This morning I turned to the book of Ezekiel and came across a short outline I prepared years ago. That 5-point outline directed me across the page to a verse that has, in the past, been what you would call a “life verse.”
And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.
Upon leaving the church where I last pastored, I’ve been forced to do some self-examination. Being completely honest, there are still some things I need to improve. With humility and prayer, I will seek God’s help in those areas.
Regardless, now is not the time to accept defeat or wonder about my abilities – NOW is the time to step up and stand in the gap. That is true for all of us!
I will probably preach a sermon this coming Sunday based on this passage of Scripture, so I won’t go into much detail in this post. However, I feel it important to encourage you (and myself) to remember that God isn’t looking for the perfect soldiers; all He is asking for are WILLING ones.
Unfortunately, all it takes is for us to receive one discouraging comment or critical observation to make us abandon our posts and our weapons, thereby leaving just enough of a gap through which God’s judgment can enter and destroy the very ministries and individuals we supposedly love.
Do your own study of Ezekiel 22, particularly verse 30, and then see how you can use the following outline to create your own sermon.
5 Ways to Stand in the Gap
Answer the Call
Be a Warrior
Look for Broken Places
Pray for God’s Mercy
Don’t Give Up
Lord willing, this coming Sunday on my YouTube channel I will address this subject and use this outline. Join me for the premiere at 11 a.m. Eastern.
There are some things in my possession that are more valuable than gold … or platinum, diamonds, etc. None of them are valuable enough in the eyes of others, however, for should I want to trade them I would be none the richer in earthly things.
One of those things is my dad’s Bible, the one he marked up so much during his days of preaching that it’s hardly possible to find a single page without additional ink.
Some other items are the watches my wife gave me as gifts over the years. One might be worth a couple of hundred dollars on today’s market, but it’s priceless to me.
Then there are those little items left over from the precious years of my children’s youth, like drawings, soft ball helmets, and Father’s Day cards.
But this morning I read something in 1 Samuel 3:1 that caught the attention of my heart.
“[T]he word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision.”
1 Samuel 3:1b
In those days God spoke through the prophets. The canon of Scripture had not been completed. Therefore, because God had been silent for a while, a “word” from Him would have been so valuable.
It would have been “precious.”
But as I looked at that verse, I was immediately convicted. We have no open visions anymore. All we have is the revealed Word of God, the Bible. He HAS spoken and what has been said is in our hands.
But how precious is it?
The word of the Lord was precious in those days, but is it still?
Sorry for the delay, but here is the final instalment of the mini commentary on Ephesians 4:1-16. I pray the whole series has been informative and a blessing in some way.
4:16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
From whom the whole body fitly joined together
Here is where the metaphor of the body can get a little tricky, at least compared to the way things naturally work. When a human is conceived, his DNA is already present, passed from both the mother and the father. The “blueprint of life” dictates how a child will look, how big he will be, his color of skin, etc. But Jesus, the Head of the Body, is the one who oversees the construction and placement of body parts. The mind, the Person of God, is eternal; the Body – both when He walked the earth and when He left and sent His Spirit – came into being by the will of God. There is no accidental deformity withing the Body of Christ! There are no mutations, missing parts, or inadequate ones! The WHOLE body is FITLY joined together! Hallelujah!
Are you intimidated, discouraged, or feel out of place in the Body of Christ? Don’t feel that way! You were designed and created to fit exactly where the Head wants you. You have a purpose for which no other part in the body can fill. You are unique and designed by God.
and compacted by that which every joint supplieth,
Here we see that not only is every person who is part of the Body a specially designed member created for a particular purpose in the overall growth of the Body, but each has a part in the unifying of the Body into a cohesive whole. Paul implied this same thought in his letter to the Colossians: “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ” (Colossians 2:2).
according to the effectual working in the measure of every part,
Now, despite the lofty example of Jesus, God “knows our frame,” that we are nothing but dust (Psalm 103:14). Therefore, notice that Paul says, “…the measure of every part.” The measure of one part of the Body, one Christian, is not going to be the same measure of another one. Too often we find ourselves comparing our spirituality to that of other more “godly” believers. In doing so we often find ourselves discouraged from not measuring up to their likeness. Look, we are all dust, and the most that we can ever be is only because of God’s grace.
