…But God (Part 1): From Death to Life – Ephesians 2:1-10

…But God (Pt 1): From Death to Life

This is another sermon I did during my college internship at my home church in Colorado in the summer of 2010. I have updated it a little and am kicking off a series taking the “…but God” passages.

Ephesians 2:1-10


Have you ever seen a dead body before? I have a couple of times, at funerals for a couple of my aunts at different time in my life, one was very recent. Those of you who have seen a dead body do you remember what it looked like? Maybe for some of you in the medical field or those who are combat veterans have seen number of bodies. Here is how Webster’s Dictionary defines a dead body, “deprived of life, no longer alive, having the appearance of death, lacking power to move, feel, or respond”. As unbelievers we are dead. God makes the sinner alive, for salvation of man was nothing but God. Let’s look at our passage.

I. Before Christ vv1-3 

Verses one through three gives us an up close look at the pre-conversion state of man. Verse one tells us that we were dead. Now you’re saying, “Wait a minute I thought you said we are dead, now you’re saying we were dead. What is it?” In verse one Paul is reminding the Ephesian believers of their state before salvation. But what does he mean by dead? Because I know that I was alive before I got saved. Paul is speaking on a spiritual level. Our souls were dead because of sin. The unsaved person is dead spiritually. Wiersbe describes the condition, “that is, he is unable to understand and appreciate spiritual things. He posses no spiritual life, and he can do nothing of himself to please God” (Warren W. Wiersbe; The Bible Exposotion Commentary: New Testament Vol. 2; © 1989; p17). The verse says that we are dead in our “trespasses and sins” what’s the difference? A trespass or transgression is a stepping over the line, the act of sinning, doing something wrong. This is most dramatically seen when your favorite wide receiver catches the game winning touchdown, but he was caught out-of-bounds by the officials. The player trespassed, he crossed the line that allows play. The word sin in our verse is more of missing the mark, this is an action or in-action. If watched Superbowl 52 you may have seen the play when the New England Patriots attempted a play that turned quarterback Tom Brady into a receiver. If you did you would have seen Tom Brady miss the ball causing an incomplete pass. He missed the mark, he “sinned”. Do you know the difference between two sinners? It’s the amount of decay their spiritual bodies have. The bum in gutter who needs a fix and a drink is just as dead, but may be more decayed in appearance than that city council member, but they are both dead.

In verses two and three Paul describes the help we get as sinners to sin. You’re thinking, “What are you talking about?” Well, let’s look. The first encourager we have as sinners is the world. This world system pushes each person to conform to its way of thinking, acting, and living. “The unsaved person, either consciously or unconsciously, is controlled by the values of this world.” The second encourager of sin is the devil. The phrase, “the prince and power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” is a reference to Satan. Satan controls the sinful world. Now Satan is a created being, and that means he is not omnipresent as God is. However, Satan has a horde of evil angels working with him, but I do not believe that because little Jonny stole a cookie he has a right to say, “The devil made me do it”. I will get to our third enemy in a second, but here is a thought of encouragement for us who are born again. My Theology professor used this and I like it. Picture in your mind a man walking down the sidewalk walking his Rottweiler, now the Rottweiler is on a leash but he is jumping and barking at everyone and knocking newspaper stands over. Now picture walking the in the opposite direction a young mother with a baby in a stroller. The mother sees the dog and his master getting closer, and decides to cross the street. The dog’s owner sees the mother, and pulls back on the leash not giving it any room to jump and run ahead, just before the mother crosses the street. The Rottweiler is Satan, and the owner is the Holy Spirit. God has a leash on the devil and he can only do so much and there will be a time when he is punished for his sins.

We get to the third encourager of sin in verse three. This is our flesh. Not flesh as in our physical body, but this is a reference to our sin nature. Warren Wiersbe uses a good illustration in his commentary he says, “An evangelist friend of mine once announced as his topic, ‘Why Your Dog Does What It Does,’ and, of course, many dog lovers came out to hear him. What he had to say was obvious, but too often overlooked: ‘A dog behaves like a dog because he has a dog’s nature.’ If somehow you could transplant into the dog the nature of the cat, his behavior would change radically. Why does a sinner behave like a sinner? Because he has the nature of a sinner. This sinful nature the Bible calls ‘the flesh’” (Wiersbe, p18) The sinner commits sin because he has an appetite for sin. The unsaved think and will say that they do good. But they are depraved. In Isaiah 64 it says that our righteousness is like filthy rags. Because the unsaved are depraved they cannot do any thing that is not selfish. This isn’t to say that every sinner is on the same level of sin, or that the sins are as evil as they could be, but when an unbeliever does something good it is selfish and will not get them any kind of merit with God.

