************ Funeral Sermon on Ephesians 2:8-9 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 1, 2019
Shorty Vander Tuig Funeral
Imagine, for a moment, that Shorty's coffin is here at the front of this building. And, then, answer this question: How many dead people are in this building? More than one. Shorty is not the only one who is dead. Anyone who is not in Christ is also dead. Anyone who is not a Christian is also dead.
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins ..." (Eph 2:1). That's how our Bible reading starts out. Paul's first point is that those without Christ are dead. This tells us mankind's biggest problem. Mankind's biggest problem is not broken relationships. Mankind's biggest problem is not global-warming or climate-change. Mankind's biggest problem is not world hunger. Mankind's biggest problem is not Muslim terrorists. Man's biggest problem is that he is dead. Obviously, we aren't talking about physical death because Paul speaks to those whose body is alive. We are talking about the inner person, the soul, the spirit; a person who is spiritually dead. As Ephesians 4:18 puts it, they are "separated from the life of God."
Apart from Christ, you are dead. Meaning what exactly? A comparison to physical death is helpful here. When you are physically dead you are not able to do anything. You don't react. You don't do anything. This funeral is proof of that. It tore my heart to watch Arlene kiss Shorty goodbye with no response on his part. Those who are spiritually dead are the same way. They are not able to respond, to act, to do anything. All the tears and affection and love of God provoke no response whatsoever.
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins ..." (Eph 2:1). God uses two words for sin. Both of them in the plural. To emphasize the totality of sin. To emphasize how dead we are without Christ. By the way, without Christ this is everyone's natural, sinful condition. We are all born this way.
Perhaps there is someone sitting here this morning who is not a Christian. And you may say, "I don't feel dead. I am able to do good. I help my neighbor. I look after my mom. I do community work. I do humanitarian good. I love my wife /husband. I love my kids. I keep a neat house and yard. I am generous. I am kind. So why do you say I am dead in my transgressions and sins?" Even Jesus recognizes this about sinners. He says
(Lk 6:33) And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that.People do good to each other. And isn't it wonderful when this happens? But, notice, Jesus still calls them "sinners." Which raises the question: In what way are they sinners? Sin is not so much what we do as what we don't do. Our biggest failing is that we don't live for the glory of God, we don't meet His standard of holiness, and we don't achieve perfection. Glory, holiness, perfection, that is the goal, that is the target, but we fall short.
(cf Lk 11:13; Acts 28:2)
So people without Christ are dead. They are dead in their inability to live for God's glory, to reach God's standard, and to achieve perfection. They fall and slip and stumble and go in the wrong direction. Do you know what sinners are doing? They "follow the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air" (Eph 2:2). People wrongly think they are free when they do what they want instead of what God wants. But they aren't doing what they want. Instead, they are doing what the world dictates, what Satan wants them to do. We have a phrase for this: total depravity.
People who are spiritually dead are vile, sinful, godless, ungrateful, unworthy, unholy, destitute, depraved. They are engulfed in their sins and trespasses. They serve a system, a ruler, that hates God and Christ and the Bible and everything that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.
People without Christ are dead, spiritually dead. This can only end one way: those who are spiritually dead are "objects of wrath" (Eph 2:3). They become God's target. They become the focus of God's judgment. They are in a bad situation, a horrible situation because what awaits them are the never ending fires of hell.
"And you were dead ..." Notice the word "were." That's the past tense. If you are a Christian, if you are in Christ, this is your past and not your present. Based upon his life and testimony, I can tell you this is Shorty's past and not his present. But if you are not a Christian, this is your present; right now you ARE dead if you are without Christ in your life.
Why this change, why this difference? To explain this let's look at the opening words of verses 1 and 4. What are the opening words of verse 1? "And you." What are the opening words of verse 4? "But God." "And you were dead in sin." "But God." But God what? "But God made us alive with Christ."
What's the one thing someone dead needs more than anything else? What did Shorty need more than anything else? Not a funeral home. Not embalming. Not a coffin. Not burial. What the dead need most is life. That is what God gives to those who are dead in sin: God "made us alive with Christ even when were dead in transgressions" (Eph 2:5). God takes people, spiritually dead people, and makes them alive in Christ. God reaches out in love to those who are dead in sin.
I want every Christian who is here this morning to realize that once you know Christ you are alive. And, I want everyone who doesn't know Christ to realize they are dead, unresponsive to God, and facing judgment.
The difference is God. On your own, you are dead. But if God in Christ is in your life, you are made alive.
Let's ask why God does this or how God does this? When I met with the family I asked each person to give me a word, a phrase, or a story to describe Shorty. I heard many wonderful things: giving -- of advice, support, help; godly and raising a godly family; he respected God's Word and gave glory to God; loving; hard-working; honest; trustworthy; amazing; faithful. If you conclude from this that Shorty earned the right to be saved, that he deserved to be made alive, you would be wrong. Shorty would be horrified to hear anyone saying this. You see, as people dead in sin we earn nothing, we deserve nothing, except for hell and judgment.
So back to my question: How does God make people alive? Here we come to our text for Shorty's funeral:
(Eph 2:8-9) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- (9) not by works, so that no one can boast.Did you hear that last phrase? NO ONE CAN BOAST. No one can boast they are better, smarter, holier than others. No one can boast they give more. No one can boast they have done a better job of raising their family. No one can boast about their years of service as an elder or deacon. NO ONE CAN BOAST. Shorty can't boast. His family can't boast.
Why not? Why can no one boast if they are saved? Why can no one boast if they have been brought from death to life? Because it is all of grace. GRACE. Shortly we will be singing the song "Amazing Grace." And it is amazing. Grace means you don't get what you deserve. Which is what? To remain in death and to receive eternal punishment. Grace means you don't get that. Instead, grace means you get the opposite of what you deserve. Which is what? Life, life with Christ, life in the heavenly realms. Grace means it is a gift of God -- a gift that is unearned, undeserved, unmerited.
If you are a believer you WERE dead in sin. If you are not a believer, you ARE dead in sin. Do you see the difference?
Based upon his life and testimony, we can say with confidence that Shorty was taken from death to life. He was dead in sin. He was made alive. But Shorty didn't do this. Shorty didn't decide this. Shorty didn't deserve this. It was grace, amazing grace, from our amazing Savior.
I asked earlier how many dead people are in this building? I answered "more than one." I hope I am wrong. I pray that I am wrong. But I doubt it. It is too much to hope that every person here this morning is alive in Christ Jesus. So, if you are not a believer, I invite you -- by grace -- to believe in Jesus. I invite you -- by grace -- to give Him your heart. I invite you -- by grace -- to go from death to life. All because of Jesus and His amazing grace.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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