But the encouraging hope is this: what we have and all that we are, yielded to the will of the Head of the Body, is guaranteed to be effective toward the purpose for which we have been designed.
maketh increase of the body
Simply put, a healthy member of the body, no matter the importance, will, if effectually being used, make increase to the Body. Does that mean that one must lead others to Christ in order to “make increase”? Possibly, but whatever the purpose, if doing what it’s designed to do, will contribute to the other members’ edification.
unto the edifying of itself in love.
Herein lies the overall purpose of the gifts God gives in Christ through the Spirit: the edifying of the Church – the building up into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, there are many within the Body of Christ who think the edification of the individual member takes precedent over the body as a whole. This can be seen in the doctrine that promotes “prayer language,” or private times of prayer that consist of ecstatic speech, unknown tongues, or what is technically referred to as glossolalia. Yet, Paul addressed this very topic in 1 Corinthians 14:14-19.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:14: “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.” He did not argue that it could never happen; he just said that if he did pray in such a way, he would not understand what was being said. Furthermore, in verses 15 and 16 he states that he would rather speak and sing in an understandable language so that everyone could benefit, especially those who “understandeth not” (v. 16). But it is in verse 17 where the letter to the Ephesians and the letter to the Corinthians cross paths: speaking in a prayer language might encourage the one praying, but “the other is not edified.” He gave (v. 11) … for (v. 12) … till (v. 13) … that (v. 14) … may (v.15) … edify (v. 16).
Well, we are getting down to the end of this mini commentary. I do hope that it has been not only beneficial, but also a blessing in some way.
I will be posting today and tomorrow, but that will be all in the commentary on Ephesians. Next week I may take a few days to share another commentary I did, that being on Romans chapter 1. Considering I just started a new series through the book of Romans on Sunday nights, that might not be a bad idea 😉
Should you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.
4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
But speaking the truth in love,
Here is where so many go astray: they speak truth, but not in love. We can only wonder how many good Christians have been wounded, crushed, or shipwrecked by loveless truth, that being judgmental, self-righteous legalism. Correction without love is no better than vengeance or sadism. Advice and instruction without love is more likely to imbed bitterness than wisdom.
But let us notice the progression of the Apostle Paul’s thought, beginning from verse 11 until now.
He (Jesus) gave [gifts] (v. 11) … for the perfecting of the saints (v. 12) … for the work of the ministry (v. 12) … for the edifying of the Body of Christ (v. 12) … till we (both individually and corporately) attain maturity and stature, Christ being the Standard measurement (v. 13) … that we be no longer children (v. 14) … but may grow up [to be like Christ in all things] (v. 15).
Notice that it is only after all that precedes in verses eleven through fourteen that we can come to the place where we know what and whom Truth even is, much less be able to speak it in love. We speak the truth in love when we are taught the truth about who we are and what it took for Jesus to spare us from the wrath of God. We speak the truth in love when we know who Love is and have a relationship with Him! We speak the truth in love after having been around the One who loved us when we were unlovable. We speak the truth in love because our hearts have been softened and conformed to the heart of Christ. We speak the truth in love as parents or guardians would warn their little ones of strangers.
Those who don’t speak the truth in love haven’t spent time with the Lover of their souls.
may grow up into him in all things,
Here the sense is that of gradually growing stronger, gradually growing in size, or gradually increasing in likeness. In another sense it could be said that we are meant to grow into, by gradually adding and reproducing, the frame of the body pre-ordained by the Spirit-imparted blueprint found in the DNA of Christ’s blood!
which is the head, [even] Christ:
In both a metaphorical sense and a literal sense, the Church is the body of Christ. But make no mistake, as with us, the body is not the person. The Church is the Body of Christ; His hands and feet in this world. Yet, the body is only the tool of the brain, and that brain is in the head. Take away the head, and the body, mature or not, will die and rot. In the same way, without our Head, the Church at most is a dead body flopping around as the nerves sense the last electrical impulses of life.
