One of the greatest spiritual blessings is the experience of freedom and liberty IN CHRIST from the guilt of sin and the power of the enemy. We saw in Ephesians 1:3-14 that we are chosen and adopted and redeemed IN CHRIST. The Holy Spirit is given to believers as a guarantee of our inheritance in this life and the next. Paul makes sure we understand the importance of thanksgiving and prayer as seen in Eph 1:15-17. The foundation for our freedom is based upon the spirit of wisdom and revelation not information. Spiritual enlightenment is essential when it comes to our freedom. We must see all that God has blessed us with – hope, inheritance and the power of God. However, with all the spiritual blessings at our disposal we have also discovered that we are still less than perfect in following Jesus. We are saints who sin, not sinners trying to be righteous before God. Sometimes our walk with Jesus lacks holiness or stained by failure and yet we long to follow Jesus in love and obedience. This is one of the greatest battles facing believers today. This leads us to consider today’s message on “freedom IN CHRIST”.
Paul is speaking to the church in Ephesus, filled with new believers from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. He has laid a foundation for them with regards to all the spiritual blessings that are theirs IN CHRIST. Now he begins Ephesians 2 with thoughts describing something old and something new, which he later speaks of in Ephesians 4:22-24. The Apostle Paul highlights the struggle between the old nature and the new nature, flesh verses sin, spiritually speaking (Romans 6:6, 7:20, 8:13; Col 3:5-10; 2 Cor 5:17). The question is – what do these terms really mean? Is there a tug of war that I am sometimes winning but sometimes losing? Are God and Satan engaged in a back and forth cosmic battle? How about the First Nations proverb about two dogs in every heart of man, representing good and evil; the one you feed the most wins.
Ephesians 2:1-5 – Old verses New…
Let’s read Eph 2:1-5 – “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” I would like to help us understand several points here that relate to our freedom IN CHRIST. Once again, these verses are one long sentence that can be difficult to understand but contains one big idea.
1. Firstly, Paul speaks to them of their past. They were spiritually dead in sin. This is how they lived. Later in Ephesians 4 Paul will speak to some of their sinful struggles.
2. Secondly, they were under the influence of the world and the power of the devil and his demons.
These first two points are key to consider in light of freedom. If we are habitually struggling with transgressions and sins we are not free. The same is true of demonic influence in our lives. We need to be set free from both sin and Satan in order to follow Jesus fully.
3. Then the Apostle Paul switches this thought process to include himself in the struggle for freedom. Basically, Paul says, “I am in the same spiritual predicament, indulging sinful lusts and thoughts. Consequently, they too were children of wrath—just like all other sinners.
4. Now Paul turns our attention from mankind’s dilemma to God’s perspective. In Ephesians 2:4, Paul tells us God’s love is great and he is rich in mercy and even when we were dead in our sins. What the big idea here? The main point in this section becomes clear at the end of Ephesians 2:5 - “we were made alive with Christ”.
Made Alive IN CHRIST
Once again, our freedom as believers is centered on being made alive IN CHRIST. This is only clearly understood when we accept just how lost we were in our sin. We weren’t just spiritually dead in sin. We were also completely under Satan’s power and the influence of a fallen world. When we realize that our end in eternity was wrath it makes God’s love even more amazing. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6–7). We must remember that our freedom is only possible when we are raised IN CHRIST; raised to life from the death associated with sin and Satan.
Then Paul makes one of the most significant statements related to our freedom IN CHRIST – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8–9). This powerful declaration tells us our salvation and freedom is totally by grace and faith, both gifts of God and not by our own work or religious effort. In the context of the church of Ephesus, both the religious Jews or the rich Romans, there was boasting as to their accomplishments. Paul tells us the foundation of our freedom is a gift.
Hopefully by this point you understand that you are no longer part saint and part sinner; we are not in a tug of war between good and evil. Because of Jesus Christ we have exchanged our old way of living in spiritual death and wrath, for a new life full of freedom from sin and Satan. In other words, when we accept by faith the grace offered to us IN CHRIST, our old nature is completely dead. Sin and Satan can still affect us and can be tempting to us, but because of Jesus’ death on the cross, our old life has also been crucified and is fully dead. We need to learn to live in the freedom that God has given to us.
We are saints, children of God, with every spiritual blessing made available to us IN CHRIST. We are chosen, adopted and redeemed and because of these blessings, we are a thankful and prayerful people. This is our identity and we discover this by revelation.
Now “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10). Paul is laying a theological foundation for our freedom IN CHRIST. He wants to remove all doubt from our minds.
We will see in Eph 4-6 how we are to live out of our identity IN CHRIST. We are to live in holiness and freedom as followers of Jesus.