The opening chapter of Ephesians took us back to the councils of God and allowed us to see
how God purposed from eternity to call out in Christ a people for Himself.
He would call out people to a new redeemed humanity.
This second chapter of Ephesians tells us how God is actually creating this redeemed society.
Two things are stressed:
We live in a world of dead people! Jesus came into a world of dead people.
He is the one living man.
It was a world rotting in its corruption, and smouldering in its decay.
He had come as the prophet in Ezekiel's vision into " the valley full of dry bones."
Then He " prophesied to these dry bones that they might live."
It is as though the whole world were one vast graveyard and every gravestone had the same inscription:
" Dead through sin."
All died of the same dread disease.
The vital word is the word "dead."
" You were dead," Paul said.
What does he mean?
There is no stronger term than death.
You cannot say anything beyond saying that a man is dead.
It is not almost dead.
He is actually dead.
It is not desperately ill.
He is dead.
There is no life - he is dead!
A good way of defining death is to say that it is the exact opposite and antithesis of life.
In the Bible life is always described and defined in terms of our relationship to God.
John says in John 17:3:
"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent."
That is life!
What is death?
It is the exact opposite of that.
God is the author of life.
He, "who alone hath life and immortality," is the source of life.
He is the sustainer of life.
God is life and gives life, and apart from God there is no life.
So we can define life.
Therefore, as we come to define death, we must define it as the opposite of all that.
As we do so we will see at a glance that what Paul says here
about the person who is not a Christian is nothing but the simple truth.
He is dead.
Paul said: " You were dead."
Those who are not Christians are still dead.
They are ignorant of God.
They do not know God.
So those who are "spiritually dead" are destitute of a life that recognizes and is devoted to God.
The person who is not in communion with God is spiritually dead.
It should be kept clearly in mind that death is not the extinction of being or inactivity.
People are here described as having been dead.
This does not mean that in their hearts and lives the process of moral and spiritual corruption had run its full course.
Even the unregenerate can perform natural good: eating, drinking, taking exercise, etc.
They are capable of civic and moral good.
They are those worldly individuals who consistently conduct themselves
in a most virtuous manner through the whole course of their lives.
To deny this would be to close our eyes to facts that confront us every day.
Jesus said: " If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?
For even sinners do the same." (Luke 6:33)
In an emergency there are many willing to donate blood that would not claim to know God.
When a case hits the headlines of a great need the feeling of many are stirred to give very generously.
Many who do so are not believers.
But such conduct does not even begin to compare with spiritual good.
It is respect to spiritual good that people are by nature dead.
Man is a complex being.
He is described in the Bible as a combination of " body, soul, and spirit."
There can be a state of moral and spiritual death even though a person may be physically alive.
He is physically alive but spiritually dead.
When Paul speaks of his readers in their pre-christian condition as "dead," it is not a figure of speech.
He does not mean that they were like dead men, or that their state resembled death.
He is signifying a real and personal death.
We were dead.
The person who walks the earth is a sinner against God, and by the fact of his transgression is dead.
The doom of sin lies on his unforgiven spirit.
Such a person carries death and judgment with him.
His works are "dead works."
His joys and hopes are all tainted.
He has physical life.
He has the faculties and possibilities of a spiritual being.
He is outside of Christ.
He is spiritually dead.
He is wasted and decaying for lack of the breath of the Holy Spirit of God.
That one who is spiritually dead:
His position is perfectly simple.
These things are spiritual.
They pertain to God.
So that person sees nothing in them.
Because he is dead!
He has no spiritual life.
Such people are dead.
They are corrupt.
They are outside the life that Christ gives.
They are essentially evil.
Christ is not in them.
Such a life is not blessed by God.
It is therefore a miserable life.
If there are those who do not agree that the godless, Christless life is a miserable life
then they are simply proclaiming that they are not Christians.
If they will not agree that the only truly happy life is the Christian life, then they are not Christians.
That is why they get tired of everything.
They must always be seeking after something new.
They are always looking for new thrills.
They find it miserable to spend much time alone with themselves.
They spend their lives running away from themselves.
This is the measure of the misery of a life of sin.
They have no resources.
They have no reserves because they are outside the life of Christ.
That is a person in sin.
He is dead!
All were spiritually "dead."
All were completely separated from God.
The only true life is in God alone.
You were dead!
It is not an argument.
It is not a philosophy.
It is an announcement!
Observe the tense.
He is speaking not of a sentence which hangs over us.
It is not one that awaits us.
It is a condition which characterizes us.
Paul describes his readers before their conversion as dead.
In Scripture the word, "life," is the term commonly used to express a state of union with God.
"Death" is a term in Scripture to express a state of alienation from God.
Life, therefore, includes holiness, happiness and activity.
Death includes corruption, misery and helplessness.
The fact is that those who are "saved by grace" (Ephesians 2:5,8)are those who are "saved from death." (Ephesians 2:1,5)
We were like Lazarus.
His physical death reminds us of how dead we were and of how we were called to life.
The same Christ who called him to life is the same One who has called us to life.
See Lazarus laid out in his grave.
He was bound hand and foot with grave cloths.
He was locked inside a stinking, dark tomb.
A great stone was placed over that tomb.
While you gaze upon his dead body you will note a faint representation of our poor soul in its natural state.
We could not raise ourselves to spiritual life anymore than Lazarus could raise himself to physical life.
Some may try by the power of what they call their own trusted free will.
They may try by the force of their energy and rational arguments, but all such efforts will prove fruitless
until that same Jesus, who cried, "Lazarus, come forth," also quickens them to life.
So, you see it is foolish for someone who is spiritually dead to try to live the Christian life.
It cannot be done!
Such efforts are absolutely useless and futile.
You see, we are all born as dead men and we live as dead men until we are made partakers of the life of God.
Someone has said: " You cannot live a life for God until you receive life from God. "
You cannot live a life for God until God lives in you.
I pray for myself and for you that we may be alive all over for there are many professors
who appear to be more dead than alive.
Life is in our hearts and we only know a fraction of it.
Life has not touched our silent tongues, nor our idle hands, nor our wayward feet
or we would be totally surrendered to Christ.
"Once it was the blessing,
Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling,
Now it is His Word;
Once His gifts I wanted,
Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing,
Now Himself alone.
Once 'twas painful trying,
Now ‘tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation,
Now the uttermost;
Once ‘twas ceaseless holding,
Now He holds me fast;
Once ‘twas constant drifting,
Now my anchor’s cast.
Once ‘twas busy planning,
Now ‘tis trustful prayer;
Once ‘twas anxious caring,
Now He has the care;
Once ‘twas what I wanted,
Now what Jesus says;
Once ‘twas constant asking,
Now ‘tis ceaseless praise.
Once it was my working,
His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him,
Now He uses me;
Once the power I wanted,
Now the mighty One;
Once for self I labored,
Now for Him alone.
Once I hoped in Jesus,
Now I know He’s mine;
Once my lamps were dying,
Now they brightly shine;
Once for death I waited,
Now His coming I hail;
And my hopes are anchored,
Safe within the vail."
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org