Posted on Wed, Apr 6, 2011
April 6, 2011 Andy Chestnut
25th Day of Lent Ephesians 2 2:1-10
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.
All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, 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 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 the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. This passage illustrates the paradoxical progression from death to life of believers, paralleling that of Jesus. We are described as dead at first, dead through sin and through the influence of the “ruler of the power of the air” (the devil?) whose spirit encourages sensory desires and wrath, rather than the Holy Spirit of God. We have all been there, states the passage. Everyone has been there.
But God comes to our rescue, out of His love for us. We are dead but He makes us alive, not alone but together with Christ. God’s grace saves us, and we learn of God’s heavenly places and the immeasurable riches which we will be shown to us in the ages to come, as we sit with Jesus in heaven.
Grace saves us through faith, not because of what we do but because salvation is God’s gift. Self-righteousness is not appropriate because we do not earn salvation by what we do; we simply receive it from a God who loves us, through the intervention of His son Jesus.
We are made this way. We are created for this. Even the poor choices which got us where we started (dead) cannot separate us from the love of God, which Christ connects us to. We are created to do good works, as part of the plan God has prepared. Yet our works do not save us. Far from it. Our good works are a response to our faith, as we come to understand what our way of life in God is to be.
This is a rich if complicated passage. In ten verses we are presented with the gist of the entire gospel. Stripped of parable and stories, it presents an image of ourselves as fallen and dead to God and to our true selves, under the influence of our fleshly desires inspired by Satan. Yet God loves us and conspires to save us through the intermediary of Jesus. We receive grace, not because of what we do but because of what God wants. We are given a glimpse of paradise, to be spent at Jesus’ side. We are instructed not to boast because this happens through God’s agency, not our own. The plan has been in motion right along, and calls for us to do good works because that is the way of life that God has prepared for us.
The passage reminds us that despite how important and final death seems to us, death is no obstacle to our God who has the power to create life. Rather, the obstacle is in our understanding of whose goals are important. Magic can be defined as the enlistment of the power of the supernatural to accomplish human goals. Religion is the enlistment of human power in the service of the goals of the supernatural. Our faith calls us to commit ourselves to using the power we possess to accomplish the goals of God.
Let it be so.
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