring to everyone in the world. Ephesians was written to those who have already experienced what he was writing about. The “us” in this passage are those who currently are believers and those who would become believers. Even when I was dead, separated from the life of God, he reached out to me and plugged me into his life, transforming me from one who was dead into one who had life.
So what does it take to get plugged into the life of God, to be made alive? Paul says that it is an act of grace. God does so because he wants to. His offer of grace is not based on some action(s) that I must first take. Instead, God chooses that all who would respond to him in faith would experience this act of grace. Those who do will experience the riches of life with Christ, now and in the ages to come. And those who do not will continue to live this life completely unaware of what they are missing out on, but in the end, will face destruction.
In the Ages to Come!
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.Ephesians 2:6-7 NIV
Spiritual life, being connected with God, is not just for the brief years of my life on this earth. Paul says that when God made me alive in Christ, he also took me and put me where Christ is, in the heavenly realms. I am actually in two different domains now; the physical one that this body functions in and the heavenly realm where I can live because of the new life God has given to me. Heaven is not something I have to wait for; it is something I already have. In this passage, Paul states that I am already seated with Christ in heaven. While I do not fully experience heaven so long as I am in this body, my spirit is secure with Christ in heaven, looking forward to what is to come.
It was an act of grace on God’s part that lifted me from death into life. But God’s grace does not end there. Through eternity, I will be experiencing the riches of God’s grace that he will continue to express to me in the coming ages.
Some Questions to Consider
- Assuming you are a believer, how does your life differ now from what it was before you came to faith?
- What does it mean to be alive spiritually? Do you experience spiritual life today?
- How will you respond to God’s offer of grace and life?
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- Ephesians: A Brief Introduction
- Ephesians: Spiritual Blessings (1:3-14)
- Ephesians: A Prayer for Believers (1:15-23)
- Ephesians: From Death Into Life, An Act of Grace (2:1-7)
- Ephesians: Amazing Grace (2:8-10)
- Ephesians: Tearing Down the Wall of Hostility (2:11-22)
- Ephesians: A Mystery Revealed (3:1-13)
- Ephesians: Rooted and Established In Love (3:14-21)
- Ephesians: Walking Worthy (4:1-6)
- Ephesians: Growing a Mature Church (4:11-16)
- Ephesians: Put on the New Self (4:17-32)
- Ephesians: Imitators of God (5:1-20)
- Ephesians: Life in the Family (5:21-6:9)
- Ephesians: The Bride of Christ (5:25-32)
- Ephesians: Spiritual Warfare (6:10-20)