It is not a bad thing to be reminded of things one already knows. “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance” (2 Peter 3:1). The problem is that some seem to forget more than they remember. One may be reminded of a congregation in the Bible who seemed to have an issue with forgetting. There are three instances in which the congregation at Ephesus was told to remember. Paul, while speaking to the elders of the congregation, said, “Therefore, watch, and remember…” (Acts 20:31). Christ told the congregation, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen…” (Rev. 2:5). The most notable is found in Ephesians 2:11. It is here that Paul tells the congregation, “Wherefore remember…”. It seems that the congregation was in the process of becoming what is read in Revelation. Paul is trying to encourage them to remember certain things throughout the whole chapter in the hopes of stopping the process which has begun. This verse serves as the backdrop to one of this preacher’s favorite chapters of the Bible. Why is this chapter a favorite of his? It reminds him of three very important facts. These facts are things every Christian should try to remember. Why? Discouragement can come in a number of ways. These discouragements will bombard the Christian and cause a loss of focus. When that focus is lost there are a number of things which the Christian can easily forget. When the act of forgetting occurs, it becomes easy for the Christian to fall away. What three things should we remember?
1. Remember What You Were
Dead in Sins (2:1)
“And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Paul refers to the fact that the past sins of these Gentiles had put them in a state of spiritual death! What does it mean for a person to be dead spiritually? James wrote that death occurs when the soul is separated from the body (James 2:26). Keeping that in mind, there must be some sort of separation to occur for one to become dead spiritually. What kind of separation will cause such a state? Paul indicates that it is separation from God as at one time these Ephesians were “without God” (v. 12, cf. Is. 59:1-2). These Gentiles were at one time in a state of separation from the One True God due to the sins they had committed.
A List of the Gentile Condition (2:11-12).
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:11-12). If only the time could be taken to cover the entire scope of these two verses. Paul delves deeper into the spiritual condition of these individuals before obeying the gospel of Christ. They did not know Christ, much less His gospel, and as such could not obey Him to receive His blessings. They were foreigners who were not privy to the blessings of Israel and to the Abrahamic Promise. They were also without any hope. One may think of an individual who is told that he has a terminal illness and think of one with no physical hope. How much more painful is it to be without spiritual hope? As their spiritual location was “in the world” they were separated from God!
2. Remember What Was Done
God’s Part (2:4, 5, 8)
God played an important role in the salvation of man. In this chapter, one would read of two great things God showed to mankind (Eph. 2:4). God has shown a great amount of mercy to His creation. Even though mankind has committed sin, He is compassionate to our needs. In this mercy, His grace has been shown to mankind (Eph. 2:5, cf v. 8). Grace is unmerited favor. Man was not so good that God decided to save him. It was through the mercy and grace of God that a Savior was sent into the world.
Christ’s Part (2:7)
This mercy and grace was shown through Christ (Eph. 2:7). It was important that His blood be shed in order for this to occur (2:13). It is important to note that one must come in contact with the blood of Christ in order for the blessings of Christ to occur. All spiritual blessings are found in Christ Jesus, which includes the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:3, 7). Therefore, it is important that one come in contact with the blood of Christ in order to be privy to these blessings (Gal. 3:27). That means there is another who plays a role in man’s salvation.
Man’s Part (2:8).
Paul told these Christians “For by grace ye are saved through faith…” (Eph. 2:8). Faith is man’s part in salvation and we are not talking about faith only (Jam. 2:24). One could study the Ephesians and note that they played an active role in their salvation. One should note that these: Heard and Believed (Eph. 1:13), Repented (Acts 20:21), Confessed (Acts 19:18), and were Baptized (Acts 19:1-5; Eph. 4:5).
Many would say that the idea of man having to do something to be saved negates God’s grace. This is not true. If I were to offer a $50 dollar bill to anyone in the audience stating that to get it one would need to walk to me to get it, would that negate the fact that I am freely giving away $50 dollars despite tacking on a requirement to receive it? No, therefore, God stating a man must obey His commands before He can be saved does not negate the gift of grace.
3. Remember What You Are
When a man is still in his sins he is dead but when he obeys the gospel of Christ he is quickened or made alive (Eph. 2:5; Romans 6:3-6). That one is buried with Christ in baptism and the old man of sin is crucified. When that old man was put to death, the Christians in Ephesus were now living a life different from that which they lived in time past.
Made to Be Part of the One Body (Eph. 2:14-18; 1:22-23)
Christ played the role of the ultimate peacemaker (Matt. 5:9). He did this by taking two warring factions and united them together in one body. There was a literal wall which stood between the Jews and Gentiles. There was a partition in the temple court which divided the two. This wall bore an inscription which forbad Gentiles from going further. There was also a spiritual wall between the two. Christ tore down that wall with His death on the cross. He took two groups and made them to be part of one body (Eph. 1:22-23; Rom. 16:16).
There is so much more which could be said about this chapter and many verses which we were forced to skip. Why is this chapter one of my favorites? Think of a cleaning product on television. They usually show the before product. A shirt which was once pure bright but now covered in grass, dirt, and a host of other stains. This cleaning product is applied to the shirt and it is washed. The commercial then shows a before and after shot. While at one time the shirt was deeply stained, the cleaning solution was applied to it and it is now white as it once was.
Paul reminds the Ephesians (and us) of that same truth. Christians were at one time deeply stained in sin and in a terrible condition. When the decision was made to obey the gospel of Christ, we came in contact with the cleansing solution of Christ’s blood. How did it affect them? They were cleansed of their sins and in a glorious condition as members of the body of Christ. It is important that all Christians remember these great truths. This is why this chapter is one of this preacher’s favorite passages.