by Dane Massey
(Dane Massey is the former Pastor of Mulvane Christian Church. He is now in ministry in Houston, Texas.)
It has been said that there is nothing wrong with modern Christianity that a good dose of the Sovereignty of God wouldn’t fix.
For such a dose, let’s turn to the two riveting and polar opposite pictures that confront us at the beginning of Ephesians 1 and 2.
Paul leaves no doubt of this sovereignty in verses 3-14. He opens with God’s sovereign choice in verse 4, speaks twice of His predestined will (v 5, 11), reminds us that He does all things concerning our salvation according to the good pleasure of His will (v. 5) which He has purposed in Himself (v. 9), and that He works all things after the counsel of His own will (v. 11).
You can’t think on these verses without the overwhelming sense of His sovereignty and the internal awareness of your flesh wanting to rise up in rebellion and rejection of it.
Paul then drags us from the Mount Everest of God’s sovereignty to the valley of man’s depravity.
The only picture of man’s condition, as vivid as Ephesians 2:1-3, is Ezekiel’s “valley of dry bones” in Ezekiel 37:1-14. There it is, death, a graveyard of old, very dry, and scattered bleached bones as far as the eye can see.
In Ephesians it is far worse!
We are dead in trespasses and sin. In the spiritual it is a view of corpses floating in a cesspool. In the physical they are not merely floating, but walking in it, as they live out their corruption in disobedience following the “spirit of this age” ruled over and manipulated by the “prince of the power of the air” (vs.1-2).
Paul, (lest we who have been delivered from such a putrid death should believe that somehow we were better or above such things), reminds us that we too once lived in such spiritual squalor (v. 3).
Modern, “sophisticated” man rebels against such a view of God and is repulsed by such a view of man/ But one only has to watch the news reels from Afghanistan or the streets of our so-called modern cities, or look long into the mirror of one’s own heart to know that once again scripture is right.
Today’s Christianity, would close this overwhelming gap and yawning abyss between the holy and sovereign God and the depravity of man.
A.W. Tozer was right when saw this “great battle on the horizon” 100 years ago: the battle to close the gap by humanizing God and deifying man.
The result: a Christianity that is man-centered; focused on man’s felt needs, his purpose, and his experiences. God is no longer worshipped for who He is but for the benefit of man.
There is no fear of God before man’s eyes (Romans 3:18) for we believe He is just like us. Read it in Psalms 50:16-22 (NASB):
“But to the wicked God says, ‘What right do you have to tell of My statutes and to take My covenant in your mouth? For you yourself hate discipline,
And you throw My words behind you.’”
“’When you see a thief, you become friends with him, andyou associate with adulterers. You let your mouth loose in evil,
and your tongue harnesses deceit.’”
“‘You sit and speak against your brother;
you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done and I kept silent;
You thought that I was just like you;
I will rebuke you and present the case before your eyes.’”
“Now consider this, you who forget God,
Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be no one to save you.’”
What an overwhelming situation and picture!
So what would happen if the church once again caught a glimpse of the opening pictures of Ephesians 1 and 2?
No longer would it be business as usual. There would be an overwhelming sense of and an understanding of man’s inability to deal with himself and his world. The church would be faced with its own powerlessness as it stands before this “valley of dry bones.”
No amount of programing, organizing, strategizing, or manipulating will bring life to these bones. We are completely at the mercy of the Holy One against whom we have sinned.
Prayer meetings would no longer be sparsely populated neither would they be filled with man’s felt needs. Once again you would hear the pleas of the repentant, the cry for mercy and the groaning for a fresh moving of the sovereign mercy of the Spirit of God.
Preaching would no longer be “three ways to have your best life now,” an emotional story with a manipulated decision, but an exaltation of the Sovereign God, a clear teaching of His truth without the theatrics of man, and the glory of the redeemer who would give His life to ransom such a mess.
His Spirit would be trusted to call men out of death unto life for there would be a deep awareness that He alone can save!
But best of all Paul’s great statement from Eph. 2: 4-5 would ring true:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).
That it may be true again!