Ephesians 2:2-3

Sermon preached on March 26, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

Do you remember the old MacDonald's ad,

"You deserve a break today."

When Madison Avenue wants to sell you something, they often tell you that you deserve it. Do an internet search on 'you deserve' and you'll come up with lots of hits— "You deserve a month off." "You deserve a raise." "Make time for yourself, you deserve it." Personal injury lawyers in their advertisements tell you that if you've been born a certain way, if you've been in an accident (regardless of whether it was your fault) – call them and they'll get money for you. "Get the money you deserve." There are even books on, "The Love You Deserve". Doing the internet search I found that you ladies deserve better nails, that we all deserve to retire early, that we all deserve to get a loan, a better interest rate on the loan, a better career, a better home, a better life. The list goes on and on.

The world today tells us that we deserve good things. Many of us end up believing it. When bad things happen to people, most of them will ask, "
Why me? Why did this happen to me?" The implication behind that question is that we don't deserve to have bad things happen to us. We deserve good things.

But it's interesting that the Bible never talks about us, in ourselves, deserving good things. Jesus never taught His disciples to think that way. Remember what Jesus said to His disciples in
Luke 17:10,

"So you also,
when you have done everything
you were told to do,
should say,
'We are unworthy servants;
we have only done our duty.'"

We are not to be thinking we, in ourselves, deserve good things. Quite the opposite. Consider what the apostle Paul tells us here. He tells the Ephesian Christians what they were like before they became Christians, what they were by nature. He wrote,

"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.
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."

We are to remember what we deserve in ourselves so that we will magnify and give glory to God for our salvation like we should. To this end let's look at the apostle Paul's words here.

The great truth we see here is that

by nature we are objects of God's wrath.

We are sinners and our sin calls out for God's wrath. By nature we deserve God's anger.

Now to grasp this properly we need to consider two things.

First, we need to understand that we are sinners.

This is the reason that we are objects of wrath. Notice how Paul puts it. We are 'by nature' objects of God's wrath. F.F. Bruce writes,

"Paul speaks elsewhere of Peter and himself as Jews 'by nature' which can only mean 'by birth' (Gal. 2:15 RSV)"

Indeed, that's how the NIV translates it. It reads,

"We who are Jews by birth
and not 'Gentile sinners'"

By nature we are objects of wrath. It's what we are by birth. The Greek word that Paul uses here means, (BDAG)

"condition or circumstance as determined by birth, natural endowment/condition, nature, esp. as inherited fr. one's ancestors, in contrast to status or characteristics that are acquired after birth"

We are born in sin. In Psalm 51:5 David wrote,

"Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time
my mother conceived me."

John Eadie writes on the expression, 'by nature',

"And so 'we are children of wrath' not accidentally, not by a fortuitous combination of circumstances, not even by individual sin and actually transgression, but 'by nature'—by an exposure which preceded personal disobedience, and was not first created by it; an exposure which is inherent, hereditary, and common to all the race by the very condition of its present existence, for they are 'so born' children of wrath."

Or to put it a little more simply, there's an old saying that says something to the effect,

"We don't become sinners because we sin. We sin because we're sinners."

When Adam sinned he plunged the whole human race into sin. In Romans 5 Paul compares and contrasts the first Adam and the second Adam, Jesus. When the first Adam sinned, he did not just plunge himself into sin. No, he was the head of the race and our representative and when he sinned he plunged all of us into sin. In Romans 5:12 Paul wrote,

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world
through one man,
and death through sin,
and in this way death came to all men,
because all sinned…"

Then in verses 15-19 of Romans 5 Paul affirms five times that, (John Murray, The Imputation of Adam's Sin, p. 11)

"the universal sway of condemnation and death is to be referred to as the one sin of the one man Adam."

In verse 15 he writes,

"by the trespass of the one
the many died"

In verse 16 he said,

"the judgment was from one
unto condemnation…"

In verse 17 we read,

"by the trespass of the one
death reigned through the one"

In verse 18,

"through one trespass
judgment came upon all men unto condemnation."

Verse 19,

"through the disobedience of the one man
the many were constituted sinners."

Murray writes, (p. 11)

"We might think that Paul has needlessly repeated himself, but it is a repetition which establishes beyond dispute that Paul regards condemnation and death as having passed on to all men by the one trespass of the one man Adam… It is indisputable, therefore, that Paul regards the universality of condemnation and death as grounded upon and proceeding from the one trespass of the one man Adam."

When Adam sinned he sinned as our representative. The relationship that we had with Adam is parallel to the relationship we have with Christ. The union we have with Christ is what some theologians call 'vicarious representation'. When Jesus came to save us He acted for us and in our place. As we read in Romans 5:18-19,

"Consequently, just as the result of one trespass
was condemnation for all men,
so also the result of one act of righteousness
was justification that brings life for all men.
For just as through the disobedience of the one man
the many were made sinners,
so also through the obedience of the one man
the many will be made righteous."

By nature we are sinners. By nature we are objects of God's wrath.

But even more than, we are not only by nature objects of God's wrath, but

we also commit many sins.

Before the Ephesians became Christians they followed the ways of the world, the ruler of the kingdom of the air, gratifying their sinful nature.

