Friday, 13 June 2014

Alive to Sin and Dead to God

"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of the world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of the flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."
(Ephesians 2:1-3)

There is wonderful grace to come. In just a few verses the apostle Paul will unfold the wonder of salvation to sinners. A salvation that is rooted in God's love. But for the Christian to understand what this saving love is he must first understand what he has been saved from. Lest there be a superficial understanding of grace, Paul teaches the hopeless situation into which God intercedes and saves in a way that strips man of any boasting in himself so that all the glory is then given to him. 

I am convinced that many today have a shallow idea of grace because they do not understand the grave state from which they have been saved from. And many today do not understand the power of God's grace such that he not only cures sick sinners but breathes life into them and raises them from the grave.

I hope to next write on the preceding verses which focus on God's saving love. But first it is vital to understand what God has saved the Christian from if a right understanding is to be made of his immense love and grace in saving such a person from the grave. So what can be gleamed from these verses?

1) Paul sees people as being in a far worse condition than being sick and in need of help. He sees people as dead and in need of resurrection. A sick man can seek help. But a dead man can do nothing to help himself. A common analogy used today is that because of sin man is a sick patient who needs urgent medical care which he can get when he goes to Jesus. But what Paul teaches is that man is long dead, the funeral has been concluded, the farewells given, the grave dug and he has been buried. Even if he was able to know that he had a problem he cannot go to Jesus because he is unable to. What he requires is to be made alive.

2) This death is not a physical death. Nor is it a death of man's will or ability to make choices. It is a death that causes a person to be unresponsive to God and it is a death that causes a person live as if there were no God. It is therefore a spiritual death. This death came into the world at the fall along with physical death and is the result of that great sin. All then are born with a mind, a heart, and a will, that neither desires God nor wants him.

3) There are three aspects to this spiritual death. (a) We were dead in trespasses and sins. We are born by nature as sinners into the world. We are not sinners because we sin but we sin because we are sinners. What comes naturally to us is not obedience to God and love for him, but disobedience and rebellion against God. Because of our love for sin we will not and cannot choose God over it. 

(b) We followed the course of this world. We esteemed the world's values, standards and beliefs over those set down in the word of God. We were more interested in living according to the world's expectations and what the world wanted rather than God's expectations and what he wanted. This we often did by default with little thought as we were carried along.

(c) We followed the prince of the power of the air. Paul then goes on to say that we were, "sons of disobedience." In times past it was expected that a son would do the same profession as his father. It is not very common today. And so it was common for a son to follow in the steps of his father and learn from him and begin to take up his same trade. He took on the characteristics of his Father as he came under his influence. So when Paul uses this phrase he means we followed satan and were his sons in the sense that we followed in his footsteps. We bore his characteristics. We rebelled, disobeyed and sought to usurp God  just as satan did and was cast out of heaven. And as such we were under his power and sway.

4) Paul then addresses the fruit of our spiritual death in the following categories.

(a) The passions of the flesh. This may not always be visible but it speaks of an inner prevalence to indulge in whatever gives pleasure. Often this is in the area of sex. But it is not restricted to this. Our bodies are drawn to all sorts of sinful pleasures because of our corrupt nature.

(b) The desires of the body and the mind. This refers to the inclinations of the fallen nature of men. It first starts in the mind where what is most desirous to us is always sinful and this directs our wills and is then followed by the body which then acts upon our desires. So it is that sin has infected the mind, the will, the desires and the body. Because our natures are sinful are inclinations are always directed towards sin and away from God because this is what was most desirous to us.

5) Finally Paul gives both the consequence and the verdict of those who are dead in their trespasses and sins. They are all children of wrath. We were all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve and as such were born with a fallen nature which bears the fruit of disobedience and hate towards God and so are all deserving of his wrath. It is the verdict over all humanity apart from the saving grace of God. And it is a verdict fitting to those who treat God with such hostility, indifference and mockery and who live for themselves rather than for him.    

Dear Christian this was your predicament before you were saved. You were dead with no hope and no bright future. You could never save yourself. A miracle had to happen. A miracle did happen and this is why you are alive today. It required nothing short of a new birth and a new life. It required one who could bring you back from the dead. It required one with the power over over life and death to intervene. I hope to address in the next post the wonder of God in saving us. It is truly amazing love, it is truly an amazing salvation.

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