Yesterday I preached from Ephesians 2:1-6 on the subject of the new birth.  What exactly does it mean to be born again?  Paul answers this question with precision in the second chapter of Ephesians.  As we look at the first ten verses of chapter two, it’s apparent that Paul defines the new birth in verses 1-6 and he points out the purpose of the new birth in verses 7-10.

The Misery of Life without Christ

In verse one, Paul uses three key words that provide us insight to the natural man before he comes to faith in Jesus Christ.  These three words not only point to the misery of the unconverted life, but to the helpless condition of spiritual death.

  • νεκρόςDead = “being in a state of loss of life, dead… being so morally or spiritually deficient as to be in effect dead.”
  • παράπτωμα – Trespasses = “a violation of moral standards, offense, wrongdoing, sin.”
  •  ἁμαρτίαSin = “To miss the mark.”

Although unbelievers are very much alive and have a will to make decisions on a daily basis, they are dead spiritually.  They trespass against God and willfully choose to sin.  That comes natural to them.  However, when Paul points out their spiritual death, he is pointing to their complete inability to choose God on their own volition.  They would never come to faith in Christ on their own, because by nature they are rebels who love to sin and are controlled by the prince of the power of the air.

Our culture today is consumed with a love and affection for zombies.  Why is it that adults are driving around in pick-up trucks in Atlanta that have been customized and prepared as zombie hunting vehicles?  We turn on the television and find shows dedicated to zombies.  What exactly is a zombie?  A zombie is a figurative creature that’s a walking dead person with putrifying flesh, rotting flesh, and horrid smells.  Although the corpse is dead, in many ways, it’s pictured walking around on a mission.

Before we came to faith in Jesus Christ, we were like zombies.  We were the walking dead.  We had a life full of everyday decisions to make, but those decisions were made out of a will in bondage to sin.  Therefore, they were selfish decisions and sinful decisions—never did we make a decision to obey God and love Him out of our own natural state.  That would be an utter impossibility as John 6:44 clearly teaches.  Charles Spurgeon once said:

I might preach to you forever. I might borrow the eloquence of Demosthenes or of Cicero, but you will not come unto Christ. I might beg of you on my knees, with tears in my eyes, and show you the horrors of hell and the joys of heaven, the sufficiency of Christ, and your own lost condition, but you would none of you come unto Christ of yourselves unless the Spirit that rested on Christ should draw you. It is true of all men in their natural condition that they will not come unto Christ.” [1]

The Miracle of the New Birth

As Paul continues to describe the new birth, he points to the motive of God’s mercy.  The whole idea that God looks through a vast tunnel of time to see the decisions of man in order to choose specific individuals to himself and then ultimately bring those people to faith in His Son does not make sense when compared with the descriptions in Scripture.  For instance, in Titus 3:5, we see that we are saved by God, not based on any works of righteousness.  The verse explains that God saved us according to His own mercy.  Here in Ephesians 2:4-5, we see the same language.  Paul points to the riches of God’s mercy as the motive of our salvation.

The miraculous aspect of the new birth is clearly seen in Ephesians 2:5 as Paul points out that it was God who literally raised us from the spiritual death and gave us life.  We didn’t do this on our own.  This was a miracle.  Just as calling Lazarus from a tomb was a miracle, so it is each time a person comes to faith in Christ.  It’s a spiritual resurrection.

  • We were lost in our sin – but God.
  • We were guilty in our transgressions – but God.
  • We were helpless in our sins – but God.
  • We were in the shackles of sin – but God.
  • We were slaves to sin – but God.
  • We were alienated from God – but God.
  • We were at enmity with God – but God.
  • We were the children of wrath – but God.
  • We were the enemies of God – but God
  • We were walking according to the passions of our flesh – but God.
  • We were enjoying our depravity – but God.
  • Sin was good to us…it tasted good…felt good…seemed good – but God.

If left in our natural state to make our own decisions about God and His saving grace, we would always choose to rebel against Him.  We would be wandering away from God.  That’s why we sing the wonderful hymn, Come Thou Fount:

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;

May God be praised for saving wretched sinners who could never save themselves.  That’s why John Newton titled his hymn, Amazing Grace.


  1. Charles Spurgeon, “Free Will a Slave,” Sword and Trowel.
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Author What is the New Birth?

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.