059 - God's Immeasurable Grace [B]
God’s Immeasurable Grace
Ephesians Series #59
February 2, 2020
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we are so thankful for Your Word that gives us the good news that we cannot save ourselves, but You have provided salvation for us. It is not by anything that we have done. It’s not by our works, our righteousness, our ritual, not by doing good or thinking good thoughts. It is by Your grace through faith. You’ve given us everything, and all we have to do is believe it, to trust in You, and we have eternal life.
“Father, as we go through this passage today that is central to understanding this, help us to understand some new things about it to get a greater appreciation of the surpassing grace that has been given to us.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Today we’re looking at in Ephesians 2:7–9. The core idea here is God’s immeasurable grace: the surpassing wealth of God’s grace; “the exceeding riches of His grace” as it’s translated in the New King James Version.
Ephesians 2:7, “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
This verse is significant because it brings to a conclusion part of this opening section. Ephesians 2:1–10 is one section, but verses 1 through 7 is the long sentence that is here. And it brings this to conclusion: it tells us why God has done this—that He has a purpose—and that He will bring that purpose to a conclusion.
The first Greek word is HINA, which introduces a purpose clause or sometimes a result clause. When God is the One who is performing it, then we know that He will bring that to completion.
When he is speaking here, “… that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace toward us in Christ Jesus,” we have to understand, he’s not talking about individuals. He’s talking about us in Christ; He’s talking about something corporate.
This will become significant when we get to Ephesians 2:10, because you will often hear people say that God will bring to conclusion that which He has intended. Therefore, if you claim to be a believer in Christ, then you will have good works, and that will demonstrate that you are truly saved. And if you don’t have those good works, then you probably aren’t saved. That comes under the title of “Lordship Salvation” today, but it’s been part of the works-oriented gospel for many years.
Part of the (interpretive) failure in this passage is not distinguishing the pronouns and to understand that Paul is talking about the corporate blessings that we have in Christ. That’s the focus here: it’s what God has intended for the Body of Christ; and therefore, He will bring that to conclusion for the Body of Christ. He is not talking about individual salvation in this context.
This is expressing the purpose for the actions that God has taken in Ephesians 2:4–6. That’s really the centerpiece of this sentence. It is one of those odd sentences that starts off with a concessive clause in Ephesians 2:1. The King James Version tried to resolve this by saying “though you were dead in your trespasses and sins, He made you alive,” and adds that phrase, usually in italics in the first verse, borrowing it from Ephesians 2:5 in order for it to make a little more sense to an English reader.
It’s difficult when you start off with the dependent clause at the beginning of a long sentence, because you have to wait until Ephesians 2:4 to understand who the subject is and what we’re talking about. I always had trouble with this when I was taking German in high school because in German the verb goes at the end of the sentence, so you have to go all the way through the sentence before you find out where the action is. If you’re an English speaker, that seems like it’s delayed. Of course, Germans wouldn’t think of it that way.
That’s what makes it a little difficult here. In Ephesians 2:4 we see the subject of this long sentence is God and what God has done for us. As we studied so much over the last month or so, He’s done three things which we developed in detail:
He made us alive together with Christ
1. He raised us up together
2. He made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
These three things: that He made us alive, He raised us, and He seated us in Christ are now given the purpose in Ephesians 2:7:
He did this for the purpose—or “in order that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
He has done this in order to show something. The next word that you find in the Greek text is the verb ENDEIKNUMI, which indicates more than what it seems on the surface. In terms of a part of speech, it’s an aorist tense, which indicates it’s a past action.
But it has to be understood in the sense of the mood that it’s associated with—a subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood has the idea of potentiality except when it’s in a HINA clause, which is what we have here: the purpose clause “that.” That’s the idiom or the way in which the Greek language expresses purpose or result.
I point these things out because we have many who listen online who know Greek and Hebrew and are pastors and study along in order to get information; it’s fascinating. Next week at our congregational meeting, Brice will give everybody a report. They’ve done a lot of granular analytics on the website, and this information goes out all over the world. Truly there are all indications we have over two million transcript downloads a year, in over 200 countries!
