Ephesians 2:1-10 Love and Forgiveness
During a children’s sermon one Sunday morning, the pastor Glenn Schaeffer held up a summer shirt that he wore around the house. Schaeffer told the children that someone said the shirt was ugly and should be thrown away.
“I’m having trouble forgiving the person who said those mean things,” He said. “Do you think I should forgive that person?”
His daughter, Alicia, six, raised her hand. “You should.”
“But why? This person hurt my feelings,” Schaeffer said.
“Because you’re married to her,” Alicia replied.1
I want to share with you the importance of love and forgiveness. Ephesians 2 speaks about the importance of a changed life and the role how love and forgiveness play in that changed life. The chapter starts with us, but ends with God. Literally translated, chapter 2 begins with “And you” which is plural, indicating that the flow of the presentation continues without a real break from chapter 1.2 The theme is God’s work—God’s work for us in verses 4–7, God’s work in us in verses 8–9, God’s work through us in verse 10, and God’s work among us in verses 11–22.3 But before introducing God’s work, Paul shows us the spiritual condition that reveals that we need God’s work in our lives.
MY PROBLEM – I am on a dead end road: total separation from God (Ephesians 2:1-3)
FOUR CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF THE LOST PERSON
1. S/He is dead (Ephesians 2:1)
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1, HCSB)
Just as a person physically dead does not respond to physical stimuli, so a person spiritually dead is unable to respond to spiritual things. A corpse does not hear the conversation going on in the funeral parlor. He has no appetite for food or drink; he feels no pain; he is dead. Just so with the inner man of the unsaved person. His spiritual faculties are not functioning, and they cannot function until God gives him life. The cause of this spiritual death is “trespasses and sins.” Because the spirit which is separate from the body is dead.
“For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26, HCSB)
Because of sin, the spirit separated from God.
“But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He does not listen.” (Isaiah 59:2, HCSB)
The unbeliever is not sick; he is dead! He does not need resuscitation; he needs resurrection. All lost sinners are dead, and the only difference between one sinner and another is the state of decay. The problem is that in today’s world, we can’t see the difference between the lost and the saved. There should be a dramatic difference between the saved and the lost. But in many ways, that is not the case. Why is that? Because like the lost, we are disobedient.
2. S/He is disobedient (Ephesians 2–3a)
“in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.” (Ephesians 2:2–3, HCSB)
This was the beginning of man’s spiritual death—his disobedience to the will of God.
“but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”” (Genesis 2:17, HCSB)
““No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman.” (Genesis 3:4, HCSB)
Our disobedience comes primarily because of three forces: the world, the devil, and the flesh. The unbeliever is influenced by this world. Christians are called to be transformed, and not conformed because we are not of this world. The lost person is controlled by the values and attitudes of this world. Satan manipulates the lost through a variety of methods. But his easiest method is lies. Satan himself is a liar.
“You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.” (John 8:44, HCSB)
So Satan wants the lost to lie as well. Since God is truth, the lost lie by disobedience.
An evangelist once announced as his topic, “Why Your Dog Does What It Does,” and, of course, many dog lovers came out to hear him. What he had to say was obvious, but too often overlooked: “A dog behaves like a dog because he has a dog’s nature.” If somehow you could transplant into the dog the nature of the cat, his behavior would change radically. Why does a sinner behave like a sinner? Because he has the nature of a sinner.
“Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5, HCSB)
This is an area where it is hard to see the difference, honestly. But then the lost person is not just disobedient, but the lost person is depraved.
3. S/He is depraved (Ephesians 2:3b)
“We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.” (Ephesians 2:3, HCSB)
This means that a lost person doesn’t care about God. The lost child doesn’t want to please God. The lost child wants to encourage others to destroy God’s plan. These are the “inclinations” that come naturally. As a result, the child is doomed.
4. S/He is doomed (Ephesians 2:3c).
“…and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.” (Ephesians 2:3, HCSB)
Because of listening to lies, and following the wrong father, the lost person, the unsaved person, is going to the wrong place. The Bible calls them “children of wrath.” But it means we were children who were heading the wrong path.
GOD’S SOLUTION – Out of His great love (grace) God saves us, by letting His Son die for our sins.
God loved us. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us,” (Ephesians 2:4, HCSB)
Unlike humanity, God has a completely different nature. He is love.
“The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8, HCSB)
Theologians call love one of God’s attributes. But God has two kinds of attributes: those that He possesses of Himself (intrinsic attributes, such as life, love, holiness), and those by which He relates to His creation, especially to man (relative attributes). For example, by nature God is truth; but when He relates to man, God’s truth becomes faithfulness. God is by nature holy; and when He relates that holiness to man, it becomes justice.
Love is one of God’s intrinsic attributes, but when this love is related to sinners, it becomes grace and mercy. God is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4) and in “grace” (Ephesians 2:7), and these riches make it possible for sinners to be saved. It comes as a shock to some people when they discover that we are not saved “by God’s love,” but by God’s mercy and grace. God’s love produces grace and mercy. It is essentially two different ways that God relates to us out of His love. In His mercy, He does not give us what we do deserve; and in His grace He gives us what we do not deserve. 4
“made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” (Ephesians 2:5, HCSB)
“so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7, HCSB)
God related His love to us through His grace (something that we did not deserve). That grace came through His kindness in Jesus. What was the kindness that God expressed to us? It was forgiveness. We don’t deserve forgiveness. But God is loving, and therefore He forgives.
