Ephesians 2:1-3 (NKJV) 1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
We can never understand unmerited or undeserved favor, also known as grace, unless we understand why we did not deserve God’s favor and what he had to do to give it to us. We have looked at creation, the problem God faced and his solution. We have seen that God took upon himself the consequences of Adam’s sin and made a way for us to come back into relationship with the Lord.
Let me show you a timeline of how the process has played out.
1. God chose to create man. In order for man to fulfil his purpose as the focal point of fellowship, he had to have the capacity and the right to choose love.
2. Man chose to rebel against God in the Garden of Eden. When he did, he was separated from God. His nature changed and became like Satan’s nature. Hell was created for Satan and his angels, but because man was now identified with Satan, that became his eternal spiritual future as well
3. God chose not to leave man in this condition. He chose to come to earth as a man, Jesus. He chose to become the propitiation or sacrifice for the sin nature of man, returning to him choice
4. Man must now choose to receive what God has done for himself. If he does, he is saved by grace through faith. He will pass into eternity as a child of God and live forever in God’s presence. If he does not, he remains bound to Satan and must share Satan’s eternal punishment.
5. Death is the dividing line. Once that line is crossed, the person has made their choice and cannot change it.
The book of Romans is Paul’s revelation of this to the believer. We are not saved by understanding. We are saved by believing. We hear the Gospel preached and something inside awakens. When we respond to the drawing of God, we are saved. Nevertheless, we need to learn what happened to us so that we will be able to walk in it and so that we can become a conduit of salvation to the world.
We have already begun in the most important place, Genesis. Let us look at man’s condition from a slightly different perspective. Why did man not deserve God’s favor? What is favor? The English noun means approval, support, or liking for someone or something. The Verb means to feel or show approval or preference for someone or something. Why was humanity underserving of God’s approval? They were created to be God’s family. Why was he unable to show them preference over Satan?
From our human perspective we would say it was because of what Adam had done. We are geared to think in terms of “crime and punishment” or “right behavior and reward.” There is an element of both in God’s dealing with man. Justice demands payment. Love demands forgiveness. God is by nature both in the absolute sense. We have already pointed out in detail that God could not overlook the “crime.” His solution was to pay the price. The debt has been paid. All man must do is choose to accept it. However, he must choose to accept it. If he does not he is eternally separated from God. Why?
It is not because of God’s anger. It is not because God is legalistic. If that were the case, coming to salvation in Jesus would require confession of what a person had done. He or she would have to take responsibility for those things. Man would have to become worthy of being a child of God. That is impossible. No one has the ability to pay the price.
By grace all the sins of mankind have been forgiven. They are not forgiven when we receive Christ. They were already forgiven. They were forgiven the moment Jesus paid for them. Why must every individual receive the sacrifice for themselves? If the sins are forgiven and the price paid, everyone should be saved and go to heaven. There are two reasons each person must receive Jesus as their personal savior.
The first is the timeline I laid out. Choice is the engine that drives the whole process. God chose to create, man chose to sin, God chose to pay the price. When he did he restored choice to man. Before the cross, man’s choices were limited. God gave the law and the covenant to give man the choice of limited relationship. However, that was never what God wanted. He never wanted a relationship based on law. He wanted a love relationship. Under the Old Covenant that was not possible. The death burial and resurrection of Jesus restored man’s right to choose to love God.
The second reason is what keeps man from God. It is not his sin. That is paid for by the blood of Jesus. God has no problem forgiving sin. The thing that makes it impossible for God to give his favor to man is not what he does. It is what man became in the fall. Today’s scripture makes it clear. He became by nature, a child of wrath or the devil. God cannot favor man because of his nature. If he allowed that nature into eternity the results would be unacceptable. I do not pretend to know all of why. I simply believe that Bible and accept it as so.
What did grace do for us. It did not just forgive our sins. Grace, in the form of Jesus’ sacrificial life and death, opened the way for our nature to be changed. The new birth in 2 Corinthians 5 is not just about the forgiveness of sins. It is about the change of nature. That is what we must choose. God will not force it upon us. When we receive Jesus, we are made new creatures in Christ. Old things pass away and all things are made new. 2 Corinthians 5 never mentions the forgiveness of sin. That is a given. It was done by grace.
Romans 6:3 (NKJV) 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
The truth of salvation is that there is a part of us that dies when we are saved. We are baptized into the death of Jesus. We become partakers of his death and are then “born again.” The me that was born in the sin of Adam died in Christ. Everything I ever did died with him. All of my sins were washed away because I died with Christ. The price for all that I did was paid for in the Cross.
Colossians 2:13-14 (NKJV) 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
The blood of Jesus wipes out the handwriting on the charges that were against us. When a person receives that for him or herself, a miracle happens. The old, corrupt spirit dies, and a new clean spirit is born. We are still the people God created in our mother’s womb, but we are also “new creations.” Old things have passed away and all things become new. Paul said it this way.
Galatians 2:20 (NKJV) 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
That is what grace does for us. It kills us and raises us up. That, however, is only the beginning.