Proof of God’s Grace #2: Resurrecting Grace

In this series of posts we are looking at proof of God’s grace (Planned, Resurrecting, Outrageous, Overcoming, and Forever grace [1]). In the previous post we looked at Planned Grace. In this post we are looking at…

Resurrecting Grace

The Bible teaches that people need resurrected or brought to life spiritually because they are spiritually dead and don’t go to God apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. Why is this the case? And where does the Bible teach this?

People do not turn to God apart from the Spirit’s intervening grace of regeneration because they are dead (Eph. 2:1-5), slaves of sin (Rom. 6:20), deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9 cf. Gen. 6:5; Ps. 51:5), and blinded by Satan so they don’t see the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4ff).

In our natural state since the Fall we are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). We follow “the course of this world,” “the prince of the power of the air,” and “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (v. 2). That is how “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh” (v. 3).

That is our natural state, spiritually dead. We didn’t care. If we could see with spiritual eyes, it would look like so many popular shows, games, and movies. There would be zombies just walking around; walking though they’re dead.

We were all enslaved (vv. 2-3). What were we enslaved to? We were chained to and controlled by three different masters.

First, we were chained to the world (we followed “the course of this world”). That is, we went, as with a raging stream, wherever we were taken by the masses. We flocked as one mass of dead zombies to the carnage. We did not think, we did not feel, truly feel, we just went; went where everyone else was going. “We drifted along the stream of this world’s ideas of living.”

Second, we were chained to that cunning, evil, serpent of old, Satan (we followed “the prince of the power of the air”). Notice, however, that it is not as if we all professed to be devil worshipers.[2] No. Our sins were often much more subtle but damning nonetheless.

Third, we were chained to our own flesh (“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”). “The true picture of our hearts is not that we are empty cups. Rather, we are, apart from Christ, out-of-control binge eaters, gluttons, always frantically looking for more.”[3]

Our default position since birth has been war and enmity towards God. That is what the text says. We were “children of wrath.”[4] We are by nature deprived and corrupt (cf. Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Ps. 51:5; Jer. 13:23; Jn. 6:44; Rom. 3:10-11; 5:12ff; 8:7-9; 1 Cor. 2:14). Our minds, our bodies, our whole nature is corrupted and sin soaked because of the Fall (Rom. 5:12). “One trespass led to condemnation for all men” (Rom. 5:18).

Thus, we see three things at work 1) the world, 2) Satan, and 3) our own corrupted nature. So, we are not conveniently left out of the picture. We are not off the hook. We are guilty. The text says, “You once walked.” That is, we are all liable. We once walked in this wicked way. It is not just some external force that we are not liable to. We are liable. Because we walked in, lived in, had a wicked lifestyle.

So, we are all desperately in need of resurrecting grace. Scripture teaches that none turn to God by their own violation because we are all spiritually dead. We have to be regenerated by the Spirit to believe in Jesus and repent of our sins.

What changed for those who are Christians now is that God resurrected them from spiritual death. It was not because they, by their own power went from dead to alive, it was not because they went from slaves of sin to free from sin on their own. It was because God was rich in mercy, that even when they were dead in trespasses, God made them alive (Eph. 2:4).

We were all once dead in sin (Eph. 2:1). People are dead apart from Christ (cf. 1 Tim. 5:6; Rev. 3:1). They have no spiritual life. They are spiritually blind and don’t glory in God’s truth.

The Bible clearly says “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:14). Why not? Because they don’t make sense to them (v. 14). That’s because “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh” (Rom. 8:5). The bad thing is, “to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (v. 6). This is because “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law” (v. 7). Why does the natural mind not submit to God’s law? Because “it can’t” (v. 7). And so we see that “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (v. 8).

Therefore, we see our desperate need for the Spirit to resurrect spiritually dead people to life. This is vital because “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (Jn. 6:63). In fact, no one can go to Jesus unless it is granted by the Father (v. 65).

Clearly if we were dead and needed resurrected to spiritual life then it follows that salvation is God’s work. And thus, we see God’s radical resurrecting grace. Truly God’s grace is unmerited. We couldn’t merit it because we were dead. And so we see grace is humbling. Grace humbles us before God and others. We exalt in God’s goodness and should never be proud before others.

God made us alive when we were dead. Not only that, as we will see next, God’s grace is not only resurrecting grace it is also Overcoming Grace.


[1] This acronym is taken from Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones’ book, Proof.

[2] No, that would be far to forward. Instead, Satan instructs his demons with words like this from C.S. Lewis’s book Screwtape Letters, “It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

[3] Edward T. Welch, “The Bondage of Sin,” in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 27.

[4] Galatians 2:15 says φύσει Ἰουδαῖοι (Jews by nature/birth) and Ephesians 2:3 says τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς (children by birth/nature of wrath). Thus, just as Jews are born Jews, we, all of us, are born deserving God’s wrath because of sin.

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)
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