When you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our trespasses,
I. CONSIDER THE PERSONAL QUICKENING OUT OF A STATE OF DEATH AND DEFILEMENT.
1. The condition of all men by nature - spiritual death. This death is viewed in two aspects.
(1) In relation to definite acts of transgression, as showing the power of sin and the fruit of an evil nature.
(2) In relation to the root of the evil - "the uncircumcision of your flesh;" your unsanctified, fleshly nature marked by alienation from God (see homiletical hints on Ephesians 2:1).
2. The quickening energy of God. "You did he quicken together with him." Spiritual death is put away by the quickening energy of God, which flowed into your hearts out of the risen life of Christ. You are brought up with him objectively in his resurrection, subjectively in his application of the power of his resurrection (see homiletical hints on Ephesians 2:1).
II. CONSIDER THE GROUND AND CONDITION OF THIS QUICKENING. The pardon of sin. "Having forgiven us all our trespasses." Thus spiritual life is connected with pardon, and presupposes pardon. The sins of men must be pardoned before life could properly enter. Our Lord could not have been quickened till we, for whom he died, were potentially discharged (Romans 4:25). So, indeed, the quickening presupposes at once pardon, the blotting out of the handwriting, and the victory over Satan.
III. CONSIDER THE INDISPENSABLE ACCOMPANIMENT OF THIS PARDON. The removal of the condemning power of the Law. "Having blotted out the handwriting in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross."
1. The nature and effects of this handwriting in ordinances.
(1) It is not the mere ceremonial law, though its ritual observances were symbols of deserved punishment or an acknowledgment of guilt. We cannot limit it to this law, though the outward observances of ver. 20 were specially in view; for the apostle is not here distinguishing between Jews and Gentiles.
(2) It is the whole Law, moral and ceremonial - "the Law of commandments contained in ordinances" - which fastens upon us the charge of guilt, and is the great barrier against forgiveness. It was immediately against the Jews, mediately against the Gentiles. It is the Law, in the full compass of its requirements.
(3) The hostility of this Law to us. It was "against us; it was contrary to us."
(a) Not that the Law was in itself offensive, for it was holy and just and good" (Romans 7:12); but
(b) because our inability to fulfil it or satisfy its righteous demands exposed us to the penalty attached to an undischarged obligation. It was, in a word, a bill of indictment against us.
2. The blotting out of the handwriting. It was blotted out, so far as it was an accusing witness against us, by Christ wiping it out, taking it "out of the way, and nailing it to his cross." It was not done by an arbitrary abolition of the Law; moral obligations cannot be removed in this manner; but by the just satisfaction which Christ rendered by his "obedience unto death." It was nailed to his cross, and thus its condemnatory power was brought to an end. Strictly speaking, there was nothing but Christ's body nailed to the cross; but, as he was made sin, taking the very place of sin, "bearing our sins in his own body on the tree," the handwriting, with the curse involved in it, was identified with him, and thus God condemned sin in Christ's flesh (Romans 8:3). Christ exchanged places with us, and thus was cancelled the bill of indictment which involved us in guilt and condemnation.
IV. CONSIDER THE RELATION OF THE ATONEMENT TO THE VICTORY OVER SATAN. "Having put off from himself the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it." It was the cross that gave the victory over the principalities and powers of darkness, because sin was the ground of their dominion over man and the secret of their strength. But no sooner had Christ died and extinguished the guilt lying on us, than the ground of their successful agency was undermined, and, instead of being at liberty to ravage and destroy, their weapons of warfare perished. Christ on the cross, as the word signifies, reft from him and from his people those powers of darkness who could afflict humanity by pressing homo the consequences of their sin. He cast them off like baffled foes (John 12:31), made such a show of them openly as angels, if not men, could probably apprehend. He made the cross a scene of triumph to the irretrievable ruin of Satan's kingdom. - T. C.
And you being dead in your sins.I. TO WHAT EXTENT AND TO WHAT PERSONS THIS CONDITION APPLIES.
1. The terms of the text include Jews and Gentiles. The Jews were spiritually dead notwithstanding the ordinance of circumcision; the Gentiles in their uncircumcision. The great error of Judaism as the rabbis made it was to mistake religious ordinances for religion; equally fatal is the same error in its pseudo-Christian shape.
