The Way We Were
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The Way We Were

From Series: Grace and Peace, Volume 2

Ephesians 2:1-3  (ID: 3158)

Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus clarify the state of the Christian before and after salvation in Jesus. Focusing on life prior to salvation, Alistair Begg describes the diagnosis of those who have not experienced the divine remedy that is found in Jesus Christ. When we are confronted with the harsh reality of our sinful nature, it is uncomfortable at best, but it is only by recognizing the gravity of the human condition that we can fully appreciate the gift of God’s grace.


Sermon Transcript:

Ephesians 2:1:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 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—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Amen.

The verses to which I should like to draw your attention are Ephesians 2:1–3. And as you turn there, we ask God’s help:

Father, to you alone we look, so that by the Holy Spirit your Word may accomplish its purposes in each of our lives to the glory of your Son, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Well, six weeks have elapsed since we concluded chapter 1. There are good reasons for all of that, and it is, I hope, still a lingering memory—the having spent, I think, seven or eight studies in chapter 1 helping us to grasp something or be grasped by the glory and wonder of God’s grace.

I was helped in coming back to this passage by recalling a couple of quotes that we had shared with one another in the early part of our studies. They both came from the person who had once been the president of Princeton Theological Seminary. His name was John Mackay. And he testified to the fact that as a fourteen-year-old boy, he had been reading the book of Ephesians, and as he read the book of Ephesians, he said that he had a spiritual awakening. That’s how he put it. He said, “Jesus Christ became [for me] the centre of everything … I had been ‘quickened’; I was really alive.”[1] So, in other words, it’s a testimony to the invading power of Christ in his life. No, he doesn’t say, “I read the book of Ephesians, and it was very interesting,” or “I read the book of Ephesians, and I learned a lot of things. That was true.” No, he said, “I was spiritually enlivened.”

Forty-five years later, delivering lectures at Edinburgh University, he referred again to Ephesians and did so as “[Ephesians is] the distilled essence of the Christian religion.”[2] It “is truth that sings, doctrine set to music.”[3] So, in other words, it’s the kind of thing that ought to get us up on our feet, on our toes, rejoicing in the goodness of God.

And it was on account of that picture, or those metaphors, that we then began to refer to Paul’s really long sentence in chapter 1 as a symphony of salvation—a salvation grounded in the eternal purposes of God, about which we often sing when we take the lines

Loved before the dawn of time,
Chosen by my Maker,
Hidden in my Savior.[4]

What we’re doing there is we’re singing about the electing love of God—the fact that before even creation took place, that God loved his own from all of eternity.

And the ending of that chapter is on a high note, isn’t it? “He put all things under his feet”—that is, Jesus—“and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”[5] So, in melodic terms or in musical terms, Ephesians 1 finishes on a high note in a major key. You look at chapter 2, and the opening verses take us immediately to a lower note and to, if you like, a minor key. Because what Paul is now doing is he’s going to show them—show us through the letter—that the immensity of the grace of God in salvation is made all the more significant when we recognize, when we are confronted by, our condition before we were saved.

It’s very, very important that we see the link here between the end of 1 and the beginning of 2—for example, if you look at 1:19, where he’s talking about the inheritance that is enjoyed by those who are in Christ, and he extols “the immeasurable greatness of his power”—that is, the power of God—“toward us who believe.” They had become believers earlier in the chapter. They had “heard the word of truth, the gospel of … salvation.” They had “believed in him” and “were sealed” by the “Holy Spirit.”[6] It was not that they had been irreligious people and had become religious, but it is, as per Mackay’s testimony, that they had been spiritually enlivened. And, he says, it is “toward[s] us who believe”—back in verse 19—“according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at [the] right hand in the heavenly places.”[7]

The immensity of the grace of God in salvation is made all the more significant when we recognize our condition before we were saved.

Now, what he’s going on to point out—and I need you to notice this—is that the same power to which he refers here in verse 19 is the power that has been at work in raising these Ephesian believers from their spiritual death. And these opening verses are uncomfortable verses, because they point out the gravity of our lostness and our condition before Jesus made us alive.

Now, you may be here this morning, and even terminology like that is alien to you—in which case, as you listen, you will find yourself saying, “But I can’t identify with that at all.” Well, perhaps God will do in you what he did in these Ephesian believers, that as you hear the word of truth, you may actually come to believe.