Unbelievers are by their sinful nature, children of wrath. Unbelievers are by action, disobedient under the influence of Satan, “the prince and power of the air (vs 2)”. God, the righteous judge, has passed sentence. The sinners will be punished. But God in his mercy has granted a stay of execution. The individual cannot save himself, cannot work his way to heaven,  but God in His grace has provided a way to salvation. For the salvation of man was nothing but God.

So we have seen the sinner’s spiritual condition before Christ, now let’s look at how God worked.

II. But God vv 4-7

Verses one through three reminds the Christian of life before Christ, then Paul starts verse four with, “But God”. But God. Aren’t those sweet words in your ears? You were dead in sin, but God. But God! Those are very precious words. Those two little words show us attributes of God. You say, “how?” Well think of it this way. There are some attributes that God has that can been seen differently when they are related to man. God is holy, but His holiness when related to man is His justice. God is love, but His love when related to man is His grace and mercy. God is merciful by not giving us what we deserve as sinners. Like a parent not punishing their disobedient child. God’s gracicious to us by giving what we don’t deserve eternal life in His presence. Like a parent giving a gift to child even that child disobeyed.

Verse five reminds us that it was God who pulled us out of the graveyard that is this world It says that He “made us alive with Christ”. What does that mean? God through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit has given us a spiritual resurrection just as He gave Jesus a physical resurrection. Our spiritual resurrection unites us with Christ. Now as members of His body we share His resurrection life and power. Verse six continues the thought of being united with Christ. Warren Wiersbe says this, “Our physical position may be on earth, but our spiritual position is ‘in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’ Like Lazarus, we have been called from the grave to sit with Christ and enjoy His fellowship” (Wiersbe p19). He’s saying that even though we are physically here, our citizenship is in heaven. We are not of this world anymore. Philippians 3:20 and 1 Peter 2:11 also reminds us that we are now citizens of heaven and are just travelling through this life.

Verse seven reads “so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” This is part of God’s work. In eternity future God will display those whom He has redeemed. “Riches of His grace” is connected with believer’s redemption. His ultimate purpose for our salvation is that for all eternity the whole church of redeemed believers will glorify God.

Verse four to seven remind us that we could not save ourselves and that we are now citizens of heaven and part of the body of Christ. It’s like someone finding a homeless person who is a drug addict and an alcoholic and cleaning him up and making him king someplace.

III. By Grace vv 8-10

Verse eight is a reminder that we can do nothing for our salvation. Since we cannot gain salvation through our good works, it also stands that we cannot lose our salvation through our bad works. Salvation is not a reward, but a gift. Grace is the basis and faith is the instrument of our salvation. Harold Hoehner says this, “Whereas ‘grace’ is the objective cause or basis of salvation, ‘through faith’ is the subjective means by which one is saved. This is important, for the salvation that was purchased by Christ’s death is universal in its provision, but is not universal in its application. One is not automatically saved because Christ died, but one is saved when one puts trust in God’s gracious provision” (Harold W. Hoehner; Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary; ©2002; p341).   Verse nine broadens the thought as Paul tells us that since we didn’t do anything for salvation, we have no room to boast. Dr Llyod-Jones reminds us, “It is the Lord Jesus Christ who saves you. If you say that your faith saves you, your faith has become a work, and you have something to boast of” (Dr Martyn Llyod-Jones; Romans: An Exposition of Chapters 3:20-4:25 Atonement and Justification; © 1970; p47). This is God’s work. It is by His grace.

Verse ten reads “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” The word workmanship has a meaning of a piece of art or a masterpiece.  Like the artist who painstakingly spends hours on a piece of art to make sure it is perfect, so God is working in our lives. This word is different from the word used for human works in verse nine. What is this work that God has done? He has made us or created us into a new creation. Creation is something that only God can do, and because we have new life in Christ we are a new creature than the old unbelieving world. Our new life is not the end of God’s work in us, it is only the beginning. God wants us to be more like Christ, that is progressive sanctification. That term, means that as we live our lives here on earth we strive to overcome sin in our life. We battle sinful addictions, become better husbands and wives. But we do not do this on our own. We cannot. Just as we cannot save ourselves, we cannot overcome our sinful habits ourselves. God must be involved.

The good works that are referred to here have nothing to do with our salvation, but as a demonstration of our faith. John Calvin wrote, “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.” We are not saved through our good works, but our faith is seen by our good works. James chapter two talks about this very thing. James 2:17 says, “In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.”  He says later that faith is seen by good works. Jesus even talked about these good works, Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” You’re thinking, “Ok, we get it, but what are these good works then?” It’s an “Absolutely Free Car Wash”, it’s working in VBS, it’s giving to missionaries, it’s going calling and sharing the gospel. But remember, we do not produce these good works, these good works come from God. They are a product of God working in one’s life. We see here in verse ten that God knew what works he would have us do. This means He has a plan for our lives, He knows what good works He wants us to do. All we need to do is be in His will for our lives, and those good works will come for us to do so that men may glorify our Father in heaven.

