Gracious Regeneration | Ephesians 2:1-7
Topic: Gospel Passage: Ephesians 2:1–2:7
Introduction | Rewind
Good Morning! We regularly preach straight through books of the Bible. We have taken a break for five weeks to do a topical series on particular doctrines of God’s Grace. Specifically how people are saved by God the Father’s planned grace, through the work of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is called GRACE, before the beginning to after the end. We are preaching these doctrines out of Ephesians Ch1-2 with the churches in our 3 Strand Network. Last week we talked about the difference in how we typically experience God’s grace from our experience; and compared it to how we see God talking about His planned grace laid out in scripture with a hope we are moving the target from a man/us-centered view of grace/salvation to an explicitly God-centered view. Jonah 2:9 Salvation is of the Lord.
We looked at the doctrine of Election - God’s choice of people to be saved based on no foreseen merit of their own, but solely on His gracious good pleasure as sovereign king of the universe. We ended with God’s plan for grace, salvation for sinners, having an active component for Christians and the church. God’s plan of saving His elect people absolutely includes spirited evangelism, seeking and saving lost people. God tells Paul in Acts 18:9-10 to not be afraid of opposition to the Gospel and press on because God has many in the city who are His people who will respond. We also spent some time on Romans 8:29-30 seeing “And those whom he predestined he also called.” This week were are looking deeper at the Effective Gospel Call (Someone proclaiming and someone hearing the attractive message of the Gospel) and Regeneration (Being born again as we move from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive.)
Romans 10:13-15, 17 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” …… 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Preaching is important. This why we don’t do “teaching series”, “conversations”, or “debates”. We preach!
You can be motivated to change your life from speaking. You can have a new world view from speaking. You can even be converted to a cause or a mission from speaking; but you cannot be moved from spiritual death to spiritual life without the Holy Spirit inspired preaching of the word of God. If you are at a church and they spent 40 minutes talking and a Bible is not opened and scripture is not read you should run.
We preach the Gospel. In order for it be the Christian Gospel call it is essential for it to include:
The facts of the Gospel (1 Cor 15) that everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, the just wages (consequence) of sin are death, and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid the price of our sins on the Cross. But we know mere belief in the facts of the Gospel is not enough there has to be:
Invitation to Respond to the Gospel- Jesus died to save a people, and a people is always made up of individuals. You must repent, turn from your sin, to God confessing and asking forgiveness for your sin and placed your faith in Jesus as savior and follow him as Lord of your life. Passivity is not an option.
Promises of the Gospel God is good, God is merciful and gracious He will forgive sin and provide eternal life for those in Christ Jesus. We owe God. God paid, we receive. Anything less is not the gospel.
This all sounds like a great deal yet we know not everyone sees it that way. John 6:35-37 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. No hunger, no thirst, no thanks. We can preach and evangelize and yet we know we are often rejected. The call to turn from sin and turn towards Jesus and His kingdom is ignored or rebuffed. Jesus was the best at preaching and he was killed. Many people can be shown/told the gospel and not respond favorably. Someone has been shown Jesus, but still does not believe. What makes the difference.? Why do some reject and some accept. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
We want to have a God-centered view of how preaching moves people from death to life. While general calls to Christ go out to many, when Romans says those he predestined he also called that is an Effective Call. What does it mean to say being called is “effective” it means it is not merely human powered marketing message, it is as Grudem describes, a royal summons from the King of the Universe to come into His kingdom. God the Father acts, through the proclamation of the Gospel, calling people to Himself in an effective way that guarantees they will respond with real saving faith. This effective call leads to what we call Regeneration. Where God gives us spiritual life! But what does this look like and how does it work?
Ephesians 2:1-7 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Verses 1-3 | Spiritually Dead
What is our spiritual condition apart from the work of God? Imagine a shipwreck where we’re all in the water needing a rescue. What condition are we in to be rescued?
Well? Are we healthy? Are we able to see our own problems, address them, work on them? Do more of the right things and less of the wrong thing (if we can even agree on what those are) so that God is more and more please with us? That is religion. We act better, God responds and treats us better. More good works equals more grace. We see the life boat, we swim to it, we crawl in, we tell it to take us home. We do it all. God responds with grace to take us where we want to go. This was called the Pelagianism and was condemned as a heresy in the 5th century.
