Brothers, our text for consideration today comes from Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2 verses 1-3. We read "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."
Paul, in this letter, pulls no punches when delivering this harsh condemnation to the members of the church there. You might wonder as to what brought on such a stern message to the church in Ephesus. A look at the verses preceding points that out nicely. Chapter 1 Verse 20 states: "which [referring to God's mighty strength] he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms." Paul speaks in such harsh terms to the Ephesians because he is drawing a comparison, that is...What Christ is, they were not.
We are all aware that the Word of God is a vibrant and living thing. It speaks as much to us today as it once did to the Ephesians. Therefore it stands just as true that what Christ is...we are not. Listen carefully again to the words of Paul.
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sin... Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."
As this Word of God speaks to our hearts, it is not dulled in anyway. It describes us as totally dead, a state in which we cannot do anything to help ourselves. Where as Christ was empowered by God to be raised from the dead, we were the exact opposite, we were completely totally and utterly dead in our sins. And not only were we powerless to do anything pleasing to God, in fact we were diametrically opposed to God. Everything we did was in defiance of him. Instead of following God's laws, God's will, God's ways we followed our own will and ways. And what’s more, we followed the ways of this sinful world and the devil, whom Paul refers to as the "ruler of the kingdom of the air."
We can so often paint this picture of the human race, that God looked down and saw these cute little cuddly humans and decided to save them. Something innate in what God had created that he would love us so much. Paul is quick to paint another picture, a true picture. We were objects of wrath. When God looked at mankind and at its sin his anger burned against them. Against you and against me. Paul explains further in his letter to the Romans about this wrath. "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed."
Unrepentance is exactly what we've been speaking about this whole time. A constant desire to disobey the will of our loving father, and rather follow the desires of our world and our sinful flesh. We all constantly have this at work in us. There is nothing in us worthy of love, worthy of compassion, worthy of forgiveness.
Yet we are loved, and we are forgiven.
Notice the wording of the verse again, "As for you, you WERE dead...in which you USED to live, when you FOLLOWED....All of us also LIVED among them AT ONE TIME....We WERE objects of wrath. As this verse can be used in one breath to convict the wicked of their sin, it can also be used to point out that we are no longer bound by that sin. This verse leads up to some of the sweetest and most beloved gospel in Ephesians 2:8 and 9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, this not of ourselves it is the gift of God-- not by works so that no one can boast." The condition of sin is a condition under which we do not have to live any longer. We are free to follow the will of our God because we are no longer dead in our sin, because we died with Christ and were also raised up with him. Luther spoke of such things concerning also baptism...
"Baptism means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death. It also means that a new person should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. "
Brothers, we often speak so eloquently about objective justification. We are quick to point out that Christ died for all sinners. We even tail off at the end of our sentences because we've heard and said them so many times. We forget all too often to absolve one another personally of the sins we commit daily. As if sin was just some utility bill that Christ paid for and we have nothing to do with. No, my brothers, as much as we confess that Christ's sacrifice was for the whole world, we must in the very next breath confess that is for you and for me, it is a personal gift.
From time eternal, each and every one of you was in the heart of your father. His omniscience was never once blinded. He knew what you, what mankind would become. He knew the awesome debt and the sacrifice that would be required to satisfy his own wrath. He knew there was nothing you would ever do to please him. He knew your days would be filled with temptation and disobedience and darkness. God thought of all that, saw your face, and said "Let there be Light." Thousands of years later on a cross on Mt. Calvary, God's very own son, the anointed one, Christ Jesus would look up to heaven, forsaken by his father for your sake, would see you and say, "It is finished." A short time later he would look out over those closest to him, yet you too were in his thoughts as he said. "And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age." That very same God, Jesus Christ is your good shepherd, he has borne you on his shoulders and is carrying you home to be with him forever, to a home he has prepared for you. Yes, my friends, let us always reflect this love, a love that has loved us so greatly, when we were not loveable. A love that has redeemed us when were were not worth redemption. A Love that loved us before the worlds were made. A love that will love us both now, and in time eternal.
With this love in mind, dear redeemed children of God, I leave you with the prayer and the wish that Paul left with the Romans "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen
We bow our heads in prayer:
Lord Jesus, by your precious blood, you redeemed me a lost and condemned creature, and called me to be your very own. You, O Lord, know all things. You know that I love you. You know that my renewed heart desires to serve you in righteousness and holiness, to cast aside the sin that so easily entangles me, and to run with perseverance the race set before me. I repent O Lord, that I have so often failed to do what you have asked me. So often I have refused to follow you, and rather chose to follow the paths of the devil the world and my own sinful flesh. In me there is no good thing. The good I would do, I do not; The evil that I would not, that I do. I am so wretched! Who will deliver me from this body of death. To you, my Savior and loving friend I flee: Uphold me by your willing spirit. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit with in me. Purge every evil desire and thought from my heart and mind, and fill me with a pure love for you and your will, a reflection of your love for me. Whether I live or die, may I be yours alone and forever, Amen.