There is a popular song out right now, which I very much like, but there is a particular line in it that falls short. Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
Note that Paul is speaking specifically to Christians, as we can clearly see in Ephesians 1:1. So, here we see the spiritual state of a believer before regeneration. The word “trespasses”, according to the ESV Study Bible refers to “violations of divine commandments”, and the word “sins” refers to “offenses against God in thought, word, or deed”. But the key word that jumps out at me is “dead”. In the Greek, this is the word nekros, which in this context means “devoid of life, inanimate”.
The song I mentioned in the beginning asks, “What can take a dying man and raise him up to life again?” Why does it fall short? Because before we believed on the Lord, it wasn’t as if we were merely spiritually dying; we were absolutely dead. Let me ask you a question, if I may: what exactly can dead people do? Answer: nothing. Dead people can do nothing except be dead. That is the thought here. Before we were saved, we were dead in our trespasses and sins, and as a result of that, in order for us to come to Christ, we needed to first be given new life.
Later on in Ephesians 2, we read, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved” (v5). This, my friends, is perhaps the most wonderful verse in the Bible. Combined with verse 1, the thought is that we were dead, and God in His grace and mercy spiritually gave us life. It wasn’t by anything we did. It wasn’t even our faith that caused our salvation. Notice in verses 8 and 9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
There was nothing that we have done or could have done that would have earned salvation. Once again, we were completely lifeless. The only conclusion that we could arrive to is that God’s grace for those who are saved is completely unconditional. There is not even the condition of faith! After all, can a dead man even think, much less have faith? But hold on; doesn’t verse 8 seem to require faith for salvation? Yes. We are saved by grace through faith. Faith seems to precede salvation. But then we get the key to that in the next part: “this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God“! Even the faith in God that is required of us to be saved is given by Him!
Imagine I were selling you my car. The price tag is–let’s say–$15,000. You look at your bank account, and you have $0. I then proceed to give you–as a free and unconditional gift–$15,000 dollars, with which you buy my car. Did you buy my car? It is in this way that we have believed in Jesus Christ. Even our faith is a grace! Praise God that while we were dead in our sins, God made us alive in Christ and has caused us to believe the message of the cross. For without Him, I know that I’d still be dead. You?