Verses one through three show us that no one is able to do anything good that is worthy of merit with God. Verses four through seven remind us that we had nothing to do with our salvation, but God provided through grace and mercy. Finally verses eight through ten show us that God did the work, and has work for us to do for Him. But you know, we cannot do that work if we do not accept God’s free gift of salvation.

If you don’t know if you have accepted God’s gracious gift of salvation then follow this link for an explanation of how you can know for certain from Dr David Jeremiah or this link to walk down the “Romans Road” on biblegateway.com.

Starting with the Heart – Romans 9:1-5

Would you be willing to go to hell and feel the wrath of God for an eternity so someone else can heaven? How about two people? Three? How about your neighborhood, city, county or even the state? What about the nation? Romans 5:6-8 says ‘For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person — though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!’

This is a sermon I did during my college internship at my home church in Colorado in the summer of 2010. I’ve added a few things and reworked some of it.


Let me start by asking you question. Would you be willing to go to hell and feel the wrath of God for an eternity so someone else can heaven? How about two people? Three? How about your neighborhood, city, county or even the state? What about the nation? Romans 5:6-8 says ‘For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person — though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!’. Now you’re asking yourself, “what’s this got to do with anything?” Well, if we are going to be good witnesses, evangelists even, we have to start with a heart for those close to us. Let’s look at our text, Romans 9:-15.

1. Paul’s Heart of Sorrow vv1-3

Paul is really showing us a glimpse of his heart here. In verse one he is really stressing a point to us, he says, “I tell the truth” now if someone comes up to you and says the they are telling the truth you’re not going to think they are lying to you. Now, generally, no one is going to not believe someone when they say they are telling the truth. Paul takes it one step further by adding “in Christ”. Now he’s saying “I’m a Christian and am telling the truth.” Now you’re going to put more stock into what that person has to say right? Paul goes further, “I am not lying”, and further, “my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit”. Paul we get it, you’re a truthful Christian, who isn’t lying and is confident that God Himself knows that your conscience is allowing you to say this, now, what do you want to say? Paul saying, “not only is he making this statement and not lying, but his conscience also, enlightened by the Spirit, is saying Amen to this; it is agreeing, there is no condemnation in him” (©1991, Lloyd-Jones, Dr Martyn; Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 9: God’s Sovereign Purpose, p17). What is it he is wanting to stress to his readers? Let’s keep reading.

Paul tells us that he has “great sorrow”. The word for sorrow can be translated grief or pain as well. So Paul is in pain. We read on and find that it is continual. That is a good translation, it can also mean unceasing, that is how the NASB translated it. The word he used for grief here is not the same word as he used for sorrow, this one means, pain, It implies the anguish or smart of the heart which is the result of sorrow. So Paul emphatically tells us that he is being truthful when he says he has a deep sorrow that will not go away. So what is this pain and sorrow?

Verse three gives us the cause of Paul’s great sorrow. The phrase “For I could wish” might have been kind of idiomatic and meaning, “I was on the point of wishing”. The verb translated “wish” means to “pray, wish, or long”. Paul was longing, though he knew it could not happen, if all of Israel would accept the gospel and their Messiah, he would gladly have been separated from Christ and sent to hell. The word here for “accursed” is “anathema”, now this means, “under the curse of God”. This is what Paul was willing to do if it meant the nation of Israel would be saved.

Warren Wiersbe in the Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching and Preachers wrote, “One Sunday evening, William Booth was walking in London with his son, Bramwell, who was then 12 or 13 years old. The father surprised the son by taking him into a saloon! The place was crowded with men and women, many of them bearing on their faces the marks of vice and crime; some were drunk. The fumes of alcohol and tobacco were poisonous. ‘Willie,’ Booth said to his son, ‘These are our people; these are the people I want you to live for and bring to Christ.’ Years later, Bramwell Booth wrote, ‘The impression never left me.’”

If we are going to be evangelistic we need to start with a heart for those close to us. The question that verse three leaves us with then is, why? Why would make Paul want to go to hell if it meant they were saved? Verses four and five give us the answer.

2. What Israel Had vv4-5

What did Israel have? Israel was already adopted by the Lord. Many times in the Old Testament the Lord refers to the children of Israel as His children. In Exodus 4:22 He claims them as His firstborn. And in Deuteronomy 7:6 God says He has chosen them above all the people of the earth. MacArthur puts it this way, “Not in the sense of providing salvation to every person born a Jew, but sovereignly selecting an entire nation to receive His special calling, covenant, and blessing and to serve as His witness nation” (©2005. John MacArthur, MacArthur Bible Commentary, p1535).

