GOD’S RESPONSE TO THE HOPELESSNESS OF THE HUMAN CONDITION.
(Part 2 of Eph.2:1-10)
Review part 1.
THE HOPELESSNESS OF THE HUMAN CONDITION
– spiritual lifelessness as a result of sin
– sins of commission
– sins of omission
– to the world’s agenda
– to Satan’s influence
– to fleshly desires
– to selfish attitudes
– God’s anger directed against all:
[The past condition of the believer]
[The present condition of the unbeliever]
BUT ….. GOD ….
Last week we touched on the BUT GOD… section but today we come to look at it in more deatail. If we had stopped before the “But God …” we would have been left with a very depressing picture and a hopeless picture of the condition of humanity.
By nature we were spiritually dead, slaves to sin and powerless to do anything about it — we would remain in that state if it were not for the fact that God took the intiative and put into action a plan to remedy that situation.
ILLUS.: In the financial world when a company goes under there is often talk o od a rescue bid. The company or financial institution putting together a rescue package must be bigger and have the where-with-all in order to be successful.
In the spiritually bankrupt condition the human race finds itself in there is a need for a salvation package for outside to rescue the beleagued world.The questions arise:
– Why would God want to rescue the Human race anyway?
– How will he accomplish this rescue?
– What will be the purpose of this rescue?
– And how are humans to respond to this rescue bid?
Ephesians 2:4-5 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — (NIV)
Why would God want to save us – we saw last week the sinful condition of the human heart and how God is angry with sinners because of their wickedness.
Well Paul tells us [v4] that it is “because of his great love” that God has acted mercifully towards us.
Human love is usually motivated by the attractiveness of the object – How can this possibly be the case with people when we are dead in transgressions and sins – slaves to sin and condemned. The love that God has for you and me motivated by his infinite goodness and not by our attractiveness or worthiness.
God loves us because he has chosen to do so! Because it is in his character to love – because there is a longing in God’s heart for people.
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)
The love of God is so great that is defies description.
1 John 4:9 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (NIV)
John 15:13 13 Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (NIV)
God’s love is not gooey and sentimental nor is it responding to something good in the objected love – it is strong and active, God takes the initiative in loving what is unlovely and he makes it into something that is loveable.
“Something beautiful something good,
all my confusion he understood,
all I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
but He made something beautiful of my life.”
If his love is great his mercy is equally rich. Considering that God is infinite there is no end to his mercy. Like with his love his mercy is active. We might look at someone who is suffering and feel pity and yet be unwilling or unable to do anything about it.
God not only feels something – he does something.
Jesus is an example of God’s mercy.
Matthew 9:36 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (NIV)
Jesus sees the plight of the sheep [crowds of people] and he does something – he lays down his life.
God is meriful because he doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve – a prisoner on death row needs the mercy and pardon of the President or monarch – it is offered as a gift.
The motive for salvation begins in the heart of God.
Ephesians 2:5-6… 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (NIV)
The first result of God’s love and mercy is that those who were dead spiritually can now have new life. The new life that there is in Christ is not simply a new start – it is not just a wiping clean of the slate – God doesn’t turn over the page and say, “Well forget about what happened yesterday – today is a new day try again with a clean start!”
Not just a new start in life but a NEW quality / sphere of life. Paul goes on in v.6 to describe the kind of life that we receive.
Fundemental to our Christian faith is the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead – made alive – and is raised up to be seated at the right hand of God in Glory. That is what happened to Christ – Here Paul tells us that this is what happens to the believer. 4x in vs. 5-6 Paul says “in/with Christ”. What has happened to Christ has happened to those who are in Christ. Those who are in union with Jesus Christ actually share in his resurrection, ascension and glorification.
We have been made alive – rasied up with him – seated with Him in the heavenlies. This is not meaningless mysticism – because even now we can experience new life – an real awareness of God’s presence and a love for God’s people.
Christains have been brought from death to life – in Christ.
We have been brought from slavery to sin into the freedom of being enthroned.
We have been brought from a place were we were objects of God’s wrath to being objects of His love.
Why has God done this??
Ephesians 2:7 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
The purpose of God for his church reaches beyond the church herself – it goes beyond the forgiveness and salvation of the individual believer – it goes beyond the fellowship and unity of the Chruch and the Church’s mission.
God is drawing out a people you will be the bride of Christ and his purpose is to show to all creation – not just this world order but to the whole universe the glory of his grace and love and wisdom.
The apostle Paul looks beyond this world to the coming age when God will display to the universe who he is and what he has done. It will be God’s people that will be on display – we are the trophies of his grace! We are the expressions of his kindness –
ILLUS,: John Stott tells how when he was a student and Ridley Hall, Cambridge, Rev Paul Gibson retired as principle and a portrait of him was unveiled. Pual Gibson in thanks paid tribute to the artist remarking that in the furure people would not ask “who is this man?” BUT rather “Who painted this portrait?”
God has done more than paint a portrait – he has give new life surely he should have all the glory!!
The purpose of salvation lies beyond this world – the purpose is the glory of God.
