EPHESIANS 2:1-7 - God Of Our Salvation

The Spirit-Filled Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:00
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In December of 1924, the frontier town of Nome, Alaska began suffering from an outbreak of diphtheria. Now, we are immeasurably blessed by God to live in a time and place where the mention of “diphtheria” elicits nothing more than a sympathetic murmur. But in the early 20th Century, it was called “The Strangling Angel of Children”, because of the thick, grey membrane that formed out of the bacterial infection, swelling the throat to what was called a “bull neck” and slowly suffocating its victim.
Throughout that cold and dark December, some parents in Nome watched helplessly as their children gasped and fought for every breath, while others lay sleeplessly in bed every night, straining their ears as they waited for that horrible moment when they would hear the loud “barking cough” coming from one of their own kids, a sign that the Strangling Angel had found their home.
The only hope to prevent or relieve an infection was an inoculation of an antitoxin, but the town doctor’s supply had expired and the new batch he ordered had not arrived before the port at Seward iced over in November. The winter storms that were then raging through Alaska made an emergency flight to Nome impossible, and so the desperate rescuers devised a desperate plan—a series of sled dog teams, relaying the precious serum across 674 miles of treacherous mountains, frozen rivers and vast stretches of empty wilderness in what was later called “The Great Race of Mercy” that brought salvation to the people of Nome.
In New York’s Central Park there is a statue dedicated to Balto, the lead sled dog of the team that arrived in Nome on February 2nd, 1925, delivering the serum and saving the town. The inscription at the base reads:
"Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the Winter of 1925. Endurance · Fidelity · Intelligence" (Wikipedia)
So why am I regaling you with a story about a sled dog that saved a town by delivering medicine? Well, we are continuing our sermon series on the Holy Spirit today, and I was struck by the similarities in that story with the fate that you and I were doomed to suffer apart from the work of Christ. Here was a city that was dying, and the only hope they had was to receive a cure that was absolutely impossible for them to reach. They were utterly helpless in their peril. There was a cure to their plight, but unless someone came and applied it to them, they would perish.
By His sinless life, innocent death and glorious resurrection, Jesus Christ accomplished everything necessary for your salvation, while you were utterly beyond the ability to receive it. So how did you come to receive the benefits of that salvation? How did that life-saving work of Christ come to you? The Scriptures teach us that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring to you the benefits of the work of Christ on the Cross. And so what I aim to do this morning is to help you
Magnify the Holy Spirit who APPLIES to you what Christ ACCOMPLISHED for you
So turn with me to the passage that I read a few moments ago in Ephesians (page 976 in the pew Bible). And within the first phrase of the first verse, the first thing that we come to realize is that our predicament before God was infinitely worse than merely being “sick” with a disease that we needed to be cured of. The Holy Spirit did not just heal you from your sickness,

I. He RESCUED you from your DEATH (Ephesians 2:1-3)

Ephesians 2:1–2 (ESV)
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
The Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus to remind them of the great treasure they have in their salvation in Christ. And he begins by reminding them that their spiritual condition apart from the saving work of Christ wasn’t just bad; it was hopeless. They were not just sick in their sin; they were dead in their sin. They were utterly unable to respond to God—they were no more able to avail themselves of the salvation offered through Christ than the people of Nome were able to avail themselves of the antitoxin hundreds of miles away in Anchorage.
Or to use the same image Paul does here, they were no more able to avail themselves of the salvation offered in Christ than a corpse in a morgue is able to respond to an offer to go get ice cream. Paul goes on to describe the specifics of what this spiritual death meant for the Ephesians—and what it meant for you before you came to Christ.
In verse 2, we see that this spiritual death meant
You were TOTALLY unable to OBEY God (v. 2)
See how Paul describes us in verse 2—we were
Ephesians 2:2 (ESV)
2 ...following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience
A “son of disobedience” means that you were utterly characterized by disobedience. Not only did you have no capacity to obey God, you had no desire to obey God even if you did have the capacity! Paul says that we were “sons of disobedience”—descended from our father Adam, whose disobedience we have inherited by nature and by our own disobedience.
The spiritual death that Paul writes about here means that, apart from Christ you were totally unable to obey God—and in verse 3 we see it gets even worse--
You were TOTALLY unable to PLEASE God (v. 3)
Apart from Christ, Paul says, you were
Ephesians 2:3 (ESV)
3 …[living] in the passions of [your] flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
In verse 2 you were a “son” of disobedience, and here you are a “child of wrath”—even if you were capable of obeying Him (and had the desire to obey Him), it would have been impossible to do anything to please Him.
The theological term for this condition is known as total depravity. Now, we use the word “total” to mean “complete” or “without any remainder”. And so we tend to misunderstand what this doctrine teaches. Total depravity does not mean that all human beings are always as wicked as they can possibly be. I can ask an atheist neighbor to water my plants while I am out of town without worrying that as soon as I drive away he is going to run over and burn my house down. What total depravity refers to is that
Total Depravity: There is no ASPECT of your HUMANITY that has not been AFFECTED by sin
As R. C. Sproul writes,
…The idea of total in total depravity doesn’t mean that all human beings are as wicked as they can possibly be. It means that the fall was so serious that it affects the whole person. The fallenness that captures and grips our human nature affects our bodies; that’s why we become ill and die. It affects our minds and our thinking; we still have the capacity to think, but the Bible says the mind has become darkened and weakened. The will of man is no longer in its pristine state of moral power. The will, according to the New Testament, is now in bondage. We are enslaved to the evil impulses and desires of our hearts. The body, the mind, the will, the spirit—indeed, the whole person—have been infected by the power of sin. (Retrieved 5/11/2023 from https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/tulip-and-reformed-theology-total-depravity
And so in this condition, Paul says, we were spiritually dead—we were utterly unable to hear God or respond to God or please God or obey Him. The cure for our spiritual death was utterly and totally out of our reach.
And so that means that your rescue from that death was not your own doing. You were rescued by nothing other than the merciful work of God’s Holy Spirit:
Titus 3:5–6 (ESV)
5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
When you were utterly and totally dead in your trespasses and sins, a spiritual corpse laid out on a morgue table, unable to see or hear or respond to God in any way, the Holy Spirit applied to you what Christ accomplished:

