But God... By Grace

Ephesians, Volume 1

When studying the book of Ephesians, we should fall in love with the phrase, "But God, by grace..." As we consider our own depravity, we must realize that we need a radical solution for being dead in our trespasses and sins.

Todd WagnerAug 27, 1995Ephesians 2:1-10

In This Series (10)
What He Has Done to Make Us One
Todd WagnerSep 17, 1995
Our Radical Problem... Our Right Response
Todd WagnerSep 10, 1995
But God... By Grace
Todd WagnerAug 27, 1995
I Pray You Believe It
Todd WagnerAug 6, 1995
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 5
Todd WagnerJul 30, 1995
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 4
Todd WagnerJul 16, 1995
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 3
Todd WagnerJul 9, 1995
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 2
Todd WagnerJun 25, 1995
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 1
Todd WagnerJun 18, 1995
Intro to Ephesians: The Call to Make a Difference in a Godless Culture
Todd WagnerJun 11, 1995

Lord, we thank you for your Word which is here to instruct us, to encourage us to enlarge our sense of a need to worship you. I thank you for what we get to study tonight, the incredible truths that are there, the hope that is there, the picture of you that is there, and we thank you that you love us despite the picture of us that is here. We sure are grateful for your Word which encourages us greatly as we spend time with it. I pray that we communicate clearly tonight from it and that you enlighten the eyes of our hearts, as the Scriptures say. In Christ name, amen.

It's been said by a lot of guys that your favorite book in the Bible is the book that you're teaching through at any given moment. I have found that to be true. I have spent a lot of time with the folks that I've been ministering with in the past in the minor prophets and some other places in the Old Testament. We did 2 Peter way back when, I can remember. We hung out in Jude some, but I can tell you, every time I'm in one of those books, I'm so encouraged by what I find there as I prepare for what we're going to do every week together.

One of the things I have not done, probably because it's the first place I think of that most people teach, is spend much time in the epistles of Paul. As we began to gather as a body and meet, I wanted to go there, to this queen of the epistles it is called, because in this little six-chapter book, Paul holds in there the clearest description he can of the church.

I told you, this is your bridal portrait. This is as good as you look. I made the analogy the very first week if you remember that guys, if you determine whether or not to marry your bride based on the bridal portrait she has done, you are going to be sorely disappointed because she spends about eight hours getting all made up. The photographer takes about 3,500 pictures and picks the best one out. They blow it up, and they touch it up, and they say, "Okay, here she is."

That's a lie; let's just be honest. That's not who she is. That's who she is after a lot of work. We're grateful that looks all pretty and that she can be encouraged on her wedding day, as she might, but this is our bridal portrait. This is the picture of what we ought to look like. One of the things that happens eventually in marriage is women who have what they wanted in this husband, and they start to let themselves go. There isn't even a vague representation of that bridal portrait 10, 15, 20 years down the road.

Now wait a minute, guys, before we get too big-headed. I've seen lots of men put on sympathy pounds when wives get pregnant, but you don't give birth to 8 or 10 pounds. You kind of hold on to it, and you're not exactly the picture of what you were when you asked her. That is why we need to learn out of a Christ-based love in marriage.

One of the things we should never do as a church is move too far away from the bridal portrait that we have here. As we move further and further into the book, as he calls us to be a group of believers that gather together and act a certain way, we ought to really look at this and go, "You know, I've put on some excess weight. I've put on some baggage. I've gotten kind of flabby in my appearance. While that may not divorce me from the one who loves me, it certainly doesn't please him like I should."

It's good for us to look at this book and to be reminded of what we ought to be as a church. That's why we're going to study it tonight and why we've been studying it for the last several weeks, and I have to tell you. As I have been studying what Calvin called the queen of the epistles, it has become my favorite book and will be probably for about another two or three months, and then we'll find another one. I want to tell you; this stuff is good.

We have finished chapter 1, and we spent a lot of time in chapter 1. Chapter 1, if you'll remember, is where he begins to pour on, and he's going to continue now for two more chapters, nothing but truth. All he's going to do is give you doctrine. He's going to give you what your possession is. He's going to pour on to you how much your groom loves you. You should be so overwhelmed by the time you get to chapter 4 that you're just fighting to get out.

You go, "What can I do to respond to one who loves me this much? How can I emote, how can I give back? I can never deserve it, I can never earn it, but I want to respond to it." When you get to the end of chapter 3, you ought to be bursting at the seams to go, "What can I do to please this individual?"

When I treat my wife right, she says to me, "I want to do anything… I want to do absolutely anything to please you." Those are sweet words to hear, and it's her response to my being selfless for a moment and being one who for just a period of time treats her like she deserves. To cherish her, to honor her, to love her as I love myself…

I am good at loving myself. I'm an expert in it; I've majored in it for 31 years…33 years, whatever it is… I don't know how old I am. However old I am, I have majored in it. I am good at it. The Scriptures say, "Todd, you ought to be that good at loving her. You ought to make her feel that way." When I do, she responds with, "It is not a burden; it is a privilege. I want to please you so much because of the way you make me feel." That is what we ought to get to when we get to chapter 4.

