If you think the title for this post was long, get ready for some seriously beyond-the-normal word count 🙂
Up until this Sunday evening, I had never preached a sermon or taught the Bible straight from a manuscript. This was the first time.
The only reason I did this was because a shut-in lady requested that I send her written transcripts so that she could take the time to read what I was preaching and be able to make notes and take her time through it. She said that she was really interested in Ephesians and wanted to do more than just listen on Facebook.
So, it took a little while to write it up, but the process, as I expected, was not only refreshing and fun (yes, fun), but it did cause me to hone my focus and build a better foundation for other doctrines yet to be discussed.
So, what I’m going to do for you guys is post the written text of the sermon. However, should you want to actually watch the video on Facebook, you can go to our church’s Facebook page and watch it there. It is @BethlehemBaptistWarthen. Or, I guess I could just go ahead and post the link. Why make it difficult, right?
Just don’t make fun of my singing, OK?
Sunday Evening, Feb. 28, 2021
Bethlehem Baptist, Warthen, GA
Pastor Anthony Baker
Ephesians 2, Pt. 1
I have not preached a sermon from this passage, yet. However, since I will be preaching it this coming Sunday night, I might as well do my best to write it down for you. I pray that it is a blessing and an encouragement.
As we begin looking at chapter two of Ephesians, note that it can be divided up into three or more, maybe even five different word pictures. In other words, the Apostle Paul uses words, he uses illustrations, he draws pictures in our minds with words to help us understand, a little better, at least, the deep mysteries of salvation and the work of the power of Christ in us.
The first section can be seen in verses 1-10. In these verses Paul paints the picture of dead bodies being raised to life, not of their own power, nor by anything good they could do, but by the grace of God.
The second section can be seen in verses 11 and 12, followed by a third in verses 13-18. The second section illustrates the division that Gentiles once had with the Jews and the covenants of God. He does this as he brings up the issue of circumcision. In the third section, Paul mixes metaphors as he illustrates the bringing in of Gentiles through the picture of the “middle wall” being torn down and the making of one body out of two which led to peace with God. We will get to these things in more detail in time.
Then, in a fourth section, Paul references citizenship, followed by comparing us to building blocks in a holy temple built on top of the foundations laid by the holy prophets, Jesus Christ being the Chief Cornerstone.
In a sort of humorous kind of way we can almost laugh at the words of Paul in the beginning verses of chapter three when he says that because of all these previous descriptions of such a great mystery, previously hidden from those in other ages (3:5), he has become a “minister” (3:7) to us of the “unsearchable riches of Christ”! Well, hallelujah! I’m glad, Paul! Because a lot of us are already confused. Amen?
But it was important for you to know these things – what Paul is doing with his words – so that you don’t single out one illustration or metaphor and build a false doctrine around it. Again, this is why I always stress context, context, context! Without studying Scripture in the context of the whole connecting passage – in this case, from verse one of chapter two to verse seven of chapter three – we might miss the whole point that the author is trying to make and possibly make a major mountain out of a minor metaphor.
So, let’s now go to the first verse in chapter two:
Ephesians 2:1 KJV – And you [hath he quickened], who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Before we do any further reading, it will be very helpful to once again look at some words. If we misunderstand the words that are written here by Paul, but translated into English – and old English, at that – then we could easily misunderstand the meaning of the text and even fall prey to bad theology.
The first word we should look at is the word “quickened.”
Now, what is interesting is that if you are looking at a King James Version you will see that this word, actually several words, is in italics. The reason, as we have discussed before, is that the word is not in the original text, but the translators added it to help clarify the original text. What IS there is simply the Greek word ὤν (spelled “on” in English). All it means is that the “You” being spoken to “are.”
Yes, the Greek word on implies being, existence, and such. So, what Paul was really saying has been better translated in other versions such as the NIV, ESV, and CSB. The NIV reads: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”
Of course, this is not changing the Bible; this is what the Bible originally said. What the translators of the King James Version did was try to clue us in to a truth that is mentioned farther down in Paul’s description of those who are saved. It is all the way down in verse 5 where he finally uses the word that is rightfully translated as “quicken.”
Ephesians 2:5 KJV – Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Back to the first verse, now. Paul, as we have already seen, is speaking to Christians. He is speaking to those who are “in Christ.” He is speaking to those who had been lost and now are saved. But it is in these verses where he describes what being lost is really like. What it really is.
The next word we will look at is the word “dead.”
Paul said that “you” (you could even apply that to us and say “we’) were DEAD in trespasses and sins. Yet, when we look at verse 2 we see something interesting. He says, that while we were dead, we “walked.” What? Dead people walk? That’s what he said!
