4. Our United Transformation: Made Alive Together In Christ (Eph. 2:1-10)Related Media
“You were dead…but God…made us alive together…with Christ”
Continuing his theme of our “United Position in Christ,” Paul now moves on from “Our United Blessings in Christ” to “Our United Transformation in Christ.” Just as all believers are united together in one body through our united blessings of election, predestination, redemption, and inheritance, so we are also bound together by our united transformation – a transformation from spiritual death to spiritual life.
Transformation involves a complete change. Sometimes the change may be so dramatic that you can’t recognize it. It’s like decorating a house. If you decorate a room in your house the change might be so drastic that you would say: “It’s transformed.” Perhaps the room has changed from a dreary colour to a bright colour, from being painted to being wall-papered, from an old-fashioned look to a contemporary look.
That’s transformation! And that’s what God has done to us. He has completely changed us from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, from the lusts of the flesh to the power of the Spirit. The truth is this: Only by God’s mercy, love, and grace are we transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life.
Spiritual transformation involves radical change - a contrast between being “dead” (3) and being “made alive” (4-10); a change from what we were to what we are; a conversion from our old condition in the flesh (sin and degradation) to our new condition in Christ (a new life with good works).
All Christians experience the same spiritual transformation. We have the same “Position in Christ” not only because we share the same “Blessings in Christ” which bind our faith together, but also because we have experienced the same “Transformation in Christ.” We all had the same old life before we trusted Christ and we all have the same new life in Christ from the time of our conversion.
The flow of thought here moves from the reminder of our past condition of spiritual death (and its causes and effects) to the description of our present condition of spiritual life. Notice that…
I. Before We Knew Christ, We Were Condemned To Spiritual Death (2:1-3)
And you were dead in trespasses and sins (1). To be dead here means to be dead spiritually not physically. It means you have no spiritual life. You are alive physically but without Christ. It means that your life is dominated by trespasses and sins. So, how do you know if you are spiritually dead? What does a spiritually dead person look like? Paul says…
1. To Be Spiritually Dead Means That Your Behaviour Is Worldly (2)
Two activities describe worldly behaviour. First, you lived (walked) according to the course of this world (2a). Your walk refers to your moral conduct, your manner of life. Paul says: “Your lifestyle was characterized as being of this age (i.e. the age of fallen human existence), of this world (i.e. the world of sinful humanity) and, therefore, it is contrary to and apart from God.” It is a life that is entirely focused on self and not focused on God. It is a life that is “this-worldly” not “other-worldly.” The world is that system that is entirely opposed to Christ. It is a system that is under the dominion of “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4). “All that is in the world…is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 Jn. 2:16). There is no compatibility, no point of contact, no similarity whatsoever between what is “of this world” and what is “of the Father.” Indeed, the former (the world) excludes the latter (the Father). The former is temporal; the latter is eternal. The former is physical; the latter is spiritual.
To walk according to the course of this world means that you live in accordance with the world’s standards and objectives; that you have adopted the value system of the world. “And that,” Paul says, “is what your life was like before you knew Christ.”
To be spiritually dead means that your behaviour is worldly. One activity that describes worldly behaviour is living according to the course of this world.
The second activity that describes worldly behaviour is that you lived… according to the prince of the power of the air (2b). Satan is the prince of the power of the air. He commands the principalities and powers - his emissaries, evil powers of the spirit world, powers which have enormous sway over and in the world. The ways of Satan and his emissaries are the ways of the world. He is the “father of lies” (Jn. 8:44) and so the world is characterized by deceit and corruption. He is a “murderer from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44) and so the world is marked by murder and violence. Satan is the “ruler of this world” (Jn. 16:11; see Eph. 6:11). Those who walk according to this world are in allegiance with the prince of the power (realm) of the air and are under his dominion.
To be under Satan’s dominion means that you are under the influence of his spirit, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience (2c). It means that your life is lived in submission to Satan and disobedience to God. The pre-Christian state (i.e. what you were before you trusted Christ) is one that is under the control of Satan and, therefore, one that is entirely contrary to the will of God (cf. 2 Thess. 2:9; Acts 5:3). And all of us lived under Satan’s control at one time. We were sons of disobedience among whom also we all once conducted ourselves (2c-3a). We all lived as they did in “trespasses and sins” (1). The nature and conduct of man in the flesh is universally the same - we are rebels against God (regardless of race, color, or ancestry). “There is no difference (distinction) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
To be spiritually dead means that your behaviour is worldly. And…
2. To Be Spiritually Dead Means That Your Nature Is Corrupted (3)
Not only were we sinful externally in our worldly behaviour, but also we were sinful internally in our corrupt nature.