I believe that a lot of those, not all of them, but a lot of those are Bible teachers and pastors who know English and get this information because they’re in countries where they don’t have access to commentaries. They don’t have access to the scholarly tools that we have access to here in the US, so it’s important to give a little extra information sometimes.
It may go by some of you—but that’s okay; we all learn these things—that this is just expressing what God’s purpose is that He might demonstrate this. But it’s not just giving a show—it’s not “God’s show and tell hour.” Often ENDEIKNUMI is used in a legal context of presenting evidence.
When we hear that within the context of our understanding of God’s plan and purposes for mankind, we understand that often, to relate to the angelic conflict—when Satan rebelled against God, and God gave the angels grace in time for them to decide whether they would follow Satan and his fall or whether they would remain loyal to God—initiated a rebellion and conflict in eternity past with the angels. And that we infer from a lot of the language that’s in the Scripture that there must have been some sort of trial.
Maybe not the kind of trial that you and I are used to, but there was some sort of trial. We know this because in Matthew 25:43 we’re told that the Lake of Fire was prepared for Satan and his angels. That’s their condemnation; that’s their punishment. So, there would have been a time for them to decide whether they would be loyal to God or not, but they’re not there yet, which indicates there has been some sort of delay.
It is also inferred that that delay is the result of a challenge to God’s goodness, to God’s righteousness. Something along the lines of, “is it really fair to send Your creatures to the Lake of Fire?” It may be something even more detailed, “is it fair that on the basis of just these seemingly innocent sins, such as eating a piece of fruit, that got You would send people to an eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire?”
This is often brought up by people who doubt the fact that God in His love would send people to the Lake of Fire for all eternity. That is because we have a very shallow view of sin—most people do.
When we look at these sins:
- Satan’s original sin that He wanted to be worshiped like God, his arrogance, his hubris, and
- the original sin of Adam, which is eating a piece of fruit in disobedience to God,
we must recognize that all the horrors that God’s creatures experience are the result of those two decisions.
All of the horrors in human history: the famines, the diseases, the pestilence, the wars, the violence, the hatred, the anger, all of the horrible things that you can think of, the crime, the criminality, all of this is traced back to simply eating a piece of fruit in human history. So, a punishment in the nature of the Lake of Fire is completely compatible with the crime, and a lot of people just doubt that, but they have a very shallow view of sin.
In the context of human history, there is evidence in the Scriptures that it’s like a trial. In a trial there is evidence, and the evidence is related to the challenge: how can a loving God send His creatures to a Lake of Fire? This isn’t very kind; this isn’t very gracious. So, in history God is demonstrating His love, His grace, His goodness to creatures who don’t deserve it.
We often define grace as God’s unmerited favor, and in many passages that’s adequate, but that’s not adequate here, because Ephesians 2:1 starts off with the indictment of the human race that says that we were
“… dead in trespasses and sins—so we’re born spiritually dead—in which you once walked—or lived your life—according to the course of this world, according to Satan the prince and power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lust of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh in the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
Grace in this passage isn’t simply God’s unmerited favor or His undeserved kindness. It is His unmerited favor and undeserved kindness to those who deserve eternal punishment, to those who deserve God’s wrath, to those who have rebelled against Him.
It expands our concept of grace from simply God doing something that we really didn’t deserve, to doing something for us when we deserve the exact opposite. So, it’s a much richer concept of grace in this particular passage. He is demonstrating His grace within this context of a challenge, and it goes far beyond anything that we could ever imagine.
The passage goes on to say that the demonstration of His grace is for the ages to come. This also raises a question as to just exactly when this is.
The word that is translated “ages” is a plural in the Greek—AION—which refers to a plurality of ages, but it is not specific as to when that is. In other places in Ephesians, it talks about the present age, it talks about the future age, and here it is simply this phrase “the ages to come.” Some want to take this as eternity, but in light of its use elsewhere in Ephesians, it is talking about the ages. We make a distinction between dispensations and ages.
