Ephesians 2: Update Your Status
Last week, we started our journey diving into the Letter to the Ephesians. I think this is one of the coolest letters Paul has ever written. Paul wrote this letter while in Roman imprisonment, apparently for bringing a Gentile beyond the dividing wall in the Temple. See, in great old ancient times, there was a wall in the Temple that separated where the Gentiles sat and the Jews sat. And Paul was imprisoned for bringing a Gentile beyond that wall! The Jews basically said to the Gentile “you can’t sit with us,” and threw Paul in jail because of this! During this imprisonment, and many other times in the jail cell, Paul wrote and wrote and wrote. See, he was a church planter. He went around planting seeds, building churches. And he ended up using his “quarantine” time to his benefit. He wrote letters to go back to these churches to water the seeds. All of these letters (the Epistles) were written to specify a problem within that planted church and point them back to their teachings. Ephesians is the only letter that does not do this. No problems are brought up, at all. Ephesians is simply a letter explaining the themes and doctrines of Christianity, then telling us how to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. Paul writes about our new status as Christians and what this means.
We are Updating our Status
The definition of status is: the relative social, professional, or other standing of someone or something.
Does anyone remember the old days of updating your status from a drop-down list of options? Usually in the top left of any type of social media chatroom, AIM, old Facebook Messenger or video game, they had options: Active, Idle, and Offline. This was called your availability status. The Washington Post explained it as a “a quick, casual way to share your current “status.”” It was a way people knew whether or not to interact with you, to send you a message, or to play a game with you. Before 2006, you could only message someone on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) when you were both actively online -- this is where the “availability status” started. If you wanted, you could click "Idle," so that your username became invisible to others even though you logged in, this way you didn’t have to worry about putting in any effort to talk to others, to develop relationships.
We live in an age where everything is to be documented. We decide to click “available”, “idle”, “offline”, in our online lives so that others can see. But don’t we know that we naturally communicate those statuses without needing to click anything? Don’t we know that despite making something “public” online, you actively click an option each day? It is our lives that reveal the true status of our hearts. The way you use your time, the words you say, the activities you indulge in… these can all indicate what your status is. See, as water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart. (Proverbs 27:19) So, what does your life reveal about the heart of the matter: your faith? What is your faith status?
Are you active? Are you offline? Are you idle? What do you select from the drop-down menu everyday?
Active is entering the chatroom. Not shying down from your faith. You have a relationship with Jesus Christ and you’re willing to send and receive messages from Him. You’re active in your faith.
Offline is, even though you might have the access to send and receive messages, you really couldn’t care less. You have no intention to go into the chatroom. You are logged off, by choice. You actively choose not to follow Jesus, you probably don’t believe in Him.
Idle is being well… stagnant. Oxford Languages describes the word idle as “avoiding work, lazy... Not active, or in use.... The inaction or absence of significant activity.... Without purpose or effect.” You have the account, you may log in sometimes, but you really don’t use it or care to. The account was probably a hand-me-down. In other words, your faith is something generational, something you were taught. Going to church on Christmas and Easter and not returning once more. You really don’t care to “put work in” to know who Jesus is, and you are way too comfortable to change your life if He asks you to. When you are idle in your faith, imagine a car idling… going nowhere. Sure the car is on, but it’s not being used for the car's purpose: to drive!
How the World Works vs. Reality
In these availability statuses, there’s three options: active, idle, and offline. And we try to think our world works the same way. We have Jesus Freaks (active), we have those who somewhat believe but don’t desire to use their faith or grown in it (idle), and we have those who don’t believe at all (offline).
But in reality, in regard to salvation, there’s only two statuses: active and offline Dead and alive. There’s no middle ground. And that’s exactly what Paul gets into in Ephesians Chapter 2.
Ephesians is the book that describes going from offline to “active”. How to go from dead to alive.
1 ) Ephesians 2:1-10: Salvation is entirely dependent on the grace of God.
