Lesson 4: Ephesians 2 Loose him and let him go. (Ephesians 2:1-6)
- That subtitle comes from the instructions the Lord Jesus gave in John 11 when Lazarus came forth from the grave. Remember the story- Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. When Jesus asked Martha to take away the stone covering his burial place, Martha was alarmed and reminded the Lord her brother Lazarus had been dead four days and the decaying process would cause him to stink. When they rolled away the stone- Jesus called in a loud voice for Lazarus to come forth. And he(Lazarus) that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes; and his face bound about with a napkin. Jesus said unto them, Loose him, and let him go. ( John 11)
Paul writes here in Ephesians 2 , we were once as dead spiritually as Lazarus was dead physically. We were spiritually dead and could not help ourselves. We needed the
Greatness of His Power that Paul was describing in the previous chapter to bring us to life. We needed to hear His voice tell us to come forth and then we needed to get rid of the binding grave clothes so we could walk unhindered in the newness of life. Notice Lazarus needed help to unbind him from his grave clothes and let him go. We cannot run the race until we lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily beset us. ( Hebrews 12) We must put off the old man with his deeds and put on the new man which is renewed in the knowledge after the image of Him that created him: ( Colossians 3)
Now when many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did,they believed in Him (John 11) When a dead man comes alive- it attracts some attention, doesnt it? People notice when a spiritually dead person comes alive and there will be two responses— some will believe in Jesus and some will not. Those who do not believe will want to kill your testimony- will want to drag you back into the grave and bind you in grave clothes of the sin that so easily beset you. The chief priests and the religious leaders wanted to not only put Jesus to death- they also plotted to put Lazarus to death. (John 12:10)
Two things we know about a dead person:
*They are powerless- the are utterly impotent. They can neither hear, nor speak, nor taste nor smell nor can they feel. Dead to any stimuli.
* They are corrupt- decaying is a process associated with death.
Paul reminds us, the believers what we once were in the past: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, and indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath- even as the rest. ( Ephesians 2:1-3) KJV
The KJV uses the word trespasses in addition to sins. Trespasses in the original Greek meant to miss your step, One can picture what happens when you miss a step on the stairs- you stumble, you might even fall Sometimes we miss a step because we are in a hurry. God isnt working fast enough for us. Other times our missed step can be accidental, or it can be aimed with good intentions but aimed at the wrong target. Consider the person who wants to reach the top of his/her field and be recognized as the best- only to find the satisfaction is temporary. King Solomon certainly tried to fill that void in his life with the pleasures of the world only to find their enjoyment was temporary and left one emptier than before. Interesting on the many nights I drank and consumed large amounts of alcohol it actually did not satisfy my thirst, in fact alcohol causes one to thirst even more upon waking the next morning. What a picture of the temporary satisfaction the world offers. While Jesus says I will give you water and you will never thirst again. Only He can satisfy. So many today keep climbing those ladders- to only find they had leaned it against the wrong wall.
The other word used here is sins, Sin, of course is missing the mark; disobedience to God- to do wrong intentionally, willfully and deliberately. For God told us we must be perfect , as He is perfect. And all have sinned- it is a universal condition.
Why is this happening? Paul tells us there are three forces( the world, the flesh and the devil) at work. He explains this is the reason you did it in the past and unbelievers continue to do it in the present.
- We followed the way of the world, the secular society. We were conformed by this secular society. A society that tries to live without God. It leaves God out of everything then wonders why things are in such a mess. A society that strives to work out its problems without calling on God. The elements that most describe and characterize our society are: humanism, materialism and illicit sex. Humanism places man above all else. Lets look at an example of what godly leadership does in dealing with problems. In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat received the alarming news of these great armies coming up against Israel. His first response was to set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaim a fast throughout Judah. Can you imagine having a leader who when faced by severe problems- sets himself to seek the Lord and call for a fast? In fact, King Jehoshaphat said: we have no might against this great company that comes against us; neither know we what to do: BUT OUR EYES ARE UPON THEE. Can you imagine our president going on television to tell the country- I am setting myself to seek and the Lord and proclaiming a fast throughout the land. Would not the commentators and news pundits talk for hours on end about that. And imagine he later came on to say- we do not have the might, the power to deal with this problem or enemy and furthermore we do not have a clue as to what to dobut our eyes are on the Lord. The news headlines would shout- the president admits we have no power and we dont know what to do— in fact our only solution according to him is to turn our eyes upon the Lord. Remember how Paul warned against the love of money- the root of all evil and the underlying cause of materialism. We have certainly seen the love of money and what one can purchase and accumulate bring our country and the world to the brink of financial insolvency. We have pierced ourselves with many sorrows. America, a supposedly Christian nation is the most materialistic society in the world. And sexual perversion is at an all time high. Homosexuals march in the street as they did in Sodom and Gomorrah and demand their rights. And Jesus said as it was in the days of Lot in Sodom and so will it be when the Son returns.