Dispensations are periods of time related to how God manages or administers human history. One of the aspects of identifying a dispensation is there is new revelation that comes from God. Part of that new revelation includes new responsibilities for the human race, new expectations for the human race, and are for a portion of the human race. This is seen in the different dispensations earlier in the Old Testament related to the giving of covenants.
The original creation covenant outlines man’s responsibilities in the Garden of Eden before their sin, and part of that responsibility was not to eat from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: you will surely die.
Once they ate from that fruit, new revelation was given in Genesis 3, because the situation has changed. God gives new information, new responsibilities, which would include sacrifices and God’s promise of future redemption given in Genesis 3:15 that this would come from the seed of the woman, who would crush the seed of the serpent.
There is another problem because man is rebellious and the thoughts of his heart are evil continually. According to Genesis 6 there’s an angelic invasion to destroy the DNA of the human race. The sons of God, which are angels, come down and take wives from man and create a hybrid race.
The only ones who are saved are Noah and his children and their wives—eight people who survive through the ark. Immediately when they come off the ark, God gives new revelation. It’s in the form of a covenant, with new information, new requirements, and new responsibilities.
Again, there’s failure at the Tower of Babel, and God gives new information, but this time to Abraham: that He is going to carry out His promise to defeat Satan and His purposes through the seed of the woman, but this descent will now go through Abraham and his seed, his descendants.
The introduction of a new dispensation creates a new age. There is an age prior to that—the Age of the Gentiles—because God is dealing with the entire human race. Now He’s only going to deal with one portion of the human race: that is Abraham and his descendants.
From that point to the Cross, you have the Age of Israel, but there are two different periods of time here. There’s the Age of the Patriarchs until the giving of the Law, and then new revelation on Mount Sinai, which you have until the coming of Christ.
The coming of Christ is new revelation, new pronouncement that they are to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The offer of the kingdom. We’re, still in the Age of Israel, but in the tail-end of the dispensation, which ends with the Cross.
The next dispensation is also an age which is the current Church Age. We are living in the Church Age, which is also a dispensation; they run concurrently.
This letter—this epistle to the Ephesians, is written early in that Church Age. He didn’t know it at the time. Paul expected the Lord to return during his lifetime, but that was some 1900 years ago.
We now know that when Paul wrote this, that it’s at the very, very, very beginning of this age. So when it talks about the ages to come, the Church Age should be included in that. We are trophies of God’s grace here and now.
It also relates to the next dispensation, which is the tail-end of the Age of Israel, God’s time plan for Israel, the 7-year Tribulation, then into the thousand-year Millennium, and then into eternity with the new heavens and the new earth.
Throughout these future ages, we are trophies of God’s grace because there is something unique and distinctive about Church Age believers. It will not be true of Tribulation believers, it will not be true of Millennial saints: they each have different privileges and provisions. But we are distinct because of our position in Christ: that we have been “made alive together in Christ.”
In the Old Testament they were made alive—they were regenerate—but not in Christ. We are regenerate and made alive together in Christ: we are raised together and seated together in Christ.
This is distinctive! This makes us a very special people to God: distinct from Israel, distinct from Tribulation saints, distinct from Millennial saints. We alone are those who are in Christ with these special privileges. We are trophies of grace beyond any others who are saved and beneficiaries of God’s grace, and this will go through the ages to come. We are on display.
Another aspect of this historically that would’ve applied to the Ephesians because they understood this, is that in the ancient world a temple was a place where the wealth of the city was kept. The banks were in the temple. There was a belief that the god or goddesses would protect that wealth.
Here we also have the phrase “wealth of God’s grace,” which relates to the idea of being put on display because if a Caesar, a king, a ruler or a general conquered an enemy, then the trophies that were taken from that conquest would be housed like a museum in the local temple.
Ephesus had one of the most renowned temples in the ancient world, the temple to Artemis of the Ephesians, so they would understand what this meant to take trophies and to put them on display in the temple. God is putting us on display, as it were in the heavenly temple for all of the ages to come. We are an object lesson of God’s grace, of His goodness to those who do not deserve it at all—in fact, to those who deserve just the opposite.
