“You were dead in your trespasses and sins…” (Ephesians 2:1)
The Christian experience is a life of contrasts – deep, unmistakable contrasts.
Notice the finality. The completeness. The stark reality of change. You were (something)… but now, instantaneously and completely, you are (something else entirely). ALL because of Jesus – and what He did for us.
Our verse for today sets the stage for one of those abrupt and diametrical changes. And until we understand what we were it is difficult for us to comprehend and appreciate what we are now. Our new identity, our new reality, is birthed out of an utter opposite – and is a constant reminder of the power and grace of a God Who loved us so much He could not help Himself but to provide all that we would ever need to be completely His for all eternity.
Paul was inspired to offer us a succinct summary of our human condition – pre-Christ. You and I were “dead.” Not just mistaken or misguided. Not just a little errant. Not just in need of correction. Not just a candidate for a bit of reform.
But what does “dead” mean?
It means some things we readily understand. Lifeless (without life). Incapable (without ability). Impotent (without strength).
In short, human beings (without God) are unable to function as our Creator designed us (and there are reasons for this). But what is more… we are wholly unable to do anything about our deadness. There is NO way for us to be alive again – not by our efforts, not by our will, not by good things we may try to do. It is just not IN us to do anything about our dead condition.
But it is this reality that we must all comprehend if we are to ever grasp why each of us need Jesus so much.
But “dead” also means something we don’t readily understand. In Scripture, it most often means “separation.” Death is defined as when a separation of spirit and body has occurred. “As the body without the spirit is dead…” (James 2:26)
Brains ceasing to function… Hearts ceasing to beat… Lungs ceasing to draw breath – are all just physical results of a spiritual departure. An indispensable truth we must all grasp: the spirit lives on after the body becomes inanimate.
But “dead” is deeper still… When Adam and Eve first sinned, they discovered the true meaning behind their Creator’s warning: “Don’t eat the forbidden fruit… or you will surely die.” (Gen. 3:3) They ate all right. But lived on… only now separated from something they were created to constantly know… the abiding Presence of God!
It is this “dead” that provides the fertile ground for all manner of selfish and self-serving behaviors – all the things that are most offensive (and natural) to human beings. It is this “dead” that causes us to think we are “good” when, in God’s sight, we are wicked, His enemies, and deserving of His wrath. It is this “dead” that elevates our thoughts and opinions above those of our Maker. It is this “dead” that makes it utterly impossible for us to ever please God by anything we might do.
Scripture declares… that is what we were – but God found that “dead” condition unacceptable. So Jesus came to provide something (everything!) we could not do for ourselves.
He came to bring the “dead” to life! This IS the message of the gospel…