Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity – Oct 18, 2020
Object lesson – Light bulb and spiritual life
Our scripture reading this afternoon is from the book of Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 1-10. Would you please stand for the reading of God’s holy Word? Hear the word of the Lord:
“And you being dead in the trespasses and sins 2 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— 3 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, 4 but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
May the Lord add his blessing to His holy Word.
- In the language of the Greek NT, vv.1-7 is a single sentence comprised of two parts, vv.1-3 (bad news), vv.4-10 (good news).
- Last week, Craig: bad news…every person born into the world subject to three powerful forces (world [Zeitgeist, prevailing ethics, intellectual climate]), prince of the power of the air [spiritual being known as Satan], flesh [quasi- autonomous powers residing in bodies/brains that God created us with]). Result: dead in trespasses and sins (Ex: light bulb without electrical current).
- SLIDE 3 This morning, consider vv.4-5, where Paul pivots to the good news. There will be more to follow in coming weeks. Today we will begin to unpack this.
- As we will see, SLIDE 4 the structural center of passage is 2:5b “He made us alive together with Christ”.
- In meantime, SLIDE 5 Paul is going to touch on some most important elements of the gospel, all things we know as one level but need to continuously know more deeply and experientially as we journey with Christ: mercy, love, new life, grace and salvation.
- If we were to arrange4-5 diagrammatically, SLIDE 6 they would look like this:
“but God, (subject of sentence)
- Three descriptive phrases that help us better understand God:
- being rich in mercy (tells us about God’s nature),
- because of His great love with which he loved us (God’s motive),
- 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses (our prior condition),
- Three descriptive phrases that help us better understand God:
made us alive together with Christ (predicate)
(At end: adds parenthetically) —by grace you have been saved—“
- This text speaks volumes about the nature of God and his attitude toward us. So, let’s start at the beginning:
- This provides contrast SLIDE 7 with our previous state vv.1-3: “Once we were dead… But God made us alive in Christ”. This is what was once true of us; this is what is true of us now.
- As far as our personal experience goes, “But God” are the two most powerful words in the English language; the short conjunction, “but,” joined to the word “God”, the loftiest conception of which human minds are capable.
- In your own life today, where do you need a “but God”? SLIDE 8 Health/healing, job situation, relationship, finances, addiction, Covid blues… Encourage you to continue to press into Him; cry out to Him: God is still in the business of bringing about dramatic changes in our lives.
- Paul now qualifies this “But God” idea with three phrases. The first is the participial phrase: SLIDE 9
“being rich in mercy”
- Here Paul provides a description of God’s nature.
- Mercy is ἔλεος (used 238x in LXX; 27x in NT). His overflowing active compassion, freely exercised, excluding all ideas of merit on our part. Cf. Rom 11:30-32; 1 Tim 1:13; Titus 3:3-5; 1 Pet 2:10.
- He could have said, “God, being merciful”. God doesn’t just have mercy, he is “rich”, πλούσιος (plousios) in mercy.” Paul wants to accentuate the overflowing, inexhaustible supply of God’s boundless storehouse of mercy; a mercy that never ends, continues for all eternity.
- Already made the case that God is rich in grace (1:7). Now, he adds mercy to the mix.
- Mercy is inherent in God: essential to His nature. Cf. Ex 34:6-7.
- In his classic work “On the Incarnation”, the Fourth century Church Father Athanasius (c. 297-373)
- One of the best examples of God’s mercy in the Bible is in 2 Chron 33:1-17: King Manasseh of Judah.
- God is intrinsically merciful. Do you treat yourself with the same mercy with which the Lord treats you?
- Paul’s second qualification reads: SLIDE 10
“because of His great love with which he loved us,”
- Here Paul describes God’s motivation
- Paul uses this cognate accusative expression (to intensify the meaning of an idea: love – noun, ἀγάπη, and loved – verb, ἀγαπάω). What motivated God to show us mercy when we deserved wrath and punishment? Love.
- Again, Paul could have simply said: “because He loves us”, but he instead underscores the vastness of God’s love: because of the great, plous, love with which he loved us. Later in Eph, in ch 3:18: marvels at the dimensionless wonder of Gods love: breath, length, height, depth. In Rom 8… nothing can separate…
- Friends, God’s love is a vast ocean…
- Do you see yourself as one whom God loves? 2 Sam 12:25: Yeh-dee-dee-ah, Jedidiah – “beloved of Yahweh”.
