Paul begins what we refer to as the second chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, by taking a look at the condition of humanity. The first three verses reveal probably the most painful truth in all of Scripture for most of us to believe. It is the revelation of a truth so difficult for us to understand and grasp (and believe), that most of us try to tone it down. We don’t accept it. As a result, we don’t have any realistic outlook on where we are — either on the tremendous hopelessness of our condition if we are without Christ, or in the glory and wonder of our position if we are in Christ. But if you want to have your heart set on fire, listen very carefully to these verses so that we can see the immeasurable greatness of our Father’s power which cured our condition.
You were once dead because of your failures and sins. You followed the ways of this present world and its spiritual ruler. This ruler continues to work in people who refuse to obey God. All of us once lived among these people, and followed the desires of our corrupt nature. We did what our corrupt desires and thoughts wanted us to do. So, because of our nature, we deserved God’s anger just like everyone else (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Well, there it is, Paul’s accurate analysis of our biggest problem. Our condition is the difficulty Jesus faces every time he approaches a man or a woman, a boy or a girl. And, to make a finer point, what it will take to break through our condition is nothing less than the immeasurable greatness of His power.
Before, I said that this is hard for us to believe, and it is mostly because of the description of humanity’s condition that Paul just presented. According to Paul, we are dead, or we were dead, in our sins. It ‘s hard for us to believe that we are dead.
I have discussed this before. In my study on Job, I explained that people simply do not like to think about being helpless, let alone dead! Oh, we love to quote all of the “positive” confessions with conviction, but with all of our self-help books, TV psychology gurus, and MSM, we still prefer to maintain some semblance of control to our lives.
When problems arise, we like to think there are certain steps we can take, attitudes we can adopt, or positive confessions we can make to alleviate our anguish and be happy again. Yes, I admit that there are times, rare as they might be, that we can find some peace in our lives. However, anyone who has truly suffered will know that when it comes to the real thing, there is no help to ease the pain, at least no human help. Simply put, when we reach the “pits,” we aren’t going to be able to think our way out; nor hope, sing, pray, confess, nor even love our way out. Only the Lord Himself can do that, and when he does, as Exodus 6:6 puts it, “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke.”
That is an interesting verse . . . how will we know? We will know because nothing and no one else was able to do it. Frankly, when we are living in our sin, we need to be redeemed. As the Psalmist points out, “snatched away” from the brink of destruction. This is where we get down to the bedrock of the Gospel: Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the only means of our escape!
When you read Paul’s analysis, I think you can understand what he means, and how accurate this description is. There are two basic characteristics of death. Now, I fully confess that I haven’t had a lot of contact with dead people, but I’m sure that these two are always in view: First, there is utter impotence, powerlessness.
I read a story about a brother who was working part-time at a mortuary, and on his first day, he was given a tour of the place. They came into the room where the bodies were lying out on slabs, and the guide pulled back a sheet and said, “Tell him about Jesus.” Later, when he was giving his testimony, he said, “I have never forgotten that! How impotent is a person who is dead! How impossible it is to reach him. How difficult, how absolutely hopeless it is for him to respond to any appeal, to do anything constructive in his condition.” Ah~ So impotence is the first mark. T. Austin-Sparks stated that, “We have not to die; we are dead. What we have to do is to accept our death . . . [In] baptism . . . we simply step in there and say, ‘That position which God has settled with reference to me is the one which I now accept, and I testify here in this way to the fact that I have accepted God’s position for me, namely, that in the Cross I have been brought to an end.'” Amen!
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