In an old commentary, I found this somewhat archaic observation, but I was stirred by it. The commentator says, “It is a resurrection-power, that turns death into life. And it is a power [imbued] with love.” Here’s the picture: “The love which went out towards the slain and buried Jesus when the Father stooped to raise Him from the dead”—Easter—“bends over us as we lie in the grave of our sins, and exerts itself with a might no less transcendent, that it may raise us from the dust of death to sit with Him in the heavenly places.”[8] You get the picture? Very straightforward. The power that raised Jesus out of the deadness of the tomb is the selfsame power that raises us from the deadness of our unbelief and seats us with Christ in the heavenly places.

In that commentary, which is an old commentary owned by one of our friends, Alec Motyer—but I think he bought it secondhand, as I looked at the notes—as I read that, a couple of weeks back now, I said, “This is a wonderful quote and a terrific picture.” And whoever had had the book before me obviously agreed, because written in pencil in the margin was just one word: “Glory!” And then underneath: “Only believe.” And then underneath: “The ninth of November 1925.” And as I sat in my study up the stairs, I said, “Isn’t it amazing?” As we said last week, the promises of God never wear out over time. And the reality of God is as true in 2016 as it was for whoever had that commentary in 1925.

The Diagnosis

Now, Paul is reminding the Ephesians of the way in which they used to walk. It was true of them if they’d come from a gentile background or if they had come from a Jewish background. All of us, you will notice in verse 3—all of us once lived in this way. This is true of the totality of mankind.

Now, I say to you again: this is an uncomfortable section, because it provides us with a grave, comprehensive, divine diagnosis of the way we were—if you are in Christ. If you are not in Christ, then it provides you with a diagnosis of the way you are, which will be even more uncomfortable to think about!

Two observations, I think, are important. Incidentally, if you want a heading for our study, let’s just call it “The Way We Were.” “Misty water-colored memories of the way we were.”[9] No, not “misty.” Anyway, it doesn’t matter. “The Way We Were.” Two observations, I think, are important.

Number one: you will not acknowledge this divine diagnosis unless God opens your eyes to see the truth of it. The only way you understand this diagnosis and bow before it is on account of the fact that you have been rescued by Christ, that you have been brought to an awareness of your need of Jesus, that you have understood something of what it means when Paul says in Romans chapter 5 that we have sinned in Adam—in and with him—and that as a result, we are both guilty and we are dead.[10]

Now, just think about that statement for a moment. You go back into the workplace and say, “What is the true condition of man? Why is man the way he is? Why is our world the way it is? Why, if we just take our morning newspaper and lay it out, after all of this time? What’s the problem with this?” Well, the human condition is such that it cannot be fixed by legislation. It cannot be fixed by education. It cannot be fixed by indoctrination. The only way it is fixed is by resurrection—that God in his grace raises us up from the deadness of our lives. And that is what Paul is reminding these Ephesian believers that God has done—religious Jews some of them, pagan gentiles many of them, but both in need of the same remedy.

And the divine diagnosis, let’s notice again and clearly, covers all of humanity. There are no exceptions, no exemptions, no excuses, and no escape, save the escape that is provided in Jesus. One out of one dies. “In the day that you shall eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, ye shall surely die.”[11] Every physical death is tied directly to sin, and ultimately, if we die physically, remaining spiritually dead, we will die eternally. And eternal death will be separation from God, which the Bible, of course, calls hell.

That’s observation number one.

Observation number two is this: that this diagnosis here in the first three verses is true for the person who has been brought up in a Christian home and has professed faith even at an early age. In other words, here’s the person who hasn’t been a Hells Angel, who didn’t go totally nuts, who hasn’t been a junkie, didn’t live in a van down by the river, hasn’t gone through all of those things. That person is tempted to say, “You know, somehow or another, my salvation is inferior. I mean, you got really saved, junkie man. But I—you know, I was kind of saved anyway to start with.” No, you were not. No, I was not. There are no degrees of dead. You don’t say, “Well, how dead is he? How dead is she?” No, dead is dead. So he’s saying, “Outside of Christ, you’re dead men walking.” Whether the extent of depravity has laid hold on your life and taken you through all kinds of hell or whether you have not gone through all of that, it doesn’t alter the fact that the diagnosis here in the first three verses is true of all humanity.