We Lived To Satisfy Our Sinful Appetites.
Just as we were all “sons of disobedience” (2), so we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh (3a). The lusts of the flesh are our sinful appetites and motives, the “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21), which are in opposition to God. All of us at one time patterned our lives after our natural desires. We all had this tendency toward evil things that bring our flesh pleasure with no thought of God in them, nothing spiritual only sensual. Our main pursuit was satisfying our own self-interests, fulfilling the desires of the flesh.
Those who live in the lust of the flesh also live to fulfill the desires… of the mind (3b). Fulfilling the desires of the flesh is not enough. They seek also to fulfill the desires of the mind, such that their entire being is occupied with their own sinful appetites. They do those things that appeal to the desires of the flesh and they occupy their minds with those things that appeal to their sinful imaginations. Their sinful pursuits are not limited to external behaviours but include also internal thoughts. Sin permeates even the hidden recesses of their minds. The mind by nature is alienated and at enmity with God (Col. 1:21) because it is puffed up with self-importance. By our natural minds we think we know better than God, just as Adam and Eve thought that they knew more than God in the garden. And where does such arrogance come from? It comes from the father of arrogance and lies himself, the devil.
So, to be spiritually dead means that (1) your behaviour was worldly and (2) your nature was corrupted. Because our nature was corrupted we lived to satisfy our sinful appetites. Also, because our nature was corrupted…
We Lived Under The Just Condemnation Of God.
Just as we were all “sons of disobedience,” so also we were by nature children of wrath, just as the others (3c).
As natural children bear certain traits inherited from their parents (looks, behaviour, beliefs etc.), so we bear certain spiritual traits, prior to knowing Christ, through an inherited sinful nature (i.e. because of original sin). This sinful nature predisposes us to walk in the lust of our flesh, which incurs the wrath of God (Jn. 3:36). Hence we were by nature children of wrath. By following our natural instincts which are derived from our inherited sin nature (our flesh) we were subject to the wrath of God and doomed to his condemnation. We were under the fearful wrath of almighty God. What is true of all humanity was once true of all believers. “We, believers,” Paul says, “were by nature children of wrath, just as the others, just like the rest of humanity. We were no different.”
Perhaps you’re still living for the flesh like the rest of humanity. Your life is characterized by “the world,” by the “lust of the flesh,” by “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” Perhaps your life is wholly centred on yourself - you have no time for God, no time for eternity, no time for spiritual things. All you care about is the here and now, physical gratification. Your motto is “I will pull down my barns and build greater…eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” (Lk. 12:18-19).
Remember, God holds you accountable. “Don’t be deceived, God is not mocked” (Gal. 6:7). There is a reckoning day coming. One day, God will say, “You fool. This night your soul shall be required of you” (Lk. 12:20). If your life ends up in disobedience to God you’ll be judged for it. He’ll say to you, “Depart from me; I do not know you” (Lk. 13:27). That’s the end result of continuing in trespasses and sins, of walking wilfully and openly in disobedience to God.
This, then, is the picture of us before we knew Christ. Because our behaviour was worldly and our nature was corrupted, we were condemned to spiritual death. If the story ended there, we would be cast into despair. But that was then and this is now. Before we knew Christ we were condemned to spiritual death, but…
II. When We Know Christ, We Are Transformed To Spiritual Life (1:4-10)
But God (4a) marks a sharp contrast. We know what we were transformed from. Now we see what we were transformed to. It’s the contrast between our “dead” condition as disobedient sinners and our “alive” condition as saints. When we hear but God, we can breathe a sigh of relief. He is the solution to our desperate plight. God’s intervention is the key to our spiritual transformation that has taken place. When we became Christians, God transformed us to spiritual life such that…
1. Our Spiritual Transformation Is A Marvel Of God’s Mercy And Love (4-6)
The God of wrath is also the God who is rich in mercy (4a). His mercy overflows from his supply of riches - it is abundant. God does not extend mercy begrudgingly, stingily. He lavishes his mercy on us out of his riches.
