Saturday, 23 July 2016
…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), Ephesians 2:5
As seen in the previous verse, this verse, which is connected to verse 4, now ties us back to verse 1. Taken together, the thought goes –
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, … 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
We were “dead in trespasses and sins,” but God “made us alive together in Christ.”
This verse is, unfortunately taken to unnecessary extremes by those who hold to a monergistic approach to our salvation. Such is the teaching of “Calvinists.” In this, they will say that a person who is dead is dead. They can in no way make themselves alive, and therefore “regeneration precedes faith” (Tabletalk Magazine on Ephesians 2:1-10).
In other words, God sovereignly chooses who will be saved; He then “regenerates them in order to believe; and then they believe. In essence, they are saved in order to be saved. In essence, a person is saved before they believe, not after. The belief is a result of their salvation, because regeneration of the Spirit is the saving mark of God (see Ephesians 1:13, 14). RC Sproul states their ideology this way –
“You have as much power to awaken yourself from spiritual death as a corpse has the power to awaken himself from physical death.”
In this, a serious category mistake is made. Just because a person is spiritually dead, it does not mean that they are completely dead. A functioning brain is a part of human existence… well in most cases! The spiritual connection between God and man is cut, but this does not mean that man is incapable of doing good things, nor is he incapable of seeing what is good and pursuing it. In the giving of Christ, God makes an offer to fallen man. Man sees this good work of God in Christ and chooses, of his volitional free-will, to accept it or reject it. If it is accepted, then He is deemed righteous by God, justified by the work of Christ, and regenerated in his Spirit.
Sproul is correct that we cannot awaken ourselves from spiritual death, only a work of God can do that, but that work of God comes not from being “regenerated in order to believe,” but rather from an act of the free will in man which then triggers God’s regeneration of our Spirit. This is what Paul is referring to when he says that God, “…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” Our spirits were dead, but God made them alive – not before, but after we believed.
Albert Barnes goes further with Paul’s intent. He says (underlining added) –
“The construction here is, “God, who is rich in mercy, on account of the great love which he bare unto us, even being dead in sin, hath quickened us,” etc. It does not mean that he quickened us when we were dead in sin, but that he loved us then, and made provision for our salvation. It was love to the children of wrath; love to those who had no love to return to him; love to the alienated and the lost. That is true love – the sincerest and the purest benevolence – love, not like that of people, but such only as God bestows. Man loves his friend, his benefactor, his kindred – God loves his foes, and seeks to do them good.”
Although it is true that we were dead in sin when we received Christ, Barnes argues that this isn’t the main point of the thought. Rather, he says that the focus is on God’s love towards us, even in our deadened state, and thus He made a way for the correction of that state. The concept of monergism, being regenerated in order to believe, is erroneous and leads to other major faults in one’s theology.
The final words of the verse today are that “by grace you have been saved.” Grace is unmerited favor. It is getting what you do not deserve. We are the offenders, but God graciously forgives our offenses through the gift of His Son.
Life application: Forced grace is not grace.
Lord God, how grateful we are for You glorious grace. When we were dead in sin, separated from You because of our first father’s misdeed, You still loved us enough to promise a Redeemer. Slowly and methodically, You worked in history until that glorious moment when Christ came. Now through Him we have complete pardon and full redemption, by simply trusting in what You have done. Thank You for Christ Jesus our Lord. How grateful we are for Your glorious grace. Amen.