2. It is clear that this state is not predicated of heathen and profligates only; it is the normal condition in which men are born, and in which they live and die without grace. This is clear from Colossians 1:13; Matthew 21:1; Matthew 22; John 6:53-63; 1 John 3:14.
3. Whatever privileges of pious parentage, godly training, gospel ministrations, etc., we may have been favoured, over and above these we "must be born again."
II. SOME OF THE PARTICULARS INVOLVED IN THIS CONDITION. In death is implied —
1. Deprivation — there is something lost. We do not say that a stone is dead, it never lived. Hence the view of a stone on the highway excites no emotion or sympathy; but how different with regard to a dead bird, much more a dead man or a dead friend. Once there was spiritual life in man. He was made a living soul; now he is dead in trespasses and sins, having lost it. And yet how strange that the spectacle of this most terrible of deaths scarcely moves us.
2. Corruption. Life has its degrees: vegetable, animal, rational, but in death there are no degrees; all the dead are equally corrupt. There are differences in the sight of man, comparing man with man; there are some better characters than others, of more natural virtue, and society owes them reverence; but society was not our maker and is not our judge. This reflection should humble us. "Who maketh thee to differ from another?"
3. Helplessness. "A living dog is better than a dead lion," who is as incapable as his own shadow. The dead soul is equally helpless; without foreign aid it must lie like the tree where it has fallen. Spiritual life must be communicated before the soul can move.
4. Resurrection. The decayed vegetable dies, but to be reproduced in another form. Every falling leaf that strews the earth in autumn with the silent evidences of the fall of man, seems to catch a whisper from the breeze, "Thou shalt rise again." So when man dies the principle of his existence is not destroyed but withdrawn. But, alas for the soul that has lain in the death of sin before the body has reached the grave; that shall indeed rise again, but "to shame and everlasting contempt."
(J. B. Owen, M. A.)
(J. Spence, D. D.)
I. THE NATURAL CONDITION OF HUMANITY IS ONE OF SPIRITUAL DEATH. Man is in a condition of —
1. Spiritual insensibility. The dead know nothing, appreciate nothing; nor does the sinner of the things of God.
2. Moral corruption. "And the uncircumcision of your flesh." Death unbinds the forces that brace up the body in life, and leaves it a prey to the power of corruption.
3. Condemnation.(1) The Divine ordinances record an indictment against the transgressor.(a) Handwriting. The primary reference is to the Jews, who might be said to have signed the contract when they bound themselves, by a curse, to observe all the enactments of the law (Deuteronomy 27:14-267(b) Ordinances, though referring primarily to the Mosaic ordinances, include all forms of positive decrees in which moral or social principles are embodied or religious duties defined. Man everywhere is under law, written or unwritten; and he is morally obligated to obey it.(2) The Divine ordinances are hostile towards the transgressor. "Which was contrary to us." We are often painfully reminded of our broken bond, as the debtor is often reminded of his undischarged obligation.
II. THE BELIEVER IS RAISED INTO A CONDITION OF SPIRITUAL LIFE.
1. This life begins in the consciousness of liberty. "Having forgiven you all trespasses."
2. It implies a freedom from all condemnation.
III. THE TRANSITION OF THE SOUL FROM DEATH TO LIFE IS A DIVINE WORK.
1. God only can raise the dead.
2. He does so by a blessed union with Christ.
3. Which issues in immortal life.
QuickenedI. SPONTANEITY. Life is neither mechanical nor forced, but proceeds from the principle of vitality within. When man by grace begins to live anew, what was formerly a burden, if it received any attention at all, becomes a pleasure. Commandments which were grievous are now joyous, and the newborn energy finds its spontaneous manifestation in loving loyalty to God's will.
II. ASSIMILATION. Life is nourished by that which may seem foreign to its nature. The rose can draw beauty and fragrance from pestilent manure, juices of the soil, radiance of sunshine and showers from heaven. So the new life derives strength even from trial and the bread of sorrow. All things work together for its good, not excepting the entanglements of the flesh and the cares of the world.
III. GROWTH. All life grows, and the Christian who does not has an unhealthy life. His privilege is to be like a tree (Psalm 1:3).