Ephesians 2:3 tells us at one point we were all offline, until we put our active trust and faith in Jesus due to the gift of His grace. Paul wrote to the believers who were made alive by God’s grace: those with an “active” status. And he says, you must not forget where you came from. Do not forget your old status when you are updating. Before this active faith in Jesus and before His grace we were:
1. Dead in Sin
“You were dead through the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1)
The word for dead in Greek is nekros, which means a dead body, a corpse. But here, Paul is talking about a spiritual death. Our sins didn’t pierce our body with a knife and physically kill us. It is our soul that was affected. We might have been alive physically before following Jesus but dead spiritually. “Just as a corpse cannot revive itself to life, neither can an unbeliever revive his own spirit into new life.”
Now, how were we dead? Through the trespasses and sins. The world can skew the word “sin” and the word “trespasses” so here are the literal meanings of the words to set things straight:
The word trespasses means that we have crossed a line, challenging God’s boundaries. Before coming to faith in Jesus Christ, I was constantly wondering “how far is too far”. Here are some things I did (Before Christ) that you yourself might’ve done or might still do: Let’s see how far I can stretch this white lie before I’m really lying to them. It’s okay to be mean to others and say crude things if I’m doing it all jokingly, right? Is gossiping really gossiping if you’re just sharing it with your family or your best friend? (The answer is, if you have to ask yourself that question, you’re already in sin.) See, I was challenging God’s boundaries. And what tends to happen is that after a lot of pulling on the metaphorical rubberband, it gets loose. My guilt lessened and so did my repentance because comfort arised. I was searching to hit a line that would say ding, ding, ding, you’ve reached the boundary! Doing this just resulted in my own spiritual death.
-The idea behind the word “sin” is that we have missed the mark. We fell short. We couldn’t hit the target. We couldn’t reach God’s perfect standard. But now the question to be asked is, where was your aim originally? Jesus or yourself? Aiming at yourself has you landing very far from the perfect target of Jesus.
2. Following the World.
“...in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of air, the spirit that is at work among those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:2)
Let’s break this down.
a) “Once lived” means it should be different for those who are made alive by Jesus
“A dead man feels comfortable in his coffin; but if he were to be made alive again, he
would instantly feel suffocated and uncomfortable. There would be a strong urge to
escape the coffin and leave it behind.” In the same way, when we were spiritually dead
we felt comfortable in trespasses and sins; but having come to new life we feel we must
ditch behind the old life.
“If we believe we can be saved while still living in active disobedience then we are not Christians but we are foolish, still following the world.”
b) The word "course" in Greek is aion, which literally means age or a space of time. Paul
is saying that due to the sin of Adam and Eve we are affected by sin. This is the natural
state of the world for this age, this time: death. Sin affects everyone. But, God works to
revive our spirit, and with Him, we can be alive.
The course of this world is composed by satan, who is the ruler of the power of the air.
And he is still active in those disobeying God. The influence of the worldly man or woman
lives on in their flesh. Their own desires, passions, pleasures.
See, you cannot be of the world and of God at the same time. You cannot let your flesh and your own selfish desires influence you against the influence of Jesus. Jesus said, “Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30)
3. Loved by God, who was running after you.
Paul starts off the first three verses of Ephesians chapter 2 basically being a debby-downer. Saying, we were dead, we were like everyone else in the world, we obeyed the devil, we refused to obey God. Like… okay? Thanks Paul? How encouraging. But in verse 4 he turns it around. He redirects the path of our sad minds. “BUT God.”
Have you ever had a moment like that in your life? I sure know David and the other Psalmists have. Where everything seems to be going horribly, BUT God. Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)”
See, Every reason for God’s mercy and love is found in Him. God is love. We give Him no reason to love us, is it the greatness of His love. We can’t work to win His love, it’s already there, He already is. Therefore, we must stop trying to make ourselves lovable to God, and simply receive His great love while recognizing that we are unworthy of it. This is the grace secret of the Christian life. Does that mean we don’t do good things? Definitely not. But it’s doing good things out of humility, out of love for Him, not for Him to love us, and certainly not for us to be noticed.