How does all this come about – through God’s grace. Paul doesn’t simply say “his grace” nor “the riches of his grace” BUT the “incomparable [sur-(super) passing] of his grace”
We were bound in sin and death – and God’s grace super overflowed to us.
Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — 9 not by works, so that no-one can boast. (NIV)
As we have talked about the salvation that is available in Christ the question must arise – ‘How do I obtain this salvation?’
‘How do I escape from this spiritual deadness and bondage to sin?’
The simple answer is – only by God’s grace! We have talked [point 1.] about God’s mercy and that how he takes the initiative and shows compassion.
Mercy – we deserve punishment BUT God does not punish us.
Grace – we do not deserve God’s forgiveness and salvation BUT he gives it.
Mercy is NOT receiving what we DO deserve and Grace is receiving what we DO NOT deserve!!
Not by works!
ILLUS.: the story is told of a man who wanted to know how to become a Christian. He heard that an evangelist was visiting the areas so went rushing along to the tent where the meeting was only to discover that it was over and the workmen were dismantling the tent. In desparation he asked one of the workers what he could do to be saved. “You can’t do anything, it’s too late came the reply!” Horrified the man asked,”What do you mean? How can it too late?” The reply came, “the work has already been accomplished, there is nothing for you to do but believe it!!”
DO YOU BELIEVE IT?
What can you do to be saved?? Nothing except believe !!! and even the faith to believe is a gift from God. As someone put is [Mac Arthur] Faith is simply breathing the breathe that God supplies!!
In order for us to have salvation we must believe that we need forgiveness and that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. And we need to exercise our faith in what HE has already done.
We exercise faith everyday – faith that the water we drink is not contaminated!
Faith that the tinned food we eat will not poison us! Faith that the brakes on our car will stop us when we are faced with a red tafficlight! No matter how skeptical and self-sufficient a person mught think he is, every one exercises faith.
If we have faith in people fallable and imperfect to provide safe food and water and motor cars how much more should we exercise faith in a loving God who is perfect and infallable and who longs to save us and show his great love towards us.
We must execise our faith in Jesus Christ and be saved or bear the consequences if we do not
John 3:36 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (NIV)
To make it claer that there is no merit – that we in no ways contribute to our salvation Paul adds 9 not by works, so that no-one can boast.
No one will be able to strut about in heaven like a peacock – there will be no self display.
We do not secure the grace of God by working for it — it is the grace of God that secures us!! Any boasting on our part diminishes the grace of God.
So if salvation is not by works does that mean that we have nothing to do? Does that mean that we are on the “Salvation Train” and we can relax and put our feet up and simply enjoy the ride to heaven?
Paul must have realise that some might think that so he added v.10
Ephesians 2:10 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (NIV)
Salvation is not our work – we are the result of God’s work. His workmanship!! -His handiwork! We were DEAD and God has re-created us!
ILLUS.: If I go and buy a new car it is a wonderful piece of craftmanship – the salesman might even tell me that it is a unique car. BUT when I drive it home I see another one just like it and then another and another. It is awonderful machine but it is not unique.
If I go to Sotherby’s or Christie’s and buy a Rembrandt or I commission Stephen Owen to make me an exclusive piece of furniure these are unique- one of a kind. There is not another one like it.
There are two ways that something can be made – it can mass produced or hand crafted. Christian you are not mass produced – you are God’s masterpiece. You are unique. God knows who you are – where you are and he has created you and given you spiritual life NOT so you sit of a shelf and look pretty but so that you can work. We are the messengers of God’s Kingdom – we have a task – a commission – orders to follow – work to be done.
NOT as a means of gaining/earning salvation but as a response to having received it as a gift.
Because you are unique God has work for you to do that no one else can do.
E.G. God says “Love your neighbour” no one else can love your neighbour. He or she is your neighbour. I have a responsibilty to love my neighbour – not just the persons in the house next door – but all people who God brings into my life.
I perfer the KJV on v. 10 – it is more accurate. “For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them”
“Walk” – denotes not simply isolated acts but a character and a direction of life that is predetermined by God.
No amount of good works can produce salvation BUT many good works are produced by salvation.
John 15:8 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (NIV)
How do we bear fruit? – obey his commands!
– produce the fruit of the Spirit.
[ fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control] (NIV)
The human condition is not hopeless – yes by nature was are spiritually dead and cut-off from God. Paul has no illusions about the degradation of mankind -BUT because of God’s great love and mercy and grace he has shown his kindness to us in Jesus Christ.
As we look back over this passage and the lostness of human nature two phrases stand out “BUT GOD” …..& “BY GRACE”
By faith in Jesus we receive new live and an eternal hope – and as a response to God’s goodness we live lives that follow the pattern that he has set.
GOD’S RESPONSE TO THE HOPELESSNESS OF THE HUMAN CONDITION
– God’s love
– God’s mercy
– given spiritual life
– given a position of honour
– to show God’s grace …
glory … in Christ
– by grace (not by merit)
– through faith
– as God’s masterpiece live the way he
by obeying his word
by producing fruit of the Spirit