So for those of you who are tempted to say, “Well, you know, I don’t have a proper testimony,” let me tell you: you have a wonderful testimony. Because when you read verses 1–3, you realize that your condition was far worse than you ever cared to admit and that your salvation is far greater than you could ever imagine. As Stotty says, “The biblical doctrine of ‘total depravity’ means neither that all humans are equally depraved”—equally dead, but not equally depraved—“nor that nobody is capable of any good, but rather that no part of any human person (mind, emotion, conscience, [and] will …) has remained untainted by the fall.”[12] In other words, the dust of death has settled on every part of our humanity. It affects everything. So our world today bears testimony to it, although it will not accept it. Outside of Christ, Paul says, we are all dead men, dead women walking.

Well, the verses are fairly tightly packed. I’ve tried to summarize them. This is my first attempt at it. We may have to come back and do them again, having heard myself in the first hour. But anyway, let’s just give you five words that begin with the letter d.

Dead

The first one is obvious; we’ve already mentioned it: dead. “And you were,” past tense, “dead.” If this does not describe you, I say to you again—just so we understand one another—if there is no past tense, if it is present tense, then you’re logical enough to recognize that the Bible diagnosis says, “You’re a dead man. You’re a dead woman.” You either were or you are. You’re either dead or you’re alive.

Isn’t that what… I’m just thinking about it right now, in John chapter 3, where Jesus is talking about “You must be born again.”[13] And he says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”[14] “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,” present tense—not some future pie in the sky. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”[15] So in other words, unless a man or a woman comes to believe in Jesus, accepts all that God has done in Jesus, then they remain in the condition in which they are created—namely, dead men walking.

So, like Adam and Eve, we take what God has forbidden, and we trespass. We overstep his boundaries. We fail to live by his standards. That’s what we did, because we were sinners. We were dead in our trespasses and in our sins. Our sins separated us from God.[16] We were made by him, we were made for him, and yet by nature we chose to live without him. And the inevitable impact of that on our lives has borne out in all kinds of ways.

Oh, of course, we were at the same time physically alive. We were able to get up and go out in the morning, engage in sport, in commerce, in academics, in politics. We enjoy friendship. We enjoy family and so on. But the Bible says that as we went through all of that, we did so as dead men. We were able to argue about religion, but we had no relationship with Jesus. We were blind to the beauty of Jesus. People would talk about what a wonderful Savior Jesus is. We said, “I don’t get that at all.” We were deaf to his voice when the Bible was taught. It just was like one ear and out the other, or maybe not even in an ear at all. We had no ability to please him. We weren’t even interested in pleasing him. If somebody had said, “Well, do you please God?” we would have said, “No, I don’t think so.” That’s the way we were.

Attendance at church was at best a kind of religious ceremony: get it over as fast as you can; hopefully, it won’t take too long. Or it was a chore, something to endure. The songs were an embarrassment: “How strange, these people singing these songs. Why are they getting themselves so worked up? What is that fellow doing raising his hands in the air? I can’t believe these people. What a strange group they are. Let’s get out of here as quickly as we can. And hopefully we won’t have to come back very often.” That’s the way we were!

“Come on now, Alistair. You’re gonna go to Sunday school.”

“I don’t wanna go to Sunday school!”

“And you’ve got the Bible class.”

“I’m not going to the Bible class!”

“But you love the Bible class.”

“No, I don’t. I hate it.”

“Don’t say that.”

“Okay, I won’t. But I do.”

What’s up with the kid? He’s dead. She’s dead. She’s unresponsive. She doesn’t hear God. And you can’t make her. And neither can I. Only God can. Only God raises the dead.

You see, that’s our evangelism: it’s impossible!

When I go to the graveyard for my lunch every so often here in Chagrin, I might as well stand there and call people out of their tombs. I see the names: “Come on out!” Nothing happens. I eat my lunch. I go away again. It’s the same here. “Come out!” I say. “Believe!” I say. You look at me like a cow looking over a wall: “What’s he on about? What’s he getting upset about? I just don’t understand it.” That’s the way we were: dead.

You see, the diagnosis of humanity is either that we’re sick and we just really need a doctor or that we’re well and we just need a few more vitamins. “We can fix this. We can work it out.” “Think of what I’m saying. Do I have to keep on speaking till I can’t go on?” You know, “We can work it out.”[17] And then you say to yourself, “I can’t work it out.” Why can’t you work it out? Dead!

