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.
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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?
You are welcome to respond to these questions in the comment section below. If you do, be sure to check the “Notify me” checkbox just above the Post Comment button so you can get any feedback. Note that all comments are moderated. Only respectful comments relevant to the topic will be posted.
All Posts In This Series
- Ephesians: A Brief Introduction - This brief introduction to Ephesians will share some thoughts about the authorship, dating, audience, and purpose of this profound letter.
- Ephesians: Spiritual Blessings (1:3-14) - God has given his spiritual blessings to us in the heavenly realm. And we have these blessings because we are in Christ.
- Ephesians: A Prayer for Believers (1:15-23) - In Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul's prayer for his readers is a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they could know God better.
- Ephesians: From Death Into Life, An Act of Grace (2:1-7) - In my natural state, I was spiritually dead, separated from the life of God. But by his grace, I have been made alive and seated with Christ.
- Ephesians: Amazing Grace (2:8-10) - Grace. More specifically God's grace, his unmerited favor towards us. But it is concerned with much more than my salvation.
- Ephesians: Tearing Down the Wall of Hostility (2:11-22) - Jesus' death on the cross tore down the dividing wall of hostility separating Jew from Gentile. In his death, the law is fulfilled.
- Ephesians: A Mystery Revealed (3:1-13) - The revealed mystery is that the barrier that separated Jew from Gentile has been eliminated, and has been replaced by a new humanity.
- Ephesians: Rooted and Established In Love (3:14-21) - Paul prays that the Ephesians would be rooted and established in love, a suitable dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.
- Ephesians: Walking Worthy (4:1-6) - What does walking worthy of our calling mean? In the context of Ephesians 4:1-6, it refers to our role in the body of Christ. Be the best member you can be.
- Ephesians: Growing a Mature Church (4:11-16) - Christ provides his church with the necessary equippers to that we can be a mature church, fully equipped to do the work he has called us to.
- Ephesians: Put on the New Self (4:17-32) - How can I be an effective member of the body of Christ? Take off the old self and put on a new self. One made in the image of Christ.
- Ephesians: Imitators of God (5:1-20) - Don't be like the world around you. Instead, be imitators of God by living a life of love, living as a child of the light, and living with wisdom.
- Ephesians: Life in the Family (5:21-6:9) - Paul's instructions to first century families contains useful information for families today. It also contains advice for workplace relationships.
- Ephesians: The Bride of Christ (5:25-32) - One image of the church in the New Testament is the Bride of Christ. It pictures the intimate relationship between Christ and his church.
- Ephesians: Spiritual Warfare (6:10-20) - A spiritual battle is raging all around us. So take up the armor God provides so you can stand your ground and be engaged in that spiritual warfare.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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