As we study chapter 2 tonight all it is going to be more of me telling you how much your groom loves you. It should encourage you, but before I get to that point tonight, I have to tell you this. He loves you despite the fact that your bridal portrait, if you will, before he married you was downright ugly. You were a dog.

In fact, the Scriptures go further, they say you were a dead dog. That is not a very pleasing thing. I have a dog; I love my dog. When he is dead, though, as much as I love him, I will no longer let him lay around the house because it is no longer possible for him to be pleasing to his master.

If you will remember the one night we studied Mephibosheth… If you'll remember, Mephibosheth was the son of one who was an enemy to the king, who had deserved death, who deserved judgement, was shown grace and favor by one who ruled over the land. The response of Mephibosheth to King David was simply this: "What is your servant that you regard a dead dog like me?" Let me say it again: "What is your servant that you regard a dead dog like me?"

That is exactly what you ought to respond to tonight when you get through looking at the picture of you that is revealed in Ephesians 2:1-3. I would never teach Ephesians 2:1-3 without teaching Ephesians 2:4-10 in the same evening because we would all go out of here suicidal. We would go, "I'll never get a date. I am so abhorrible, I am so ugly, I am so despicable that I could not possibly ever be loved, that I could not possibly ever be redeemed, that I could not possibly ever matter."

There are going to be two phrases that you absolutely need to fall in love with that we're going to study tonight. The first one is this: but God. I heard one guy say once, "Whenever you see a but in Scripture, you ought to stand back and take a look at it." That will sink in a little bit later. The buts in Scripture are there to show you contrast, and when you see one, you ought to stand back and go, "What is he saying?" But, in contrast to what we deserve, we're going to see something. But God is the first one.

The second one is by grace. But God… By grace. You're going to see a couple of things set up tonight. You're going to see what sin has done against you. Then you're going to see what God has done for you. Let me say that again. You're going to see what sin has done against you, but you're going to see what God has done for you. If I can continue on, I'll say what God, because he's done it for you, continues to do in you and on you so he can do things through you. That'll be taught tonight.

You are going to see what the human condition is, but you're also going to see what the divine compassion is. You're going to see a contrast between your former master and your new master, and you're going to get to choose which one you want to live under. I want to tell you what, you're going to fall in love with four words: But God… By grace.

If you'll remember, when you came out of chapter 1, and let's look back at the prayer of Paul because that is the context of what we go into in chapter 2. Paul is praying at the very end of chapter 1 is basically, "I pray that you believe what I just preached on. I pray that you understand the fullness of the possessions that you have as one who has been chosen by God, who has been called by him, who has been set apart before the foundation of the world, that he loves you. I pray that you believe it."

He says, and we'll look at it again, three things beginning in verse 18. "I pray that the eyes of your heart, having been enlightened…" Again, your heart is not the emotional well of man. It is much more than that. Your heart is the inner being of man which contains your intellect, your will, your emotion, your mind. It's all there and symbolic in the heart.

I could go through and show you that your heart in Scripture, in the spiritual sense, parallels what your body has in the physical sense. I can show you that your heart sees, your heart even smells, your heart hears, your heart tastes, your heart experiences. When you see heart in Scripture, don't think of the organ that can be transplanted and replaced. It is your inner man; it is the core of who you are. It is that which God seeks to reform.

So much of what we're about in the worldly mindset is conforming the outer man, but God says, "No, I'm concerned about the inner man because it's not what is on the outside that defiles the man. It is what is on the inside that defiles the man." We find out that even what they do is not the problem. God says, "The problem is that they do what they do because they are what they are." That's what makes us repugnant in his sight.

That is why it doesn't matter how much you conform or that you curb your flesh. You can never be pleasing to God. There are people, and Gandhi was one of them… He decided to curb his flesh which he found also abhorrible. He would sleep with naked virgins, and he would seek to not touch them and curb his flesh that he might become less reprehensible in his eyes and the eyes of God.

What Gandhi failed to realize is that God is not concerned with what we do or don't do, necessarily. He is concerned with who we are and who we aren't, and who we are or who we aren't is only changed by one who can reach inside of us and change us because we are corrupt to the core.

We're going to talk about something tonight which is extremely ugly and extremely humbling to man. We're going to call it total depravity, and I will explain that idea of what it means to be totally depraved. It is the picture of you in chapter 2, verses 1 through 3. We're not going to stop there, or we'll all go out of here way to low. We have to know But God… By grace.

What Paul prays is "The eyes of your heart, having been enlightened…" He's writing this to believers. He said, "I pray that you might know what the hope of your calling is, if you will, the absolute assurance of your victory in Christ." That is the hope of your calling. "I pray that you might know [and we studied this] the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, that you might know that one day you will completely be freed from the consequences of, from the effects of, and from the presence of sin. That is your inheritance which awaits."