“… in the ages to come, that He might show the exceeding riches …” The Greek is HUPERBALLO, where we get the term hyperbolic, which in English means to go above and beyond telling what actually happened, somebody who exaggerates and tells more of a situation and makes it sound much greater grander than something else. HUPERBALLO has that idea of exceeding something, surpassing, going beyond.
Interestingly, HUPERBALLO is used three other times in Ephesians:
- Ephesians 1:19 talks about the exceeding greatness, the surpassing greatness of God’s power. His power is His omnipotence. It is infinite. It is beyond our comprehension to understand it. It breaks all of the borders; it breaks all of the limitations. It is surpassing. It’s beyond anything that we can imagine.
- Ephesians 3:19 applies it to the love of Christ that is beyond any limitations or boundaries that we have; it is infinite.
- Bracketed by those two passages, Ephesians 2:7 it talks about the surpassing greatness of God’s wealth toward us.
The word that is translated “riches” here is one that we saw earlier in Ephesians 1:7, and because it is in the singular, it should be translated as a singular. “Wealth” is a better term than “riches,” which implies multiple bank accounts or something of that nature. This is all coming from the wealth of God, from all that He has, which is more than we can ever, ever imagine.
I keep saying that because at the end of this section, Ephesians 3:20, Paul prays, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly …” Our words fail at that point to describe the infinite wealth of God.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.”
Often, I hear believers talk about the fact that when the Judgment Seat of Christ comes, “I am not sure I’m going to get very much. I may end up down in the ghetto or in the borderlands somewhere.” If you’re walking by the Lord, what we’re going to see is far beyond anything that we expect, anything that we would anticipate. He wants to shower us with His grace and reward us abundantly even though we think that maybe we didn’t do so well.
I was reading through James the other day, and as many times as I have taught James and read through this passage, it struck me anew that there was something here that I had not quite caught before.
James 2 is the first example given of hearing the Word and not applying the Word. Hearing and doing is a famous pair of words in James. “Hearing” really means listening to the Word, learning the Word; and “doing” is applying the Word.
There is a situation there where you have some wealthy people coming in, wearing all of their fine garments and jewelry, and the ushers or others in the congregation will give favoritism to them and ignore those who don’t have so much. James’ argument here is to call them to obedience.
James 2:12, “So speak and so do—In other words, speak and apply—as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.” That’s the standard: God’s Word; we will all be evaluated at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
James 2:13, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy …” Think about that. … “Judgment will be without mercy to those who show no mercy, but ‘Mercy triumphs over judgment.’ ”
In other words, if you’re a growing believer and you’re dealing with people in grace orientation and in mercy, then that’s going to be the standard God uses when He provides rewards. But if you are one that has been very harsh and negative, and you have grown any in your spiritual life and there is no evidence of that in the way you treat people, then that might be the standard by which you’re judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
If you are being evaluated, and you think, “You know, I go to Bible class, and I study. I just try to walk with the Lord, and I just don’t think they’re going to be very many rewards.” If you are a person who is growing, God’s grace will be more than abundant in your life.
But if not, 1 Corinthians 3 says, as a result of applying God’s principle of judgment, you just won’t have any reward. It’s not that you’re going to get negative things happen to you. You’re just not going to receive the rewards that you would have.
That all comes back to God. God desires to give us so much beyond anything that we can ask or think. And He asks so little of us: just to trust Him, just to walk with Him, and that’s it. This is the idea here, that in the ages to come He wants to display us as evidences of the immeasurable wealth—the surpassing wealth—of His grace.
Three final prepositional phrases: “In His kindness, “toward us,” and “in Christ Jesus.”
“Kindness” is an interesting word in terms of its etymology, background, and usage. The Greek CHRESTOTES is usually translated as “kindness” or “goodness.” It is found some 26 times in the Septuagint. Interestingly, in the Septuagint it always translates the same Hebrew word group, which is tov, tovah or some form of that, which is usually translated “good.”
It’s the word you run into at the beginning of the Bible. In Genesis 1 God will perform certain acts of creation. For example, on day one, He separates the light from the darkness; He says, “It’s good (Tov)”. Some people bring a moral idea to that. There’s no moral idea in “good,” at least at that point. At the end of the second day God says, “It’s good,” third day, “It’s good,” all the way to the end, and then He says, “It’s very good.”
