by Doyle D. Dewberry
Text -- Ephesians 2:1-10
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained (i.e., prepared) that we should walk in them.
The main theme of this passage which includes man's spiritual inability is not the main import of the text. The inability of man is certainly in it, but the emphasis is God's ability to overcome man's inability. Therefore it is not a text only of what man cannot do, but what God can do in saving a man who cannot save himself.
EXAMPLES IN OTHER TEXTS:
Even though Jesus said, Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden" and All that the Father giveth me shall come to me,", Jesus also said, No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me DRAW HIM. (John 6:44), and the companion verse, No man can come unto me, except it were GIVEN UNTO HIM OF MY FATHER. (John 6:45). These verses severely limit man's coming to Christ, but they do not limit the Father since he draws man and gives him the power to come.
What did Jesus come into the world to do? Some say to die, but it is more than that. His main purpose in coming to earth as the Savior was to save his people from their sins. (Matt 1:21). This passage determines that which his death on the cross accomplished. It was not merely to die for everyone in general, and no one in particular, but for HIS PEOPLE, for HIS SHEEP. (John 10). We thus establish salvation as God-centered rather than man-centered. And like Paul can say, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.
This we propose to show in this message that God's people are His workmanship and that man's spiritual inability was not a deterrent to God in saving His people from their sins.
PAUL'S (3) FOLD EVIDENCE OF GOD'S WORKMANSHIP IN SALVATION THOUGH MAN SUFFERS FROM SPIRITUAL INABILITY, UNABLE TO SAVE HIMSELF:
I - GOD CAN QUICKEN THE DEAD: (2:1)
Paul begins this chapter with "And you, hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." The first two words are extremely important. The "And" is a connective which points back to chapter one for some sort of explanation. The theme of chapter one has to do with God who has blessed us with "ALL" SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS IN CHRIST JESUS. We need look no further for others, as these given are all, and they are sufficient. What are these spiritual blessings? We were chosen in him before the foundation of the world; we were predestinated unto the adoption of children; we were made accepted in the beloved; we have redemption and forgiveness through his blood; we have had the mystery of God's will revealed to us; we have obtained an inheritance being predestinated; we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise; we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies since we are in Him, Christ having been raised from the dead.
We believe that this is what Paul had in mind when he began with "And you". Beginning at verse 19, Paul mentions the "exceeding greatness" of God's power to usward who believe. This is the extent of God's might in "quickening" the one suffering from spiritual inability. This same power was displayed in the raising of Christ from the dead and setting him at His own right hand in the heavenlies. When Paul continues with "And you", he is comparing the quickening of the resurrection of Christ to the quickening of His people in salvation, for as we are told in 2:5, Even when we were dead in sins, (he) hath quickened us TOGETHER WITH CHRIST..
You do not hear too much today about this spiritual inability, man being dead in sins. You hear a great deal about the "lost and dying world", but Paul informs us man is dead. In discussing this fact with some pastors and even seminary professors you will find a great deal of denial. There was an associational leader of one of our Baptist groups that answered, "Well, yes, but how dead is he?" The answer is obvious, he is as dead as the Lord Jesus when He was placed in the tomb. I certainly hope we are not burying people who are partially dead!
However, the great truth here taught is that God raises the physically dead as well as the spiritually dead. Jesus said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that HEARETH my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE. (John 5:24). It would not seem appropriate to give this a meaning involving man's work. The one referred to here is a man dead in trespasses and sin, and he had to be given ears of hearing before he could hear. This is a divine work, the results of which is that he is passed from death unto life."
Jesus next stated, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and NOW IS, when the DEAD SHALL HEAR THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD: and they that hear shall live. (John 5:25). Our best understanding of this passage is the raising of the physically dead, and the "now is" referring to the spiritually dead. The great truth is, God is not frustrated with man's spiritual inability as He can raise the dead, both the physically as well as the spiritually dead. In that the Son quickeneth whom He will, He is able to call out to the dead as He did Lazarus, Lazarus, "Come Forth". He is the resurrection and the life, and when He calls we hear. Inside that tomb Lazarus was quickened, made alive, and so we, before we can hear. Wonder not that Paul said, We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.
II - GOD HAS CONQUERED OUR THREE DEADLY ENEMIES: (V 2-3)
(A) MAN WALKS ACCORDING TO COURSE OF THIS WORLD: V 2A
This is literally, the "age" of this world-system (kosmos). The word "age" is same word "ages" found in verse 7. It has to do with time, and "kosmos" denotes the manner or behavior at a particular time of a certain world. This world has a great control over its inhabitants, and does not realize it is warring against God and His word. When the unsaved of this world agrees a thing is correct, they feel justified in doing it. The thing may be legal for man to do as far as the world is concerned, but it is not for God's people to do it. Our courts make it a crime to commit murder in the crib, but condone murder in the womb. Thus we say it is permissible, even though it is against God's law. They say it is no sin where women change "the natural use into that which is against nature; where men leaving the natural use of the woman, burn in their lust one toward another, men with men, working that which is unseemly." (Rom 1:26-27). Thus the world says "I see nothing wrong with it", even though it is against God's law. Our Lord said, Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! (Matt 18:7).
