But God...
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But God...

From Series: Grace and Peace, Volume 2

Ephesians 2:4-6  (ID: 3165)

Every person is spiritually dead as a result of sin, but the bad news of our condition magnifies the wonder of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. Alistair Begg explains that because we are united with Christ, we have died to sin with Him, and God has made us spiritually alive. He has raised us with Christ, and we are secure in the victory that He has accomplished on our behalf. As we live in light of these truths, Christians bear testimony to God’s love and mercy and his ultimate triumph over death and sin.


Sermon Transcript: Print

Our Scripture reading this morning is from Ephesians chapter 2, reading from the first verse, and I encourage you to follow along as I read. Ephesians 2:1:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom 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. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you[’ve] been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Thanks be to God for his Word.

Gracious God, we thank you for the Bible. We thank you for the work of the Holy Spirit, who illumines its pages to us. We thank you for that divine dialogue that you conduct whereby your Spirit, in and through and beyond human instrumentation, speaks into the very core of our lives, calling us out of our deadness to life, out of our enslavement to freedom, out of our condemnation to the joy of your presence. Accomplish your purposes, gracious God, we pray. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Well, we come to verse 4 now in our studies. In our previous study we were confronted by what we referred to as the divine diagnosis of the spiritual condition of all men and women outside of the Lord Jesus Christ. We saw the diagnosis to be clear, to be comprehensive—that there are no exceptions, no excuses—and it was also a diagnosis that was manifestly grave.

Some of us have had occasion to be confronted in physical terms by a diagnosis that was quite inescapable, and our immediate reaction was to ask, “Is there any way to fix this?”—perhaps to address the physician himself or herself and to say, “Is there any way that you are able to fix this?” And, of course, the saddest of all is when they have to say to us, “I’m sorry that there is nothing that can be done—at least nothing that we know about.”

Well, of course, humanity, as it confronts the predicament of the human condition, has all kinds of suggestions as to how it can be fixed. But that is in large measure because contemporary notions of the state of man are frankly unprepared to give any credence at all to this diagnosis—which is not only here in Ephesians but runs throughout the Bible—whereby the Bible tells us that outside of Christ we are dead, we are enslaved, and we are condemned. It doesn’t sound very good, and it isn’t good. In fact, it is dreadful. And it speaks to the issues of our state. Every day that we live our lives, every newspaper that unfolds before us, every broadcast that comes across our screen confirms the reality of what G. K. Chesterton observed: that whatever else may be in doubt, man is not what God intended for him to be.[1]

And so the explanations that are given are fairly routine: the trouble is that man is simply sad, or perhaps he is dysfunctional, or we may be prepared to acknowledge that he is sick—that’s why he does these dreadful things, why he kills and maims and rapes and turns in upon himself. This is explained in terms of sickness. The one thing that is almost wholesalely rejected is the diagnosis that the Bible gives here—namely, that man is sinful.

The Bible declares that we are spiritually dead on account of our trespasses and our sins and that only God is able to raise the dead.

And the reason that this is so crucial is because a superficial view of the human condition results inevitably in attempts to fix the condition in similarly superficial fashion, so that, for example, we may try, if man is simply misguided, to cure the predicament by increasing the level of education; if he is sick, by increasing the amount of medication; if he’s just rebellious, then perhaps by legislation, or even by indoctrination or domination. And the story of social and political history throughout our world this morning can be understood in terms of all these different categories—different ways in which society as a whole and towns and cities and families and sports teams and businesses and academic institutions try and do something about the fact that man is messed up.

Now, that’s why it’s such a wonderful thing to have a Bible and to read it, and to read it and to ask God to speak to us through it. Because the Bible declares that we are spiritually dead on account of our trespasses and our sins and that only God is able to raise the dead. Paul then goes on to say, “And that, of course, is good news, because that is exactly what God has done.” And beginning here in verse 4, he is going to explain to his readers—and we are his readers now—what God has done and then why he has done it.

Now, let me remind you that what we are by nature in our fallenness, in our sin, magnifies what we are then by grace. And if we have a trivial and superficial view of what we were before we turned to Christ, then probably our expressions will bear testimony to that.

There are three things in particular that we should note under this heading, “What has God done?” And they’re there in the text, and I can point them out to you.