The idea there is not that it is righteous. Some people will say, “Oh, Satan couldn’t have fallen yet because look, everything is good,” and they infer morality there. The problem is you always have to pay attention to word usage to get your meanings.
In the next use of “tov,” the word “good,” God has created Adam, He has not yet created the woman. The reason God is going to create the woman is because He says, “It’s not good—it’s not tov—for man to be alone.”
If you’re going to import morality—righteousness—into your meaning of “good” in Genesis 1, it has to be there in Genesis 2. Now you have a problem, because now you’re saying it’s inherently unrighteous or immoral for a man to be alone.
A better solution is that it is according to God’s plan, so God has a blueprint, and like any builder He breaks it down into 6 stages, and at the end of Stage 1 He says, “It’s good: it’s according to plan.” Then at the end of Stage 2 He says, “It’s good; it’s according to plan.” When He gets to the end of the 6th day and says, “It’s very good.” He is saying, “It’s all done; everything is according to plan.”
When He gets to Adam on the 6th day, He says, “It’s not according to plan for man to be alone.” He’d created all of the other creatures, and there was always a counterpart, male and female, so it wasn’t according to His plan to just have a male. His plan was to create a man and a woman. He is saying it is not according to plan for him to be alone, so He is going to make a helper—an ezer—for him.
This is the idea of tov: it is according to plan; something that is appropriate. Therefore, it is good in that sense.
The fact that the Greek CHRESTOTES is the only word that that’s used to translate tov in the Old Testament, tells us something. It tells us that this has this idea of something related to being appropriate; and therefore, appropriate to God.
We could translate Ephesians 2:7, “in order that in the ages to come He might put forth the evidence of the immeasurable wealth of His grace in His appropriate kindness.”
That means that He is giving all of the grace that is necessary to solve the problem, and it’s over and above: it is appropriate; it is sufficient. “… the wealth of His grace in the appropriate kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” His grace is appropriate to our circumstances, and it solves the problem.
This brings us to two of our favorite verses for salvation in the New Testament. Ephesians 2:8–9 are most beloved by believers because they emphasize the grace of God, and we can memorize them.
I think I first memorized these verses when I was 9 or 10 years old. I’ve used them over and again, sometimes as hammers in having discussions with unbelievers or other believers who thought that works were necessary for salvation. I’m not sure I always used it with the appropriate attitude. But that is the point of this profound statement of Ephesians 2:9, stating the negatives, it’s “NOT of works, lest any man should boast.” We have to understand what that phrase “works” means.
In other places, some passages we will see, “works” refers to the works of the Law. Now you are probably unaware of this—some of you are a little more knowledgeable, so maybe you heard of this. I had no idea of this, but in the 1970s there developed a new scholarly trend that was related to a new interpretation of the Apostle Paul.
Some say that the people who developed this were people who really desire to see Jewish people get saved, so did they restricted the meaning of the works of the Law to certain rituals—such as circumcision, obeying the feast days and a couple of other things. By doing so they were making it much-more-narrow than just moral works and doing good. They were trying to open the door to some other way that unsaved Jews could be saved other than trusting in Jesus.
This “new perspective on Paul,” as it was called, began to be espoused by various scholars, one of whom was an Anglican bishop by the name of N.T. Wright, whose intellectual prowess is profound. His knowledge of many other ancient languages other than the biblical languages is well known, as is his knowledge of Jewish literature, the Talmud and the Mishnah.
These things are such, that when you read them he amasses such a load of evidence for his erroneous position, that people are just overwhelmed with the details, and they are impressed with his intellect. He has influenced other scholars, and this has become such an issue that even the Evangelical Theological Society had an entire session in Atlanta about 10 years ago, which I went to just to try to get an understanding and handle on this. But it is heresy.
We have had pastors from doctrinal churches “who went out from us, but they were not of us,” 1 John 2:19. They have been seduced by the intellectual vanity of N.T. Wright and others. I was just reading the other day that N.T. Wright would be part of the huge movement, Replacement Theology, and has said many positive things about the Palestinians.
