These two little words that have been translated to English from the Greek words “de Theos” in Ephesians 2:4. They may seem like a small phrase but where God inspires the Apostle Paul to place these words provides a startling and groundbreaking portrait of God.
These two little words contain so much power and transformation to a soul. They are a dynamic shift in the narrative of God working in the history of mankind.
These two little words speak of the grace, gospel, glory, and goodness of this Jesus Christ, the One True Living God.
These two little words are a catalyst for us as we encounter God that breaks the molded mindset we have about the person of God. And that’s something that we need to happen in our lives… it is something for those who are called disciples of Jesus that we should actually want to happen… even thought the results could alter our comfortable pattern of life.
The wonderful thing about this transformation that occurs is that it generally happens greatly when people gather together to gain a deeper understanding of the Scriptures. And through the revelation of God in the Scriptures we understand what it means to worship (respond appropriately & obediently) this true God. It is a “But God…” moment that alters who we are from that point forward.
You see, when the true worship of God happens… the molds of our hearts, minds, soul, and strength become broken and recreated as something better and for something better.
Note: The mold I am speaking of is not the spore or fungal bacteria that grows on decaying matter. The mold I speak of is the artistic and/or industrial hollow container used to give shape or form to molten metal or other hot liquids (i.e., wax or ceramics) when they cool or harden.
This kind of mold is made to keep the same process and product produced over a period of time.
Q: How does this relate to us in a spiritual sense?
Well, all people that grow up and develop a particular mindset due their personal history, experiences, opinions, traditions, and institutions.
But God does something incredible and gracious to who we are inside and out when the Scriptures of the Bible are opened, discovered, examined, and understood… transformation occurs as a result of the truth of God being revealed. We can be and should be thankful that these Scriptures have been preserved for us and made accessible to us.
They are indeed powerful when we open our eyes and ears them to challenge and fashion how we think, how we speak, and how we act. But they are only truly transformation and life-changing when we respond to God Himself as He makes Himself known through the Scripture and by His Holy Spirit.
Scripture breaks the mold of who we are & how we think as we see God for who He truly is.
The Bible makes known to us the revelation of God because it reveals…
- Who He Is (Has Always Been & Will Always Be)
- What He Does (Has Done & Will Do)
- What He Says (How To Know & Follow Him)
And let’s just be honest… the honest knowledge of God revealed to us can be devastating, but nonetheless, it is the message we so desperately need. And though breaking the mold may be devastating to the self, God brings in this message His deliverance by the Savior.
Over the last few weeks I have been writing about Life in Christ as our church has been studying the Letter to the Ephesians by the Apostle Paul. As we have examined the Scriptures on this Life in Christ we have been emphasizing a powerful principle found in them.
Life in Christ is this gracious identity that comes from God and which leads to the glorious outcomes made through God.
The Apostle Paul expresses in this beautifully penned letter about the why and the how God does what He does to break the mold that once held our lives and the movement of God that now draws us into this new life with, in, and through Christ.
Ephesians 2:1-22* uncovers this incredible news with a well-penned delivery. Let’s take a look and investigate it further.
*Holman Christian Standard Version
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2 in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient.
3 We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, 5 made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!
6 Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, 7 so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — 9 not from works, so that no one can boast.
10 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.
11 So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh — called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands.
12 At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.
14 For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, 15 He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.
16 He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it.
17 When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
19 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone.
21 The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord.
22 You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.
So, we just got through reading a whole chapter of Scripture together… and understanding it altogether could be a daunting task if let alone. That’s why I want to be of help.
I am sometimes asked… “how can I get the most out of my Bible study time?” or “how can I understand the Scriptures fully?” I must admit…I am still in the learning process myself. It takes time and we all need help along the way. It did and still does for me. But I want to be able to help others along the way…So Here goes.
First of all, I believe that to gain a greater understanding of the Scriptures starts with God and the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). Only those that truly know and seek to know God…will truly ever experience the awesome beauty and power of His Word…the Scriptures.