II. He RAISED you to LIFE (Ephesians 2:4-5; Titus 3:5-6)

Look at Ephesians 2:4-5:
Ephesians 2:4–5 (ESV)
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved...
When you did not have the power to do anything for yourself; when you were utterly dead in your sins, an object of God’s wrath, an enemy of His righteousness and rebel against His law
His LOVE showed you MERCY (Romans 5:5)
Paul makes it clear in the book of Romans that the great love with which God loved you is the Holy Spirit Himself:
Romans 5:5 (ESV)
5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Putting these verses together gives us a beautiful picture of just what happened at that moment when you were brought from spiritual death to life—God the Father loved you in His mercy to make you alive in God the Son, and that life was imparted to you by God the Holy Spirit, who is the love that was poured into you to make you alive!
It was God the Holy Spirit that brought you from spiritual death to life—He is the love of God that showed you mercy when you were a miserable child of wrath. And not only did He turn you from a child of wrath to a beloved son or daughter,
His POWER made you CLEAN (cp. John 3:5; Titus 3:5-6; Ezekiel 36:25-27)
In our passage earlier from John’s Gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus:
John 3:5 (ESV)
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Now think about this with me for a moment—a few moments ago we read about the Spirit’s work in Titus 3:5-6:
Titus 3:5–6 (ESV)
5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
There’s a connection there, isn’t there? The Holy Spirit’s work in us of regeneration and renewal is connected with water, with washing. There’s an Old Testament connection here as well. We read in Ezekiel 36:25 that God promises His people
Ezekiel 36:25 (ESV)
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
But then He immediately follows up with a promise of the Holy Spirit’s work:
Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV)
26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Once again, see how the work of God the Holy Spirit applies to you all of the work accomplished by Christ—He washes you clean from your sin, and He enables you to obey God’s will!
When you were utterly powerless to hear or respond to the saving work of Christ, the Holy Spirit rescued you from your spiritual death. He raised you to life by His merciful love, washing you clean from your guilt and shame and enabling you to obey God and love His law. And see here as we move through Ephesians 2 a third work of the Holy Spirit to apply to you what Christ accomplished for you—He rescued you from death, He raised you to live, and