God Has Made Us Alive with Christ

First of all, God has “made us alive … with Christ.” “Made us alive together with Christ.” Now, don’t worry about verse 4; we’ll come back to that later. But for now, notice that little phrase “made us alive together with Christ.”

The testimony of the believer is not that God has helped us to feel better about ourselves or somehow or another has improved our circumstances or our living conditions. Because in actual fact, some of us, having professed faith in Jesus Christ, have found that our circumstances have actually got worse. Some of us would testify to the fact that it is ever since we began to take seriously the story of the Bible that we just have not enjoyed many of the benefits that we once knew. Some of the friendships that we’d enjoyed so much have gone away. We used to be in absolute harmony within our home, but we have now become followers of Jesus, and our spouse doesn’t follow Jesus, and we wish that he or she did, and it is always there, all day, every day, as an underlying issue.

So, the idea that somehow or another Jesus comes simply to add to the sum of our total happiness, to clean everything up, to make everything absolutely better—we can’t testify to that. We’re not supposed to testify to that. No, the story of the believer is “I was dead, and Jesus has made me alive.”

We sang about it last Sunday night: “I once was lost in darkest night [but] thought I knew the way.”[2] We’re so lost that we didn’t know we were lost. Now, we needed to be shown that we were lost before ever we were found, because you don’t need to be found if you’re not lost. So you come to a talk like this, and you listen, and you sit, and you say, “Well, I don’t know who this refers to, but it certainly doesn’t refer to me”—until you understand that it does refer to you. And then you say, “I once was lost in darkest night, and I thought I knew the way. But, of course, I didn’t.”

You see, at that point in our experience, Christian things actually seemed pretty foolish. And the reason for that the Bible tells us. In Romans chapter 8, Paul explains the condition of life. He uses a contrast between the natural man and the spiritual man,[3] or the flesh and the Spirit.[4] You can read it for yourself. And he says in Romans 8:6 (incidentally, that’s why you bought those Bibles—so that you could look up and see whether what I’m telling you is in the Bible), “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” That’s the contrast: death, life. Death and life. “For the mind that is set on the flesh,” which is the mind by nature, the mind that emerges from the womb—it is preprogrammed, “set on the flesh,” to please itself—“for the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God,” and “it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” And “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” That’s what it says.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul is making very much the same point and illustrating the way in which we find ourselves outside of Christ. First Corinthians 2:14: “The natural person”—man by nature—“does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he[’s] not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” It’s quite a statement, isn’t it? In other words, spiritual things—the thing that we read in the Bible, the story of Jesus, and particularly this notion that in his death there is life and that in him, exclusively and solely, there is life and peace and there is freedom from our enslavement and there is triumph over all that holds us in its grip. And someone says, “No, I’m sorry, that just seems absolutely foolish to me.” Well, why would it seem foolish? Well, because by nature it is foolishness to us. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” Who are they? Everybody. “But to [those] who are being saved…” Who are they? Those who have been raised up to life. “… it is the power of God.”[5]

So in other words, when the Bible is proclaimed, when the gospel is proclaimed, it inevitably divides. It inevitably causes us to say, “On which side do I find myself? Is my mind at enmity with God? Am I hostile to these things? Do I naturally turn away from them? Do I believe this?” Well, if you’re in Christ, then you do, because this is what God has done. He has raised us up. Prior to that, we were both deaf and we were dead, until God called us to our senses.

I say to you again: this is not a nice diagnosis, but it is the biblical diagnosis. If you take Luke 15: you have a lost coin, you have a lost sheep, you have a lost son. In fact, you have two lost sons. One is lost in his self-righteousness, and the other one is lost in his abandonment. One is slaving in his father’s house when he should be enjoying the benefits of the provision, and the other one has run away from his father’s house, thinking that if he could only get out from underneath that, then he would find everything that he longed for. Then he would be free. Then he could do what he wanted. Then he could be with anyone he wanted. He could sleep with everyone he wanted. He could do what he wanted!

And then it says that after he had spent all of his stuff, “he began to be in want,” and nobody gave him anything—none of his friends. Now he’s busted. And “he went and joined himself to a citizen of [the] country,” who “sent him into his fields to feed [pigs].”[6] And he would certainly have just eaten the pig slop if he could.

