3. Free Life: God's Plan Implemented - Milo Wilson (Ephesians 2:1-10) GOD'S PLAN

God's Plan Series
  • We live in a culture that constantly tells us that our identity is found in what we have or have not done; what job we have or what career we are hoping for; how we have succeeded or how we have failed. This however is not God's plan for our lives. The Gospel says that the identity we all need is one that cannot be taken away by our failure or circumstances. The identity that we need is found only in Christ.
3. Free Life: God's Plan Implemented (Ephesians 2:1-10)
  • God is still building the Church in Christ.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • All mankind is fallen, in a state of spiritual death, separated from God. (Ephesians 2:1)
  • God in His love extended His mercy to make us alive in Christ. (Ephesians 2:5)
  • God's saving us in Christ is all His doing, making us His work of art by His grace for His glory. (Ephesians 2:7-10)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • What does it mean to be “dead in trespasses and sins?”
  • Why did God make us alive in Christ?
  • What is the effect of God's having made us alive in Christ?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Describe what it means to be separated from God because of our sins? Why is that a problem for us and our existence?
  • What does it mean to say that Satan is the “prince of the power of the air?”
  • Who are the “sons of disobedience?”
  • What does it mean to say that we are “by nature children of wrath?”
  • Describe God's love and His mercy. How did God extend His love and His mercy to us?
  • What does this passage mean when it says we have been saved?
  • What is grace? What is God's grace?
  • How does God's saving men and women accomplish and implement His purposes?
  • How is one saved by grace?
  • What does it mean to be “God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus?”
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • Do you believe that outside of Christ you were dead in your trespasses and sins? What is the problem you face by your being spiritually dead?
  • What is at the base or root of one's sin and sin nature?
  • What How does God's love and mercy extend to you? What is your response to God's love and mercy?
  • What does it mean that you are “alive together with Christ?”
  • What is the impact on your life that you have been made alive in Christ, raised up with Christ, and seated with Christ in the heavenly places? How does it make you feel to be in that position, and what is your response?
  • What does God's grace mean to you personally?
  • What are the “good works” that you are to walk in as one made alive in Christ?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
Having revealed His plan, and giving us an understanding of that plan, in verses 1-10 of chapter 2 we see God implementing His great plan. How is God to create this Church by which He will manifest Himself to the world? Mankind is fallen as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve; mankind is separated from God and thus unable even to know Him much less implement His great plan. That’s where verses 1 and 2 of chapter 2 begin – “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” The word “you” refers to Gentile believers. They were dead in their sins, meaning they were disconnected from God in whom is life. And they were part of the rebellion against God and His rule which is led by the “prince of the power of the air” who is Satan, and who is the ultimate counterfeit God who is always at work in the world leading those who are part of the rebellion (the “sons of disobedience”). But the Jewish people were no better off, as Paul notes in verse 3, indicating that they too lived among the sons of disobedience, all of whom in this former life (meaning before being in Christ) were dominated by the passions and desires of the flesh, with evil thoughts and actions the result. Thus, sinful man is at the “mercy of the tyrant self” (so writes A. Skevington Wood in Expositor’s Commentary, Vol 11, Ephesians at page 34), being “by nature children of wrath” (wrath being God’s rightful judgment against sin). Thus, all mankind (Jew and Gentile alike) is lost under the sway of sin and is unable to be part of God’s great plan unless God does something about the situation.

And praise be to God, He has done something. Hence verse 4 with the wonderful words, “But God …” In light of the condition of man, God has done something, and it derives from His love, no, from His great love of all those He has created. That means the Ephesians and all those in Asia who will receive this letter, it means all the Jews wherever they are, it means everyone else including you and me! God loves us (John 3:16) and has acted towards us out of that love, His action being mercy which means the giving of unmerited favor. God’s love is “great” and His mercy is “rich.” God has extended His unlimited compassion to helpless, rebellious and unworthy humans, even while we were “dead in our trespasses” (Ephesians 2:5. See also Romans 5:6-8) and thus unable to save ourselves. And what did God do? He did three things. First, He “made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5); second, He “raised us up with” Christ (Ephesians 2:6), and third, He “seated us” with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). In short, God took spiritually dead people, made them alive, raised them up and out of the grave and placed them in the heavenly kingdom to rule with Jesus. This is what God did for those who would read Paul’ letter; this is what God has done for all believers, past, present and future; this is what God has done for us! This is not a temporary thing, but is everlasting an in that sense we are like Christ who came out of the grave, walked on the earth, and went up to heaven from which He now rules. God did this to implement His great plan to make Himself known through the Church to His glory (Ephesians 1:4-6, 12 & 13). So here we have in full view God’s eternal rescue plan, the redemption out of sin of a people for Himself, the action of a God whose power is unlimited and whose love and mercy knows no bounds. And this rescue plan is intimately connected with Jesus Christ and what He did by offering Himself on the cross and rising from the grave. The Church is totally “in Christ” in every way one can imagine and think of that phrase.

Why did God do this? Why did He implement this rescue plan? The answer is found in verse 7: He did it “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” He did this to show His grace, reflect His character, and underscore His kindness to and for the world, all to His glory. Believers are thus the picture and proof of God’s great grace, both while they are living and for all eternity. God wants all creation to see who He is in all His glory, and that is both made possible by and exemplified in the working out of His great plan in creating the Church made up of redeemed men and women who have been made spiritually alive out of spiritual deadness.

This is grace (Ephesians 2:5, 7, 8), and it is all from God. In verses 8 and 9, Paul goes out of his way to emphasize that God’s grace indeed is all from God; nothing about being saved and rescued by God comes from man’s side of the equation, if salvation can even be called an equation. Our being made alive, raised up and seated with Christ did not happen because we deserved such treatment, or because we did anything that earned such treatment. We have been saved by grace “through faith,” and even that faith is not our own doing but rather is a gift from God so that no one will have any right to boast in their salvation (Ephesians 2:9). Thus faith is the act by which we receive the gift of salvation extended us by God’s grace, it is that which assures us of the effectiveness of God’s grace, and it is what confirms in our heart and mind the work God has done in our redemption. God loves us and that extends His mercy to us which releases his grace by which we receive and accept salvation. Without mercy, grace would not be poured out; without grace, mercy would not have effect. Praise be to God that both mercy and grace are at work showing forth God’s kindness.

To what end all of the above? To create His Church which is His “workmanship” (Ephesians 2:10), meaning that the Church (as well as individual believers) have been lovingly conceived and fashioned by God as His “work of art” for display to a watching world of who God is. And that display is a present and a future thing. It is present in that the Church “walks” in good works which God set out for us to do on earth to show Him and His kingdom. Those good works are the living out of His will and purposes, reflecting His character, and extending His love to the world; in short, walking the walk of the believer and being the Church. That display is future in that the Church will reflect for eternity the wonder and glory of God as a testimony of His goodness, His power and the fulfillment of His purposes.

God has implemented His plan by saving men and women, human beings otherwise dead spiritually, making them alive and putting them together in Christ to make up the Church by which He manifests Himself to the world. All this is an act of grace which flows from His character as a kind, merciful and loving God who seeks His own deserved glory. Of course God is powerful enough to do what He has done. But the more remarkable thing is that He did it, and that He did it to our blessing and benefit which further reflects His glory. Oh that we would grasp more fully the breadth and length of what God has done in Christ, that we would see the Church as God’s artwork on display, and that we would walk in the “good works” of living for Him that He has set out for us from before the world even existed. To God be the glory.