This Sunday, the church will celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His triumph over sin, death, and the grave. In his sermon “Exchanging Living Death for Dying Life” (which he originally delivered on Easter Sunday twenty years ago), John MacArthur declares,
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is . . . the most determinative event of all time because by it, the destiny of every person is ultimately determined. It is the most impactful thing that ever happened in the history of this world. How you respond to the resurrection will determine whether you spend forever in heaven or hell.
The sermon focuses on Ephesians 2:1-10, and the apostle Paul’s vivid description of God’s redeeming work for those lost and dead in their sins. As John explains, this powerful passage of Scripture assaults the way unbelievers like to think of themselves. “People like to think they’re free. Oh, they love to think they’re free. That’s the biggie nowadays. Everybody is free to do his own thing, do whatever you want, do whatever feels good.” On the contrary, he explains that the sinner’s freedom is an illusion.
Man is not free. You don’t do your own will. You are locked in spiritual death. You are utterly insensitive to the realities of God, to the divine realm. You are hypersensitive to the influences of the evil world system around you. You are engulfed in your own personal sin.
Paul’s description of unrepentant man’s status is utterly hopeless; “Dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) does not leave a lot of room for nuance or interpretation. Dead is dead.
But thankfully Paul does not leave it there.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
As John MacArthur explains, “Here is the great, wonderful truth of Easter. . . . Dead people can come to life.”
This Sunday, our congregations will swell with unsaved people making one of their biannual trips to church. It’s a day when many lost and dead men and women pretend to be spiritually alive. That pantomime of faith only serves to deepen their own self-deception. They need to be brought face to face with the resurrected Lord, and understand the depth of their depravity and their spiritual needs that only He can meet.
Whether you want to remind yourself of the rich grace and mercy that has been poured out in your salvation, or you want to point a friend or loved one to the truth that only God can resurrect and redeem lost sinners, “Exchanging Living Death for Dying Life” is a powerful, timely message.