- We also followed the prince of the power of the air- the devil. Satan is a disobedient rebel. He influences the world and controls the air waves to disobey God and Gods laws. Thus he creates chaos and further binds the walking dead with the grave clothes of sin. In our sinful nature which we are born with there is the heart of rebellion in each of us. That is why we must be born again. Born again of the Spirit.
- We formerly followed the lust of the flesh, the cravings of the flesh- our old sinful nature. We were born with these sinful natures. Some are better than others- some are more moral than others, doing good deeds in the flesh. However, all have sinned. You might consider another person to be a worse sinner than you are- but the truth is both the serial murderer on death row and the man who is kind to widows and orphans are eternally lost and condemned if neither is born again- they are not acceptable to God and can never be on their own. They can do much good or much harm but neither will enter the kingdom of heaven for they are not reconciled to God. So it is not what weve done- but Who we know.
You see this is the story of my life and your life. The good news is this is past tense. Paul reminds us this is what we were. We were also, Paul tells us- children of wrath. Whose wrath? The Wrath of God. The wrath of God is what many call the law of inevitable consequences. Gods wrath is designed to awaken one to the reality of sin and its consequences. It is the law of sewing and reaping. Paul said he feared believers would be deceived as Eve was deceived in the Garden by the lie that there would be no consequences for sin. When you violate the laws of God the consequences are clearly foretold- in that day you eat of the fruit of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil you will surely die. ( Genesis 2) And remember God gave Adam and Eve all the other trees of the garden of which they could freely eat. The wages of sin is death. We sin because since Adam all have been born with sinful natures.(We sin because we are sinners; we lie because we are liars; we steal because we are thieves.) Today we live in a world that is under a spell of evil. It is this same evil that Genesis 6 tells us prompted God to destroy the old world. And God saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Evil 24-7. Remember when television went off at midnight? Remember when there were no profanities or lewdness and everyone observed a code of ethics and decency? You could sit as a family with children included and watch television without fear of the inappropriate. Now the thoughts of mans heart is on evil continually and with the internet the sewers have been opened. As in was in the days of Noah so will it be when the Lord returns.
So Paul has set the stage- he has reminded us believers, the readers of this inspired letter of what we once were. Now Paul will describe the act and process of salvation in both present and future terms having dealt with the past conditions.
BUT GOD..- these two words signal the change about to take place.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even though we were dead in sins has made us alive together with Christ ( by grace have you been saved.) Ephesians 2: 4-5
God finds us in this universal condition- all have sinned. All are dead in sin and trespasses. But God does not want us to stay there. ( For He is not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance.) God begins to move in our lives. There we were- dead, unseeing, unfeeling, rotting and bound in our grave clothes.
Why did God do this? What motivates Him to act on our behalf- when we did not care about Him? The only time I used His name, His Precious Name, was as a curse word. Paul tells us why God acted on our behalf. Being rich in mercy and because of His great love with which He loved me and you. In spite of the fact I was so dead to Him I only used His name as a curse word He still loved m and longed for me. I remember after I was saved, sober and beginning a closer walk with the Lord we sang a hymn I remembered from my youth. When I came to these words, tears ran down my cheeks, as I remembered how I was. Years I spent in vanity and pride, not caring that for my sins, my Savior died. I had rebelled against my parents and I had rebelled against God. I had not cared, I wanted to be free to live as I wanted to live- I was deceived.
We were all in that dark place of death like Lazarus.