I read once about an angry tigress which had become trapped in an illegal wild boar trap in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya. She struggled for hours to free herself but could not. All conventional attempts to shoot the tigress out of the trap failed in the thick underbrush. Finally, five barbiturate capsules fired from Malaya’s only “mercy gun” by Game Warden Metcalfe put the beast to sleep and into a coma that lasted four days. That’s mercy!
God’s mercy too releases us from a trap - the trap of sin, from which we could not by our own efforts extricate ourselves. His mercy is not in the form of a gun but in the form of love - love that offered his own Son to be our Saviour, to take our place, to bear the consequences of our sin so that we could go free. That’s mercy! 1
The God whose mercy is rich is also the God whose love is great. His rich mercy flows from his great love with which he loved us (4b). He held out his mercy to us because he loved us even when we were dead in trespasses (5a); even when we hated him without a cause; even when we were wholly abhorrent to him; even when we couldn’t so much as cry out for mercy; even when we were devoid of spiritual life! That was when God made known to us the marvel of his mercy and love. God’s mercy and love are a marvel in two ways…
First, God’s Mercy And Love Are A Marvel Because Of Our Transformed Condition.
He transformed our condition by making us alive. God has made us alive together with Christ (5b). It isn’t that God reformed our deadness. You can’t revive or reform a dead person. No. He made us alive! While we were still dead in sins he injected new life into us, a life that is from God and responds to God; a life that forms the basis of the intimate union of believers with each other and with Christ. He transformed our condition entirely by his grace, for by grace you have been saved (5c).
To be made alive is to be saved, saved from our old condition and transformed into the new. And to be saved is to be the recipient of God’s grace. God saw us in our pitiful condition, in rebellion against him, and yet showed to us his mercy and love. That’s grace!
So, first, our transformation to spiritual life is a marvel of God’s mercy and love because of our transformed condition. And…
Second, God’s Mercy And Love Are A Marvel Because Of Our Transformed Position.
He made us alive together and he raised us up together (6a) to a transformed position. For someone to be made alive after death necessitates resurrection. What good would it do to give a dead person life (if you could) without raising him from the dead? The one necessitates the other. 2 We have been raised from the grave, loosed from our grave clothes, and set free. No longer are we confined to the tomb of spiritual deadness by the cords of sin. We have been raised from that old position, just as God raised Christ from the dead (1:20).
So, not only has God raised us up from our dead condition but he has also raised us up to a new position. He has enthroned us with Christ, made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (6b). He has given us the place of honour and power that he has given to his Son. We have been raised with Christ to the place where he reigns supreme, seated alongside him in his exaltation and power, sharing with him in his resurrection and victory. That’s the new position to which we have been raised together.
This is not referring to a future event only.3 This enthronement has already taken place in our union with Christ. What will take place physically at the end of time has already taken place spiritually through our union with him.
Our spiritual transformation, then, is a marvel of God's mercy. And…
2. Our Spiritual Transformation Is A Monument To God’s Grace And Kindness (7-10)
A monument is something visible and tangible that reminds us of a person or event – who they were or what they did. Our spiritual transformation is a monument to God’s grace.
It’s A Monument To God’s Grace In Our Future Resurrection (7).
The great purpose of our spiritual transformation is that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (7). Our resurrection with Christ will serve throughout the ages as a permanent monument, a permanent show piece, a permanent testimony, a permanent tribute, a permanent display of God’s grace and kindness, its vastness and its wonder.
Our spiritual transformation is a monument to God’s grace in our future resurrection and…
It’s A Monument To God’s Grace In Our Past Salvation (8).
For by grace you have been saved through faith (8a). Grace is the source of our salvation. By nature we were under the wrath of God but by grace we are saved by God. God's grace cannot be fathomed; it is beyond comprehension. The essence of saving grace is that it comes only from God and it is free. It is God extending his favour to undeserving humanity.
Imagine you have a six year old son whom you love dearly. Tragically, one day you discover that your son has been horribly murdered. After a lengthy search the investigators find the killer. Now you have some choices. If you used every means in your power to kill the murderer for his crime, that would be vengeance. If, however, you were content to sit back and let the legal authorities take over and execute on him what is proper (i.e. a fair trial, a plea of guilty, capital punishment), that would be justice. But if you should plead for the pardon of the murderer, forgive him completely, invite him into your home, and adopt him as your son, that would be grace. 4
Do you want to see the grace of God? Look at someone who has been born again, given new life in Christ. Look at someone whose life has been radically transformed by Christ. They are the eternal trophy of God’s exceedingly rich grace.