Drifting

Secondly, drifting. Drifting. We walked on a path that was “the course of this world,” verse 2. You once walked down this path. You remember, the Bible says that there is a broad road that leads to destruction and there is a narrow way that leads to life.[18] And what Paul is saying here is, before we come to trust in Christ, we just go down the same path as everybody else. We convince ourself that there’s safety in numbers: “Everybody believes this,” or “Everybody disbelieves this,” or “Everybody does this,” or “Everybody wants this,” or “I’m just doing what everybody does.” That’s before we came to Christ.

I use the word drifted because it starts with d, and also because J. B. Phillips uses it in his paraphrase: “You drifted along on the stream of this world’s ideas of living.”[19] That helps me. So what am I like before I trust in Christ? I’m a drifter. I’m a drifter. Any dead fish can go with the current of the river. Takes a live fish to swim against the current. And before I was made alive, I inevitably went with the current. I might not have been as ostensibly bad, as engaged, as everybody else. But the condition of my life before God, my soul before God, was that the deadness of my life meant that I was a drifter. To quote the Kinks (which shows just how old I am), I was a “dedicated follower of fashion.”

One [day] he’s in polka-dots, the next [day] he’s in stripes,
’Cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion.

[You] seek him here, [you] seek him there.[20]

That’s what the Bible says. We were swimming with the stream that was secular.

What is described here is society organized without reference towards God—society organized without reference towards God, doing its best, trying its hardest, turning over new leaves, hoping to fix itself, easing its disappointments, licking its wounds and so on. And yet in our heart of hearts we say to ourself, “I don’t know if I can… I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to make this. I don’t seem to be able to affect anything at all.” Why? The Bible tells us here that we were following “the prince of the power of the air,” the devil. Do you ever read Screwtape Letters? I commend it to you—C. S. Lewis; Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood.

By the time Paul is closing out the letter in chapter 6, which we’ll get to in about 2021, he’s telling the believers that we’re not wrestling against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places.[21] What’s he talking about? He’s talking about the activity of evil in our world—that there is a spiritual world that we cannot see that is representative of all kinds of manifestations of darkness and of death and deadness.

Think about so many of the contemporary movies and the preoccupation with darkness and with death and with devils and chaos. Why is this? And why does nobody really care? Well, because he’s “the prince of the power of the air.” He’s in charge of this stuff—under God, but nevertheless.

Disobedient

Thirdly, disobedient. Disobedient. “Following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” Why do I do what I do? Why do I go where I go? Why am I in the position I’m in? Why was I that way? Well, because I was part of a band—a bad band. I mean a group, a band. I was listening to a thing from the BBC yesterday on ska music, I think it’s called. Ska. And it’s pretty good. But they had bands from Japan and bands from Australia, bands from everywhere. It lasted about an hour. And I thought, “You know, everybody’s in a band, one way or another.” And by nature, I’m in a bad band. The band is called the Sons of Disobedience.

You see, you got teenage kids; they’re members of a band. Apart from Jesus, they’re playing in a band called the Sons of Disobedience. That’s why they are the way they are. That’s why you can’t fix them. You can’t. You can pray for them. You can influence them. You can encourage them. But you can’t make ’em alive. Dylan was right:

You’re gonna have to serve somebody …
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna … serve somebody.[22]

Disobedient.

Debased

Fourthly, debased. This gets more uncomfortable by the d, doesn’t it? You’re like, “Could you encourage us just a little more before we finish?” You’re saying to yourself in the back of your mind, “Well, at least it’s sunny outside.” No, I get that. I get it entirely. I’ve been living under the burden of this for the last two weeks. This is either true or this is the biggest load of rubbish you ever came across in your entire life.

And if it’s true, then it affects everything, not least of all our evangelism. We’re not going to people to say, “Would you like to meet Jesus? He’ll add to the sum of your total happiness.” We’re not going to people and say, you know, “Would you like to get a little direction in your life? Doesn’t really matter to us if you do or you don’t, you know.” That’s not what we’re doing. We’re going to people to say, “You know what? We’ve got good news for you: the voice of Jesus will call you out of your deadness.” You say, “Well, I’m not dead.” Well, first he’ll have to show you that you are. And then he’ll call you.

“Debased” is an accurate description of “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of [our] body and [our] mind.” That’s the way it is.

Now, “flesh”—what does that word “flesh” mean? Well, let’s think of it in terms of the human condition, weakened and distorted by sin. The human condition, weakened and distorted by sin. And notice that it is both physical and it is intellectual: “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.”

