Even when we were dead in sins, God hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace you are saved);
Everything on this planet eventually comes to an end. Inanimate objects break down or rust, and living beings die. But this verse and the next one show us what God has done to counter death. Christ’s resurrection has an impact far greater than we could ever imagine.
Paul starts out by summarizing the message of the previous verses. He categorically states that the Ephesian believers used to be dead. Now, he’s obviously talking about their spiritual state; not their physical condition. Death means separation, and the Christians in Ephesus used to be separated from God because of sin.
So what did God do? He could have let things be, but instead He acted to undo the damage that was done. Paul now reveals to us the essence of the Christian message. He writes that God “quickened us,” which means “to cause to live, to make alive, or to give life.”
What is he talking about? He’s referring to spiritual life, but what exactly does this entail? First of all, a believer’s relationship with God is restored. Where there was separation and estrangement, there is now reconciliation and friendship. But it doesn’t stop here; it goes one step further to include a new quality of life. The Holy Spirit empowers the believer with strength, wisdom, and everything needed to live a life pleasing to God (yes, I know, Christians don’t always (often?) take advantage of this, and then behave wrongly – but this divine power is available to them if only they would use it).
You may remember that Jesus both claimed to be life and to give it. He also said that a person must be “born again,” which was basically another way of saying that we all need new spiritual life. This is what Paul is talking about here. The Bible never presents salvation as something that only happens after death – at its core it’s a person becoming alive spiritually. Salvation impacts the here and now as well as eternity.
Unfortunately, Christians are never able to fully apply this new life to how they live. The reasons for this are many (Satan, our sinful tendencies, and world philosophies to name a few). These all conspire together to war against any attempt to live as God would want. But just as a plant takes time to grow from a seed to a large tree, so this new life gradually becomes more and more visible in the life of a believer. There are many struggles along the way, but God can give the victory.
Paul reminds the Ephesians of how they received this new life – by grace. Since he goes into more detail a few verses later, we won’t examine this now. But I would like to mention one thing before closing. The grammar that Paul uses emphasizes that a past action has a continual present result. A full translation of what Paul wrote is this: “By grace you have been saved in past time completely, with the result that you are in a state of salvation which persists through present time.” (1) Paul clearly wants to communicate that salvation is both completed in the past, and unending in the present. Believers can be secure in their relationship with God!
I started this post by saying that our planet is full of death. Jesus made it possible for us to have life. Let’s embrace it with all we’ve got!
- Wuest, K.S., Ephesians and Colossians in the Greek New Testament. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953, p66