From Death to Life
Bible Reading: Ephesians 2
Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—.”
Jim Thompson was an elder in our church in Astoria. Before he departed to be with Jesus, he had the unique distinction of having been declared dead twice. Many years ago, he was traveling from Astoria to Portland along Highway 26. Jim was a Navy Recruiter, and he was accompanied by a Navy Recruit. Unbeknownst to him, the Quartz Creek Bridge was covered with ice and his car spun out of control. It then struck another car, and he was ejected from his car onto the pavement. When the police officer arrived at the scene, he saw Jim and declared him dead. Needless to say—the police officer was wrong. Jim lived for many years after that.
But Jim was actually pronounced dead a second time. Some years after the accident, his pastor, Harold Maycumber, went to visit Jim in his home. Until that day, Jim was endeavoring to take his children to church. He wanted them to have religious instruction and live moral lives, but that was the extent of Jim’s spiritual concern. Jim talked to Harold for quite a while about a lot of things, but then it came time for Harold to leave. As he was about to leave, Harold had a final word for Jim. He turned to him and said, “Jim, you need Jesus Christ.” In effect what Harold was saying was “Jim you are dead, but Jesus can make you alive.” Jim went home that night and bowed in prayer and trusted in Christ for salvation and was “made… alive together” with Him (Ephesians 2:7).
In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul reminded the believers in Ephesus of their previous condition—the way they were. They were spiritually dead before they had been “made… alive together with Christ” in salvation (Ephesians 2:5). This verse also speaks to the condition of the unbeliever. He is a person who is spiritually dead to God and unable to move a spiritual muscle regarding salvation.
A coroner or medical examiner makes an examination of a corpse. He ascertains that the person is actually dead and lists the cause on a death certificate. God has diagnosed the sons of Adam—they are spiritually dead (Romans 5:12). He likewise declares to us the cause, which is sin. The unbeliever is one who is dead to God in sin—that’s bad news of the worst degree. The bad news is not just that we are all born sinners (Romans 3:23), but that in sin, man is dead to God, and helpless to do a thing to rectify his situation (Romans 6:23). It is important that we understand the gravity of the bad news. The bad news is not just that man is sick, he is dead. It is the impartation of life that is necessary.
The spiritually dead are akin to Lazarus in the tomb. Having been entombed for days, his flesh had begun to rot. No amount of self-exertion or effort on Lazarus’ part could have worked to bring him forth from that tomb. His condition was emblematic of us all. Christ alone had the power to call Lazarus from that tomb (John 11:43).
George Whitefield once spoke to this matter by way of invitation, “Come, ye dead, Christ-less, unconverted sinners, come and see the place where they laid the body of the deceased Lazarus; behold him laid out, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, locked-up and stinking in a dark cave, with a great stone on the top of it. View him again and again; go nearer to him; be not afraid; smell him. Ah! How he stinketh… Was he bound hand and foot with grave clothes? So, art thou bound hand and foot with thy corruptions: and as a stone was laid on the sepulcher, so is there a stone of unbelief upon thy heart. Perhaps thou hast lain in this state, not only for days, but many years… And, what is still more effecting, thou art as unable to raise thyself out of this loathsome, dead state, to a life of righteousness and true holiness, as ever Lazarus was to raise himself from the cave in which he lay so long. Thou mayest try the power of thy own boasted free-will, and the force and energy of moral persuasion and rational arguments; but all thy efforts, exerted with never so much vigor, will prove fruitless and abortive, till that same Jesus, who said, ‘Take away the stone,’ and ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ also quicken you. Apart from the quickening voice of God, there is no hope for any man. With it the deadest and vilest of sinners can be saved.”
NOW I BELONG TO JESUS
Jesus, my Lord will love me forever,
From Him no pow’r of evil can sever,
He gave His life to ransom my soul;
Now I belong to Him;
Now I belong to Jesus,
Jesus belongs to me,
Not for the years of time alone,
But for eternity.
Once I was lost in sin’s degradation,
Jesus came down to bring me salvation,
Lifted me up from sorrow and shame,
Now I belong to Him; [Refrain]
Joy floods my soul for Jesus has saved me,
Freed me from sin that long had enslaved me
His precious blood He gave to redeem,
Now I belong to Him; [Refrain]