GOD’S SALVATION IN CHRIST
Ephesians 2:4 says, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us." Oh! I was dead in my offenses and sins and could not overcome the temptation of the world, the enticing of Satan, and the corruption of the flesh. But God has a way, brothers and sisters. Please remember, it does not say, "But I." This would mean me setting my will, rejecting sin, and trusting in the Lord in this or that way. Rather, it says, "But God." Praise the Lord! We have, "But God!" God is rich in mercy! Because of His great love with which He loved us, He came to save us.
Verse 5 says, "Even when we were dead in offenses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)." This is the great love with which He loved us. Christ died and rose again after three days. It was the life of God in Christ that quickened Christ. The stripes on Christ’s back, the thorns on His head, and the nail wounds on His hands and feet were all healed; only scars were left. What doctor is there who can heal such a severe wound and heal it so quickly? No one. Christ was made alive this way because He has the life of God. When we were dead in our offenses and sins, God gave us life, in the same manner that the life of God was given to Christ to make Him alive from the dead. So to be saved is to have the life of God enter into a dead person and make him alive.
Brothers and sisters, do you think it is difficult to be free from sins and evil? Do you think it is difficult to deny the world? Do you think it is difficult to withstand Satan? There are examples of people being taken over by the devil. When the Lord told the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders, chief priests, and scribes and be killed, Peter said, "God be merciful to You, Lord! This shall by no means happen to You!" (Matt. 16:22). The Lord turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan!" (v. 23). Peter, after being taken over by Satan, began to demonstrate a fear of suffering. Judas betrayed the Lord because Satan got into his heart (Luke 22:3). Ananias and Sapphira kept back part of the money because Satan had filled their heart—they loved the good name of consecration, yet they were unwilling to have a complete consecration themselves (Acts 5:3). We consider many things to be very, very difficult for only one reason: we are dead in our offenses and sins.
Even when we were like this, God made us alive together with Christ! In the same way that God put life into Christ and made Christ alive, He is also putting life into us and making us alive. When the temptation comes, there is no need for us to struggle. We have to realize that death is reigning and that only life can overcome it. For instance, if we are going to lose our temper, we should not tell ourselves how we should strive to control it; rather, we should tell the Lord, "Lord, may Your life fill me." Brothers and sisters, to overcome sin requires the law of the Spirit of life, not our own righteousness. We put righteousness against sin and life against death. But God overcomes death with life; He also overcomes sin with life. "For the law of the Spirit of life has freed me in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and of death." There is a difference between sin and death; however, to overcome both sin and death, we only need life.
Ephesians 2:6 says, "And raised us up together with Him and seated us together with Him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus." Brothers and sisters, Christ has redeemed us not only that we may receive a new life, but also that we may be raised up. What is the difference between being made alive in verse 5 and being raised up in verse 6? Do we know the difference? Being made alive and being raised up have no difference in what we gain practically; however, being made alive and being raised up are very different in their meaning. Verse 5 says God made us alive together with Christ. We were dead in our offenses and sins, and God gave us life which made us alive. Verse 6 says He raised us up with Christ. God made us to die with Christ so that we would be dead to sin. Therefore, God raised us up with Christ so that we would live to Him. The Bible speaks of our two relationships to sin: we were dead in sins (Eph. 2:1), and we have died to sin (Rom. 6:2). Dead in sins means that even though we are alive, we are dead to everything but sin, only loving what is sinful and evil. It is like a person who enjoys smoking opium; he smokes opium all day long. His every thought is filled with opium. We say that this kind of person is dead in opium. Dead to sin means that we have broken off the relationship with sin. Sin can no longer tempt us because we are dead. If the man who used to enjoy opium does not enjoy it anymore, he is like a dead person to opium; the opium can tempt him no longer. Those who are dead in sins need to be made alive together with Christ; those who are dead to sin need to be raised up together with Christ.
Thanks and praise be to God! We have obtained all of these things. We have been made alive together with Christ, and we have been raised up together with Christ. God has made us alive together and raised us up together with Christ. Not only so, He has also seated us together with Christ in the heavenlies.
Ephesians 2:1-3 tells us we were in three kinds of conditions when we were dead in offenses and sins: (1) according to the age of this world, (2) according to the ruler of the authority of the air, and (3) in the lusts of our flesh. God has redeemed us and has overcome Satan in Christ Jesus. He has given us resurrection life to conquer the flesh, and He has seated us in the heavenlies to overcome the world. God’s salvation enables us to overcome these three enemies: the flesh, Satan, and the world. If we are seated in the heavenlies, then we are in complete victory.
We have been made alive together, raised up together, and seated together with Christ in the heavenlies. I would like for you to pay attention to the most important point: you have been made alive together with Christ, you have been raised up together with Christ, and you have been seated together with Christ in the heavenlies. Someone might say to you that you should be raised up together with Christ. But let me tell you: you have already been raised up together with Christ. Someone might encourage you to seek after an ascended life, but let me tell you: you are already seated in the heavenlies. When Christ was made alive, we were made alive together with Him. When Christ was raised up, we were also raised up together with Him. When Christ was seated in the heavenlies, we were seated with Him in the heavenlies. We thank God that together we have obtained all these things!
If you are tempted this afternoon to lose your temper, you may think that victory over temptation is not by struggling but by life, and in so thinking you may pray to God, "O God, please make me alive, raise me up, and seat me in the heavenlies." Are you right in doing so? If you do this, I tell you, you do not yet understand God’s salvation at all.
What is salvation? Salvation is God’s accomplishment for us. God has already made me alive together with Christ, raised me up together, and seated me together with Him in the heavenlies. I do not have to ask God to make me alive, to raise me up, or to seat me in the heavenlies. He has already done this. This is faith. Faith is to believe that what God has done is true. Unbelief is to think that you ought to do something. Psychological illusion is to imagine things that are not as though they were; but faith is to see the unseen things. Just because we cannot see them does not mean that they do not exist.
Therefore, in Christ we have been made alive, have been raised up, and have been seated in the heavenlies. When temptation comes, we should speak boldly, "You cannot touch me, for I have been raised up." When the world comes, we should speak boldly, "I have ascended to the heavenlies." This is salvation. This is not struggle. Lest the Ephesians would misunderstand, after the words, "Even when we were dead in offenses, made us alive together with Christ," Paul immediately followed with an explanation: "By grace you have been saved." In verse 8 he purposely mentioned again, "By grace you have been saved." What is the meaning of this? For what reason did he say this? There was a good reason. Paul was afraid that we would think that to live is very difficult. We might not know how we can live and how we can get this life. He said that this matter is God’s doing. It is by grace—not that I want to be made alive, but God has made me alive; not that I want to be raised up, but God has raised me up; not that I want to sit in the heavenlies, but God has seated me in the heavenlies. What God has prepared for us is all by grace. The first half is God’s doing; the second half only needs our believing. Believing is not by feeling; if it is by feeling, it is bound to fail. Today we have to remember this well: salvation involves at least these three parts: (1) to be made alive together with Christ, (2) to be raised up together with Christ, and (3) to be seated together with Christ in the heavenlies.
Verse 7 says, "That He might display in the ages to come the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." This verse unfolds the goal of His salvation. What is the kindness of God toward us? It was mentioned before: that when we were dead in sins, God made us alive together with Christ, raised us up together, and seated us together in the heavenlies. "The ages to come" are the countless generations in the future; this is for a demonstration to the angels. When has there been a person who has died and come back alive? But the kindness God has toward us through Christ has made dead persons alive.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 08: The Present Testimony (1), Chapter 37, by Watchman Nee)