Secondly, for those that are followers of Christ…this is still not just an easy task. We must remember that the Scriptures are what we call “special revelation” from God. Meaning this…the same God who spoke the universe into all its existence…specifically shared special revelation of Himself in Words that were penned by men that were divinely inspired to write what God desired them to write.
Knowing this helps us to understand the context by studying the how, when, and why God delivered these messages. It makes an immense difference on how we can fully apply these messages to our lives as followers of Jesus.
So…to gain understanding from the Scriptures in their context that brings the greatest applications and the relevance of God’s Word to our lives…I encourage people to ask & answer 4 major questions…
- What do the Scriptures say?
This is important so that we don’t lose the details of each intentionally inspired word. My personal opinion is that this is one of the reasons for seeking a close word-for-word translation. (BTW…No English translation is perfect.)It is also helpful to look at thorough (and reputable) commentaries and/or a good Bible Study software when difficult or confusing scenarios arise. (multiple ones if available).
- What were the results of this revelation in their specific time and place?
God specifically chose the time, place, people, language, and circumstance in which He revealed His Word for a reason… If we are going to understand the relevance of His Word today, we can’t skip out on what it meant then. That is because these are inseparable for how it still applies (and is still very much just as relevant) to us in our present circumstance.
Once again… thorough commentaries and Bible study softwares are quite helpful in this cases. It is also useful to have a a group of Bible believing, Bible seeking, & Bible studying friends to grow with in your understanding of the Scriptures. This is also one of the reasons why I believe a Bible-teaching church and growing through small groups is so essential to maturing as a disciple.
- What applications are carried forward from then to now?
This is where the living and active nature of God’s Word gets planted in us not for mere entertainment, enlightenment, or encouragement…but to transform our lives in every arena. This can be tough to grasp and we will need others to help us walk through this process.
Please see again the reasons for being connected to a Bible-believing & teaching church and why resources such as commentaries, Bible-study software, and small groups can be of such help.
- What am I willing to do about what God reveals?
This means responding to who God is, what God says, and what God does. Worship is the appropriate responding of man to God. We have not truly worshiped until we have responded to Him as He is. True worship that honors God and is the type of worship that He honestly seeks (John 4:23-24) is that which is of spirit and truth.
It must originate with God, respond to God, and be honest with all that God which also exposes the truth of who we are and the motives behind how we approach Him. Worship is very much both a collective and individual response.
It starts with the response of the individual soul to what God divinely reveals about Himself, but it was never meant to be done alone. It becomes even more beautiful and glorious when connected collectively with other individuals whom God has transformed through the revelation of Himself in and through His Word.I don’t want to be over simplistic. But these four questions have influenced me greatly as I seek to know God more, to grow more as a disciple, to serve more as Christ’s ambassador, and to worship God more with the life He has given me.
I pray that they will both encourage you and challenge you in your faith as you hopefully choose to know & Follow Jesus.
So, what can we learn here in the second chapter of the letter to the Ephesians? We can take note of a few things here.
This letter was written most likely as a circuit letter between 60-63 A.D. while the Apostle Paul was in his 2nd (and ultimately final) imprisonment in Rome under the reign of the emperor, Nero. Paul was very devout man of faith that followed Jesus Christ as result of Christ’s gracious encounter with Him. This encounter transformed a zealous persecutor of the young church into a humble yet influential planter of churches, missionary to the ends of the earth, and defender of the faith.
He is writing to a multi-cultural, multi-generational church in the city of Ephesus. This was a church that Paul had planted on His 2nd missionary journey as recorded in the book of Acts. It was a church that existed in a city with the Temple of Artemis (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world). This meant that the people there would have once been influenced by the idolatry of this background. The city was also very influential as a major center of trade in the Greco-Roman world. This would have brought many peoples from around the world into the backyard of this community of faith. They were called to live their lives as disciples and people on mission in this city.
As Paul is writing from his prison cell in Rome…He is trying to help the readers (listeners) understand their identity in Christ and the expected outcome of a disciple through Christ. It is a wonderful reminder of what disciples are a part of all because of the grace, gospel, glory, and goodness of God. A reminder that refreshes the mind and renews the actions of a follower of Christ.