4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
That we [henceforth]
Henceforth is not a word we use very often these days, and it was not a word used by the Apostle Paul; it was added by the translators for clarification. But the truth expressed in the above three words is that staying the same in the Christian walk is not an option. And, glory be to God, Jesus is the One who can change even the vilest sinner into a saint! God gives us those who can preach and teach His Word so that we can grow spiritually, mature in the Faith, and effective parts of the Body (v. 16). It doesn’t matter from where we come; Jesus can change us!
be no more children,
To the child, being childish is natural. To the adult, being childish is the sign of immaturity. There is nothing wrong or unnatural for a baby to want milk, but it is entirely unnatural and a sign of severe growth problems for one who is physically or apparently an adult to shun meat and vegetables. Unfortunately, many believers have never even felt the sensation of chewing!
tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,
The metaphor is that of a ship on the sea, taken up by one wave and crashed down by another, driven by the shifts of the wind rather than a solid rudder. Without sound instruction, immature children (babes) in the Faith will be like little sail boats on the sea without any tools with which to navigate. They will bounce from theology to theology, doctrine to doctrine, movement to movement, without every really knowing where they are supposed to go.
If all one cares to do is float about aimlessly for his entire life, then a rudderless boat will do just that. However, if a watercraft was built for a purpose, owned by One who sends ships across the treacherous seas rather than set them assail to drift, then a rudder, a guide, a means to navigate is critical! There must be rations, supplies, tools to mend torn sails, fuel for the engines (if applicable to this metaphor), and a weighty Anchor when we are told to “be still and know that I am God.” Thank God for the gifts He has given to equip us! Thank God for the “fulness” of Jesus Christ!
But this metaphor also applies to those who might be agitated, distraught, confused, torn, and about to sink. Many a soul is troubled from false teaching, bruised from the tossing back and forth, even the tossing through the night as worry and doubt deprive the poor one from sleep. Why would anyone shun the gifts to the Church? Why would anyone choose to be rudderless and without conviction on the tumultuous sea of relativism?
by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
We have the “gifts” (v. 11) for our “perfecting” (v. 12), till we all come into the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God (v. 13). We have them because we do not want to be tossed about and carried away with every knew (or old) wind that comes out of the mouths of deceivers. The waves and the winds are the metaphor, but what are the realities?
Sleight of men
It might be difficult to deduce it from the King James rendering of the original Greek, but the Greek word translated “sleight” is the word κυβεία (kybeia G2940), pronounced koo-bi’-ah. Its meaning has to do with dice (cube) playing, rolling the dice, playing with “loaded dice” to cheat. It means craftiness and/or trickery, and implies anything that is meant to take advantage of another.
Craftiness, cunning, but also a specious wisdom (superficially plausible, but actually wrong; misleadingly attractive in appearance). It cannot be said enough that what may sound good to itching ears may actually be a lie.
Lying in wait
The rendering here is totally adequate to describe the above who both knowingly and without concern preach or teach false doctrine. Like predators; like snakes in the tall grass; like sharks just under the surface; like spiders in their webs; these thieves, abusers, and murderers of hope, peace, joy, and truth wait for those who are weak, unsuspecting, and most of all, unlearned and naïve. Satan, the father of lies, has bred and trained them to take down even the strongest prey, but how much more those who disregard or malign the gifts of God through Jesus by the Holy Spirit to the Church!
This is Part 3, but today we are going to be looking at the second verse of Ephesians 4. My hope is that for some of you this develops a desire to go deeper in your own study of Scripture.
Again, I’d love your feedback. Leave a comment and I really would appreciate it.
