May 6, 2018

“Dead or Alive?” 5-6-18

Ephesians 2:1-10
May 6, 2018

The words of Paul that we are looking at this morning paint a specifically Christian view of humanity.
Paul was writing to the Christians who were living in Ephesus.  In that church there were both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.  It was his task to help them to understand that now their primary identities were as Christians regardless of what they had been.
In the process, as the letter would continue, he had to lay out for them how Christians were to behave.  In other words he would paint a verbal picture for them of what a Christine life should look like.
But first he wanted to tell them what they had been from God’s perspective.  They had been dead; there was no spiritual life in them.  And if they had continued on in that living death their eventual physical death would be eternal.
It was their sins that had killed them.  Those sins were a result of their following the ruler of the power of the air, which is described as being a spirit.
The idea of a spirit ruling or being in the atmosphere around us came from Persian Zoroastrianism. When that idea comes to Jews, they demonized it, so that Satan began to be seen as the ever present evil force all around us.   
Now at this point, I think Paul assumed that the Jewish Christians would be thinking that Paul was writing specifically about the Gentile Christians who had been idol worshipers and whose lives had not been constrained by the Commandments of God revealed through Moses.
And I think that is why in verse 3 Paul wrote: “All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.”
So, we were dead, or living in the realm of death, until God in his loving mercy, sent Jesus to get us out and bring us to real life.  Paul wrote that God raised us up with Jesus and gave us a seat in heaven. 
Now, if Christians were raised up from death with Jesus as he rose from the dead, I think we have written between the lines of this passage the reason why Jesus died.  He died to invade the realm of death that had domain over us and bring us out with Him when he rose from the dead. 
And that is why we have this sacrament.  We celebrate the death of Jesus because by his death, he joined us in our state of living death, or spiritual death, and brought us out with him when he rose.  God loves you so much that he sent his son into death to bring you to life.
And He will, in the ages to come, bestow on you the riches of his grace, both in this life and in the life to come.
But as we celebrate the death of Jesus and our liberation from eternal spiritual death, there are two more points that Paul makes in this passage that are important for us to think about. 
First of all, It was Christ who saved us, not we ourselves.  Nothing we could have done would have made us deserving of our salvation.  We were spiritually dead.  Over the years I have served as Pastor, I have seen a lot of dead people.  Sometimes they were recently dead; sometimes they were all prettied up by the funeral directors and ready to be put in the ground.  They all had one thing in common, they were powerless.  Dead people cannot do anything. 
And so it is with those who are spiritually dead, they can do nothing to earn the favor of God.
Our salvation is a gift from God who sent His Son Jesus to do the work of dying and rising and bringing us to life with Him.
We receive this gift through our faith in Jesus.  That faith is also a gift to us through the Holy Spirit.
But now that we are spiritually alive, we have the power of the living to do things for God and to please God.
In fact, as Paul writes, we have been recreated in Christ, for Good works, which God has prepared to be our way of life.
As we celebrate the death of Jesus in this meal, we are also celebrating the fact that because of his death, we are really, truly, spiritually alive.  We now have the power to do good for God, to please God as we live in the midst of the dead and dying, as we live in the atmosphere in which evil and death abound. We are alive to please God and to be helpful to those who are alive, and those who are still spiritually dead.  Doing such good things is to be our way of life.

Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906