We must remember letters (no any book of the Bible aside from Psalms and Proverbs) were not written in chapters and verses… the chapters and verses of the Bible were added in the 14th Century, so this chapter is just continuing what Paul has been declaring all along from the beginning of his letter to the church.
If one did want to break it down, we could say as Warren Weirsbe does, that the first chapter speaks of the spiritual possessions that come from God in our identity with Him. Along with this, the second chapter could be said that it speaks to the spiritual position of our identity in Christ.
Now Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews (2 Corinthians 11) and the church at Ephesus was a community of faith that would have been made up of mostly Gentiles. But these people of faith were taught from the Scriptures of the Old Testament about the Messiah (anointed one) that was promised to Israel and to bring about a blessing to all nations.
Sometimes, it is thought that Jesus was only a Hebrew/Jewish King…but Paul (himself of Jewish lineage) is sharing with these Gentile believers about the assurance that they too have in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ (Messiah).
He declares to these disciples that this provision of life and identity as “children of God” was not based on who they were or even what they could achieve…but it was based fully on who God is, what God has done, and what God has said.
So this leads us to our investigation of the Scriptures that brings us to some further questions.
- What does God to draw mankind to Himself?
- Why does He do this for mankind?
- Why are these acts of importance to mankind today?
We see that God works to give His life to mankind in order that we would be His living eternal declarations of His love.
Let’s look first at what God does…
God Works By His Grace. (2:1-4)
We see that works mightily not because of who we are but in spite of who we are before receiving the gift of Christ Jesus.
Paul makes the defining case for a person’s condition without Christ and it is certainly devastating to our ears and minds. It breaks the molded perspective that we may have on who we are and how God loves us even when we didn’t deserve to be loved. For example…We often don’t think of loving the enemies that are against our beliefs and act accordingly. Loving an enemy seems more metaphorical than an emphatic decree.
Here is the case for why we were not deserving of God’s holiness and mighty love.
I. We were dead in sin.
Sin kills mankind in many ways to bring about the death of the soul.
It does so by killing the innocence of a person. It places guilt upon us.
Sin also kills mankind by killing the ideals of a person. The things that we believe as good and evil are killed to the point that we find ourselves doing things we thought we would never do.
Sin also kills mankind by killing the will of a person. The will of a person becomes destroyed to the point that there is no longer a grip or self-control over sin. The will is killed and a person becomes a slave to sin.
Sin kills us and mankind without Christ is the walking dead.
We must see that the unbeliever is not just a sick person…they are a dead person.
The person without Christ doesn’t need a vaccination or mere resuscitation…they need resurrection.
There is a molded mindset that must be broken in the world and in the minds of believers. People sometimes think that Christianity is about just making bad people good or sick people well.
The truth of the Gospel and the work of grace from God Himself reveals that Jesus comes to make dead people live.
II. We were disobedient through sin.
When we sin we are disobedient and rebellious against God. This happens by missing the mark that God has set for us. Sin is a shooting and archery term based on the Greek word “harmatia.” This word means to miss the target and failure to hit this objective. In doing so we also cause harm to the goal of life.
We can see the truth of missing the mark in our everyday lives… we don’t just miss the mark spiritually but sin shows that we miss the mark practically.
- Missing the mark of being a good spouse
- Missing the mark of being a good parent
- Missing the mark of being a good employee
- Missing the mark of being a good student
- Missing the mark of being a good child
- Missing the mark of being a good citizen
When we are disobedient, we also trespass by slipping and falling into places not meant for us to go. This word, trespass, comes from the Greek word “paraptoma” which means to lose the way. When we trespass, we slip, fall, and lose the road of truth for life.
The mold of what sin and trespassing is must be broken so that our hearts may be broken.
III. We were dictated by sin.
When we disobey God by our Sin, we rebel against God and choose another master…though it may not be who we think.