The wrath of God is the reaction of God to evil. It is the reaction of absolute holiness to that which is opposed to holiness.

You remember in Screwtape that he’s encouraging Wormwood to encourage the “enemies”—that is, the servants of God—to take the good things that God has given, either at the wrong time, in the wrong place, or in the wrong quantities. And our internal mechanism is drawn to that. That’s why you have to argue for heterosexual monogamy in a world that is so messed up sexually. That is why you have to argue to convince a young person that the only safe and enjoyable place for sex is within marriage and that outside of marriage it is fearful, it is destructive. You have to argue for that. You don’t have to argue for the rest. Why? Because by nature “we all once lived in the passions of [the] flesh, carrying out the desires of” our bodies instinctually, both in terms of physicality and intellectually.

So somebody says, “Well, you know, I’m not an immoral person.” Okay. Well, we can have that conversation. But maybe you’re an arrogant person. Maybe you’re an arrogant unbeliever. Maybe you say to yourself when you get in the car, “I’ll never descend to that kind of level of thinking and accept that strange concoction of biblical or antibiblical or unbiblical wisdom.” Why is that? Because of the diagnosis. You’re only doing what comes naturally—both mind and body, manifesting itself in outrageous acts, manifesting itself in respectable forms.

Again, C. S. Lewis: remember, he talks about the businessman who is very well respected in the community—has a lovely corner office, has his initials stamped into his cuff. His monogram is on his cuff. And C. S. Lewis says, “In a well-lit office, there he sits: a nice man lost in his niceness.”[23] “Lost in his niceness.”

You see, because it is only the grace of God that comes and speaks to somebody who says, “You know, actually, I’m buying this diagnosis. I am a horrible, dead mess, and I am so horrible, so dead, so messed up that there’s no way I’m getting fixed.” And the gospel says, “Oh yes there is! Let me tell you about Jesus.” The other person says, “I’m actually not really quite messy at all. I’m a very fine fellow. And I really don’t see any need whatsoever.” And the gospel comes and says, “You’re a dead man, sir. In fact, the very every action of your mind is indicative of it.”

Debased.

Destined

Dead, drifting, disobedient, debased, and finally, destined. Destined for what? Destined to experience the wrath of God. We “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” What does that mean? Well, what he’s saying is that we are both enslaved and we are at the same time condemned—condemned to suffer the just judgment of God upon sin. You see, the wrath of God is the reaction of God to evil. It is the reaction of absolute holiness to that which is opposed to holiness. The wrath of God is not arbitrary. It’s not like a fiery outburst of some old grandpa who lost his temper when he was driving in Solon or whatever it is. No, the wrath of God isn’t arbitrary; it is predictable. The wrath of God is not an impersonal force; it is distinctly personal. It is the wrath of God. It is his settled reaction to evil in the world.

Now, don’t stumble over this. Don’t go down the road that says, “Well, actually, I believe in the love of God, but I don’t believe in the wrath of God.” Think about it: his love is the occasion of his wrath. It is because he loves that he is opposed to all that is evil, in the same way that your cancer doctor loves you and is so opposed to the tumor that is in you that he will do everything in his capacity to remove it for your well-being. The worst thing he could do was say, “Who cares? A tumor here, a tumor there.” Indifference an expression of love? Indifference on the part of God to our evil? Who would believe in a God that was indifferent? It is his very justice that is the indication of the extent of his love.

You know this! Doesn’t it make you angry when someone you love harms themselves? Don’t you get angry for what they’re doing? For their foolishness? “Oh, that just fries me!” When you see injustice, do you just go, “Hey, injustice? Big deal. It’s a big world.” I hope you don’t. I hope you react in anger! “That shouldn’t happen like that! That shouldn’t happen to that lady! That should not have taken place in that way!” We understand that.

I say to you again: in light of that, can you really believe in and trust a God who is indifferent to our sin, who doesn’t care enough about us to be angry about our rebellion? I couldn’t. I couldn’t! It doesn’t work. There is no explanation for the cross of Jesus Christ apart from the wrath of God. Why a cross? “Well, because God loved.” Yeah, but you still haven’t explained why a cross.

The only way to do evangelism, ultimately, is to do it under the shadow of the wrath of God, thereby reminding us of the wonder of the love of God.