And then he said, “When I came to my senses…” “When I came to my senses, I said to myself, ‘I will arise, and I will go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.”’”[7] You see, it’s not like “I’m in a pigsty and things are not going as well as I’d hoped. Could you please advance me a little more cash? My circumstances have taken a downturn, but I’m sure I’ll be out of them before too long.” No, “I’ve sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. I’d be happy if you gave me a position as a servant in your household.”[8]

Well, you know the rest of the story. If you don’t, you should read it in Luke 15; it’s quite fantastic. It is the wonder of the call of God into his life in that situation.

You know, there’s a wonderful illustration of it as well in a story that many of you will know, the story of Lazarus. People who don’t know much about the Bible know there was somebody called Lazarus. And, of course, Lazarus had a couple of sisters, Martha and Mary. Lazarus wasn’t well. The sisters sent for Jesus. Jesus, from the sisters’ perspective, delayed in his arrival. As a result of his delay, Lazarus had died and had already been buried. He is then chided: “Lord, if you[’d] been here, my brother would[n’t] have died.”[9] And Jesus said, “All right.” Jesus himself cried at this scene.[10]

And then we read in John 11:38, “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.” And “Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’” In the King James Version, it says, “Lord, … he stinketh.” That’s very graphic. It’s also very honest. Decomposition has already set in. What possibility is there for anything other than the resealing of that cave?

Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” [And] so they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you[’ve] heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing [here], that they may believe … you sent me.” [And] when he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” [And] the man who had died came out.

“He speaks, and listening to his voice, new life the dead receive.”[11]

When you get to chapter 12, there is a dinner party at the house in Bethany where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. And so they gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table.

What a dinner party! Have you ever thought about what that must have been like? You get invited, and you go. Maybe you’ve been out of the area for a while, and you come back, and you sit down, and everybody is introducing themselves.

“Hello. Yes, I’m Simon.”

“Hello.”

“And your name is?”

“Lazarus.”

“Oh, okay, uh… So how’s it going with you, Lazarus? What’s been happening lately?” I mean, the usual kind of dinnertime conversation: “Anything been going on?”

You say, “Well, I don’t know if you’ll believe this, but I was a dead man. I was dead and buried.”

“You gotta be kidding me! What are you talking about?”

“No, Jesus, here—Jesus raised me. He came and called my name. In fact, if he hadn’t called my name, if he had just made a generic call, who knows how many people would have come out of the grave? He simply called out, ‘Lazarus!’ And I came out, and they took all my clobber off me, and here I am tonight, and I’m having dinner with you.”

This is a wonderful illustration, loved ones, of what happened when you were converted—if you were converted. If you are. You were dead. I was dead. Physically alive, I was part of the walking dead. I heard his voice. He called me into life.

We sang about it again last Sunday night. Should have been here.

I was blinded by my sin,
Had no ears to hear your voice,
Did[n’t] know your love within,
Had no taste for heavens joys.
Then your Spirit gave me life,
Opened up your Word to me.[12]

This is what has happened! This is the amazing wonder of the transforming power of Jesus. And Paul says, “This is what you were by nature, and look at what has happened to you now. God has called.”

The real, effectual call of God, the inner call of God, is that which unlocks and opens the door of our hearts.

Now, when you think about the idea of God calling to us… There is a call in creation, isn’t there? There is that which within the framework even of a springtime morning like this calls somewhere into the recesses of us and says, “You know, in all of this beauty, and all of this grandeur, in all of the budding of these flowers and so on, it speaks to us of a glory beyond here.” In your scientific work, in your lab work, in the intricacy of the universe, in the joy of wonderful music there is a call from creation.

There is a call also in our consciences. Each of us by conscience is aware of God. God has made us with an innate sense of right and wrong. That is why when we go wrong, we know inside of us we are wrong. That is why we want either to try and cover up the fact that we’re wrong or to figure out a way to be put in the right or to justify ourselves. It’s the call of God, making us aware of the fact.

