1. What are some advertisements that emphasize before and after transformations? (Bathrooms; Other home improvements; diet plans; teeth straightening; jaw reconstruction; etc.)
2. Why are advertising campaigns based on before and after photos and testimonies so effective? (There is an obvious change for the better that makes it desirable.)
3. Can you describe a time in your life when before and after photos would be drastically different?
The popularity of television makeover shows indicate people enjoy seeing dramatic before and after differences. To fully appreciate the after picture we must see the before picture. Paul reminded believers their condition before salvation and how that transformation occurred.
We often talk about life-or-death situations when we’re trying to communicate the urgency of taking action. In the second chapter of Ephesians, Paul discussed salvation in life-or-death terms. His description of the before state of humanity, while grim, is necessary because it helps us appreciate the result of having Christ in our lives.
Once Dead! Read Ephesians 2:1-3
1. What kind of comments do people think or even say, as they file past the casket of a loved one or friend? (They look so natural. They look good.)
2. What’s the problem with these statements in this context? (The person is dead physically.)
3. How did Paul describe the spiritually dead in these verses? (“Walked according to the ways of this world…” lived “according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient...” exercised “fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts…”)
Physical deadness means there is a lack of activity. Spiritual deadness doesn’t mean a lack of activity. Instead, those who are spiritually dead are very active, but in sinful and destructive ways. Those without Christ remain under the strongholds of the sinful nature—defying God and exalting self.
4. What is the meaning of “trespasses and sins”? (The two terms are similar but have subtle distinctions. To trespass is to cross a known boundary or to willingly deviate from the right path. To sin is to miss an expected mark or fall short of an expected target. Together, these words encompass both active wrongdoing [committing sins] and passive wrongdoing [refusing to do what is right]. Paul included himself in this group in verse 3. So, all human beings apart from Christ stand guilty of both kinds of wrongdoing.)
5. How does Paul’s description of life without Jesus serve as motivation to share Jesus with others?
It is important for us to square the biblical teaching that all unforgiven sinners are spiritually dead with our perception that many people—even those who have openly rejected Christ—appear very much alive and are capable of doing commendable activities. Are such people really dead? Yes indeed, in terms of eternal, spiritual matters. They are unable to know God, to love Him, or to relate to Him in any genuine way. In other words, they are as spiritually unresponsive to God as a corpse would be to any other living being.
Three influences combined in holding unbelievers captive:
· They are bound by the ways of this world.
· They are enslaved by the ruler of the power of the air.
· They are in bondage to fleshly desires.
Without Christ we are desperately lost and dead spiritually.
6. What is great about the fact that God is a god of wrath? (“The doctrine of God’s wrath is unpopular in modern culture, both within and outside the church. We want a loving and forgiving God who will deal with us in ways which give us the assurance that all will be well. We find it difficult to think of a God who might be angry with His creation, even if His anger is righteous and not tainted by sinful motives. But when we pause and think about it, none of us operates in the way we want God to behave. When we see injustice, particularly when experienced personally, we cry out. We want perpetrators to be caught and justice to be done. We do not like the thought of wrongdoing being unpunished; unless, of course, it is we who have committed the offence.”—Josh Hunt.)
God’s wrath against our sin was poured out in its fullness at Calvary! Jesus suffered the enormity of God’s wrath for the sin of all mankind.
The change Jesus makes when He comes into someone’s life isn’t a change from bad to good; it’s a change from dead to alive!
Now Alive! Read Ephesians 2:4-7
One of the biggest words found in the Bible is the little word “But”! It is used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned! There is no greater contrast than that of being dead and being alive!
1. In these verses we find three words that most Christians would name as their three favorite words in the Bible. What are they? (Mercy; love; and grace. We can experience God great mercy and grace because of His great love!)
2. Whenever there is a before-and-after moment, someone makes a conscious decision to change something. A homeowner decides to renovate. An overweight person decides to exercise. In these verses, who makes the decision to initiate a change? (“But God!” says it all!)
3. How would you describe the difference between mercy and grace? (Mercy is not giving us what we deserve and grace is giving us what we do not deserve—God’s unmerited favor!)
4. According to verse 4, what was God’s motivation for making us alive?
5. According to verse 7, what is His desired result?
Read Phil. 3:4-14
Notice that Paul didn’t describe his former way of life as evil or wicked, but as loss or rubbish because it was done apart from Christ. This is true of every person who tries to attain salvation through their own works. It is Christ alone!
6. In verse 5 Paul says God “made us alive”. Who was made “alive with the Messiah”? (Those who believed in what Christ had done for them. Paul is writing to believers!)
7. What’s the key to this before and after transformation? (God’s grace shown to us through Christ changes everything. Transformations are costly. Jesus paid that cost. He willingly came down into this cesspool and died for the very people who rejected Him. When we’re in Christ, we share in the power of His resurrection, ascension, and exaltation. Sin doesn’t rule in our hearts anymore, we have a new King!)
So far, Paul has focused on the “what” of salvation—we were dead but are now alive. Paul turned his attention to “how.” How does this transformation happen? These next three verses are three of the most important verses in all of Scripture!
Through Grace Alone! Read Ephesians 2:8-10
1. Notice that verse 9 makes it very clear that we are not saved by good works, while verse 10 emphasizes that we’re saved for good works. What’s the difference? (Good works isn’t the root of our salvation; good works are the fruit of our salvation. We don’t do good works to earn our salvation, we do them out of a heart of praise and gratitude for what God has done in Christ Jesus for us!)
[If you have the Leader Pack use item 4 and discuss the following.]
EPHESIANS 2: OLD AND NEW
Paul drew contrasts between the human condition described in verses 1-3 and the new life in Christ pictured in verses 4-6.
OLD LIFE NEW LIFE
We were dead. Now we are alive.
We were enslaved. Now we are enthroned.
We were objects of wrath. Now we are objects of grace.
We walked among the disobedient. Now we fellowship with Christ.
We were under Satan’s dominion. Now we are in union with Christ.
2. Why can’t believers brag about their “New Life” condition? (Salvation can’t be earned, only received as a gift. Faith symbolizes our empty hands reaching up to God’s hand that is filled with grace. Even that reaching-out hand is a gift from God. We can’t take credit for any part of our salvation.)
Faith is the channel, not the cause, of salvation. The object of our faith—Christ—is what matters, not the size of our faith. Pride is directly opposed to the gospel. The gospel and pride are mutually incompatible. Pride has no part of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!
3. What do we learn about ourselves in verse 10? (First, “We are His workmanship.” Second, we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Third, these good works “God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”)
Several words could be used instead of “workmanship.” I prefer “Masterpiece.” God created each of us for His own special purpose and treasure. We are His “Masterpiece”! Our special skills and talents are enhanced by the Holy Spirit when we receive our spiritual gifts at the point of our salvation. They are to be used for God’s glory and honor!
4. What would you say to someone who was convinced they had to work to earn God’s approval or salvation? (How much do you have to do? When do you know you have done enough to get into Heaven? Do you believe the Bible and if so what do you do with Eph. 2:8-10?)
5. What do our motives for doing good works reveal about our beliefs about salvation? (If we are working for salvation rather than as a result of our salvation, our works are for naught!)
Summarize and Challenge!
We have been made alive! We have been set free! We have been saved! We have been made into new creatures, but we are not to remain passive. We have much to do. We are never saved by good works, yet we are saved for good works.
1. How can we develop a greater sense of urgency and more frequently share our faith?
2. With whom could you seek an opportunity to share these verses?