James said that the friendship of this world (kosmos) is enmity against God, and he that is a friend of the world is an enemy with God. (James 4:4). John said, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15:16).
Scripture supports more than one world-system. There is the world of the elect and the non-elect. There is a world that God loves, and there is a world which He hates. When Peter in the second chapter of his second epistle wrote of Noah and the world that then was, he called it the old world and the world of the ungodly. Noah was part of it, but he found grace in the sight of the Lord. God placed him in the ark and shut him in while he destroyed that world, but saved Noah and his family. They were another world, the world of the Godly. Once he was in the ark he was safe and secure. There was no opening for him to fall out. He was in the ark, not on it. He may fall down on the deck inside the ark, but he could not fall out of it.
The Lord Jesus is our Ark. God placed us in Him and shut us in. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and thus are eternally secure in Christ. Like Noah we are taken out of the ungodly world, and by His grace, are placed in the world of His beloved, because we are in Christ. For one who is in Christ, to lose his salvation would mean that Jesus would have to fall out of heaven because we are in Him. For whosoever is born of God overcometh the world, (kosmos) and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (1 John 5.4). It is not impossible for God to regenerate one suffering spiritual inability. They are simply born again (from above), given faith to believe, and obey the effectual call of God. (Acts 2:39).
I attended a Baptist Seminary where the professors were more Dispensational than theological. They were more interested in the "Kings of the East, and the Kings of the North" than they were of the King seated at the right hand of the Father" They produced students who would say such things as "Jesus is not my King -- yet, He will be when He returns." One of my professors required a written sermon on any subject we chose. I opted to write on the New Birth, and one of my points was "The New Birth precedes Faith." Well, he called me in after reading this and wanted to know how I arrived at that point. I told him I had supported it with a passage of scripture - John 1:11-13. There we are told those who received Christ were not born of the will of man, but of God. Of his own will begat He us. James 1:18. He didn't have much to say about it, but gave me an "A" on the paper. It shows, however, how man-centered men are in our higher places of learning.
(B) GOD HAS DEFEATED THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD - THE DEVIL V 2B
ye walked .. according to the prince of the power (authority) of the air, the spirit that now worketh in (effectually) the children of disobedience. 2:2B
The prince of the authority of the air may refer to Satan's rule over unseen demons. We only know of their presence when they possess a person. He is also the spirit who effectually "worketh in" the children of disobedience. Those who are not in Christ are under the control of the Devil, even as he is over the demons. The words "worketh in" (from the Greek word "energew") is the same word used of God's "effectually working in" those He calls. (1 Thess 2:13). It is also used in Phil. 2:13, "For it is God who 'worketh in' you both to will and to do of his good pleasure". The devil has a kingdom of darkness and unsaved man is a citizen of it. His spirit works in (effectually) the children of disobedience.
Paul tells that Satan has ministers who are ministers of righteousness. This can only be self-righteousness. They advocate doing good when there is none that doeth good. These satanic ministers preach righteousness when there is none righteous, no not one. They are false apostles who transform themselves into apostles of Christ, and we are told, And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Cor 11:14-15). Satan tells you, "you are good enough as you are"; God tells us "All our righteousness is as filthy rags".
Jesus spoke some of his harshest words against those religious people who in reality were children of the devil. The Pharisees claimed, Abraham is our father. Jesus said: Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44)
The message of the devil's demise is given in the garden after he had done his infamous deeds to bring about the fall of man. He was told, ..I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it (i.e., He) shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Gen 3:15) Galatians speaks of Christ being made of a woman in that he was born of a virgin; the bruising of his heel speaks of his suffering and death on the cross, and the bruising of Satan's head as destroying his power and authority.
Paul said of those Christians at Rome, And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. (Rom 16:20). In Hebrews we are told, that he (i.e., Jesus) through death might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. (Heb 2:14). John also tells us, The Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8).
We are told in the book of Revelation that the devil will be cast into the lake of fire, and will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And those he deceived will be judged and cast there with him. (Rev 20:10-14)
(C) MAN LIVES ONLY TO THE LUSTS AND DESIRES OF THE FLESH V3
The flesh does not only mean the visible part of the body, but the whole sensuous, corrupt, depraved nature of man. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21). And Paul said, For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing... (Rom 7:18).
Man is either controlled by the flesh or the Spirit of God. Jesus told Nicodemus, That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6). Certainly man's inability is evident in this charge, but through the new birth, man is given the Holy Spirit whereby he is able to control the power of the flesh. It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63).