He says finally, "I pray that you might know the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe." I want to say this very quickly. When you look in the Bible and you see the Bible talk about the power of God, in the Old Testament, it's typically surrounding two things. I'm going to show you there are two things in the Old Testament and one thing in the New, and all three of those are captured in you.

When the Bible talks about the greatness of God in the Old Testament, it speaks typically of two things. Isaiah 40 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible because it talks about how great the God is who we worship. "Our magnificent God, magnificent Lord, we worship you, and well we ought," Isaiah 40 says, "because you are the God of creation."

Creation speaks of the idea that God takes nothing and makes something, and that something is good, he said. When you think in the Old Testament about what makes God great, one of the things that was focused on again and again is what God creates. You're going to watch what God creates in the New Testament, and it is also good.

The other thing we have in the Old Testament that makes God great is they're always thinking back to this thing called the exodus. It is when the nation of Israel was imprisoned by a wicked people, and those wicked people were the nation of Egypt, specifically. They suppressed them, beat them, scourged them, and deprived them of what was rightly theirs. And God, being magnificent in his love and great in his power, delivered them, not as slaves but as strong men, as victors taking away great spoil when they left.

When God is thought of as great in the Old Testament, he's thought of as a God who takes chaos and makes that which is good. He takes what is corrupt and make that which is beautiful. He also is a God who takes that which is a slave and makes it free, and more than making it free, he makes it the greatest. It is one thing to be a slave and to be emancipated; it is another thing to be a slave and to be made king. There is a great God that takes you, a slave nation, and makes you king of all nations. That's what made God great in the Old Testament.

Guess what he does in the New Testament? He takes that which is full of chaos, which is full of disorder, which is corrupt, and he makes a new creation. "Behold, the old things have gone; the new things have come." God, in his creation in the New Testament, is made great. Also in the New Testament, God takes those who are slaves, we'll find out to three things tonight, to the world, to Satan, and to the flesh, and he makes them free. But not just free, he makes them sit on thrones, speaking of you and me.

You'll find this, too, about God. In the New Testament, God, in his greatness, is thought of in a different way. The surpassing power of the greatness of God, Paul expounds on, and we studied at the very end of Ephesians, chapter 1. Do you remember what it was? What did he say? What did he point to as the one event that we should meditate on in the New Testament, that is our hope of his great power in our lives? Do you remember what it was? Somebody say it.

It was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the greatest work of God. It is the pivot point in all of history. It is what we gather… People who don't even go to church migrate there. They don't know why. They find themselves sitting there, and it's Easter Sunday. They're there because God is great. They're there to celebrate the greatness of God with us because there is a moment in history where a man was dead, and he was made alive.

Guess what? If you're a picture, church, Christian, of what made God great in the Old Testament, do you think you'll also be a picture of what made God great in the New Testament? If he takes you, a deprived creature full of chaos, and makes you new and beautiful, if he takes you who were a slave and makes you not just free but a king, don't you think he'll take you who were dead, and to display his greatness, make you alive?

That is exactly where we pour into in chapter 2. Now let's look at this. Look at chapter 2 and verse 1. He says, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…" If anybody ever invites you to their house and says, "We're going to do a little study of hamartiology," you might want to go, "You know, I think I'll go somewhere else tonight and study something else."

Hamartiology is the study of the doctrine of sin. It is not a very popular study, but it is something you must do because if you don't have a clear picture of what you're dealing with, what you'll begin to do is come up with some kind of superficial or very inappropriate means to deal with the problem. What you're going to find is we are a people who have a radical problem, and it demands a radical remedy.

Last week, I had kind of a tough Sunday. What happened was two things. I was at the funeral of a friend's mother, and that is never an encouraging thing. We were with Blair and his family as memorialized and eulogize his mom and were encouraged by the fact that one day, we have a belief that we'll be with her.

The hope of our calling was made sure as we meditated on it last week, but it was still difficult because selfishly, we said, "God, we know you have her, we know she's in a better place, but it hurts." I grieved with Blair. I never had the privilege of meeting his mom, but I loved hearing the stories and the joy that this lady's life not only possessed but shared with others that were around her.

The other thing that was kind of difficult was I had happened to go get some gas when I left church in the morning, and my little girls were in the car, and they started to fuss. I opened the door with my left hand while I kept pumping gas with my right, but before I did that, I had to lay my wallet down behind me. I opened the door and was messing with them, and the gas pump shut off. I hung the gas pump back up, screwed the lid back on, shut it, and then raced off with my kids and got home until I realized I didn't bring my wallet with me.

I went back to the gas station, a little Texaco, only to find out it wasn't there waiting on me. I thought, "Well, my name is written in it. Surely somebody will call me. My number at the church is in there, and there are lots of good folks out there. A lot of people would find it, I'm sure." I asked the gas station attendant, and he said, "No, it's not here." But lo and behold, he said, "Maybe somebody will turn it in."