Could it be that when Paul was talking about being dead, he didn’t mean it the same way we understand the word to mean, at least when we talk about dead people in the grave? I think it’s important that we think about this, for it makes a huge difference in how we look at other teachings of Paul, especially in the book of Romans, chapters eight and nine.
The Greek word Paul uses in verse two that is translated in English as “dead” is the word νεκρός (nekros). Have you ever heard of the word “necromancy”? Well, that’s what people do when they try to talk to the dead. Halloween kind of stuff. However, if you notice, necromancy comes from the word nekro, which means “corpse.” A necromancer is one who uses witchcraft to reanimate the dead, that is, to bring a dead corpse back to life as a zombie, or something, or to talk with them to discover the future. Paul is telling us that when we were still in sin, before we were saved, we were corpses – dead people – dead bodies. That is why it took the power of God to give us new life, to bring life to these dead bodies, and that’s what he meant when he said that we are “quickened” to new life.
And, by the way, God doesn’t need witchcraft to raise the dead. And I highly, highly doubt any necromancer ever pulled off a genuine Lazarus story.
But that brings me back to verse two, and even verse three… if we were nothing but lifeless corpses, how then did we “walk according to the course of this world” and have a “conversation in times past”?
What we need to understand before we go any further, which is why I bring up these words, is that Paul was using figurative speech. Paul was not trying to say that we were literally dead and lifeless like a dead body in a casket. Yes, he used the term, but it was meant to be a picture of a larger truth: that we were incapable of living the Christian life, the life of the Christ through the power of the Spirit, if we were “dead,” slaves to sin, full of the world’s filth, wanting nothing of the things of God.
Dead people don’t talk, walk, have conversations, or anything like that. A dead body just lies there and rots. Gross, isn’t it? Yet, still, it is only a picture. You and I weren’t dead bodies. However, we were “dead” in that we had not been transformed by the life of Jesus. And as dead people can’t do anything, not even dig themselves out of the ground, neither can the sinner who is “dead in trespasses and sins” work his way out of death into life.
But God… Ephesians 2:4 starts with two of the most beautiful words in all the Bible – “But God.” You see, we were lost and on our way to hell… but God! We were dead in our trespasses and sins… but God! We were rotting away in the filth of the world… BUT GOD, who is RICH IN MERCY, for His GREAT LOVE wherewith He loved us, QUICKENED us together with Christ (verse 5)!
Do you know the song “Love Lifted Me”?
I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore. Buried deeply, stained within, sinking to rise no more. But… But the Master of the Sea… But GOD!… heard my despairing cry! From the waters lifted me, now safe am I!
Love lifted me! Love lifted me! !When nothing else could help, Love lifted me!
Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else could help… when my works, my deadness, my lifeless separation from God, my sin, my dirty, dead self couldn’t help…Love! Grace! Mercy! Lifted me up to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus!
Love lifted me!
Before we close tonight’s study, I want to quickly move on to verses 8 and 9, some of the more famous verses we know.
Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Do you understand what these verses are saying? It amazes me that they can be so clear, so understandable, yet so many people in Christian churches teach that you have to earn, you have work for your salvation. In reality, that’s NOT Christian. That’s like every other religion in the world. If being saved had any need of us “doing” any work of any kind, other than simply placing our faith in Jesus and accepting the free gift of salvation which He bought with His blood, then we might as well say we could have been there with Jesus on the first day of Creation and said, God, let me help out the Word, because He is not sufficient to bring everything into existence by Himself, you know. He needs my help! What can I do? Do you want me to sell something? Do you want me to visit something? Do you want me to join something? Do you want me to help the Logos, the Word, Jesus with his faith in His own words?
C’mon, God, you know the Word can’t create the universe out of nothing and bring into being what isn’t unless I help! You do know that, don’t you?
Yes, I know that sounds silly, but please bear with me and consider just one more word for tonight: ποίημα (poiēma), pronounced poy’-ay-mah.
Notice in verse 10, “For we are his WORKMANSHIP…” That is the word poy’-ay-mah.
Paul only uses this word twice in all of his letters; here, and in Romans 1:20.
Romans 1:20 KJV – “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,[G4161] [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”
Can I share with you one more passage?
John 1:1-3 KJV – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
God didn’t need us to create the universe and all that is in it. Neither does He need us to save ourselves – lest we boast. Amen!
And, OH, what God has done for us! He has set us up with Jesus in the heavenlies so we can have a high enough seat in the stands to view the entire display of God’s grace! But that parade alone will take ages! Hallelujah!
Dear Father, thank you for your grace! Amen!