In themselves, our sins cry out for punishment. Remember what God told
Cain after he killed Abel? He said, (Genesis 4:10-11)

"What have you done?
Listen! Your brother's blood
cries out to me from the ground.
Now you are under a curse
and driven from the ground,
which opened its mouth
to receive your brother's blood from your hand."

We are all sinners. In Romans 3:10 the apostle Paul quotes from Psalms 14 and 53. He wrote,

"As it is written:
'There is no one righteous,
not even one;'"

Or as we read in Ecclesiastes 7:20,

"There is not a righteous man on earth
who does what is right and never sins."

The thrust of all this is that we are sinners and we deserve God's wrath.

Secondly, we should understand something about God's character, His wrath.

God is perfect. There is no defect or flaw in Him. When we think of God's wrath we must remember that it is not like man's anger. Man's anger is often inappropriate and sinful. God's wrath is not like man's. We can be angry at the wrong things. Our anger can be subject to our moods, come too easy, and stay too long.

But God's wrath is one of His perfections. God's anger is His righteous indignation at sin. All sin is against God. Remember what Joseph said to Potiphar's wife, (Genesis 39:9)

"How then could I do such a wicked thing
and sin against God?"

As David said in Psalm 51:4,

"Against you,
you only,
have I sinned"

Sin is against God's nature, His rule, His will. When He reacts against sin it is with wrath that is in perfect accord with His holiness and righteousness, and all His other perfections.

God hates sin intensely and rightly so. Sin is horrible and evil. James Montgomery
Boice writes that God's wrath is noble, just and perfect. (Foundations, p. 252) He adds,

"In human affairs we rightly value justice and the 'wrath' of the judicial system, for they protect us."

In the same way we should see the wrath of God as the perfection that it is. It is one of the attributes of God that will ensure the new heavens and the new earth wherein will dwell righteousness—and that the people of Jesus Christ will be safe there.

Now what does all this mean?

First, Christians,

how incredibly thankful you ought to be for God not treating you as you deserve.

We were by nature objects of God's wrath—yet God has not treated us as our sins deserve. In Psalm 103:8f David wrote,

"The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger,
abounding in love...
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us."

As Lamentations 3:22 says,

"Because of the LORD'S great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail."

Psalm 130:3 declares,

"If you, O LORD,
kept a record of sins,
O Lord,
who could stand?"

Instead of wrath God treats us with great and abiding love. Instead of punishment, He is going to raise us high with Christ.

Secondly, we should understand that

this passage refutes the idea that God chose us because He saw something good in us.

Many Christians today believe that God chose them and other Christians because He saw something good in them, or that He saw that they would believe in Jesus, that they would have faith.

But what does our text say? It says that we were by nature objects of wrath. It doesn't say that we were by nature objects of God's love, or by nature we were objects of God's kindness. No. We were by nature objects of God's wrath.

Note well the phrase,

"Like the rest…"

Paul absolutely makes no distinction between us and those who were not chosen by God. It's not that- they were by nature objects of God's wrath, but we were by nature objects of God's love. No. No. Like the rest, we were objects of God's wrath. In other words, we were all the same.

Why did God chose us and not others? You can't look at us and then those that God didn't choose and find a difference. No, we were exactly like them.

There's no distinction. We were all the same—sinners lost in sin. God didn't look into the future and see that we were good, better than others. No. Romans 9- God didn't choose Jacob because He saw that He was going to be better than Esau. No. Before they had done any good or evil. Indeed, here in Ephesians 2- the good works of Christians- where do they come from? Verse 10- God prepared them for us to do beforehand. So that can't be the distinction.

Nor can it be that God saw that some would believe, that some would have faith, and that's why God chose them. Again, the context here- salvation is all of grace. Faith is a gift of God so that no man can boast. God gives faith. He doesn't give it because He saw that someone would have it. That's a contradiction in terms.

No, God did not chose us because we were better. In
Romans 9:14f we read,

"What then shall we say?
Is God unjust?
Not at all!
For he says to Moses,
'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'
It does not, therefore,
depend on man's desire or effort,
but on God's mercy."

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians. Recognize that you are not okay as you are.

You are by nature an object of wrath.

Your sins, your sinfulness—cry out to God for punishment. You deserve to be punished for your sins. You deserve for the earth to open up and swallow you. You deserve for fire to come down from heaven and consume you. You deserve death—eternal death in the agony of hell.

Yet, instead of receiving such things from God—you have instead received good things—not because you deserve them, but because of God's kindness. Don't make the horrible mistake of thinking that you deserve this kindness. No rather, see it for what it really is. As the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 2:4,

"Or do you show contempt
for the riches of his kindness,
tolerance and patience,
not realizing that God's kindness
leads you toward repentance?"

There is hope for you. You need to turn from your sins and go to Jesus. The Ephesian Christians to whom Paul wrote are in heaven today. They're in glory with Jesus. They, like you, were by nature objects of God's wrath. But because they believed in Jesus, they were saved. You, too, can be saved. In 1 Timothy 1:15-16 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Here is a trustworthy saying
that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners
—of whom I am the worst.
But for that very reason
I was shown mercy so that in me,
the worst of sinners,
Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience
as an example for those
who would believe on him
and receive eternal life."

Go to Jesus today and escape God's wrath.