IV. ASPIRATION. Life everywhere seeks to reach the perfection of its nature. Spiritual life comes from above and seeks to rise to the level of its source. It cannot rest satisfied with the world, but puts forth its tendrils Godwards.
V. INDIVIDUALITY. No two plants, blades of grass, animals, men, are exactly alike. God loves variety in grace as well as nature. So some Christians are intellectual, some emotional, some practical; yet all are one in Christ.
(J. Spence, D. D.)I. THE MISERABLE CONDITION OF OUR NATURE.
1. All the children of Adam are reckoned as dead.(1) Because Divine grace, the soul, as it were, of the soul, being withdrawn, a polluting mass of deadly vices succeeded in their room.(2) Because they lie under the sentence of eternal death (Ephesians 2:3).
2. The causes of this death are —(1) Actual transgressions of the Divine law — "The wages of sin is death," "The soul that sinneth it shall die."(a) This is the death of grace inasmuch as sin by its impurity dissolves the gracious union of the soul to God in which our life consists (Isaiah 59:2).(b) The death of hell (Romans 2:9).(2) The uncircumcision of your flesh, i.e., original sin, which is derived by carnal propagation and renders the very soul, as it were, carnal (Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 9:25). Every natural man is dead in this his native corruption.(a) The understanding, which is the eye of the soul, is darkened and blinded as to spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14), and rushes into errors and deceivings (Galatians 5:20).(b) The will is depraved, its good desires weak, its unlawful desires strong (Genesis 6:5; Romans 3:1.).(c) The inferior powers of the soul are disordered, so that they refuse to obey the law of the mind (Romans 7:23). Hence the affections control, and are not controlled by reason.
3. Lessons:(1) Since every man in a state of nature is dead, it is not in the power of free will, by its own strength, to prepare for conversion, even as a dead man cannot dispose himself for his resurrection (Lamentations 5:21).(2) No man can dispose himself to any motion to quicken himself unless his mind be formed to the life of grace by God. For as every natural operation supposes a natural power, so every spiritual motion a spiritual power (Ezekiel 11:19).(3) Since the cause of death is sin, the; madness of men is discovered who administer that deadly poison to the soul and are guilty of its murder.
II. THE DELIVERER; GOD IN CHRIST, BY CHRIST, AND WITH CHRIST. God alone could impart animal life to this earth; He alone, therefore, can impart spiritual life to carnal men, which is a greater work than creation (Ephesians 2:10). Hence we may learn —
1. The eternal love of God the Father. We shudder to touch the dead bodies of our friends; but God is not only ready to touch but to embrace and restore our dead souls. This should inflame us with love to Him.
2. The infinite guilt of sin which could not be acquitted, and we justified but by the death and resurrection of Christ. This should excite our hatred and avoidance of sin.
III. THE DELIVERANCE.
1. The forgiveness of our trespasses. In this it is to be noticed that it is —(1) Gratuitous, χαρισαμενος, being derived from grace itself. It is gratuitous on our part, for we are absolved without any price paid by ourselves; but on the part of Christ we are redeemed with the price of His precious blood (Romans 3:24), and indeed either a gratuitous remission or none at all must be admitted. As to our. selves, we are not able to pay, since the debt is infinite; nor can we blot out our sins by suffering, because no suffering of the guilty is deletive of sin.(2) Universal — "All trespasses." For it does not accord with Divine majesty and goodness to remit some of our debts and require the rest from us. Because —(a) The blood of Christ being received as a ransom, it would be unjust not to remit all, since that outweighs all.(b) To forgive is an act of paternal love and cannot dwell with enmity; but enmity remains with unremitted sin, and those who admit a partial remission make God at once reconciled and hostile.(c) Unless we reckon on full remission, remission is vain; for its end is life eternal, which a partial remission cannot yield the hope of, because death is the wages of even one sin (Jeremiah 33:8; Micah 7:19; 1 John 1:9).
2. Hence we derive these corollaries —(1) To forgive sins is the property of God alone; for who can forgive another his debt while the will of the creditor is not yet understood (Isaiah 43:25).(2) As universal remission is granted on God's part there ought to be a universal detestation of it on ours.(3) Troubled consciences may be sustained, for though sin be not destroyed upon faith it is forgiven.
(T. W. Jenkyn, D. D.)
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