He’s associated with those who are referred to now as a Christian Palestinianists instead of Christian Zionists. They are pro-Palestinian Arabs. So, he has lead others astray. Those who were solid in their understanding of dispensations, their understanding of God’s plan and purpose is for Israel, the role of Israel, and they have led many people astray.
There are people who listen to me, there are people who are in this congregation who have relatives who have been deceived by some of these pastors who were deceived. This may be something that’s way over your head, so that you say, “Well, that doesn’t touch me,” but you never know. This has become more and more popular among scholars in the last few years.
I’m just going to allude to some of those things as we go through this, but the concept of works here is not modified by the phrase “of the Law.” That’s important, because in the passages where Paul modifies it with the phrase “of the Law,” he’s addressing congregations that had a large Jewish demographic. They were having problems with these “Judaizers,” Jews that were teaching that you needed to add circumcision, ritual observance and some other things to the gospel.
In Ephesians, Paul is addressing a primarily Gentile congregation and telling them that just like “we Jews” were saved at the beginning, “you also” have been saved by grace through faith. And we have now been made alive together in Christ, raised together—Jew and Gentile—and seated together in Christ, and we are a new a new entity in God’s plan for history.
Ephesians 2:8–9 is dealing with works of any kind, and not just the works of the Law. Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
- The Problem: What we were before we were saved. Contextually, that we are all born dead in our trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:1–3 One of the first things we have to address is just this issue, what does it mean to be dead in our trespasses and sins?
- The Solution: God’s love and mercy, grace in action, to regenerate, raise and seat us positionally in Christ, Ephesians 2:4–9.
- God’s Purpose: We are saved, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, Ephesians 2:10
1. The Problem: what we were before we were saved, Ephesians 2:1–3
Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
The phrase “glory of God” is an idiom for the essence of God. His essence is glorious, so the idiom of the glory of God speaks of His attributes and His essence. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s character, God’s attributes: specifically His righteousness and His justice.
Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous …”
Job 14:4, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!”
Only God can make us clean. We cannot do it ourselves.
Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”
What do we mean by spiritual death?
What you will hear from many people is the analogy to a physically dead person. I remember hearing this in my first year at seminary. I had a roommate who had gone to hear some Baptist revivalist and came back and told me this.
He was becoming swayed by the idea that a corpse cannot see, a corpse cannot hear, a corpse cannot think; and therefore, before you can think or believe, you have to be first regenerated. This is a Calvinistic doctrine that regeneration precedes faith. We’re going to see why this doesn’t work in this passage. It shows that that is a false idea.
They define “death” that a dead person can’t do anything, but that is not how death is described in Ephesians. Picking up the context in Ephesians 4:17,
“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that y’all should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind …” “Futility” means vanity. It can’t produce anything; it’s empty.
Ephesians 4:18, “… having their understanding darkened …” Their mind is futile because of its thoughts. They can’t get to heaven. They are thinking wrong things, worshiping the creature rather than the Creator. “… having their understanding darkened,” not “blind.” The word here is “to be darkened,” so that it’s difficult for the light to shine through, not impossible.
The next defines that problem: they are “alienated from the life of God.” That’s why they are dead in their trespasses and sins. Not that they are like a corpse. It’s that they’re alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them.
The New King James translates the last clause badly. It’s a causal clause “because of the blindness of their heart.”
But the Greek word there, is not the word for blind, but has the idea of being hardened. The American Standard Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible and many others translate it “hardened:” “because of the hardness of their heart.”
The blindness does come about, and in order to catch this, we have to turn to 2 Corinthians 4. This is an important facet when trying to understand that spiritual death is not mean spiritual inability. That’s how it is understood by many.
2 Corinthians 4:3–4 for context: “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds—remember their minds are darkened over in Ephesians 4. This says that their minds are futile—the god of this age has blinded them.” The god of this age is Satan; he has blinded them.