So How did we become “active”? If we were all dead at one point, how are we alive?
Grace through faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”
For a purpose. Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Handiwork is the Greek word poeima. Like a poem! A work of art, beautifully, intentionally made. Down to every line, every stroke, every detail. God is the master artist, telling His story through His art - us. We are the story of His grace, the expression of His love.
Now notice how in the Oxford Languages definition of “idle” it says: Without purpose or effect. When we were spiritually dead, we were truthfully without real purpose. Sure, we could’ve done something significant on this earth in the world’s eyeview but it fades away. Slips from eternity. In Christ, we have true meaning, true purpose, and our work creates a rippling effect. Being “active” gives us purpose. He saved you and me for a purpose. God has a path marked out for us, prepared in advance, to do good works.
What did we do to get here?
Well, faith is a gift from God. But the power to believe and the act of believing are two very different things. The act of faith is (wo)man’s own. You are the one who clicks the status, God just gives you the option in the drop down menu. Grace has allowed this access, despite what our past might be. Despite if we were idle in our belief or an atheist. And now, everyone who clicks active is a part of the same chatroom, with the same access to God. As Christians, we are one chatroom, one family, a part of the same body.
2) (Ephesians 2:11-22) You Can Sit With Us
In the ancient Temple, there was a physical barrier. A literal wall between the Jews and Gentiles. And this was because of the Law. The Law told the Jews how to eat, dress, to be circumcised. You may have heard about the Ten Commandments. These Ten Commandments come from the Law (now known as the Torah). And there weren’t just ten, there were actually 613 commandments. This Law was used not only to tell us we always fall short of God but also to distinguish Jew from Gentile. Saved from unsaved.
As you can imagine, this separation created huge hostility between the Jew and Gentile. They weren’t even to be seen talking to one another. And Paul says in verse 14 “For He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”. Not only was the physical dividing wall in the Temple bad but it was the hostility in between them that was the true dividing wall. And Paul is saying here: Jesus broke that wall. Due to the blood of Christ, Gentiles were reconciled to God. And he is saying before coming to our faith in Jesus, we were Gentiles. You and I were Gentiles! Praise God that there are no longer any laws telling us that we are unclean or unsaved, for we have the same access to God, through Christ.
Ephesians 2:17-18 “ He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”
Jesus hasn’t just made peace. He is our peace, our unifying factor, despite our differences.
We All Have The Same Access To God
Now here’s something cool. Your “spiritual maturity” does not reflect your access to God. We are all in the same chatroom, whether we are a pastor or we put our faith in Jesus yesterday.
All of us are in the same chatroom because we have clicked “active” despite what our old status might’ve been. I do not have greater access to God because I am leading you through Ephesians 2. Your pastor doesn’t have greater access to God. The Pope doesn’t have greater access to God. Your culture doesn’t give you greater access to God. Because of your past or your standing now, this does not make you a “second-class citizen” in God’s Kingdom. Verse 19 tells us we are “fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.”
Christ Jesus Himself is The Cornerstone
You becoming alive is all due to Jesus’s grace through your faith. Anyone coming to Jesus, regardless of background being a part of the same family as you and I (woo!), is all due to Jesus’s blood on the cross. He is our cornerstone.
The cornerstone literally refers to:
a) “The capstone or binding stone that holds the whole structure together… often the
royal name was inscribed on it. In the east, it was considered to be even more important
than the foundation (Wood).”
b) “It is used to bind the other stones in the building together -- the most important stone
in the structure, the one on which its stability depended.” (Salmond)
Jesus is our binding stone, what brings us together. He holds the whole Body, the whole Family, the whole Church in His hands - enabling us to work in harmony. His royal name has been inscribed on this stone, never changing. He is the most important, with Him we are alive.
Check in with your status today. Have you professed Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Is faith/religion just an inactive hand-me-down in your life? Or do you completely reject Jesus and place yourself completely offline to him?
Romans 10:9 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”