The flesh is opposed to God, and God is opposed to those in the flesh. Paul said, So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:8). And John said, For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. 1 John 2:16-17.
What has God done to put down the flesh. When one is born from above he is said to be born of the Spirit. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6). He becomes spiritual man and ceases to be merely natural (literally, soulish man), understanding spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14) Listen to these passages, But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Rom 8:9) And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and the lusts. (Gal 5:24). Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. (Gal 5:16).
Before the new birth we are described as the old man, and our old man is crucified with him. (Rom 6:6). After the new birth, we are described as the new man. Here is what Paul said, That ye (have) put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye (have) put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Eph 4:22-24).
While unregenerate man suffers under the control of these enemies, the scriptures reveal how God has overcome them. When in Christ, we have the been given the Holy Spirit, being born from above, being made aware of all, and given the means whereby we can walk under the Spirit's control.
III - GOD IMPARTS SAVING FAITH BY HIS GRACE: (V 8-9)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. (2:8-9).
Without God's gracious gift of faith man cannot exercise saving faith. There is a human faith, but salvation demands saving faith. Being the gift of God, it is not the condition of salvation, grace is the condition, faith is the means God uses to save His people. Man is saved BY grace THROUGH faith. Paul said it is of faith that it might be by grace. (Rom 4:16).
What is faith? Faith is the substance and evidence given to a man which reveals to him that which he needs to believe. In Hebrews 11:1-6 we are told what comprises faith. It is the substance (reality) concerning things hoped for, and it is the evidence (conviction) of things not seen (v 1). It is that which man, like the elders of old, receives (v 2). By this faith we understand (v 3). How did Abel know to offer the right offering to God, by the faith given to him (v 4). Enoch was translated by faith, and though it was a gift, it pleased God (v 5). Only saving faith pleases God; it is impossible with human faith (v 6), and consider these verses reveal faith as the gift of God:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained (or received) a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Heb 11:1-6).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, FAITH.. (Gal 5:22).
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead (Col 2:12)
But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you (John 10:26).
But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them (John 12:37-40).
And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48).
And when he (i.e., Apollos) was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace (Acts 18:27).
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake (Phil 1:29).
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (1 Thess 2:13).
How did we get from dead in trespasses and sins to being seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus? God, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:5-6). Paul tells us man is either in Adam or in Christ. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as IN ADAM all die, even so IN CHRIST shall all be made alive. (1 Cor 15:21-22).
The scriptures also tell us we were in Adam when he fell in the garden. We participated in his sin, and that which befell Adam also befell us. Paul says, Therefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that (or literally, in whom) all have sinned (Rom 5:1). Some say he was our seminal head, that our seed was in him. Adam represented all mankind; when he fell, we fell. Adam's sin was imputed to us exactly as Christ's death and payment for our sin was imputed to us. So the same factor is true in Christ. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. (1 Cor 15:45). We, also, were in Christ when He died, and thus participated in His death, burial, and resurrection. Paul tells us:
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin (Rom 6:3-6).
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Col 2:12-13).
Paul tells us in Romans 8 that we are already glorified in Christ. If we are in Him, then all things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he did also predestinate.. and whom he did predestinate, he called, and whom he called he justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified. When Jesus went to the cross, I went to the cross since I am in Him. When He was crucified, I was crucified. When He died, I also died, and when he was buried, I was buried, and he was raised from the dead, I was raised from the dead, and when He ascended into heaven, I ascended into heaven, and where He is seated at the right hand of the Father, I am seated there in Him. What greater evidence can be shown that we are God's workmanship? What can man do in light of his inability? Jesus said, Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. This tells me that we can only come to Christ if we have a concern for our own salvation. For if we have a concern, it is from the Lord. He controls the means of our salvation, and unless He quickens and we begin to see our need, we will do nothing. The reprobate could care less. If you are laboring and are heavy laden over sin, it is only God who maketh thee to be so.
Jesus said, He that HEARETH my word, and BELIEVETH on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE. (John 5:24). If you hear His word (not the preachers), and believe, receiving the gift of faith, you have this promise; everlasting life and no condemnation, but a passing from death unto life.
Let us select three people from the gospels who had come to Jesus. One was a leper; one was a woman with an incurable disease; the other a blind man. They had come to Jesus and had respect to His Lordship. They called him Lord. They knew He had the power to heal them if He willed. They were all healed. There was one important thing they all had. THEY HAD A NEED!
Like the leper, All sinners have a need. Man cannot help them. Doctors cannot help them. Psychiatrists cannot help them. They cannot help themselves. Only Jesus can help them. Man's sin, like the woman, was incurable. She had been to many doctors who could not help her. Who can open our blind eyes but Jesus? Do you have a need. Do you know you have a need? Then come to Jesus, He has shown you your need.
Doyle Dewberry, formerly of Alameda, California, is a retired Pastor and author of Sovereign Grace Baptist Proclaimer, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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