I can’t help it. When I read Paul’s words as he opens chapter 2 of Ephesians, my mind is drawn to a most macabre and distasteful reminder of one of this decade’s most-watched TV series – “The Walking Dead”. If you have not seen it, please don’t watch. While it’s based on a comic book series, it is not comical. The gritty drama portrays life in the months and years that follow a zombie apocalypse. The zombies colloquially referred to as “walkers”, shamble towards living humans and other creatures to consume them. I’m not a fan.
Why do I mention it? I mention it because it provides a corresponding image, in a spiritual sense, of Paul’s own grim and grisly description of life before Christ. Before Christ, we are all the walking dead. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (Eph. 2:1-2a). Most would opt to never think of themselves in that way. Yet, without Christ, we merely exist – spiritually lifeless and separated from the life of God (Eph. 4:18). Paul’s description includes the telltale signs of our condition by what and who we follow, all animated – he says, by spiritual realities that incited our own evil desires.
The value in Paul’s words is to shock us out of a feeble and sluggish brand of Christianity. How soon we forget what we were and where we came from! Our human spirits were dead from the effects of sin. We were “children of wrath” and deserving God’s punishment. What a hopeless state we were in! Existing in a kingdom of darkness and not even knowing it (Col. 1:13).
Unless you really know what you were, you can never appreciate what you are. Unless you truly realize what you need saving from, you can never celebrate the life Jesus brings.
While this all sounds incredibly morbid and depressing, Paul’s purpose is to highlight what we once were without Christ, but now what we are and have now become by God’s grace (“But God,” v.4). And it is an astounding contrast. Three times in verses 1-10, Paul mentions this grace – getting what we don’t deserve – which are the riches of Christ.
Why does God take dead things and breathe new life into them? Only what is truly alive can bring glory to God. Paul tells us that one day, God will use the stories of his amazing grace and kindness toward those he has saved. For ages to come and for all eternity he will tell, through the stories of those who have been redeemed, just how rich he has been toward us. This should cause us to celebrate and worship.
In the truest sense, if you belong to Christ ‘you are a piece of work’, for God has “made you alive with Christ.” (v.4). Rightly related to God, you are fully and wonderfully made to bring glory to God in whatever you do. Freed from “the walking dead”, you now belong to “the walking alive.”