Ephesians 2:1-3

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Introduction

“God helps those who help themselves.”

Many think this verse is found in the bible. In fact, a friend of mine, Preston, recently wrote an article titled "Five Verses That Don't Mean What You Think" saying:

This verse is not actually misinterpreted. It’s not misused or under-obeyed. In fact, it has shaped the thinking of many people who grew up in church, and I don’t think Christians have wrongly interpreted it. But one problem remains: It’s not a verse. The phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is not in the Bible... According to Barna Research, however, 68 percent of born-again believers think this religious saying is in the Scriptures. What’s particularly troubling is that the phrase is theologically bankrupt. It reflects the values of rugged deistic moralism, and is an offense to the radical Gospel of grace. The good news is not that God helps those who help themselves, but that God rescues and redeems those who know they can’t help themselves.

I'm not sure how this phrase came into our collective psyche, but the truth of the gospel is quite the opposite: God helps those who couldn't possibly help themselves. Even worse - God helps those who were his enemies and have transgressed his holy law! 

What Paul wants us to understand, in these verses, is where we came from. 

Ephesians 2:1-3

By Grace Through Faith And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 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—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)

Explanation

In it's original form, Ephesians 2:1-10 is one long, run on sentence. So we must the careful not to separate too much what Paul is communicating to us because of verse breaks we received much later in history. 

Paul's overall gist is to impart to us God's lavish and saving grace on Christians through his saving initiative in Jesus. So we are going to unpack this single sentence (vv 1-10) in two thematic movements. The first focusing on our formal self, and the later focusing on our newfound identity in Christ. 

Today, we're going to tackle the first part.

Why does Paul want us to understand our former condition? Because the more accurate understating of our pre-Jesus life, the more authentically and passionately we can worship him! 

To escape the hopeless imprisonment of sin requires nothing short of a new birth and creation - which is found in the grace of Jesus! 

The point of focusing on our formal self is that realizing the depths of our sin should magnify our gratitude and worship of Jesus. With a small view of God's holiness and our sins against him, our view of grace will be small; we will simply not understand or appreciate the length to which God went to satisfy his wrath to welcome us into his kingdom. 

Meditation / Journaling

This should not leave in a space of sadness or wallowing, quite the opposite, this should increase our joy, worship and praise of Jesus for rescuing us from the domain of darkness and chains of our former life.

In light of these truths, meditate on these things:

That we were once at odds with a Holy God

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV)

That God in his undying love for you, sent his son Jesus, even though we opposed him

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11 ESV)

That our worship of God should increase as our awareness of his holiness and our sin increases, and that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus was the remedy

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, (Hebrews 12:28 ESV)

Then spend time thanking God for who he is and what he's done.