Weak? We cannot do much. You likely can’t get all the way to the boat but you have to choose to want to get into the boat. It won’t come and get you. You actively move toward the boat then God will respond with grace. He’s just their in the life boat and hoping you can make that first kick, then wham now I’ll really be gracious to you! But if you don’t God is helpless to help you. God helps those who help themselves. You play our part, albeit a small one and God will do the rest. Also rejected by historic orthodox Christians.
Sick? Ok, now we’re getting into territory where Bible-believing Christians disagree. In this view sin is a fatal sickness. God’s grace comes into heal and as long as you don’t actively resist God he will pick you up and carry you on a rescue plane to glory. We all have slight glimmer of life in us and while God is the one who initiates. He bring the boat to us, throws out the life ring that we catch (in choosing Jesus) and he starts hauling us in. However, while irresistible at first you can actually resist His grace once He starts working and let go of the life ring and God who once extend grace will then leave them to die. This is a caricature of the view Armenians Christians. It is a completely orthodox view of Christianity because it teaches God initiates our salvation. However at the end of the day man’s will has the final say on if you make it all the way into the boat. While Christians have distinct views on this; it comes down to is this what scripture teaches. A more reformed tradition, and the position of our church is, Gods word teaches our sin does not make us merely sick and our will is not the final say. We believe scripture teaches we are spiritually….
Dead. The raft comes by, a call for rescue is given and we do not respond, a life ring is thrown out and it bounces of our cold floating corpse. This is who we are, because of sin we are unable to respond to respond positively, move effectively, or even recognize we are dead in the water.
Original Sin, from our first parents everyone has been infected with this fatal disease, meaning, yes were known by God, yes we are made in his image and likeness, and fearfully and wonderfully made in our mother’s womb but we are also: Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. We’re back to a paradox in theology there is a doctrine in here called “Total Depravity”. Don’t miss understand, this does not mean we always to the worst or wicked thing possible. It does mean we are morally unable, on our own, to choose to love, trust, and follow God. Romans 3 is clear no seeks after God. This is because…. 1. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
Spiritually we are dead because of our rebellion and sin. Yet while dead in sin, we are still actively walking in sin like spiritual zombies (yes I know Daniel Montgomery uses this in PROOF, but I was saying it before I read it in his book :) ) following the world that is opposed to God and following satan. Here we are, we’re dead in the water, but were still swimming but we’re not swimming towards shore, or a life raft, we are swimming along with the current of the river of the world that ultimately leads to a waterfall of destruction. We look at whatever fad or idea seems to be captivated with at any given time and we march in the same direction everyone else does. We drink deeply of every lie that says God doesn’t love you and there are no consequences for our sin.
3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Because of our sin we do whatever we desire (Examples, of sexual sin, gluttony, drinking too much, pride, etc) regardless of what God's desire and will is for us. We disobey God because it is our deepest desire. We always do what we want (no I do what I need to often!) even when doing something we “need to do” it is because our deepest desire is to avoid whatever consequences NOT doing something would yield. I don’t want to clean my house, I need to because people are coming over. My deepest desire is to avoid others seeing my messy house. Bottom line when we are spiritually dead, our deepest desires are always what is our own agenda in all thing. What does our flesh want, what am I passionate about, what impacts me the most? We are slaves to what we think and feel, we take even the good things God gives us and miss uses them through abuse, addiction, greed. While dead we are still fighting not for life or joy or goodness but for ourselves and ourselves alone. This is sin and God’s word is clear who we are at our core nature put us born under the just wrath of God, like everyone else. We need to be saved and changed. Dead don’t do anything to help themselves, because they cannot do anything to help themselves.
Revelation 3:20 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
In any gospel call there is Jesus standing at the door of our hearts and knocking. We just need to let him in… except we can’t because we are dead on the floor; unable to move to the door. We are blinded by our sin unable to see the door. We are actively following the course of this world unwilling to open the door to Jesus. We are following our own desires and passions and have no desire to surrender to Jesus.