III. He RESERVES you for GLORY (Ephesians 2:6-7)

In verses 6-7 of our text, Paul says that God the Father, by the work of God the Holy Spirit
Ephesians 2:6 (ESV)
6 ...raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
Now, the way Paul describes this work of the Spirit is important—notice he doesn’t say that you “will be raised up with Him and will be seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”, does it? It says that this is true of you even now! The work of the Holy Spirit for you applying the benefits that Christ accomplished for you doesn’t stop with this present life;
He GUARANTEES your ARRIVAL in Heaven (v. 6; cp. Eph. 1:13-14)
The Spirit’s work in your life is so complete, Christian, that He not only rescued you from your spiritual death and raised you to new life in Christ, He will also see to it that you will arrive in Heaven safe and sound someday! Earlier in Ephesians, Paul explains the work of the Spirit in guaranteeing your eternal destiny like this:
Ephesians 1:13–14 (ESV)
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Your eternal destiny is so certain because of the Spirit’s ministry that it is entirely appropriate to speak of you as already having been seated with Christ! I have in my desk in my study an old plastic shipping seal that I picked up off of a loading dock at the grocery store where I worked while I was in seminary—it’s a plastic band that could be snapped together through a truck’s cargo door that then couldn’t be opened without breaking the seal. That shipping seal was a guarantee that all of the stock that left the warehouse in that trailer got to the store.
So let me ask the question from that direction then, Christian: If the Word of God is true and the Holy Spirit has sealed you for arrival to your eternal inheritance in Heaven, then what power is there that can break that seal? This is why the Apostle Paul says at the end of Romans 8 that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus your Lord” (Rom 8:38-39)—because God the Holy Spirit Himself is your seal! He is the love of God in you, and nothing will ever break that seal!
He guarantees your arrival in Heaven so surely that you are reckoned to already be seated with Christ in the heavenly realms—and verse 7 of Ephesians 2 gives you one more glorious promise of the Spirit’s application of the salvation Christ accomplished for you. He not only guarantees your arrival in Heaven, but
He will be your INEXHAUSTIBLE DELIGHT forever (v. 7)
Look again at what God has done through His Spirit—He
Ephesians 2:6–7 (ESV)
6 ...raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Consider here for just a moment what these verses say is in store for you, Christian—God’s purpose is to be glorified for all eternity in Heaven, right? That is why the Holy Spirit guarantees your arrival in Heaven:
Ephesians 1:14 (ESV)
14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
And why does God want to guarantee your presence in Heaven? Because you are an indispensible part of His plan to glorify Himself! How does this verse say He will glorify Himself? By lavishing the riches of His grace on you! If it really is true that, as John Piper says, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him”, then God’s purpose for eternity for maximum glory means your maximum delight in Him for all eternity!
Your inheritance, Christian, is inexhaustible delight in the presence of God, mediated to you by the Holy Spirit Himself. Consider the span of grace that encompasses these verses—from a spiritually dead child of wrath, dead in trespasses and sins and able to do nothing for yourself but heap up more wrath against you, to a beloved child of God on whom He will delight to heap kindness and glories of His matchless grace for all of eternity! This is the ministry of God the Holy Spirit in applying the work of salvation that Christ accomplished for you.
And so, if you are going to spend all of eternity delighting in the grace of God toward you in Christ by His Spirit dwelling in you, then you may as well begin now! Because the grace of God that has visited you was not only powerful to deliver you from your spiritual death in sin, it is powerful to cause you to delight in His will! What Ezekiel promised in the Old Testament has come true in you:
Ezekiel 36:25–27 (ESV)
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
God the Holy Spirit dwells in you to give you the power to walk in obedience to God! You don’t have to obey God; you delight to do His will! The mercy He showed you, you delight to show others—there is no one so far lost in their sin and transgressions that you cannot love, because you were once lost, and the love of God found you! There is no sin or shame of your past that can accuse you, because God the Holy Spirit Himself has cleansed you of it by applying the blood of Christ to you! And there is nothing that will ever prevent you from coming to your eternal inheritance of glory with Christ, because God the Holy Spirit Himself has sealed you with the presence of His steadfast love!
And if you are here apart from Christ this morning and have been part of the worship here and have come to realize that you don’t belong here—that you have become increasingly aware of how sinful you are in the presence of God, and have become increasingly uncomfortable as the morning has gone on because you know that if you faced a holy and righteous God you would have no way of defending your thoughts and actions and behaviors, if the way you spent the night last night or the things that you did and said this past week are now weighing on you here in this place—then here is the Good News for you: This is how the Holy Spirit brings a heart from spiritual death to life!
The first step is that you are awakened to your condition before God! That your eyes are opened to see the terrible plight that you are in, your spirit is devastated by the realization that you deserve God’s wrath. And this is how the infinitely praiseworthy grace of God goes to work in your life; that when you cry out to Him for mercy, He will answer! The Word of God says in Acts 2:21
Acts 2:21 (ESV)
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Friend, you have been brought here today so that God the Holy Spirit might complete His work in applying the benefits of Christ’s work to you—He brought you here this morning so that you could call on Him and be saved! There is no other way; there is nothing you can do to accomplish this salvation on your own, there is nothing else you can do but trust in the work already done for you. Confess your sin; cry to Him for mercy; He promises you shall have it. Hear the invitation of the Holy Spirit today to come—and welcome!—to Jesus Christ!
Hebrews 13:20–21 (ESV)
20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.


Read Ephesians 2:1-3. What is the significance of the Scripture’s description of our sinful state as being “dead” in our trespasses and sins? If these verses are true, then how much were we able to do for ourselves spiritually in that state?
What does the doctrine of Total Depravity teach? How is this doctrine often misunderstood? How would you explain it to someone who believes that people are basically good?
Read John 3:5 and Titus 3:5-6. What do these verses have in common regarding the way they describe the ministry of the Holy Spirit in salvation? How would this image inform the way we regard what baptism signifies in our church?
What does Paul write in Ephesians 1:13-14 about the ministry of the Holy Spirit regarding your salvation? How does this truth give you a sure hope for your eternal destiny in Heaven someday? Spend some time this week praising Him for His Spirit’s role in your salvation!
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