So I waited. My wife eventually got home; she was away with some friends for the weekend. I said, "Honey, I'm going to go look for my wallet, drive around and look for it some more, then go up to the church and get ready for tonight. Would you do me a favor and let me know if anybody calls?"

My wife said, "Well, have you called to check and see if anybody has your wallet yet?" I go, "No, I'm going to wait a little bit." It had been about four hours, and my wife, being smarter than I, decided to call our one credit card company we have, and they said, "Oh, yes. Your husband has been on quite a shopping spree the last four hours." Someone had.

I had only come to realize it wasn't just my wallet. It was my Day-Timer, my checkbook, my bank card, my credit card, my world. If I was supposed to meet with you last week and missed it, there's my excuse, all right? I'm sorry. I came in and told Alicia on Monday, "If anybody calls, I'm available. I have nothing planned for the next six months."

Before I did that, I went to get my driver's license, which I just had gotten. It was a good picture; you know, that doesn't happen very often. I waited six weeks; it came in the mail. I was proud of it. It fell out of my wallet a lot, and I'd go, "Oh, hey!" I'd put it back in. I had it for two weeks. Gone, stolen, out of here, nowhere to be found…

I went to get my picture taken at the driver's license place, and I had just gotten my hair cut. The lady said, "Oh, your hair ain't trained yet. You ain't got your hair trained yet, do you? Your hair ain't trained. Look at that; it's all sticking up and stuff like that." I said, "Well, I really didn't come here to have you talk about my hair, but you're right. It's not trained." She goes, "I'm trying to train my hair, too. I ain't going to get my picture made until my hair is trained." So anyway, this new picture that's coming is with untrained hair, and I will keep it backwards in my wallet.

I say all of this because I want to tell you, as I went and I took my passport with me, I walked up and I said to the lady, "Listen, my wallet was stolen. My driver's license was in it." She goes, "Well, do you know your driver's license number." I said, "Yeah, I do." I gave it to her. She goes, "Well, what's your address?" I said, "My address is…" and I gave it to her.

She goes, "Okay, stand behind there and put your feet behind the line." I thought to myself, "Wait a minute." I go, "How do you know I didn't just memorize that information? How do you know that it's me?" She goes, "We go by the credo that 90 percent of people are honest." This bothered me just a little bit, and I'll tell you why. I happen to know at least that 10 percent wandered by Texaco on Midway and Northwest Highway last Sunday, and that possibly that person could go and get a picture of them taken on my driver's license.

I thought to myself, "You know, what really bothered me Monday morning when I woke up is there was absolutely no way I could prove to somebody who I was if I needed to." Then I came to find out that it really didn't matter anyway because anybody can pretend to be you. I called the sergeant in charge. I said, "Sergeant, I have a problem with this. What if somebody came and did this?"

He goes, "You know, that's happened, and I can't tell you it won't happen to you, or I can't tell you it won't happen to me." I said, "You mean to tell me I might be out driving along the road, and I might get pulled over on a vacation, I'll be doing 66 in a 65, or something unusual, I'd get pulled over, and this officer would take me and say, "You have about six or seven outstanding tickets. There's a warrant out for your arrest," and I'd be shipped off until I could prove those tickets weren't mine"? He goes, "Yeah, that could happen."

It disturbed me a little bit. I went and got my checkbook at the bank. They said, "You need to get your check changed completely. Close out your account and get a new one." I said, "Why is that?" They said, "Somebody could take that account number and get some temporary checks made in your name even if you cancel the checks that are in your wallet."

I said, "Okay, but the problem with that is how would they do that?" They said, "All they have to do is know your name and your account number and they can get temporary checks made for you." I said, "Every time I write a check, they have my name and my account number." She said, "Well, you have a point there."

I was a little bit concerned. I was concerned at first that I could not prove who I was. I was even more concerned that it really did not matter. I want to make a little transition out of all that and know that you have to know who you are. I have to know who I am, or this world would be absolute chaos. We have to know who we are so we can respond rightly to it, so I can go through this world living as if I were me.

Now if somebody else wants to pretend they're me, I have to deal with that, but this section of Scripture is not going to be pleasant. The discoveries I made last Monday morning were not pleasant. This section of Scripture in chapter 2, verses 1 through 3, are not pleasant. It says this… I told you in this little section it's a picture of you.

You're going to find a full doctrine of sin right here. There are two words: trespasses and sins. That is a good description of those two words together that define who we are. One of them, the word for sin, is hamartia. It basically means to fall short of the mark, or to not meet the standard. That's what that means.

The other words, which is down there for trespasses, is a word which basically means to take a false step, or to cross over an unknown boundary, or to deviate from the righteous path. Now that might be something that happens by accident. When you see a "no trespassing" sign, that literally means no false step, no going over a previously unknown boundary, no deviating from the righteous path. "You may not come on my property."