4:2 “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;”
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering
Before anything else, it is important to note the prepositional phrases which include the words lowliness, meekness, and longsuffering. In actuality, the second prepositional phrase (“with longsuffering”) modifies the first (“with all lowliness and meekness”), both being prerequisites for “forbearing one another in love.” Matthew Henry commented: “The first step towards unity is humility; without this there will be no meekness, no patience, or forbearance; and without these no unity.” It is with humility (lowliness) that we withhold or set aside our rights or desires for vindication, thereby creating the ability to be patient and “longsuffering” with those who may abuse or misuse us, as even our own brothers and sisters often do.
Lowliness can also be translated as humility. It is “the quality of humility— ‘humble attitude, humility, without arrogance.’” Humility is the fertile soil in which meekness and longsuffering can grow.
Meekness is not weakness; it’s mildness and gentleness. In Matthew 11:29 we read that Jesus was “meek and lowly.” Therefore, having the attribute of meekness should in no way imply weakness or impotence. For the Christian, meekness models Christ in that He could have claimed His rights, yet He endured with patience for the sake of others.
The Greek word translated as “longsuffering” (μακροθυμία, makrothymia G3116) is found fourteen times in the King James Version of the Bible, and of those fourteen times it is only translated as “patience” twice. However, nearly every other translation of the Bible besides the NKJV and the ASV renders makrothymia as “patience” in this verse. To be fair, patience is the major meaning of this word, but it is also more.
If we look at this old word of “longsuffering,” we may notice that it is made up of two English words: long and suffering. Patience may be equal to suffering, but how long should one be patient? The prefix makro answers that question: a long time. Therefore, longsuffering should be understood to convey a sense of endurance of pain or suffering for a longer period. The same word is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:4 when, describing charity (love), he says it “suffereth long.”
forbearing one another in love;
It might seem that longsuffering and forbearing are words so similar that using them both is almost redundant. However, Matthew Henry aptly distinguishes the two:
“Long-suffering implies a patient bearing of injuries, without seeking revenge. Forbearing one another in love signifies bearing their infirmities out of a principle of love, and so as not to cease to love them on the account of these.” 
To forbear is to endure the undeserved pain and suffering inflicted by the actions or consequences of others’ actions with intent, and in this case the intent being love. The important difference between forbearing with or without love (agape) is how it can affect the one forbearing. One could forbear, patiently bear the burden, the load caused by another, with bitterness, guilt, or resignation and add suffering to suffering. On the other hand, as Paul beseeches the reader, we could forbear one another’s inflictions with a love that demands nothing in return. What joy is had by the latter in contrast to the former!
Welcome back to part 2 in this series of posts focusing on a particular section of the book of Ephesians, Paul’s letter to the Church at Ephesus.
Yesterday I shared with you the Introduction. Now, let’s jump right into it with the very first verse, Ephesians 4:1
4:1 “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,”
The first thing to consider in this verse are the words “I therefore.” As an old saying goes, whenever we see the word therefore, we need to ask what it is there for? Here, therefore is referring us back to the previous chapter, arguably to the very beginning of the letter.
Paul referred to himself as a “prisoner” (δέσμιος) five different times in his letters (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; Phm. 1:1 and 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:8). Interestingly, maybe even ironically, the idea of the word desmios is that of one who has actually committed a crime and is a “person who is under custody in prison—‘prisoner.’” In any other situation, to be a guilty prisoner should expect judgment and condemnation, except the Lord (κύριος) to whom he is a prisoner is Jesus Christ, as seen in 3:1. Because of this, Paul doesn’t recoil from the idea of being a prisoner – he revels in the fact, for it is only THIS Lord who has paid Paul’s debt and imputed His own righteousness. Though a prisoner, he is free.
of the Lord,
The difference between using “Jesus Christ” and “Lord” in 3:1 and 4:1 can be seen in the differing contexts; one being the context of a Messiah for all, the other being the context of those answering to the Master for the task we have been given. Both aspects will contribute to the foundation of Paul’s later argument for unity. Jesus is not only the Messiah for the Jews, but also the Savior of the Gentiles. Yet, as implied in 4:1, Jesus is also our Master. The implication is that what Paul is about to address will be something for which we will be held accountable.