As I’ve said to you many times before, I mean, if I tell my wife, “Sue, I’m going to throw myself in Lake Erie, ’cause I love you so much,” she’d say, “You lost your mind.” But if she fell out of a boat and I went in after her in order to save her, there would be some significance in that. The love of God is expressed in the wrath of God. And the wonder of the gospel is this: that he has brought forward into time the punishment that we deserve and placed it on his Son in order that we might then enjoy the benefits that accrue to us. “My one defense, my righteousness”; we sang it this morning: “Lord, I need you. I always need you. Every hour I need you.”[24] “Because my standing before you is not on the basis of how well I’m doing or how I’ve patched things up, but I am dependent entirely upon the fact that ‘Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood, [and] sealed my pardon with his blood.’”[25] Bearing wrath!

“If my child,” says Findlay, “does wilful wrong, if by some act of greed or passion he imperils his moral future and destroys the peace and the well-being of the house, shall I not be grieved with him, with an anger proportioned to the love I bear him?”[26]

You see, the father who says, “You can just go and do what you want. What do I care?”—who wants such a father? And in God we do not have that kind of father. The difficulty that many of us will face with this is because we have such a superficial view of what has happened to us when we came to trust in Christ. Until we get some kind of modicum of an understanding of the fact that the way we were was dead, drifting, disobedient, debased, and destined for the wrath of God—until that begins to dawn upon our hearts—then we will neither praise him as we should, nor will we explain to our friends and neighbors why it is so important for them to know the love of God in Jesus. Because in the back of our minds, we’ll be saying of them what we’re tempted to say about ourself: “Well, you know what? I’m not a bad guy after all. My boss is not such a bad guy either. He’s a nice guy. He’s very good with his wife. I see him with his children. He goes on vacation.” All of that is true. But the divine diagnosis is “Your boss is a dead man walking.” And the only way to do evangelism, ultimately, is to do it under the shadow of the wrath of God, thereby reminding us of the wonder of the love of God.

Well, we’ll come back to this.

O God, help us, we pray, to be students of your Word, to bow down under its dictates, to trust its promises, to heed its warnings, and to tell its story. Lord, thank you that we can actually say, “This is the way we were.” We’re not all that we need to be, but we’re definitely not what we once were. When we were lost, you came and rescued us, reached into the pit and lifted us up. Otherwise, why would we even be here? Why would we even care? Why would we even sing these songs? Why would we go in the bookstore and get ourselves the Bible? The very breath that we breathe is an indication of your grace and your mercy. We thank you. In Christ’s name. Amen.


[1] John A. Mackay, God’s Order: The Ephesian Letter and This Present Time (New York: Nisbet and Macmillan, 1953), 21, quoted in John Stott, The Message of Ephesians: God’s New Society, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1986), 15.

[2] Mackay, 31, quoted in Stott, 16.

[3] Mackay, 33, quoted in Stott, 16.

[4] Stuart Townend and Andrew Small, “Loved before the Dawn of Time (Salvation’s Song)” (2007).

[5] Ephesians 1:22–23 (ESV).

[6] Ephesians 1:13 (ESV).

[7] Ephesians 1:19–20 (ESV).

[8] G. G. Findlay, The Epistle to the Ephesians, The Expositor’s Bible (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1892), 96–97.

[9] Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, and Marvin Hamlisch, “The Way We Were” (1973).

[10] See Romans 5:12–14.

[11] Genesis 2:17 (paraphrased).

[12] Stott, Message of Ephesians, 79.

[13] John 3:7 (ESV).

[14] John 3:14–15 (ESV).

[15] John 3:36 (ESV).

[16] See Isaiah 59:2.

[17] John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “We Can Work It Out” (1965). Lyrics lightly altered.

[18] See Matthew 7:13–14.

[19] Ephesians 2:2 (Phillips).

[20] Ray Davies, “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” (1966).

[21] See Ephesians 6:12.

[22] Bob Dylan, “Gotta Serve Somebody” (1979).

[23] C. S. Lewis, preface to The Screwtape Letters (1942), and Mere Christianity (1952), bk. 4, chap. 10. Paraphrased.

[24] Christy Nockels, Daniel Carson, Jesse Reeves, Kristian Stanfill, Matt Maher, “Lord, I Need You” (2011). Lyrics lightly altered.

[25] P. P. Bliss, “‘Man of Sorrows,’ What a Name” (1875).

[26] Findlay, Ephesians, 105.

Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.