This covers everything that violates us before God. It covers sins of what we call omission and sins of commission. Things that you do that you should not have done, those are sins of commission, and things that you do not do that you should have done, sins of omission. It covers the passive and the active, if you will.

You'll find that these two descriptions of sin, trespasses and sins, are what create in us a major problem. I'm going to give them a list to you. This is what sin does to us. The first very thing is right there in verse 1. It says, "And you are dead in your trespasses and sins…" Literally, it means by reason of your trespasses and sins, you became dead.

Think about this with me for a second. This means that lost people, people who are in their sins, are not sick. They don't need a little help. It means they are dead. Do you understand that? This a great problem with people. One of the things that total depravity means… Total depravity does not mean that it is impossible for anybody who is not a Christian to do good.

It says in Luke 6 that unbelievers can be kind, one to another. It says in Luke 11 that unbelievers can be kind to their children. Whatever it means, total depravity does not mean that they can do no good to others. Total depravity also does not mean that they are incapable of doing things which are appropriate.

What it does mean is they are absolutely and irreparably denied from becoming pleasing to God because they have missed his standard. The word hamartia is the word for sin which literally means missed the mark or falling short of the standard. You have, when you make one mistake, fallen short of what God has called you to be as one who is acceptable to him, which is to be unblemished and perfect.

There is not a single one of us, either by omission or commission, that is apart from that. We are flawed in every nature of our essence. That's the other thing total depravity means. Total depravity means there is nothing you can ever do to make yourself right before God again and that every part of your being has been affected by your trespass and by your sin. The first result and consequence of that is you are dead.

I told you the Scripture said that you are a dead dog. A dead man has no faith. It is impossible for a dead man to have faith. A dead man does not hunger and thirst. A dead man does not get stimulated by things he hears. He is dead, and unless, the Scriptures teach, you are quickened by the grace of God, unless the Word of God does a work in your life, and God, if you will, does a work and takes that which is previously dead and resurrects it to life, you will remain dead.

One of the things we find in Scripture that God will do is this amazing work, and there is absolutely nothing else I can do to explain it except to tell you that it is a mystery and we are to worship him. There are some that God does this work in. It says, "How can they believe if they do not hear? How can they hear if you do not preach? How can you preach if you are not sent?"

We are told that we are to do all we can to take God's Word, which is the quickening agent, we find out, the Holy Spirit uses to resuscitate, if you will… It is the thing God uses to slap down on our chest and bring us back to life. It's his Word and his Spirit which do that, but you are dead. All men are dead. I like what one guy said: "The only difference between one sinner and the next is the state of decay."

We've seen some people who are dead, and they are seriously decaying. It reminds me of one of my favorite Far Sides that Gary Larson said he couldn't get printed; his editors wouldn't let him. It was a Far Side of a schoolteacher taking kids through a museum. They were walking through this one room, and there was this guy hunched over a piano with cobwebs all over him, and his face was sunken and hollow. This was in one of his books, he said this was one that was rejected and why. She opened the door and said, "Shh… The maestro is decomposing."

You and I have all seen people… "Shh… That brother is decomposing right there." We can tell that he's dead, and his state of decay is worse than others, but the truth is, you need to know this, that all men, in their state, are dead. You are totally depraved, totally unable to do anything in any part of your body that is ever pleasing to God because you have violated his standard. You are left in a state which you cannot help yourself. That's ugly.

Look what else happens as a result of this ugly thing called sin. It says you are dead. Not only are you dead, but you are enslaved. Let's see how we're enslaved. Verse 2: "…in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."

I said first you're dead. The second thing you are is a slave. Being dead, you need somebody who will make you alive again. Being a slave, you're going to have somebody who will need to make you free. You're a slave, the Scripture says right here, to three things. We're not going to go into them very long, but the first thing is to the world. I want to tell you; the world is getting increasingly more and more corrupt. I said that we could tell that there are certain people who are decayed more than others.

I'm reminded, I was talking just before the service started that Cathy Adams, a member of our body, is going to be going over to this United Nations council on the women's forum over in Beijing, China, as part of the Eagle Forum group that's here in town, a Christian group that studies government issues, lets us know, and informs us. We need to pray for Cathy as she goes over there as a nonvoting member, but to monitor the things they're going to talk about.

If you have not had a chance to read Dr. Dobson's letter that he sent out this last month he sent out with the Focus on the Family newsletter, he describes some of the decaying that's gone on in our world. Did you know that in China right now, not only are they enforcing that you can only have one child per family, in China right now, they are saying that they're also slaughtering women?

If they find out you're pregnant with a female, they're going to go ahead and terminate the pregnancy because they don't want too many women because women are what we use to create from. God uses women and the womb of woman to produce, and so to limit population growth in that country, they are slaughtering young female children.

The other thing that government is doing, it says in that letter, is using the harvesting of organs in order to make money to support their government. China, right now, in the midst of their dead, decaying state, is taking young offenders, and some of those offenders are people who are just against the communist regime and against the government that is supporting population control. That's enough for them to condemn you to death.

