Once, while conversing with a homosexual friend, I was asked, in so many words, what I thought about homosexuality. I told him very simply that God says in His Word, the Bible, that any sexual activity outside the marriage relationship between a man and woman is wrong or sinful. For example, I shared that if I lust after a woman, Jesus calls that “heart adultery.” In fact, I noted for him that the Bible contains more verses about heterosexual sin than homosexual sin.
He wasn’t offended, but surprised by my words—asking, “Does the Bible really say that?”
I went on to share that all of us are sinners in need of a Savior. That’s why Jesus came to die for our sins and rise again, so that through faith in Him, we could be forgiven of our sin, know God and be given the gift of eternal life.
My response to his initial inquiry, in so many words, was an attempt at “leveling the playing field.” As we continue in the series entitled Lessons from Paul, we come to a passage, in one sense, that does just that—“levels the playing field.”
Our text for exploration is Ephesians 2:1-10. My hope is that our witness will be informed through an understanding that we all, the human race, are in the same boat—in that we all are born with the same sinful nature and the same need for a Savior. And because of this understanding, I trust our witness to those outside the faith will be one, not of condemnation, but of compassion—as we share the wonders of salvation found in the gospel with those who need to be set free, those who need life abundant (John 10:10) and life eternal (John 3:16).
A Shared Need
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” – Ephesians 2:1-3
Each one of us, as believers, were at one time “dead men (or women) walking,” all “dead in trespasses and sins” (v.1). Note in verse 3 that Paul emphasizes that not only the Ephesian church, but himself also, and you and I today—“we all once conducted ourselves in the lust of our flesh, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
Now, that’s a level playing field! For all people are in the same quandary—we are sinners in need of a Savior.
In today’s polarizing cultural climate, remembering this truth informs and aids our testimony. For the gospel is not about “us” versus “them.” Rather, it’s about “we”—we all share the same sinful nature, find ourselves in the same spiritual quandary, and have the same need for a Savior.
A Life-Giving Savior
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2:4-7
Notice that Paul repeats the thought in verse 1, “you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” again in verse 5, “even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive.”
The idea is that dead people don’t raise themselves. So just as God breathed physical life into Adam, He must breathe spiritual life into a person.
The idea of dead people needing life is important to understand in our witness. Because salvation is not about a change in morality, piety, or religiosity. Rather, it’s about an acknowledgment of our true condition before God—hopelessly lost and without hope (dead in sins and trespasses), while acknowledging God’s grace and mercy found in the person and work of Christ (only He can make us alive spiritually). In short, dead people can’t change their “deadness.” They need someone or something else to affect their condition—that someone else being the Lord!
One apologist sums up well the life-giving work of Jesus: “Jesus Christ did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people live.”
And how does this transaction occur? By grace through faith.
A Special Purpose
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:8-10
Salvation is a gift that’s meant to be shared with others. For the Lord specifically calls us to walk in the good works He’s prepared for us, including the work of evangelism.
As we think about the work of witnessing in light of “leveling the playing field,” we share with unbelievers that none of us is worthy to be saved, nor can any one of us earn salvation. We simply receive it by faith. In fact, we share that all of us are under God’s judgment and wrath apart from the person and work of Jesus, who took God’s judgement and wrath you and I deserve for our sin upon Himself at the cross. Additionally, because He rose again on the third day, He demonstrated His power over sin and death. Therefore, because He lives, we who put our trust in Him, though we may die, we also shall live (John 11:25-26).
As D.T. Niles states: Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. So go forth Christian, telling others about the “Bread of Life” and “Living Water.” And as you do, may our great God call many to arise into new life in Christ. Amen.