This post continues our Bible Study series on Ephesians 2:1-10 exploring the Gospel.So far in this series, we’ve seen our total inability to attain spiritual life, God’s riches in showing us mercy and the resurrection life that He gives to us. Let’s look a bit more closely at the implications of that resurrection life.
Even though we looked at verse 5 of our passage in some detail last Thursday, we need to study it again–this time in conjunction with verse 6. By paring these two verses, we gain a richer view of how Christ’s resurrection directly affects those of us who believe in Him. So let’s review our text with verse 6 added, shall we?
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, ~~Ephesians 2:1-6 (ESV)
As we discussed week, God raises our dead spirits with the risen Lord. When we couple these two verses, we see our spiritual experience reflect Christ’s physical experience (Ephesians 1:20). To clarify this point, look at Romans 6:4-5, in which the apostle Paul states very plainly that we positionally share in His death (because we put our sin nature to death) and in His new life. See Colossians 3:1-3.
I realize that Paul uses concepts that, apart from the aid of the Holy Spirit, we struggle to understand. Sometimes commentaries help. As I grappled with these two verses, John MacArthur’s analysis of verses 5-6 certainly offered me insight:
raised us up together, and made us sit together. The tense of raised and made indicates that these are immediate and direct results of salvation. Not only is the believer dead to sin and alive to righteousness through Christ’s resurrection, but he also enjoys his Lord’s exaltation and shares in His preeminent glory.
in the heavenly places. This refers to the supernatural realm where God reigns. In Ephesians 3:10 and Ephesians 6:12, however, it also refers to the supernatural sphere where Satan temporarily rules. This spiritual realm is where believers’ blessings are (cf. Ephesians 1:3), their inheritance is (1 Peter 1:4), their affections should be (Colossians3:3), and where they enjoy fellowship with the Lord. It is the realm from which all divine revelation has come and where all praise and petitions go.
MacArthur helps us catch a glimpse of the exciting reality that salvation isn’t merely about rescuing us from the eternity in hell that rightfully belongs to us. Wonderfully, salvation assures us of a new life, even now, that gives us victory over sin and fellowship with the Lord. Later (in verse7) we will see fuller implications of our union with Christ, probably referring to our physical resurrection. What we experience positionally now, we will experience in totality then.
Note the qualifying phrase, “in Christ Jesus,” which points to the exclusive nature of the Gospel. John 3:16 limits eternal life to those who believe in Him, and Jesus said quite explicitly in John 14:6 that He alone provides access to the Father. The apostle Peter declared in Acts 4:12 that there is no salvation apart from Jesus. Jesus can make this exclusive stipulation because He made atonement for sin, as we discussed a few days ago. Only He has the right to determine the criteria for escape the terrors of hell and to enjoy the wonder of heaven.
The Believers Bible Commentary concludes, “The key to verses 5 and 6 is the phrase, in Christ Jesus. It is in Him that we have been made alive, raised, and seated. He is our Representative; therefore His triumphs and His position are ours. George Williams exclaims, ‘Amazing thought! That a Mary Magdalene and a crucified thief should be the companions in glory of the Son of God.’”