Sermon Notes • January 31

Ephesians 2:4-10 United with Jesus

Did you ever make up a word to describe something or someone that you just couldn’t find the right word for? Most of us have. The early church found itself needing to redefine or even invent new words to describe what they were learning about God and the salvation He provided for us through the sacrifice of Jesus.

For example, the early church could not find an adequate Greek word to describe God’s love. So they took a word that was almost never used “agape” and poured into it new meaning that described as closely as a word can what it means to describe God as love.

In our passage for today, Ephesians 2:5-6, we find that Paul literally made up three words you will not find anywhere in Greek literature before he wrote them in his letter to the Ephesians. Read Ephesians 1:19-20. Paul declared that God has done a similar thing for us and has done it because when we are saved, we are united with Jesus and partake of His victory. 

So, Paul took the Greek prefix “syn” that meant “together with” and combined it in a way that had never been done before with the Greek words meaning “make alive,” “raise up,” and “sit down” and used those new words in Ephesians 2:5-6 to declare, “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” Then he declared “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” The thrust of those new words was to say that in some way Christians have been united with Jesus in being made alive, being raised up and being seated with Him. 

Jesus alluded to the union of believers with Him in verses such as John 17:22-23. Read those verses. Jesus declared a similar truth in John 15:4-5. Read those verses. In those and other verses Jesus alluded to the union His followers would have with Him, but before His death and resurrection it was impossible to understand all that implied. Following those events, Paul was able to present the depth of meaning that God intended when Jesus spoke of oneness and union.

It is not easy to understand that. The closest I can come to a parallel that may help us understand the union that takes place when we accept Jesus as our Savior is the description Paul gave to the church in Corinth of our union with Adam and Eve.

In I Corinthians 15:22 Paul wrote, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” The essence of that is that when Adam and Eve sinned all of humanity was somehow united in that sin. We are all born with a sin nature. We act on that sin nature, so we seldom think about the fact that we are guilty of sin because somehow, we were united with Adam in his disobedience. The second half of that verse presents the truth that Paul was expressing to the Ephesian Christians. Just as somehow when Adam sinned, we are all somehow a part of that even though we are born centuries later. In some way, although we are living 2000 years after Jesus was raised from the dead, ascended to the Father and was seated at God’s right hand, we are united with Him. 

That does not fully explain it but here are many things we cannot fully understand. John 3 opens with John recording that a man named Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council, came to Jesus and called Him good. The discussion moved on and, with Jesus saying to Nicodemus, according to verse 3, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” That blew the mind of this biblical scholar, so he asked Jesus how in the world that was possible. Jesus then said to him, according to verse 6, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” Dixon paraphrase of that is “You really can’t understand it because while you can understand to some degree the physical world in which you live, there is a spiritual world, and it is beyond your ability to understand that.” Jesus went on to say that while we try to understand the world we can see, understanding the world we cannot see is another story. Jesus then gave an example in verse 8 which reads, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Jesus said there are spiritual things that we just cannot understand. 

Not being able to understand it all does not mean we are not obligated to understand all we can, so we continue to read and study the Word. Little by little, with the help of the Holy Spirit, our understanding gets deeper and the wonder of our faith grows.

While we cannot understand really the spiritual dynamics of being united with Jesus in His resurrection, ascension, and seating, we can begin to understand in part what each means to us as Christians.

At the heart of what Paul was presenting is the provision of God’s love, mercy and grace which is, according to Ephesians 2:5. Read that verse. The verb form Paul used here means that something that happened in the past, i.e., we decided to invite Jesus to be our Savior, but it has implications today, i.e., we are alive. Because we are alive in Jesus, we can “be raised us up with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

Today we are alive in Jesus and can enjoy all the benefits of that life. There was a time when we were dead because of our transgressions but today we are alive in Jesus. Being dead in our transgressions meant in part that we were dead spiritually with implications for eternity. Being alive with Jesus means that we are now alive spiritually with implications for eternity. 

When we present the challenge of the gospel to someone we talk in terms of where one will spend eternity if they do not make Jesus their Savior. In a sense, that is the most glorious part of the salvation Jesus provided. The new life provided by Jesus assures us that when we die, we will go to be with God in heaven and will be given new glorified bodies. But Jesus did not die just so we can spend eternity in heaven. Jesus died so we can be alive spiritually today. Salvation is not a place called heaven; it is fellowship with God. Salvation is a fellowship with God that will continue for all eternity in a place we call heaven. At its core it is fellowship with the God in whose image we were created. 

Too often when we think of the provision of Jesus on the Cross, we rejoice in the fact that He bore our sins. We rejoice at the fact that He paid the price of our disobedience and shed His blood in place of ours. That is truly majestic and to be celebrated. But the redemption story did not end on Good Friday with our penalty of sin paid in full. The redemption story does not really end until 40 days later. The redemption story includes both an empty tomb and an ascended Savior who sits at the right hand of God the Father.

Think about this. A criminal is pardoned so allowed to go free. How foolish would it be for that person to shout from his cell “I’m a free man” and continue to live in prison the rest of his life. That is similar to a Christian who has been made alive by faith in Jesus but continues to live as if he were still in a dead place. 

Satan doesn’t like it when we talk about salvation, but he is at least glad if when we do, we talk about it only the future aspects of it. I suspect that Satan sighs when he catches us thinking about our salvation but smiles a bit when we allow our minds to think of it primarily as a future place. I doubt that Satan is happy when we think about heaven as a place with no cancer and with the streets of gold, but I suspect he is at least glad that we fail to realize that heaven is living in intimate fellowship with God.

The salvation provided by Jesus is intended to not only declare us no longer responsible for our sins but to release us from our cell where dead people live and move us into the glorious presence of God. We are made alive with Jesus to have immediate fellowship with Him. 

Paul’s message is clear. Because you are a Christian you are already alive spiritually and that means you can continually have fellowship with God. The only thing that remains is for us to leave our death cells and walk out into the light of His love for us.