Mankind tends to think they rule their own way but the rebellion of sin gives us a master other than God or ourselves. An enemy that may not always be seen but is present in the spiritual realm rules over us. This enemy does not have a power greater than Jesus Christ, but he is a warlord that whether we are conscious of him or not, the lost has submitted their selves to his leadership.
When mankind chooses a leader… they tend to resemble those that lead them… the same is true (as subtle as it may seem) for those in submission to the enemy that rules for a time in this world.
The molded bond and submission to the enemy must be broken. Rebellion is not to be taken lightly. Submission is a big deal.
IV. We become depraved through sin.
Life begins to form patterns and habits as we go. This is true for the Christ-less life as well as for the Christian. As depravity takes hold, a hardness of the heart forms. This heart of stone takes for granted the things of God in pursuit of the things of the world. For example…
- Christianity demands forgiveness, but the world denounces forgiveness as a weakness and values vengeance and places the pattern of getting even on our lives.
- Christianity demands love even to those who are our enemies (those that curse and persecute us), but the world values kindness and love only when it is convenient to us. We are to love only to those who are worthy by their contribution to our own benefits.
- Christianity puts forth what Christ values…but the world values the self (be true to yourself).
This depravity and conformity to the world’s patterns builds in us an addiction to continue in pursuit of self and sin.
Our flesh does not detest sin…it desires it. As the world and our personal choices feed this hunger…it becomes our drug, our habit, our fix.
The desires of the flesh are against the desires of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16-22 Holman Christian Standard
16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.
18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance — as I told you before — that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.
26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
The mold of depravity and conformity to the world’s patterns must be broken. We cannot be content to live according the patterns of this world.
V. We were doomed from sin.
All of this sin leads us to a destination of being in the place of God’s wrath. The biggest threat of a destination of doom is not about hell, fire, or devils… it is the knowledge that without Christ…we will face the outpouring of the wrath of God Himself.
He is who He saves us from… the full justice and wrath of His consuming holiness.
The molded pattern that we hope to be broken is that without Christ, we are destined for doom from our sin. It is the destination that we don’t want to take part in…so we must certainly not be living as if we are still on this journey.
But God…breaks the mold in spite of us by giving us His work of grace.
Even though He didn’t have to, He chose to display the nature of His love by giving us grace.
Grace = the unmerited (undeserved) favor of God.
This is based not on who we are but on who He is… The grace of God breaks the mold of sin’s hold on our lives.
This gift that comes only by who Jesus is and what Jesus does takes this devastating news of who we were (are before Christ) and transforms us.
- No longer do we have to serve a master other than God Himself because the grace of Jesus sets us free from the dictatorship of the Enemy. We do not have to submit our lives as slaves to sin. This liberation comes only by the gift of His grace.
- No longer do we have to live as dead in sin because the grace of Christ this the hold of sin, and gifts us life.
- No longer do we have to live as disobedient through sin because the grace of Jesus now opens our eyes to His standard for life & holiness. He also empowers us to live in the light of this new way of life… all by the gift us His grace.
- No longer do we have to be conformed to the patterns of the world and grow depraved by sin. The desires of the Spirit of Life overcome the desires of the flesh and death. We become transformed by the gift of His grace and refined to the image of God’s intent… that we would become more like the image of Jesus.
- No longer do we have to live with a destination of doom for sin. Our life has a destination of hope all because of the gift of His grace.
The mold of “what was” has been broken by the work of His amazing grace found in Jesus Christ alone. The new creation of “what is” for those who have received this work of grace is being refined daily as we walk in the light of who He is, what He says, and what He has done.
This is the message that we are reminded of in the grace, gospel, glory, and goodness of God. It is the message of the Christ and the work of the cross. If we are going to fully embrace the Life in Christ…we must remember what God has done and now live in the newness of what He has declared. We must also be reminded so that we can once again understand the reason for why this message of grace is needed in the lives of those around us.
Let us boldly #FollowJesus and grow daily with this #LifeInChrist.
By His Grace. Through His Gospel. For His Glory. In His Goodness.
The topics discussed are taken from the sermons during the Worship Gathering at Eastgate Baptist.
To listen to this sermon or other past messages…please go to this link.