If, then, grace is the source of salvation, then faith is the means of salvation. By grace you have been saved through faith. Faith is the means by which God’s grace is appropriated. By faith, we not only passively surrender to God - submit to his lordship - but also by faith, we actively respond to his grace - trust him, receive his offer of salvation, repent before God and confess faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).
In no sense is salvation something that we can earn or merit, it’s a gift - not of yourselves; it is the gift of God (8b). God has extended to us a gift. What is that gift? What does “it” refer to – it is the gift of God? “It” is not limited specifically to faith as the gift of God (as you may think), since “it” is neuter and “faith” is feminine. Rather, “it” refers to the whole work of salvation, the entire previous clause – you have been saved by God’s grace through faith.
Since salvation is a gift from God there is no room for human pride. It is not of works lest anyone should boast (9). Both the work of salvation and the results of salvation are God’s work alone, not ours.
Our transformation to spiritual life is a monument to God’s grace in our future resurrection, in our past salvation, and thirdly…
It’s A Monument To God’s Grace In Our Present Condition.
We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (10). We are God’s re-creative workmanship in Christ Jesus. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, all things are made new” (2 Cor 5:17). Just as our persons are God’s work, so also are our good works - not works for salvation but because of salvation. We are saved for good works and not by or because them. Good works are the fruit of salvation, not the root.
So, the result of salvation is that those who once lived for self (1-3) now live for God. Those who once “walked according to this world” now walk in good works (10b). There is more to salvation than just the forgiveness of sins. Once you’re saved, you’re called to a life of faith shown in good works. 5 In the end result, it isn’t only what we confess that proves the reality of our Christianity, it’s what we do. We have been transformed in thought, word and deed.
Is that what characterizes your life? Has your life changed? Is there a difference in how you think, speak, and act? The Bible tells us that unless there is a change, you have no right to think that you’re a Christian.
Christians are those who have been spiritually transformed, those who have been transformed from spiritual deadness to spiritual life, those to whom God shows his grace by offering them mercy, those who by faith receive God’s gracious offer through the work of Christ alone.
Christians are those whom God has made alive in Christ, raised and seated in heavenly places to participate in Christ’s victory over Satan, death, and hell.
Christians are new creations of God’s workmanship, those who display the work of God in their lives through good works which glorify God.
This is our united transformation in Christ. We have all been brought into the same spiritual blessings in Christ (ch. 1) and we have all experienced the same spiritual transformation in Christ (ch. 2). All because God, solely by his grace, intervened in our lives. This is cause for worship both here and in eternity. This is why we must prostrate ourselves at his feet.
When was the last time you thanked God for his mercy to you? How often does it touch your heart what God has done for you? Has your life been transformed by the power of God in Christ? Have you been raised from spiritual deadness to spiritual life? Do you know the grace of God in your life as expressed in his mercy toward you? If not, will you respond now?
John Newton was trained by his father for a life in the Royal Navy. But Newton mocked authority and ran with the wrong crowd. He went to Africa in his early twenties and made his living on the “Greyhound,” a slave ship that crossed the Atlantic. Newton poked fun at religion and made jokes about it. One day the “Greyhound” ran into a huge storm. Newton awoke to find his cabin filled with water. After working the pumps all night, he finally threw himself on the deck and pleaded: “If this will not do, then Lord have mercy on us all.”
Newton received mercy, together with the Greyhound and its crew. Later, he wrote “Amazing Grace” and other hymns. At the end of his life he said: “My memory is almost gone but I remember two things: I am a great sinner, and Jesus is a great Saviour.” That’s the language of one who has been transformed by the grace of God.
1 Tom Olson, Now, quoted in “The Speakers Sourcebook II,” ed. Eleanor Doan (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988), 256.
2 Ephesians expresses our dead condition as a result of sin, not, as in Romans, as a result of our identification with Christ in baptism. Nevertheless our experience of being dead in sins, being made alive in Christ, and being raised from that spiritual death parallels Romans 6:1-11, Col. 2:11-13, Col. 3:1-4.
3 Contrast with Matt. 19:28; Lk. 22:30; 1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Thess. 4:17; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 3:21; 20:4; 22:5.
4 Source unknown
5 See James 1:22; 2:14-26; 1 Tim. 6:18; Tit. 2:7; 1 Pet. 2:12
Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church)