There is also a call that comes in the preaching of the Bible, when the Bible is proclaimed. It is as if there is a knocking on the door of our hearts. But the real, effectual call of God, the inner call of God, is that which unlocks and opens the door of our hearts. That’s why we often say, don’t we—I think I probably said it last week; I say it to redundancy—that my voice can unlock nothing, can unlock no heart. I can say to you as I’m saying to you now, “You know, creation speaks, your conscience speaks, the Bible speaks,” and you can still sit there and go, “I don’t think so! No.” Until God speaks; till God takes up his Word and calls you by name, speaks into your life, says to you, “I’m talking about you. This generic description of humanity actually finds its focus in you. You know this to be true.” That’s something God does. That’s what he did in the life of Lazarus. He called him by name. He was deaf, but he heard him. He was dead, but he was alive. That is the transforming power of Jesus. And all of this is accomplished on account of the fact that Christ rose from the dead and sat down at the right hand of God.[13]

We have been made alive with Christ. I spent too much time on that.

God Has Raised Us with Christ

Secondly, notice, we have been raised with Christ. Raised with Christ.

Now, notice that each of these verbs is in the past tense. In the past tense. Because all of this has already taken place. All of this was accomplished when Christ rose from the dead, and he himself, then, sat down at the right hand of the Father.

You see, what Paul is doing here is quite magnificent. He’s pointing out the fact that Christ was dead and buried for our sins, and he was raised. He ascended. He was seated. And now he says, “In Christ, that is what has happened to you, if you are a believer.” First of all, you have been raised with Christ—past tense.

Romans 6:6: “We know that our old self was crucified with [Jesus] in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” Here we go: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe … we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; [and] death no longer has dominion over him.” And therefore, death no longer has dominion over us.

If Christ does not return first, we will physically die. But to die is to fall asleep in the arms of Jesus and to waken up and discover that we’re home—that what we fear most we will never experience. Why? Because our life is now “hidden with Christ in God.”[14] Because when we died with him, we were then raised with him.[15] And we have, as we’re going to see in just a moment, been seated with him. That’s our position in Christ. It’s an amazing thing.

Tonight, when we have baptisms—when they open up the baptismal pool up here beside me—and people testify, what they’re going to really say is, going down into the water, it is a picture of death, and coming out of the water is a picture of life. “I died with Christ. I have been raised with Christ. He called my name. And I’m here tonight not to talk about myself but in order to tell you about the amazing truth that Jesus has actually done what he said he will do.”

That’s why, incidentally, when we sing the hymn “Before the Throne of God Above,” we have the line in it “One with himself I cannot die.”[16] Do you ever wonder what that actually means? That ontologically, it is impossible for us to die—ultimately—because we have been united with Christ in his life. When he was raised, we were raised with him. Remember how Ephesians 1 has started: you were chosen “in him before the foundation of the world.”[17] Before there even was a world, before there ever was this, God did this. He’s not looking out of the window, as it were, trying to discover some nice people that he can include in his group. He is the God who has taken an initiative from all of eternity. And as Christ was raised, as the Head was raised, so the body was raised with him, because we’re placed into Christ, into his body—saved individually, set apart together. It’s a great wonder.

“One with himself I cannot die.” Or, in the Wesley hymn, “Alive in him, my living head.”[18] What does that mean, “Alive in him, my living head”? What he’s referencing is right here. “We,” he says, “who were dead, who were enslaved, who were condemned, who had no possibility of fixing ourselves—this God has raised us up with him, having made us alive with Christ, raised up from spiritual death, our sins being pardoned and our life the very life that Jesus promised.” “I have come that they might have life and that they might have it in all of its fullness.”[19] Here is the life that is really life.[20]

God Has Seated Us with Christ

And thirdly and finally, what has happened here is that we have been made alive, verse 5, and we have been raised, verse 6, and—I’m doing this from memory now, ’cause I turned to John—and we have been seated with him. I think it’s there, isn’t it, in verse 6, still? Yeah. “Raised … up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” What does that mean, “the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”? We’re in Cleveland, for goodness’ sake! How could we be in the heavenly places?

Well, we are both in Cleveland and we’re in the heavenly places. What are “the heavenly places”? Well, “the heavenly places” is just another way of talking about the unseen world of spiritual reality. The unseen world of spiritual reality. When we did our studies in Daniel, we said there are evil forces that are at work in our world. If we could ever actually see the reality of this presence, it would be overwhelming to us. We see the impact of this presence. People say, “Well, no, that’s not why.” But they have no real explanation for all the rape, for all of the hatred, for all the heinous crimes.