- The Apostle John clearly though of himself this way: “the disciple that Jesus loved” 5x in Gospel (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). Do you think of yourself that way? The disciple that Jesus loved? More importantly do you feel loved by God, deep in your gut?
- Paul gives his third qualification in v.5: SLIDE 11
“even when we were dead in trespasses”
- Here he gives a summary of our prior condition
- Same idea reflected in Rom 5:8: very rarely would someone die for a righteous man, maybe for a good man… but God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
- He loved us and saved us when we were at the bottom of our game. When we were in the midst of our sins, before we repented, before we cleaned up our acts, before we did a single thing to make ourselves presentable or lovely or worthy.
- Not telling you anything you don’t already know. Just trying to facilitate the process of getting what’s in your brain down into your gut, where you experience life (from cerebral cortex into the sub-cortical limbic areas of brain)
- After the three qualifiers, we finally come to the predicate of the sentence: God
“made us alive together with Christ”
- This is the main verb governing the meaning of the passage.
- “Made us alive together” is a single, compound word: sued-zow-ah-poe-eh-o, συζωοποιέω. Made up by Paul and used nowhere else in Greek literature, only here and in Col 2:13.
- Meaning is profound: we, who were spiritually dead, were joined to Christ, the source of all life. As a result, we are “made alive together with Him”.
- How? Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:3-8; Titus 3:5-6)
- This spiritual reality is expressed in both of the Church’s sacraments: holy baptism (beginning: death, resurrection as one time events) and holy communion (communing with him, abiding with him on ongoing basic, weekly).
- This is at the heart of the gospel: to be made alive by God and live in continuous communion with Him and live a new quality of life.
- This is just the first of three sun-compound verbs in v.5-6 (sun – means “together with”). We’ll look at the other two next week: resurrected with Christ; enthroned with Christ. Cf. Col 1:12-13; Rom 6:3-11.
- But at this point, Paul interrupts himself. As he reflects on how God made us alive in Christ, he wants to emphasize that this event was entirely God’s doing, so he blurts out: SLIDE 13
“by grace you have been saved”
- this phrase acts as a parenthetical statement in this passage before he gets back to his main line of thought. But it’s very important, because it brings in two additional concepts at the heart of Christian living. First,
- “grace” – χάρις, (Andrew Lincoln) God’s “gratuitous generosity to undeserving sinners”. Used by Paul over 100x in his letters and is at heart of Bible’s teaching on how we are reconciled to God.
- It refers to unmerited divine help and action. The idea derives from two Hebrew word-concepts: hen – favor shown by a superior to an inferior; hesed – God’s covenantal love and faithfulness. So, grace is God’s undeserved, unearned loving commitment to us and our welfare.
- Klyne Snodgrass: “For some reason unknown to us, but which is rooted in His nature, God gives Himself to us, attaches Himself to us and acts to rescue us. Though wrath should have come, grace comes to us instead.”
- Paul’s point here is that our salvation is all of God. Because of that fact, we are secure in Him (cf. Col 1:22; Col 2:13).
- “saved” is σῴζω (sotzo). Of the 29x used in the NT, this is the only place where it is used in the perfect tense: past action with continuing results. Paul wants to emphasize the ongoing reality of our past salvation, as we daily live it out.
- As we close: What has God saved (delivered, rescued) us from? (Cf. Eph 1:1-3; Rom 2:5; 5:9).
- We’ve come full circle: “But God…” (v.4) God graciously, mercifully, lovingly comes to our rescue. And here we see the same idea stated differently: it is by His grace alone that we are saved (v.5), so He gets all the praise.
- Let’s close. SLIDE 14
God is rich in mercy.
God is great in love.
God is full of grace.
God is strong to save.
God has given us His life in Christ. (Say with me?)
- Which of those truths do you most need to hear today?
- Take just a minute to talk to the Lord, then I’ll close us in prayer.
- Pray SLIDE 15
Quick reminders – Tom
- Community group
- “Take out, dine in” sign up on line: 29th.
- Next week, bring bible, bread and grape juice/wine for communion
Benediction – Sharon