Verses 4-5 | Made Alive
BUT GOD!!! Not but you, seeing you were in a bad spot in life started looking for the best spiritual options. Not but you, weighing to difference between following the prince of the power of the air and the almighty high King of Heaven decided it would be best to be on the winning team. Not you looking at the course of the world from a sociological perspective and saying I don’t think this is the proper direction decided to jump out of the river leading to destruction. God finally says “whew I am so glad you finally came to a fuller understanding of your condition and made the right choice to turn from sin and follow me. I was worried you’d never come around and one of my people who I desired to spare from wrath would unfortunately fall into eternal torment.” NO!
We are not capable of the radical miraculous transformation necessary to take a spiritually dead person and bringing new life. Especially when that person is us! Dead people cannot save themselves because they are dead. Humanity as a whole has been highly effective at taking life and turning it into death, but not the other way around. Only God can take death and turn it into life. This is where things get good!! God intervenes, we are not condemned, He has mercy meaning we don't get the punishment we deserve.
John 3:1-3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Death needs rebirth! This is also translated as born from above. It is a different birth, a greater birth into a new family where you are brothers and sisters with Christ (More on that next week) But birth while active and clearly shows a movement is not directed or decided by the one being born, it is always a function of the one giving life. You can claim as much credit for your rebirth as you can for your original birth. Go ahead talk about how involved you were process. Your involvement was in that moment was decidedly outside of your ability to direct anything, you were completely reliant on forces outside of yourself.
Ezekiel 36:25-27 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
With a stone heart the “door” Jesus is knocking on is impenetrable forever shut as one solid piece of stone. While Jesus knocks on the door calling to us within for life the Holy Spirit comes along and says let’s tear down this house and build another one. With this new heart Holy Spirit comes in though the chimney, opens the door to Jesus and they come in and make this person alive. This is how a call becomes effective because the word of God preach in the gospel has the same power and force that Jesus spoke with when he called his friend Lazarus dead, buried, rotting, for days out of sealed tomb and made him alive!
John 11:43-44 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
The word of God raises people from the Dead!! God’s word and regeneration work together so closely it is nearly imperceptible for us to see which one precedes the other. While Lazarus got up and began walking around that wasn’t what made him alive. He was able to respond to Jesus call to “come out” because he was made alive! Regeneration is a supernatural act of God the Holy Spirit. Try going to the cemetery on 88th and preach the best sermon you got. No one is coming out of those tombs based on human eloquence, or passion, or sincerity. It has to be a miracle of God. John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
While there is bad news about our spiritual condition, apart from God’s work and words like death and wrath define us. There is amazingly good news that God intervenes on our behalf. We see God’s character and disposition towards His people. God is rich in mercy, meaning we don’t get the wrath we deserve, why because he loves us! God loves us even as sinners now, not some future better version of ourselves (Rom 5:8) so much that Jesus Christ died in our place so we wouldn't have to suffer the punishment of our sin, He did! God makes us alive!
Verses 6-7 | Beyond This Life
More than just paying for our sin he is also gracious (giving us more than we ever deserve) restoring our relationship with Him now and promising us an eternity spent with Him in Heaven. He doesn’t merely make us alive so we can then decide to swim to the rescue boat or hold on to the life ring. He does so much more! He says He will raise us up with Christ “in the heavenly places”. This is more than just plucking us out of the icy water of a shipwreck he’s taking us all the way to the tropical island so that he can show us “the immeasurable riches of his grace to us.” Think about that for a moment, does that seem domineering and controlling of God to step in a overrule our desire for ourselves that he knows is leading to our destruction and call us effectively to him? God’s gracious call has power to save, God’s grace has power to bring life.
Irresistible Grace There is power in the call of God to save sinners. We should not see the power of God’s grace as over bearing, manipulative, or coercing us into something undesirable. It is an attractive power that by its very nature draws people made alive to see it, to be drawn too it. The power of God’s grace is OVERWHELMING in that if he wants you to be alive you will not be able to resist it any more than you were able to resist being born into this world. It is for our joy, for Him to bless us despite any resistance on our part to remain dead in the water of our sin. God moves us from death to life.
Col 1:13-14 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins
I praise God his grace and goodness to me is so overpowering and irresistible it picks me up out of the water of darkness and carries me into a new kingdom despite how broken and dead I was. On our own we are dead, but Jesus is alive and God makes us alive in Him. Trust Jesus!