There is only one response to this kind of love. I need to accept it.
MY RESPONSE – I can’t produce the work that can fix my problem. I need to accept God’s gift.
When someone gives you a Valentine’s Day gift, you don’t say: “No, I don’t want it.” No, everyone accepts the candy. We all want the gift. It’s easy to accept. I have never seen anyone not accept Valentine’s Day candy. But when it comes to Jesus, people have a hesitation to accepting Him. The reason is simple. Candy you just take and consume. But Jesus consumes your life. Jesus does not want to become a consumer. He wants to work through you. He wants to change you. He wants to do good works through you.
KEY TRUTH – God is abundant in mercy: He forgives everything. God’s forgiveness flows out of God’s love.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us,” (Ephesians 2:4, HCSB)
The truth here is that God is love. So God is intrinsically loving. Love is an internal attribute of Who He is. He relates to us out of His mercy and grace. One of the forms its takes is forgiveness. It is a form of forgiveness that God shares with His people. When Jesus died on the cross, God, Who is love, related to us that love through mercy and grace. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. That mercy and grace showed up in the forgiveness. A debt was paid. God didn’t need to pay the debt. We are children of wrath. God could easily have said that you and I needed to pay up. But He didn’t act like that. Instead, He was forgiving. But don’t think that the forgiveness was easy for God. It cost Him His Son. Forgiveness from God took on a great price. Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta states the following about God’s motivation for forgiveness:
The motivation for God’s forgiveness lies totally within God Himself. He forgives us because He wants to forgive. God forgives out of His unconditional, eternal love. John tells us that God’s very nature is love, and forgiveness flows from His nature. We are forgiven because it is God’s will to forgive.5
Forgiveness is so needed in our society. Forgiveness is something that Christians should exercise. I am amazed at the number of Christians who don’t forgive each other. We were children of wrath before Jesus came. Why are still acting like children of wrath? Why are we lashing out at one another? Why are we still bitter at one another – even when we say we are Christians.
If you are choosing NOT to forgive someone, then it means that you are holding on to a sin in your life about that person. If you can’t forgive someone, then the problem is with you.
It means one of two things:
1. You are holding on to part of your lost nature that you never gave up. In which case, you are never going to see God work in your life to help. You are never going to see God’s good purpose.
2. You are lost. You are just in denial. You are lost, and you are dead, disobedient, depraved, doomed but you are just denying it. Your heart is so hard and bitter that you are so incapable of changing.
Forgiveness is hard for many people. But it shouldn’t be. The reason we can’t forgive is because we are still letting Satan, the world, and our sinful nature influence it. And it’s got us. Many of us are no different than the lost. We give lip service to Jesus, but the truth is that we don’t really want to live like Him. We don’t want to forgive.
For example, divorce is a direct result of un-forgiveness. No offense to anyone who is divorced. But divorce means that a couple didn’t practice forgiveness. That’s what it means. We shouldn’t have so many Christian couples with divorce in their background. Because it means that we didn’t practice forgiveness. Russell Moore, the head of the Ethics, Religious Liberty Committee – the policy lobbying arm of the Southern Baptist Convention retweeted the following on Twitter:6
I heard recently, from a wise pastor to men tempted to adultery: “Jesus will forgive you. Your wife might. Your children will not.”
Edward Welch, in his book Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest states the following about forgiveness:
We know that our forgiveness is fully dependent on God’s mercy, but once we have tasted forgiveness we too will forgive. If we are reluctant forgivers, we simply do not know God’s forgiveness. In a similar way, if we have known peace, we will be peacemakers. But there is more. There is a feedback loop in the kingdom. When we respond to God’s grace by making peace with others, he gives us more peace. Do you want to know forgiveness more deeply? Study the character of God and practice forgiving others. Do you want to know peace? Study the Peace-giver and make peace. Then he will give you even more.7 Because as a friend of mine recently said on Facebook: “Beating yourself up doesn’t make you a fighter. Forgiving, forgetting and moving on does.8
GOD’S PURPOSE – God wants to “recycle” my life.
So God does not save us by our works to come to Christ. Yet, He re-creates us to do good works. We are a new creation – we are recycled. God reduces our sin content. God redeems us. That means He buys us back through the sacrifice that Jesus paid on the cross. I deserve judgment. But God bought me back. Like a used aluminum can, God takes me to the cross and His Son buys me back. A one-price buy-back. Then, like that aluminum can, God reuses this container we are in. He recycles my life. He gives my life new meaning and purpose. This purpose, He has planned long before.
But He won’t re-use you until you start practicing forgiveness.
1 Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 215. Originally from Glenn E. Schaeffer, “Kids of the Kingdom,” Christian Reader (September–October 1997)
2 Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld, Ephesians, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001), 89.
3 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1233.
4 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 19.
5 Charles F. Stanley, Experiencing Forgiveness (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1996).
6 Russell Moore, Internet, Twitter, @drmoore, 10 February 2017, 7:33am, https://twitter.com/drmoore/status/830062094624096257, accessed on 11 February 2017.
7 Edward T. Welch, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007).
8 David Williams, Internet, Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1790345627956066&id=100009419391392, 11 February 2017, accessed on 11 February 2017.