But God Made Us Alive

Ephesians 2:4-7

The last time I preached on Ephesians, I mentioned that it was really part one of two sermons. We come today to that second part. We left ourselves in the valley of dry bones. Hear now what Ezekiel says, in what is perhaps the best Scriptural commentary/illustration of our passage today:

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

The question in front of us today is this: can our spiritual bones live? The answer is a resounding “yes.” But only if God works. We left off last time with all people dead in trespasses and sins. We were not mostly dead, but all dead. We were therefore under the wrath of God. That is, God’s just wrath against sinners was directed against us. We did not have at that time a close relationship with God, so much as a close relationship with God’s wrath.

Then, we have the first beautiful words of verse 4 “But God.” The NIV does not follow the Greek word order here. The first two words are “But God.” In those two words we have the Gospel in a nutshell. God acted while we were dead. He didn’t leave us in that sad, sorry state. Rather, God acted.

Verse 4 then goes on to tell us of the cause of our spiritual resurrection. The cause is God’s great love and His rich mercy. In our case, God’s love and mercy trumped His wrath. It has nothing to with anything in us. It is not because we deserve mercy more than someone else that God has done this. No, it is simply because of God’s love and His mercy.

Verse 5 then tells us what God did. Verse 4 told us why. Now, verse 5 tells us what. It is in the midst of our deadness, in the midst of our helplessness that God acted. You know, God does not help those who help themselves. That proverb is one of the most misleading, false, and dangerous proverbs out there. God did not come to those who are well, but to those who are sick. More precisely, He came to those who are dead. Paul uses the same phrase in verse 5 that he used in verse 1 “dead in trespasses.” That is why these two sermons really have to be taken together. We cannot realize just what God has done for us until we realize the depth of our own sin. And, on the flip side of that coin, we cannot realize how deep and soul-damning our sin is until we realize the greatness of God’s love for us. To illustrate this point, all one has to do is to speak in a whisper for a while, AND THEN SHOUT ALOUD. If someone speaks in a normal voice all the time, then you don’t really understand anything unusual. But if you have been in a dark room for any length of time, and then come out into a bright, sunlit, snowy landscape, your eyes will tell you just how dark that room was. Here, Paul has painted for us the bleakest, darkest picture of human nature that it is possible to paint. And he did that so that he could show off just how gigantic the love of God is. Walk into the daylight, and be dazzled.

Notice this little parenthesis in the text, “By grace you have been saved.” Paul is going to talk more about that in verses 8-10. But he cannot resist anticipating what he’s going to say later. That parenthesis contains yet another statement of the Gospel in a nutshell. We are saved by grace, not by what we do, and certainly not because of some decision that we made to choose God. Yes, the Gospel is often proclaimed in such language, “Choose you this day whom you shall serve.” However, the Bible makes clear that we are dead in our sins, and cannot make a choice for God, unless God first works in us. God’s work is primary. Our will is also dead, and has to be renewed in order to trust in God. And, to a large extent, that is what this resurrection is all about.

Paul describes this resurrection with three words that he invented. Paul had to coin three words in order to describe this reality. They are used nowhere else in Greek literature except in Paul’s writings only. The three words each describe our relationship with Jesus Christ: we are 1. made alive with Christ; 2. raised with Christ; 3. seated with Christ. The fundamental truth here is that what happened to Christ happens to us when we come to faith by God’s grace. Christ was in the grave. So were we in our trespasses and sins. Christ was made alive. So are we when God’s Holy Spirit breathes into our spiritually dead bones the breath of spiritual life. Christ was raised from the dead. So are we raised from spiritual death. Christ is seated at the right hand of God almighty. So also are we seated (right now!), spiritually speaking, with Christ. The reason that there is this connection between what happened to Christ and what happens to us is that we are united to Christ, when we come to faith in Him. What happens to the bride-groom also happens to the bride. We are the bride of Christ.

Have you been made alive? Have your spiritual bones been breathed upon by the Holy Spirit? Have you been seated with Christ in the heavenly places? Do remember that if you are seated with Christ, then you are seated on thrones, just as Christ is seated on His throne. In other words, if you trust in Christ, then there is a very real sense in which you can never be more saved than you are right now. And that should be of some comfort to you. One of our biggest limitations is that we cannot know the fullness of God’s love for us. What we need to know is that it is greater, higher, broader, and deeper than we can possibly imagine. The beauty of heaven is that we will be able to comprehend how great that love is, and yet never come to the end of it. It is as if our desire for God will be infinitely more so, and shall, at the same time, be infinitely satisfied.

God’s purpose in all of this is given to us in verse 7, and it relates to what we have just been saying about heaven. God wants us, and the whole world, to know how much He loved us. When it comes to Judgment Day, then, God will show the world. We will be vindicated by God. And the world will know just how much it missed out on what God was doing. And on that day, we will finally be able to measure the love of God. In one sense, it is infinite. In another sense, it measures like a cross.

We have looked at how this applies to our own lives by asking the question of whether or not we have been made alive. But we also have to ask this question: how do we treat our neighbors, in response to this? Do we treat our fellow Christians as if they are reigning with Christ even now, seated at His right hand? Do we treat non-believers as potentially sitting with Christ in the heavenly realms? We need to show the Holy Spirit to these people. For the Holy Spirit often breathes on their spiritual bones through us. We are His tools. Ligament by ligament, bone to bone, sinew to sinew, we were made alive by God. Only by His Holy Spirit can this happen. Can these dry bones live? “But God made us alive.”