Exalted in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-6)


2012-06-03


Ephesians 2:1-6 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– 3  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– 6  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

  Exalted in Christ | Ephesians 2:1-6

This passage tells us that though we were spiritually dead, enslaved to sin and condemned to hell, because of God’s mercy and love for us, he has joined us vitally to Christ, like branches to a vine so that we share in all the benefits of his life, death, resurrection, ascension and session at the throne with the Father.

We are told three ways we have been transformed because of our union with Christ –

  1. From death to life
  2. From bondage to freedom
  3. From condemnation to commendation

In Christ, we are transformed first

  1. From death to life

 

We are told,

You were dead in sin

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins

There are at least three current views of humanity.

Some say humanity is well and getting better, evolving upward.

Others say humanity is merely sick as evidenced by wars and disease, but is still alive and therefore still has hope.

But the Bible says that humanity is spiritually dead and has no hope without God’s help.

Adam’s original sin resulted in spiritual death for all mankind. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–” Rom. 5:12 (ESV)

In fact, humanity is not well and getting better, or merely sick but still hopeful, rather it is more like zombies, still walking around, but actually spiritually dead, and therefore unable to do any true good, anything that pleases God.

However, verse 4 tells us that because of God’s mercy and love,

 

You were made alive together with Christ

 

4  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ

–Made alive together with Christ refers to Jesus’ resurrection and our spiritual rebirth and union with Christ.

The main verb here is interesting. In fact, all three main verbs have the same prefix that means “together.” They tell us we were made alive together, raised together, and seated together with Christ.

Literally, this one says we were together-made-alive with Christ. Because Christ was made alive in the resurrection, and we are in Christ because of God’s mercy and love, we also were made alive. What does that life consist of?

By his resurrection we have the assurance that we are justified before God, declared not guilty of our sins. The resurrection of the Jesus from the dead demonstrates God’s acceptance of the sacrifice, which Jesus made on behalf of His people (cf. Acts 13:33).

That is why the Apostle Paul teaches us that if Christ was not raised, we remain in our sins; for if Christ were not raised, then His sacrifice on our behalf had not been accepted. In another place, Paul says the same thing positively by teaching that Christ “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom 4:25). Because of Christ’s resurrection, we are like a man who walks out of the courtroom acquitted of all charges.

Next, By his resurrection we receive the new birth. The Lord said to Martha: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (Jn 11:25). Paul also teaches we were “buried with him by baptism unto death” (Rom 6:4) and “risen with Christ” (Col 3:1), that we may “be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom 6:5).

Peter also tells us in 1:3 that the new birth is a result of the resurrection. “he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” 1 Pet. 1:3 (ESV) As Christ was made alive through the resurrection, so we are made alive in the spirit by the new birth.

Finally, By his resurrection we are assured that we too will be raised to eternal life on the last day.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians  that some were saying there is no resurrection and if so, we are the most to be pitied. He concluded, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Co. 15:20 (ESV) Since X was raised to eternal life, so shall those Christians who have already died.

To the Romans he wrote, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom 8:11). Though we have mortal bodies now, as Christ did before his crucifixion, we too shall put on mortality as Christ die at his resurrection.

To sum up: though we were dead in sin, by Christ’s resurrection we are acquitted of our sins and receive spiritual re-birth and eternal life.

In Christ, we are transformed second

  1. From bondage to freedom

 

–By nature, we are not only born in sin, we also habitually commit actual sins

Verses 2 and 3 tell us that apart from Christ we are sons of disobedience and

 

Our disobedience results in bondage

 

2  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience 3  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,

 

Notice Paul first refers to “you,” meaning the Gentiles in Ephesus, then to “we” meaning the Jews. He is saying we are all in the same boat, and it is sinking.

 

Because of our disobedience we are enslaved by

  1. The world – you once walked following the course of this world
  2. The devil – you once walked following the prince of the power of the air
  3. The sinful nature – we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind

When one is in bondage or slavery, one must do as the slave master says. A slave has no power of freedom to refuse.

Jonathan Edwards called it moral inability and distinguishes it from natural inability.

Natural in ability means that we can’t do a thing even if we will to do it, nature won’t allow it, eg, walking on water, flying without an airplane. So there are certain things we can do and cannot do according to our natural ability.

We are all naturally able to do what is right, because we are physically able to do so, eg. open our mouths to praise God or run away from sin. Our mouths and legs will move.

Original sin does not erase our humanity or ability to make choices. What we lack is moral ability.

Moral inability is the lack of desire or inclination to do a thing apart from Christ. We have no desire to obey God, no desire for God at all.

That is why we are responsible for our sins, bc God has given us the natural ability to obey him, and we will to do otherwise.

However, this passage tells us that even when we were enslaved to the world, the flesh and the devil,

 

You were raised up together with Christ

6a  and raised us up together with him

 

–Raised together with Christ refers to Jesus’ ascension to heaven and our placement into the kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven.

At first I thought this referred to Christ’s being raised from the dead, but it actually refers to his being raised with Christ in his ascension. What was the purpose of Christ’s ascension and how do we participate in it?
Jesus ascended to prepare a place, or home, for us.