What glory is Paul talking about? This is referring to the Shekinah glory that lead the people through the wilderness, that dwelt in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon. This was the representation of God’s presence with the nation of Israel. No other nation was ever so visited, was ever so blessed. The covenants go back to Abraham and David and the New Covenant promised in Joel. The Abrahamic covenant was the promise of land, which has not been fulfilled yet, the promise of a descendant (Christ) and many descendants. You can find these in Genesis 15 and 22. The Davidic covenant was a promise that a descendant of David (Christ) would sit on the throne of David forever this is found in 2 Samuel 7:8-17. The New Covenant was a promise that the people would receive eternal blessings, a new heart that would never wander from the Lord.

Israel had an other special blessing that was just theirs. They had received the Law of God. In Romans 3:2  Paul says that the Jews had a great advantage, as they had been entrusted with the oracles of God, which is the Law. Remember, every writer of the Old Testament was an Israelite. They were the only ones to receive direct messages from God, except Egypt and Nineveh but they warned by Jewish messengers. They also had a sacred service to God to perform. Their temple worship was prophetic, until Christ came, the Temple practice will be established once again in the millennium as a memorial of Christ. We see this in the last nine chapters of Ezekiel. They, also, were the recipients of the promises. William Newell says this, “God’s salvation promises were lodged in Abraham; His kingdom promises, in David. No promises were made to Gentile nations as such. For the gospel now proclaimed is not a promise, but the announcement of a fact to be believed; and it is not preached to nations as such, but to individuals – good news to sinners everywhere. But to Israel, promises, thousands of them, were committed, – as a nation”(©1945 Newell, William R. Romans: Verse by Verse, 360).

Paul’s point of mentioning all these things of Israeli history is because it was their Messiah that had come. They were to receive Him, believe Him, and all the promises and covenants would have been fulfilled 2000 years ago. As Paul will talk about a couple of chapters later, the Gentiles who are being saved are being grafted into the plan of God and Israel is being put on hold. This is Paul’s sorrow and pain in his heart.

Verse five points out that these six things were given to the fathers.  We’ve talked a little about them already, but listen to what Newell says, “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are directly referred to; and Jacob’s sons also, especially Joseph, and Judah the vessel of royal promise and blessing to Israel. Our hearts include Moses, Samuel, David, and the prophets when we think of Israel and remember ‘the fathers.’ But it is especially to Abraham, ‘the father of all them that believe,’ that our grateful memory turns; for, although we have no connection with Israel, but we have indeed a vital connection with Abraham, as his ‘children’” (Newell, 360-1). The rest of verse of five shows the greatest honor that Israel had received, [read, “and from whom, according…”] The Messiah had come. God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity had come in human form, fully God and fully human ready to save His people and fulfill the prophecies of Himself and complete the promises. The phrase “over all, the eternally blessed God” is another reminder Who Jesus Christ is, what He has done, and continues to do. We see other verses in the New Testament making this claim as well, 1 Corinthians 15:27; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-20.

Israel had everything going for them spiritually. They were God’s chosen people, they knew it. Israel had the fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They had Moses and Joshua. They had judges like Ehud, Gideon, Samson, and Samuel. They had Kings like David, Solomon, Josiah. They had prophets like Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Micah. They had courageous leaders like Nehemiah, and priests like Ezra. They had the Law, the Psalms and Proverbs, they had the writings of the Prophets. And yet they did not accept their King, their Messiah. They rejected the gospel, the rejected Christ, they once again turned their back on God. This is Paul’s sorrow and unceasing grief.


Now after that history lesson you’re wondering, “What’s this got to do with me?” Two things really. The first is that, like Paul we need to have a burden in our hearts for those close to us. Remember he said of these people we just read about, were his kinsman according to the flesh. We need to have a heart for people, but we need to start with those close to us. Paul’s heart beats with our Lord’s heart on this matter. In Luke 13 Jesus, heartbroken, laments over Jerusalem and the nation as a whole when He cries, “‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!'”. Paul lived this desire out throughout his journeys recorded in the book of Acts. Every time he went to a city he always started at the synagogue, or, as in Philippi, when there was no synagogue he started where the Jewish community would meet.  (Acts 16:11-15) Why? Because Jesus was and is their Messiah, and Paul wanted his countrymen to come to that knowledge.

Second, and this is more broad, but we need to be concerned for the salvation the Jewish people. That is what Paul is getting after in chapters 9-11 of Romans. We need to be concerned with what happens in the Middle-East. We need to find Jewish communities and be praying for their souls as well as for that neighbor who thinks you are nuts for believing in the Bible or “intolerant” for saying Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.