What about the preposition in relation to the prisoner? The KJV renders ἐν as “of,” but according to the Pulpit Commentary, Paul’s prisonership is more than one of association, but partnership: “Not merely “of the Lord,” but ἐν Κυρίῳ, the usual formula for vital communion with Christ, indicating that his captivity was the captivity of a part or member of the Lord.” Here with this preposition we see a foundational stone in the building of Paul’s argument for unity in the Body of Christ, for we are all part of that Body.
Speaking to all the Christians who would hear or read this letter, Paul showed concern and passion as he “beseech”-ed the Church to “walk worthy.” The word παρακαλέω (Strong’s G3870) was used by Paul fifty times in his letters and epistles. Sometimes the word was translated as “comforted” (1 Corinthians 14:31) or “exhort” (2 Corinthians 9:5). Yet, more often parakaleo was used with the meaning of “to ask for something earnestly and with propriety.” However, it would be too simple to conclude that Paul’s beseeching was simply “begging” people to do something. The depth of parakaleo implies that Paul was speaking as a friend, a companion on the same journey, to those he called to his side to impart wisdom. One could almost sense that the Apostle couldn’t tell them everything he wanted to, but could only simply say “…please, I beg of you, for your own good…”
that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ…”  Here in Ephesians 4:1 as also in Philippians 1:27, Paul uses the word ἀξίως (axios), which is an adverb modifying the verb “walk.” With the idea of one’s walk being his way of living and choice of conversation, his “walk” should be one that reflects positively on both the calling and the Christ who issued it. Paul goes on in the next verses to give examples of what a “worthy” walk would include.
The first thing that probably comes to mind when we see this word is one’s career or job. Some may be familiar with “vocational schools,” places where students learn skills which they will apply in their career, their vocation. When it comes to the Christian, all work should be considered sacred, and every “vocation” should be understood as a calling.
Translated as “vocation,” κλῆσις (klēseōs Strong’s G2821) means more than one’s career choice, “but invitation to experience of special privilege and responsibility, call, calling, invitation.” Used nine times by the Apostle Paul (Rom. 11:29; 1 Cor. 1:26, 7:20; Eph. 1:18, 4:1, 4:4; Phil. 3:14; 2 Thess. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:9), once by the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 3:1), and once by the Apostle Peter (2 Pet. 1:10), it’s only in 4:1 that we see κλῆσις translated as “vocation”; every other time it is translated as “calling.” However, if we were to replace calling with vocation in several of these other verses, it might help shed light on the sanctity of work.
Romans 11:29 KJV – For the gifts and [vocation] of God are without repentance.
1 Corinthians 7:20 KJV – Let every man abide in the same [vocation] wherein he was called.
Philippians 3:14 KJV – I press toward the mark for the prize of the high [vocation] of God in Christ Jesus.
Those in ministry often refer to their vocation as a “calling,” i.e., they were “called” into the ministry of the Gospel. When we consider that vocation is another word for calling, every vocation is a calling from God to be a witness where He places us. However, in the context of this passage, part our job description is to “forebear one another” and “endeavor” to keep unity in the Body of Christ.”
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?
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!
This month will see a lot of Christmas sermons preached, and if you actually go to church somewhere, you might actually get to hear some 😉
But if you aren’t planning on attending any church services this December, or if you just can’t get enough of sermons on the subject of Christmas, I would encourage you to listen to the one I’m attaching below.
Several years ago (2012) while pastoring at another church, I delivered a sermon entitled “Christmas Is the Gospel.” It was recorded on my iPhone that was sitting on the pulpit, so don’t expect too high a quality of production.
Why did the angels tell the shepherds what they are about to hear was “good tidings”? Pick up a Bible and turn to the book of Luke, chapter two, and follow along.