They execute you in such a way that your body's organs are still harvestable. They'll have a medical team that will immediately come over, and they have films to document this that have been shown to our congressmen. They will go and remove the kidney, the liver, the heart, the cornea, and they will sell it on the black market to people all over the world who are in desperate need of these organs. They are killing people in some ways for many unjust causes that the government might support itself.

If that's not enough, you find that China is now, in their government, allowing people for certain health issues to eat aborted fetuses. It is considered a delicacy which is good for health. All over that country, there are people who can go into restaurants and order off the menu aborted fetuses. Is that depraved? Is that decaying? Is that an ugly picture?

When you think about this and all that's going on, you need to understand our world. If you are a victim of it and a part of it, you are being sucked along a course that men begin to justify because it can give you health or can give you riches and give you wealth. You are, it says in the Scriptures, a slave to this world.

The other thing it says you are a salve of is the Prince of the Power of the Air, the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Lets just call it Satan and his demonic forces. We have a hard time with that because we can't exactly capture it and explain it, but the fact is that it's there.

You're a slave to the world, you're a slave to Satan, and then you're a slave to your flesh, which is not this bag of skins that is around my bones. It is literally the nature you have. It is your directed course. There's one guy who addresses this deal. He gave a talk titled "Why Your Dog Does What It Does." This guy travels around, he's an evangelist, and he gives this talk, "Why Your Dog Does What It Does." People come from all over to hear, these animal lovers.

He starts off by saying this: "Your dog does what it does and behaves like it does because it has the nature of a dog. If you could take the nature of a cat and somehow put it within a dog, you'd be an idiot." No, he doesn't say that. He says, "If you could take the nature of a cat and put it within a dog, then you could change the way that dog behaves."

There are certain things that Caleb does, some that we can talk about here and others that we can't, that he'll just by nature do because he's a dog. What the Scriptures say right here is there are certain things you're going to do because you have this nature. In other words, you can say it this way: A man is not a sinner because he sins. A man sins because he's a sinner. You could say it another way and bring it a little bit more specific: A man is not a liar because he lies. A man lies because he is a liar. That is your very nature. You are a child of disobedience.

You are a slave to three things. You are a slave to something without you that you cannot control: the world, the Scripture says. You are a slave to something within: your very nature. Then you are a slave to the one who is master over both of those things, which is Satan, the Prince of this world and the one who you have willfully to chosen to make your inner man a slave to. Those are the three things you're in bondage to. That is your picture of who you are. You are dead.

But then here come these great words in Ephesians, chapter 2, verse 4. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…" Do you understand what he's doing right here? Ephesians 2:1-3 is a very condensed version of Romans 1-3.

In Romans 1, Paul says that the Gentiles, those who are not of the body of Israel, are a condemned people who have violated God's standard for their lives, and they are people who are going to incur the righteous wrath and judgment of God. He says that, in fact, in Ephesians 2, verse 2, where he says, "…in which you…" speaking to the people of the church at Ephesus who were Gentile believers.

In this section, he says that Gentiles are condemned, and then he goes on. Look what it says in verse 3: "Among them we too all formerly lived…" Who is Paul saying, "we too"? He's talking about the Jews, which is who he addresses in Romans, chapter 2. He's saying that the Gentiles are all condemned and dead, and that they are enslaved to the world, to Satan, and to their flesh. "We too, as Jews." In Romans, chapter 2, he develops this entire thing.

He says, "If the Jews and Gentiles are condemned, that is everybody. Therefore, all men are condemned." That's where he ends in chapter 2, verse 3, where he says that you were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. In other words, all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What's Romans 6, verse 23, say? "By reason of trespasses and sin, the wages of sin are death." But God, by grace, did an amazing work.

I want to tell you; if you don't understand… I feel like I want to go back and pound in those first three verses, not because I have this sick, perverted lust to make us feel ugly about ourselves, but if we don't understand the depth of our need, we are likely to give a superficial remedy. It is like a man who has a serious termite problem and just paints over it so it'll look better. He does not understand the depth of his problem. There is a rotting in the core that needs a miraculous intervention, a new creation, a freedom from slavery. He needs to be delivered from the dead.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ…" And he says it here for the first time. "…(by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

Let me give it to you this way. In Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 1 through 3, he says, "This is what sin does against you." Now beginning in Ephesians, chapter 2, verse 4, he says, "But this is what God does for you," and he's going to tell you why. There are certain things about the attributes of God which always exist. They are his intrinsic attributes. It is who God is and would always be whether or not we ever existed. God is love. God is true. God is holy.

There are other things called his relative attributes that God uses to relate to his creation and specifically to you and me. Because God is true, that relates to you and me, therefore, he is always faithful. When he says that he'll do something, because he's true and it is against his very nature to lie, we can count on that. Because God is holy, therefore, that relates to us in this way: he must be just, and anybody who misses the mark must suffer a consequence.