Where does all this come from? Well, the Evil One dragging people with him in his wake. And, says Paul, having been made alive and raised, we are now seated with him in this world of spiritual reality. In 1:3, he said this is the place of blessing. We’ve been “blessed … in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” In 1:20, this is what “he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.” In chapter 6, if we ever get there, he’s going to tell us that it is in “the heavenly places” that we wage war, that the church engages in spiritual warfare, not wrestling “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers [and the powers and] the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”[21]

That’s why, you see, to become a Christian is to be reconciled to God and to be antagonized to the Evil One. We’re now antagonized to the Evil One. As long as we were simply going down Broad Street with him, he didn’t really care one way or another. As long as we were simply going down Broad Street and seeking to be as ethical as we could or as nice as we might, he was quite content to leave us on our own. But have you discovered now that since you started to read your Bible, since you started to say “I believe in Jesus,” since you were baptized, since you decided to make a commitment to these things, since you discovered new life springing up within you, did you discover now that all hell has been let loose against you? Did you realize this?

Why is this? Because we have been placed in a realm. And in this realm, he says, chapter 3… This is the realm in which the church—the church, that is, the people of God—3:10: “So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

You get it? That in the Church—big C, God’s people throughout the entire world—the manifold wisdom of God, the triumph over enslavement, the victory over death, the pardon over sin, the life that is really life might now be made manifest so that the forces of evil recognize that that is actually the case. Says John Stott, “[And] this … is not a piece of meaningless Christian mysticism.”[22] No! It bears witness to a living experience: brought to new life (we were dead); brought to a new victory (we were enslaved).

Let me try and wrap this up in this way this morning, because we’re not gonna have time to go to the why God has done this.

In the [’70s], some of you will remember, depending on your vintage, that Jimmy and Carol Owens, who were songwriters in the United States, wrote two celebrated musical pageants, as it were, for the church to sing. One was called If My People…, and the other, from memory, was called Come Together. You may have participated in one. I know I did at the Royal Albert Hall in London when I was still in my late teens. And I remember being struck by the melodies. I remember being struck by the great crowd that was there. I remember feeling greatly encouraged just to be part of a significant number of people, all declaring, in the very heart of London, the victory and the triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And one of the songs that we sang together goes like this, and right out of this text:

Keep looking down, [you]’re seated in the heavenlies;
God’s mighty power has raised us over all!
Keep looking down, above all principalities,
For we have died and risen with [our] Lord![23]

Now, we often say to one another, don’t we, that we want to distance ourselves from a kind of superficial form of triumphalism—and we do—from ever suggesting to people that Jesus takes us into the realm of freedom from sickness and from disappointment and so on. We shouldn’t say that, because it’s wrong to say that, and it’s very unhelpful to say it, because it just isn’t true. So, in distancing ourselves from a superficial triumphalism, we dare not stand back from what the Bible actually says is true concerning us—namely, that this is the case: that we have been raised, made alive, and seated.

The musical went on to these words:

You are the children of the kingdom of God,
You’re the chosen ones for whom the Savior came,
You’re his noble new creation by the Spirit and the blood,
You’re the Church that he has built to bear his name!

And then came the refrain:

And the gates of hell shall not prevail against you!
And the hordes of darkness cannot quench your light!
And the hosts of God shall stand and fight beside you
Till your king shall reign triumphant [through] his might![24]

That’s why we often sing at the end of a day, “So be it, [Lord], your throne shall never, like earth’s proud empires, pass away.”[25] Why do we say that? Because it is guaranteed to us.

Part of this message this morning needs to say to some of us, “Let’s get our chins out of our chests. Let us start to live in the light of what is true of us as individuals and as a church in a nation that largely has turned its back on God, in an environment where the hosts and the hordes of evil seem increasingly oppressive.” Move amongst the average church member; you’ll find them either angry or depressed. Why? Because we’re not actually living in the light of the work of the Spirit of God within our hearts and lives.

Keep looking down—you’re seated in the heavenlies—so that we might see now what God has done, sending his only Son. His is the name of all majesty. He’s the Savior of Calvary. He’s the source of all sovereignty. What God has done.