That’s why translating Ephesians 4:18 as “blindness” is wrong. It’s a different word. The word that is used in 2 Corinthians 4:4 is TUPHLOO, which is the word for a blind person, or being blinded. POROSIS does not mean blinded; it means hardened.
It is Satan who blinds the minds of those who do not believe. He does this by veiling their mind, but the light of the gospel can shine through any veil that Satan puts out there. If their mind is so dead—as it is represented—that it cannot understand the gospel, that it cannot believe the gospel, cannot respond to the gospel, then Satan would not need to blind their minds.
Between Ephesians 4:18 and 2 Corinthians 4:4, spiritual death does not mean that you’re unable to do anything. It means that you are alienated from the life of God.
2. The Solution: God makes you alive together with Him.
Spiritual death is separation from the life of God, not the sense of being a spiritual corpse.
Ephesians 2:12, “that at that time y’all were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” Gentiles before the Cross were alienated from Israel; they were not dead. They were not nonexistent; they were not corpses. They could do many things, they were just “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise.”
We have to understand Ephesians 2:8–9 in light of this whole context, starting off in Ephesians 2:1, you “… were dead in your trespasses and sins …” Your trespasses and sins meaning you were spiritually dead, and therefore, alienated from the life of God—creating the need for this solution that we were made alive together with Christ.
One last point: at the end of Ephesians 2:5 we’re told that the first thing God did for us was to make us alive together with Christ. It is further defined by the phrase “by grace you have been saved.” That is in parenthesis in the New King James Version. Another way it can be identified is through these em dashes (—). Either way the phrase “by grace you have been saved” is explaining further what it means to be made alive together with Him.
That means that being made alive together is the same as regeneration; and regeneration is the same as being saved.
That’s important because in Ephesians 2:8, when it says, “… for by grace you have been saved through faith …” being saved through faith is being regenerated through faith, and being made alive together through faith, so that this salvation is through faith. It is a logical progression and is set forth as a specific order of events.
“Through faith” means that faith must precede being made alive together. Faith must precede regeneration, just on the basis of the grammar.
It is the phrase DIA PISTIS in the Greek, which means through something. It is a genitive form of the noun, which means through demonstrating the means of something. It is not stated as a cause. If it were a cause, he would have to use the accusative form of the noun. It is expressing the means; the means comes before the end. The end result is salvation, so faith must precede salvation on the basis of the grammar of this passage.
We can illustrate it this way. We have a pipe through which water can flow. It has a valve on the pipe, and I’ve labeled that “the volition valve.” We have to decide to believe or not believe something. The faith pipe must first be opened for the water of life to flow through the pipe to the person who is parched here—to the spiritually dead person.
He has to turn on the faith valve on, the water of life flows through, and he is made alive together with Christ.
In conclusion, that means being saved is the same as regeneration, the same as being made alive together, so, “for by grace you have been made alive together with Him.”
“That” is the next issue, and I’m going to save that for next time, come back and review this because this is important. It is something that is a challenge a lot, but we see the first stage here, and that is that faith must precede being made alive together.
Next time we will see if that faith is what is described by the phrase “and that not of yourselves.” Is it “that faith,” is it “that grace,” is it “that salvation,” or is it something else?
“Father, thank You for this time that we can understand what You have provided for us in our salvation: that it is a “by grace through faith” salvation. You have provided us a perfect salvation, and we accept it only through faith. It’s not by works, it’s not by ritual, it’s not by good deeds, it’s not by good thoughts.
“It is by trusting in what Christ did on the Cross—that He paid the penalty for our sins. And when we have that faith in Christ, then through that faith You regenerate us: You make us alive together with Him, and we are no longer spiritually dead, but we are spiritually alive. We are made new creatures in Christ.
“Father, we pray that would be clear to anyone listening today, anyone here, anyone online that does not clearly understand the gospel: Christ died for us. He bore in His own body on the tree our sins, that by faith in Him we have everlasting life. That is the promise.
“Father, we pray that You would make that clear to all of us, and then recognize that all of this is for the purpose that we might be displayed by God as trophies of His grace, because He has given us more than we could ever ask or think as our possession as believers in Christ—those in His body.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”