Here's another character of God in his intrinsic nature: God is love. It is not God's love which saves us. It is God's love, we find out, that is defined in the cross. It is God's grace and mercy, which are his relative attributes. It is what is a response of who he is in relation to us that builds that bridge. It is his grace and mercy which save you.

Do you want a definition of those two things? It's simple. Grace is getting what you do not deserve. It'd be Kurt walking up to me and saying, "Todd, you don't deserve this, but here's a gift. You've done nothing to earn it, but I'm going to give you what you do not deserve." That is pure grace.

Mercy, on the other hand, is not getting what you do deserve. If I walked up to Kurt and just popped him in the chin, and then he reared back to respond to me in that way, and I say, "Wait, wait. Mercy, Kurt, mercy… Do not give me what I deserve." Kurt, because in his being as he surrenders himself to Christ, in his intrinsic being is love, he would then respond in his relative attribute to me full of grace and mercy, if I'm lucky.

He would not give me what I deserved, and he would give me what I do not deserve: a hug, acceptance, forgiveness, an opportunity for reconciliation. That is what God has done for you. You are a slave, you are dead, you are a child of wrath. Sin does this to you; we've looked at it. It makes you a slave, and it makes you a child of wrath.

What you have in Ephesians, chapter 1, in the last little part, is this. He says that God took Jesus Christ, raised him from the dead, and enthroned him. Now, what he says in chapter 2, watch this. This is the surpassing sign of the greatness of God in the New Testament. In the Gospels, it was what God did in and through Jesus Christ.

In the book of Acts, it's what God does in and through ordinary men and women, his church. That is what shows the great and surpassing love of God, that he took these dead Jews, these dead Gentiles, and he began to make them lovers of men and redeemers of people. We become trophies of his grace. We become reflections of his incredible power, that he can take that which is full of chaos and make it full of order. He can take that which is formerly enslaved and make it free. He can take that which is dead and make it alive.

You and I ought to be the exact same thing, and the way that we get there is by his mercy and by his grace. Look at verse 8. What a great little passage this is, one that most of us have committed to memory. It simply says this: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…"

A lot of people make a big deal out of what that relates to. I'll give it to you very quick. When it says "…that not of yourselves…" what is he talking about? Is he talking about faith? Is faith not of yourself? Scriptures in Acts 18, Philippians 1, and other places make it specifically clear that faith is not of you; it is a gift from God. You are dead. Dead men have no faith.

It has much more in mind here. I'll just tell you that that is neuter. All that means is it's not given a specific gender. In English, we don't have masculine and feminine prefixes to words, but in the Greek, you do. You have masculine, you have feminine, and what's called neuter, or neither. That is in reference to the whole act of salvation. Faith is written in the feminine, so we know that, if it was modifying faith, would be also in the feminine. It is not.

"…that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…" is talking about the entire picture of salvation. Let me tell you why he married you. Let me tell you why he loves you: because it was a decision of his will. It's exactly what Paul told us in Ephesians, chapter 1. Yeah, you're bone ugly. Yeah, you're a dead dog, but it's a gift that he wants to redeem you, marry himself to you, and make him the head of your body, which has the idea of connectedness and relationship. In Christ, as you are connected to him, you are made alive.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…" All that means is simply that you are not saved by good works, and do the Scriptures say that? It says it in verse 9: "…not as a result of works, that no one should boast." There is not a single one of us that is saved as a result of our good works. Let me say it to you this way. If you have not been saved by good works, is there any bad work you can do that would make you unsaved? No, because you are not saved based on what you do in the first place. You're saved by…what? But God… By grace.

That ought to blow your mind, that you walk out of here saying, "You mean to tell me that Jesus Christ, that God will one day give me the hope of being with him for eternity simply because he loves me? That in his intrinsic attribute of love, he relates to me with grace and mercy?" I would say to you that if you respond to that offer he makes available to you tonight, that is exactly what he does. But God… By grace.

If you are not saved by good works, therefore, you can not be unsaved by bad works. It is not your achievement. It is not your reward because of what you have done or some philanthropic giving you have done. It is a gift. It is something you get which you do not deserve. Having said that, you need to this.

John Calvin said it very well. He said it is faith alone which justifies, but faith which justifies is never alone. We love to quote Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 8 and 9, and we love to leave off verse 10. Let's read it. In fact, let's start again with verse 8. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

That is his desire and his design. I'll say it to you again this way. It is faith alone, Calvin says, which justifies, but faith which justifies is never alone. You've heard me say it before that you are saved, and you are given security based on the work of God, the Word of God, and the Spirit testifying to your inner man. The last thing that gives you assurance is the fact that you bear fruit. That is not what makes you saved, but it is what verifies that you are, indeed, a child of God. Faith alone justifies, but faith which justifies is never alone.

You need to understand this, Christian. If you were a dead man, and you come into a relationship with God, you are made alive. You are no longer a son of disobedience. You no longer walk as a child of darkness. You are now free to give yourself, and that's what Paul begs in Romans 6, to present your bodies as instruments of righteousness.