We were all bound in the grave clothes of sin.
We were all children of wrath the object of His judgment.
It was in that place He got our attention and we heard His voice say come forth. Out of the darkness into the light.
He is rich in mercy. He lavished it upon us. Mercy is our NOT receiving what we deserve. Mercy deals with our misery. I was miserable. I was hopeless. My misery awakened His pity. Remember what the blind beggar cried out: Have mercy on me Son of David!
Our guilt drew forth His Grace. It is an established fact we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. We were guilty under the law- condemned, unclean, unworthy and powerless over sin. Since God is Holy- the punishment for our sin and sins must be paid for the demands of the law must be satisfied- and the punishment is death. But God made a way where there was no way- Jesus the only Begotten Son of God, God the Son in flesh, became our way. He died for our sins and we were placed in Him when we first believed- so we were crucified with Him. You and I received Gods Riches At Christs Expense.
David got it right- when he said against thee (God) have I sinned. He also cried out- have mercy upon me O God according to thy loving kindness according to the multitude of the tender mercies blot out my transgressions. ( Psalm51)
Do you know what you and I did ? We caused the death of Gods only Begotten Son. It was my sins your sins that nailed Him to the cross. I had cursed Him just like the soldiers had. I had ridiculed and rejected Him. I had offended God. If someone treated one of my children the way I treated Gods son- I am not sure I could forgive them.
You see here is the principle— only the one offended and sinned against can offer forgiveness and only when there is forgiveness can we be reconciled.
Did God say to me when I asked Him to forgive me- well, Tim, in order to forgive you for your offending me I am ordering you to be beaten as they beat my son Jesus, and to hang you on a cross for six hours with spikes in your hands and feet, and with a spear driven in your side. I would have deserved it, but He did not demand that did He? You see mercy does not give me what I deserve- and God is rich in mercy. Furthermore His Sons dying request was for His Father to forgive me and you of our sins- because we did not know what we were doing. Can you imagine that? That my friends is being rich in mercy and the very definition of great love.
It was by grace through faith that we are saved Look at the prepositions; by grace- through faith unto good works- that is the process. But it was because of His Great Love. The Love that is spoken of in John 3: 16 was the reason He sent His Son to pay the price we could not pay.
God made us( you and me) alive together with Christ. He raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in heavenly places. By the way- know why we are seated with Him in heavenly realms? On that night of the last supper- Jesus prayed and requested : Father I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me, where I am.
Watch what happened to Jesus on that Friday. He died on that cross over 2000 years ago. It is recorded by eye witnesses. There is no doubt. He died a horrendous, painful death.
When they took Him down from the cross there was no pulse. No pupil reflex- eyes that could not see. Lungs that held no breath. He was dead.
They prepared His body quickly with the intention of coming back on Sunday morning. Loving hands cared for his mangled, beaten body.
He was placed in the borrowed tomb. The stone was rolled over- it was Friday and the world lay in darkness.
But on the third day, God infused the Lord Jesus body with new life. Jesus was made alive, never to die again. For the next 40 days He walked and talked with his disciples. He ate with them. They touched him with their hands, saw him with their eyes and heard him with their ears. He was alive. Gloriously alive.
The Lord Jesus was back in the business of life- with a different power .
The same thing happened to me and you- when we were born again. We were made alive with Jesus.
Back into the business of life after being dead spiritually.
And like Jesus we were alive with a new and different power.
We were new creatures. We acted in a different way, thought in a different way.
We were able to do things we could not do before.(Examples: I could say no to alcohol; I could understand scripture and desired it like a newborn desires milk.) Because before I was dead in sin and trespasses. I was lost but now I was found. I was dead but now I was alive. I was blind but now I could see.
I had been set free- My chains were gone.My God and Savior has ransomed me.. I put off the old grave clothes and was clothed in the righteousness of Christ. I begin to walk in the newness of life.
Like Lazarus- Jesus has called me to come forth out of death and into life. He has instructed others ; Loose him and let him go. That is one of the purposes of the church and discipleship to perfect us for the work of the ministry according to Ephesians 4. God has given us apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists and teachers to equip us for the work of the ministry. They are to loose us from the grave clothes of sin and let us go!