“”Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”  “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”  “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Jn. 14:1-3 (ESV)
“Illustration: When we have guests coming, we get ready for them in advance, especially when we are glad to have them coming to stay with us. And we aren’t going to spend all that time getting ready for the visit only to forget to pick our guest up at the airport!

Jesus is already making preparation for the eternity we will spend with Him in Heaven! And if He is working to prepare this place for us, then we know He is doing it for a reason, to come for us and take us home with Him.”

Jesus ascended to send the Holy Spirit to us.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,”  “even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”  “”I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Jn. 14:16-18 (ESV)
The Holy Spirit enables us to experience the presence of Jesus in our lives at all times.

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” Jn. 16:7 (ESV)
The Holy Spirit has come to us in a way that He would not have come if Jesus had not ascended back to Heaven. And His empowering presence is a blessing that we wouldn’t have known aside from Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.
Jesus ascended to give gifts to the Church.

“Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”” “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,”  “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,”  “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” Eph. 4:8,11-13 (ESV)

In addition to leaving us the Holy Spirit, He also ensured that we would have leaders and the teachers to help us achieve maturity as Christians and to serve him in the Church and in the world.

 

Jesus ascended to enable us to come boldly into God’s presence in prayer.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:15-16 (ESV)
Because he ascended he is able to serve as our high priest representing our needs before God.

(The previous section included a number of quotes from the following article: Keith Throop 

http://reformedbaptist.blogspot.com/2009/05/importance-of-ascension-of-christ.html)

Finally, Jesus’ ascension gives us a sense of anticipation for the coming of the Lord.

 

 “… This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into Heaven” (Acts 1:11).

 

The angel confirmed what Christ had already told his disciples, he would come again – bodily, visibly, gloriously as the Son of Man. And therefore we are to watch and pray, Come Lord Jesus.

 

To sum up: though we were enslaved by the world, the flesh and the devil by our disobedience, by Christ’s ascension we are lifted into the heavenly kingdom in which we enjoy the freedom of knowing we have a home in heaven, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the gifts he supplies, the ability to enter into God’s presence in prayer, and a sense of anticipation for the coming of the Lord on the last day.

Finally, and more briefly, we are told in this passage third, that in Christ we are transformed

 

  1. From condemnation to commendation

We are told,

You were condemned by God’s wrath

3b  and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

–By nature we are condemned to eternity in hell because of our sin along with the rest of mankind.

Sin against God is like treason. Since he is the creator of all things and its sole lawmaker and governor, sinning against him amounts to sinning against the entire creation. Committing treason against a nation, such as divulging military secrets to an enemy, is to commit a crime against an entire nation and all its people and lands and is therefore normally deserving of death. Likewise is sin against God. It condemns us to eternity in hell apart from Christ.

However, even when we deserved the eternal wrath of God, because of his mercy and love…

You were seated together with Christ in the heavenly places

6b  and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

 

–Seated together with Christ refers to Jesus’ enthronement to a position of supreme authority and our reign with him.

 

When the Scripture speaks of Christ as being seated at the right hand of God, it refers to Christ’s exaltation to a position of supreme power and authority. In this position Christ rules the universe serves as the head and source of the church.

Jesus was seated in power and authority to subdue his and our enemies,

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.””   “The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.”  Ps. 110 (ESV)

 

Our vital union with Christ makes our enemies his enemies and vice versa, and he subdues and defeats them all.

 

Jesus was seated in power and authority to gather and defend his church  

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matt. 16:18 (ESV)

 

From his position in heaven as head of the church, he is gathering and building his church and ensuring its success.

 

Jesus was seated in power and authority to rule over and fill the church

 

As we saw last week in chapter 1

22 and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, 23 the fullness of him who fills all in all.

As its head in heaven he makes all the parts work together, and as its source ensures that it has everything it needs.

To sum up: though we deserved the eternal wrath of God, by Christ’s enthronement our enemies are subdued, the church is gathered and defended, and we become vital members of his body.

WHAT ARE Some IMPLICATIONS OF our UNION WITH X?

  • If heaven is my home, earthly things lose their luster
  • Since I look forward to sharing in Christ’s power and authority, I don’t need to seek power on earth. Heb 11 – they were looking for a city whose foundation is God
  • Since I look forward to receiving a new body like Christ’s, I don’t need to obsess about my body on earth with obsessive exercise, or use unusual means to revive my body if I die
  • Since Christ has gone before me to heaven I don’t have to fear death.
  • Since I am alive spiritually, I don’t have to fear judgment or second death.
  • Since I am raised to life spiritually, I can enjoy fellowship with God.
  • Since he has given me the Holy Spirit, as I am enabled to overcome sin more and more by his power, I can be assured that my character and personality will become more and more like Christ
  • Since Christ is building his church, as a pastor, I can join him in his work but don’t need to neglect my family through endless overwork
  • Since he will subdue my enemies I don’t have to get even with those who attack or hurt me
  • Since I am not-guilty before God, I can rest assured when my unseen enemies try to make me feel guilty
  • Since Christ is coming again to bring all things to completion, I can look forward to the future with hope

These are just a few. As you look at the list, you can name many more.

Thank you, heavenly Father, for these many benefits you give us in Christ because of your great mercy and love toward us. By your Holy Spirit, enable us

 

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