And then he goes on to tell us why God has done it. Well, we don’t have time to go there now. Four words will encapsulate it for us: mercy, love, grace, kindness.

Let’s get our chins out of our chests. Let’s start to live in the light of what is true of us.

Well, when you think about the call of God and you think about the people that God uses in calling out to us, he doesn’t always use the preacher, does he? He uses the preached Word; that’s his plan. But he has his agents.

You remember when Naaman, who was a mighty man of valor but had leprosy, received news from a little girl who had been snatched away from her family home and put in service of the king of Syria—when he heard from a little girl about the prophet who was the representative of almighty God.[26] And so the little girl said to her mistress, “If only my lord would go and see the prophet.”[27] So he went to see the prophet. But he went on his own terms. He went magnifying who he was. In contemporary terms, he would have gone in a few stretch limousines. He would have had an entourage with him. He would have carried with him gifts and offerings and things so that the prophet would know what a significant and wonderful person he was. And he arrived. And he announced, “I’m here.” And the prophet didn’t come out. The prophet just sent a message with one of his servants, said, “Tell Naaman to go and dip himself in the Jordan seven times.”[28]

And big smarty-pants Naaman decided he’s not up for that kind of nonsense; obviously, the prophet doesn’t know who he is! This might have a ring for some of you. You know, “I’m not sure Jesus knows how significant I really am.” And so he went away in a huff.

And the word of God came to him how? Through his servants: “My lord, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard, wouldn’t you have done it?”[29] And that rings for some of you as well. That’s why you’re a philanthropist. That’s why you’re an ethicist. That’s why you’re trying to make your situation as obviously wonderful as it possibly can be—because you’ve got the notion that God is just waiting for you to show how significant you are. And you don’t want to hear any story about a dying Jesus being the only answer to your deadness—just like Naaman. “All he said to you, Naaman, was ‘Go and wash, and you will be clean.’” And Naaman heard the voice of God, and he was washed, and he was cleansed.

“Today, if you hear [God’s] voice, do not harden your [heart].”[30]

Father, thank you for the clarity of your Word. Any dullness and confusion is obviously on our part. But we know that while the knocking may come through the voice of a mere man, the external call and the voice of the preacher, the internal call that raises the dead and unstops the deaf ears and sets us free from condemnation and brings us into the reality of life that is really life—all of this and more besides is only accomplished by you. And we know that your Word will accomplish its purposes, even this morning, even this talk. And here our confidence lies. Do as you have planned, Father, we pray. For your name’s sake. Amen.


[1] Attributed to G. K. Chesterton in William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 1, Chapters 1 to 10 (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1956), 4.

[2] Jordan Kauflin, “All I Have Is Christ” (2008).

[3] See 1 Corinthians 2:14–15.

[4] See Romans 8:1–8.

[5] 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV).

[6] Luke 15:14–15 (KJV).

[7] Luke 15:17–18 (paraphrased).

[8] Luke 15:18–19 (paraphrased).

[9] John 11:21 (ESV).

[10] See John 11:35.

[11] Charles Wesley, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (1739).

[12] Bob Kauflin, “O Great God” (2006).

[13] See Ephesians 1:20.

[14] Colossians 3:3 (ESV).

[15] See 2 Timothy 2:11.

[16] Charitie Lees Bancroft, “Before the Throne of God Above” (1863).

[17] Ephesians 1:4 (ESV).

[18] Charles Wesley, “And Can It Be, That I Should Gain?” (1738).

[19] John 10:10 (paraphrased).

[20] See 1 Timothy 6:19.

[21] Ephesians 6:12 (ESV).

[22] John Stott, The Message of Ephesians: God’s New Society, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1986), 81.

[23] Jimmy Owens and Carol Owens, “Keep Looking Down” (1974).

[24] Owens and Owens, “Children of the Kingdom” (1974).

[25] John Ellerton, “The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended” (1870).

[26] See 2 Kings 5.

[27] 2 Kings 5:3 (paraphrased).

[28] 2 Kings 5:10 (paraphrased).

[29] 2 Kings 5:13 (paraphrased).

[30] Psalm 95:7–8; Hebrews 3:7–8, 15; 4:7 (ESV).

Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.