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Proverbs
For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;

Proverbs 2:6

The Word
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17

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A Proper Reckoning

J.A. Matteson
03.03.09

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins Ephesians 2:1

The incomprehensive aspect of grace is the object of its affection. The holy One who transcends all things and who upholds all things is, has been, and forever will be perfect light and life in His person. The Lord’s natural and just response to anything unholy is to eliminate it as pollution. The essence of sin is cosmic treason against the Creator and its due penalty is death. Sin is as an odious plague in God’s universe which justice demands must be quarantined and utterly annihilated, like a lethal virus in the body, and the sons of Adam are sinners by nature putting them in a perilous position before their Creator, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Ephesians 2:3). The Hebrew sacrificial system highlighted God’s perfect life in contract to the state of death found in sinners. No sacrifice that had a defect was a permissible offering as it was symbolic of a life short of divine perfection, thus leading to death. Similarly no diseased person was permitted in the camp—near the presence of the Lord—for the same reason. Per the Law pious Hebrews would not touch or approach a dead body and avoided the sick so as not to become ritually unclean. To head off any possibility of boasting in the flesh the Apostle reminds his readers of their natural state of hopelessness and helplessness, nothing meritorious being found in them. They, as with the rest, were three times dead: dead in their bodies through observable decay eventually leading to the grave; dead in their minds through the outward workings of the corrupt desires of their thinking, their wills, and emotions; dead in their spirits being destitute, cut off, totally blind, and deaf to God. Their lives were marked as insurrectionists and an utter abomination before the Lord.

That they now find themselves in a state of grace is a genuine miracle and the Apostle underscores the wonder of it, “even when we were dead in our transgressions…we were made alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:5). To be dead is to be unresponsive along the natural order of things. The dead have no ability to respond to external stimuli, they cannot see, they cannot hear, think, or move; all of their senses have been rendered useless. The dead can do only two things: occupy space and stink. The Apostle’s use of the term “dead” to describe the unregenerate is not a clever literary exercise; rather, it is a sober theological description of the unregenerate human condition born into the bondage of sin and at enmity against God, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God(Romans 3:10-11). As children of Abraham—children of promise—the Apostle enlightens his readers by informing them that they were enabled by the power of the Spirit with eyes to see, ears to hear, and a will to respond positively to the Gospel so as to be saved; except for grace they would not have responded to God’s call, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Lazarus, dead four days in the tomb and in a state of decay, had no natural ability to hear and respond to the call of Christ; the Living Word quickened him, enabling him to come forth.

So to the Living Word quickens sinners to new life leaving no basis for boasting except in the Lord, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up with Him…” (Ephesians 2:4-6). The wombs of Sarah, Rebecca, and Elizabeth were dead and God performed a miracle by bringing forth life from death. In like manner His wondrous love and power toward the children of Abraham—those who in the likeness of him have been justified by faith—supernaturally deliverers them from death, calling them forth by name to Life, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). Where then is boasting of being in Christ? It is left at the foot of the cross as we are His workmanship; by his amazing grace He gave us new life and not we ourselves.

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