The evidence that you are, indeed, one who has received the gift of God is you begin to look like a child of God. That is not what makes you saved. It is what gives you assurance and evidence. You are secure for one reason, and that is God has called you, chosen you, and given provision for you. As you respond to it in that faith which justifies alone, that faith which justifies is never alone.

If you're sitting out there tonight and you're somebody who has never come to understand, maybe you've kind of glossed over the picture the Scriptures have of you… It's ugly. It's ugly of me. It's not just you; we also, and Paul says, "even all men," struggle with this being that we are. You need to understand that what God is desiring to do is to give you a true diagnosis of your problem.

It is a severe problem, and a radical problem needs to have a radical remedy. That radical remedy is God himself, humbling himself to take on the form of humanity, to live a perfect life, and God himself paying the wages of your sin, which is death. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.

Very quickly, I want to show you a little picture of a man of great faith and how he prayed. This is how we close. Psalm 144. Look at David as he prays to God, the magnificent God, magnificent Lord. Look at Psalm 144, verse 3. Here's what he says: "O Lord, what is man that you take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that you do think of him?"

All he's saying right here is this: "What is man that you even notice him? If man's not anything worth taking notice of, what is that which comes from man? Why do you even pay attention, first to me and then to my children? We are nothing before you." Before that, in verses 1 and 2, he says, "God, you are my lovingkindness. You're my shield. You're my protector. If I'm not in Christ, I'm in trouble. If I'm not with God, I am without."

Then he says, "You know what? I know that I'm not without. I know that I'm not in trouble, but it absolutely blows me away because I know who I am, and it confuses to me that you take note of me." This is what David says: "Man is like a mere breath…" If you will, man is here for a moment and gone. We are extinguishable. "The wages of sin is death." That Scripture has more in mind than just the physical; it has also the spiritual, but David knew the physical was a result of our sin. David said, "God, you took that which was temporal, and you have made it eternal."

Look what else he says: " [Man's] days are like a passing shadow." The days of man are just a vague representation of what they should be. It says in Scripture that all men have sinned and thus fall short of the glory of God. Instead of being image-bearers, instead of being viceregents of God, the Scriptures say that we become men who are slaves to sin, slaves to the world, slaves to the Enemy. We are a mere shadow, a mere vague representation of what we should be.

David understands Ephesians, chapter 2, verse 1 through 3, but look what he did. He says, "But God…" in verse 5. "Bow the heavens and come down. Touch the mountains and make them smoke. Flash forth lightning and scatter them. Send out your arrows and confuse them. Come down and save me."

The audacity of David is that he prays, "I know how ugly I am. It doesn't make any sense that you would acknowledge me, but I'm going to have the faith, I'm going to have the response to know that God, if you don't act, I cannot be saved. I'm going to ask that the very God of heaven rips back the scrolls of heaven, and that he comes down and he deals with my problem."

Guess what happens? That God of heaven responds to the prayers of David. That God of heaven responds to the cries of you and me. He ripped back the scrolls of heaven, and wonder of wonders, he took on veiled flesh. He sent forth his righteous judgment on his Son that you and I, who were full of chaos, could be made good, that you and I, who were slaves, could be made free, even seated at the right hand of God, that you and I, who were dead, could be made alive.

You need to have the understanding David had that it's miracle that God even notices you, but you need to have the faith David had. I know you can't have that faith unless God does a work in your heart, and God tells me to tell you the truth and ask you to respond. If he's quickening you tonight by his Word and by the Holy Spirit, I beckon you to come. Pray with me.

Father, we are looking at Scripture, and we just reflect that there is an awful picture of us there, that we see we are not a people who are beautiful, who are worthy of anybody to love us. We acknowledge that, and we see that we are dead, but we rejoice that "But God, by grace" has made us alive again.

Lord, we have great reason to worship you. We have great reason to celebrate tonight. We want to live in such a way that gives you glory, that we would become trophies of your grace, that there would evidence in the New Testament that those of us who were formerly dead and acted as such are now alive, and that people can see the surpassing greatness of God in us, even as they did in Jesus Christ, and that people would see the magnificence of your grace in that we are now a people of hope and not a people who are awaiting the judgment and wrath which we deserve.

We have a perspective that is not of this world but a perspective of Ephesians, chapter 2. God, again, we thank you for your Scriptures, and we do pray that having reflected on them that we would worship you differently and we'd live differently, that this faith which you've given us, which is part of the gift of salvation which you've given us, which justifies us, that we would not ever let it alone.

May it bear the works you intended for us as people now who are no longer a vague shadow, but that glory is slowly beginning to grow in us, that one day we might fully have it again as we are made like Christ when he is revealed. We thank you for that, and we sing together about your amazing grace. In Jesus name, amen.

About 'Ephesians, Volume 1'

Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ.  Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 1:1 through Ephesians 2:22.