The Messenger 2
For as long as we live in this 4-dimensional world of space and time there is going to be an ongoing struggle between faith and our senses. Let me illustrate what I mean.
Jesus said “Lo, I am with you all the days – perpetually, uniformly and on every occasion – to the very close and consummation of the age” (Matt 28:20 – Amplified Bible).
It is a wonderful promise that Jesus made in that verse. But wonderful as it is, we would have to confess that we don’t always live as though it were true, do we?
So where does the problem lie? There are three possibilities. Either that promise isn’t real, or some sin in our life has muddied the waters, or faith has been squeezed out by our senses.
It surely can’t be because the Bible misrepresented what Jesus actually said. If that promise existed only in the mind and imagination of the writer then we find ourselves at a difficult place. We just can’t be sure when we read the Bible what to believe. On the other hand it could be because sin has separated us from Jesus. That is more than possible. But it is most likely to be because we have spent too little time filling our minds with God’s Word. That has left our senses with an easy victory in the battle of the mind.
What should we be doing? Spending more time focusing on the Word of God. When we do the Spirit renews our mind and gives faith the edge over our senses. But it will also enable us to discover just how practical, relevant and fascinating God’s Word really is.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Phil 4:8).
Today we are going to begin looking at the message that comes out of the 2nd chapter of Ephesians. Soak it in. Let the Spirit instruct and renew your mind as you go through the reflection.
Before we get into a more detailed study of the passage, however, I want to begin with a broad overview. Let me suggest that you take a few minutes now to read through Ephesians 2.
Did you notice, as you were reading the passage, how its message falls under TWO main headings? We can summarise it as:
1. This is what you were: You were dead in your transgressions (verse 1); You followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air (verse 2); You gratified the cravings of your sinful nature and followed its desires and thoughts (verse 3); You were by nature an object of wrath (verse 3); You were separate from Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, a foreigner to the Covenant of Promise, without hope and without God in this world (vs. 12).
It may not be the way in which we thought of ourselves while we were outside of Christ. It may not be the way in which others thought of us. But it is, says Paul, how God saw us outside of Christ. And if we are going to appreciate what we have been saved into then we need to be clear what we have been saved from.
2. This is what you have become by grace: You were made alive with Christ (verse 5); You were raised up with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms (verse. 6); For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith (verse 8); You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works (verse 10): You who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ (verse 13); You Gentile believers have been united with Jewish believers in one body (verses 14-16); You have access to the Father through the Spirit (verse18); You are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household (verse 19); You have been built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (verse 20); You are being built together with other believers to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit (verse22).
John Stott captures the essence of the message in that chapter:
“Against the sombre background of our world today, Ephesians 2 stands out in striking relevance. Paul first plumbs the depths of pessimism about man, and then rises to the height of optimism about God. It is this combination of pessimism and optimism, of despair and faith, which captures the refreshing realism of the Bible. For what Paul does in this passage is to paint a vivid contrast between what man is by nature and what he can become by grace.”
It is worth taking note of a comment Paul makes in his letter to the Church at Galatia:
“Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:7).
Given the essentials of the gospel message Paul highlights in Ephesians 2, it is easy to see why some preachers would be tempted to take a more popular route in their presentation of the gospel. In the process, however, they pervert the gospel. And nothing perverts it more than when grace is cheapened by an over-emphasis on spiritual experiences while downplaying doctrine, or by highlighting the optimism of faith in God without also focusing on the pessimism of man. By diluting or ignoring those essential spiritual foundations that Paul is so careful to articulate in Ephesians 2, the preacher may ensure his personal popularity, but at what cost to the hearers?
Notice in chapter 2 how Paul moves us from the pessimism of man to the optimism of faith in God – “But God….” he says (verse 4), “But now in Christ….” he says in verse 13). Against the dark, sombre background of man’s hopelessness, Paul points us to the miracle of God’s undeserving love and mercy. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saves a wretch like me!”
In our next reflection we will keep that grace in mind as we take a closer look at how God sees us outside of Christ.
If you have a question or a comment about this series please feel free to write to me, Brian, at
Click on next page to continue