The Book of Ephesians is divided up into two sections—the first three chapters are doctrinal and the last three chapters are practical—and that order is no mistake! Paul realized that doctrine must always precede duty because—Christian living depends on Christian learning.
The believer who does not know his or her wealth in Christ will never be able to live for Christ. In Ephesians chapter two Paul wants to tell us some of the wonderful blessings that God has given to us now that we are in Christ. But before he talks about what God did for us—he first talks about what sin did to us.
Or in other words the predicament we found ourselves in before we received Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Ephesians 2:1-3 (NKJV)
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.
Here in these verses Paul tells us that before we knew Jesus four things characterized our lives—we were:
  1. Dead in Sin—v.1
  2. Influenced by Satan—v.2
  3. Controlled by Lust—v.3a
  4. Under God’s Wrath (doomed to spend eternity in hell)—v.3b
But not even the religious unbeliever can raise himself from the dead—so to alleviate the guilt he feels from breaking God’s law—he offers God rituals, ceremonies and assorted good works (religion) in an effort to cleanse himself and placate his conscience.
Proverbs 20:9 (NKJV)
Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”?
Jeremiah 13:23 (NKJV) Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.
You see we can’t change what we are by nature—even though we may modify our behavior. In other words, unbelievers can stop drinking, smoking, and sleeping around. They can and often do change their outward behavior but that doesn’t mean in the eyes of God they are clean on the inside.
Jesus called the Pharisees ‘whitewashed tombs’—clean on the outside but filthy and defiled on the inside. At this point most people would protest by declaring—“But I’m a good person!”
Proverbs 20:6 (NKJV)
Most men will proclaim each his own goodness…
And yet in Matt.19:17 Jesus said that “no one is good but God.” Notice Jesus didn’t say that “no one is as good as God”—He said, “no one is good but God.” You see the Bible defines goodness as ‘moral perfection’—and only God is morally perfect.
Most people will say, “I know I’m not perfect, but I think I’m good enough to get into heaven.” But God is telling us in His Word that if you’re not perfect you’re not good enough—and no one is perfect—
Romans 3:23 (NKJV)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (sinless perfection),
Romans 6:23 (NKJV)
For the wages of sin is death (eternal death—hell), but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Basically what Paul is saying here in the first few verses of Ephesians 2—is that fallen man is hopelessly lost. And yet, against this hopeless backdrop of man’s sin and failure—Paul writes these words which are like rays of light piercing the blackness of a terrible storm—“But God!!”
After lowering us deeper and deeper into the pit of hopelessness and despair by reminding us of our predicament—how that we were separated from God by Adam’s sin, we were slaves of the devil and doomed to spend eternity apart from God in hell. Paul suddenly takes us from the pit of despair and skyrockets us to the heights of absolute joy by proclaiming—“But God!!”
In other words, “But God intervened!! But God came to our rescue!!”
Ephesians 2:4-5 (NKJV)
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).
Until a person sees themselves as a sinner and realizes the utter hopelessness of their predicament, they will never see their need for a Savior and therefore never cry out to Jesus to save them. The gospel isn’t a pillow to make a person’s life more comfortable—it’s a ‘life-preserver’ designed to rescue people who are drowning in the destructive power of sin and headed for an eternity of condemnation of hell!
“But God…” is the answer to the greatest dilemma the human race has ever faced—
“How can a holy and righteous God, who cannot bear to look upon sin, ever have fellowship with sinners and allow them into heaven?”
The answer—“But God sent His Son to die for our sins and offer us heaven as a free gift.”
“But God…” is where life—real life, eternal life begins.
People say, “I have made a mess out of my life, I have hit the bottom, I have tried to change, to live a good life but I keep falling back into the same old habits, I can’t change.”
The answer—”But God has promised that through His Son He can change me and give me a new life.”
“But God…” is the solution to any problem we face in life.
“My marriage is so bad that I believe it’s impossible for me to fix it”.
The answer—”But God can fix it, for with God nothing shall be impossible.”
“I’ve just been told that my company has to lay me off and with the economy as bad as it is I don’t know who’s going to hire me or how I’m going to provide for my family”
Again, the answer—”But God has promised to take care of me and my family because I am His child.”
“I have been diagnosed with terminal cancer, the doctors say there is nothing more they can do, it’s hopeless.”
The answer—”But God can heal me and if He chooses not to He will take me to heaven to be with Himself forever because I’ve received Jesus as my Lord and Savior.”
  • The atheist doesn’t say “But God” he defiantly rails, “No God”—“There is no God, but man…” or “There is no God, but science…” or “There is no God, but human government, or modern medicine, or “…” The atheist cries out—“No God”!
  • The moralist and religionist confidently cries, “And God”— “It is me, my goodness, my religious works and God that will get me into heaven!”
  • But like Paul all true Christians shout, “But God!”— “I was helpless and without hope in this world—But God came to my rescue!”
Jesus said, “I have come to seek and to save those who are lost”. But only those who acknowledge their guilt and need for a Savior can be saved. Only those who acknowledge the hopelessness and helplessness of trying to earn heaven and cry out to Jesus to save them will find forgiveness and eternal life.
Only those who are ‘poor in spirit’ (bankrupt to do anything to earn salvation) can be saved—even as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount—”Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs (and theirs alone) is the kingdom of heaven.”
Won’t you acknowledge the predicament that sin has put you in—that you are hopelessly lost and eternally condemned and cry out to Jesus to save you?  Only then will you be able to say—“I was lost, I was dead in trespasses and sin. I was doomed to spend eternity in hell—“But God!! Who is rich in mercy, who gave His Son for me has saved me!!!”