Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4
Read: Ephesians 2:1-10
This passage is a great contrast in life and death, spiritually speaking. Paul says that before we come to Christ we are dead in our transgressions and sins. He describes the spiritually dead person as one who follows the ways of the world and of Satan, gratifying the craving of our sinful nature, to the point that God declares us objects of wrath
I love how Paul emphasizes that this is who we were, how we used to live, at one time. He is driving home the past because in v. 4, he delivers the contrast: “But, because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”
The heart of the Gospel runs like the blood of Jesus through this verse:
“God made us alive with Christ by grace.”
Paul cites two reasons in this verse to explain why God did such a marvelous thing; because of His great love for us, and because He is rich in mercy. Paul identifies God’s love, grace and kindness as His gift to us. He expresses it beautifully in verse 7 – “the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
So, if indeed we have been made alive in Christ, what does that look like?
A person who is alive in Christ is dead to sin, meaning sin does not reign over those who are alive in Christ. We will all struggle with temptations and sin, as long as we walk this earth, but for the one who is alive in Christ, sin is the exception, rather than the rule. (Romans 6:11-12; 8:9-10) A person who is alive in Christ is controlled by the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit).
When we are controlled by the Spirit of Christ, we see another very important sign of spiritual life – fruit. A person who is alive in Christ lives a fruitful life. A plant that is alive will produce “fruit” of some type – grapes, beans, flowers, peaches – because that is exactly what it was created for. The person who is alive in Christ also produces fruit – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) – characteristics which marked our Savior when He was here on earth. Fruit doesn’t produce itself, but it is the work of the plant that creates the fruit. In John 15:5, Jesus said that in order to be fruitful, we must “remain in Him.” To remain in Christ is to consciously and obediently accept the authority of His Word, and to stay in constant contact with Him through prayer.
A person who is alive in Christ will be actively serving and working for the Kingdom of God. Paul declared in Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” How do we discover those “good works”? They are often found in the gifts of the Spirit: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, showing mercy, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, discernment, and speaking in and interpreting tongues to name a few. Remember there are many other gifts God uses to bless the church: music, cooking, artistic and creative talents, organization, even the gift of patience with little children.
Finally, a person who is alive in Christ will be filled with love, which is the hallmark of those who belong to the Lord.
The New Testament writers declared love to be supreme in the life of a Christian. Paul said love is “the most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31) and said of the foundations of the Kingdom of God-“faith, hope and love, the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Peter declares: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) And John the Revelator gave a beautiful epistle on love in 1 John where he says: “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light” (2:10); “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (3:18); “Let us love one another, for love comes from God.” (4:7) and “Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (4:21)
And of all Jesus’ words recorded in the four gospels, I can only find one time that He prefaced His words as a direct command. John 15:24 – “This is my command” – “Love one another as I have loved you.” He said our love for one another would be the distinguishing mark that declares to the world “we belong to Jesus”. John 15:25 – “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Can we be saved and still not be “alive in Christ”?
Revelation 3:1-2 says I know your deeds, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.
We can claim the Name of Jesus Christ, come to church every Sunday, give money, sing in the choir, attend Bible Studies, even teach Sunday School – and proclaim ourselves alive in Christ,
But unless there is growth and maturity,
unless there is fruit production,
unless there is holy love
– we are Christians on life support.