Twentieth Sunday after Trinity – Oct 25, 2020
Object lesson – Warn: gross….How many of you know what this is? Tick. “Tick’s stick”. Imagine good tick. SLIDE 2 What name him? King goes, tick goes: bath, plays basketball, sits on throne… tick also… spent whole life together.
Why am I telling you this story? Because Jesus is like that king! And you and me are the tics. Jesus said we should be like ticks to him: “remain in me”, stay connected to me: “stick like a tick” to him. How? One way is… (Bible: parents read, teaches us about Jesus, learn today). I’m going to talk to your parents about how we stick like ticks to Jesus. Pray.
Our scripture reading this afternoon is from the book of Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 1-7. 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.
- Last week, SLIDE 4 we considered vv.4-5 of this part of Paul’s letter: because of God’s overwhelming love and mercy toward us, he made us alive in Christ, despite the fact that we were far away from him, enslaved in our sins and to the influence of our ambient culture and the ruler of the powers of darkness.
- SLIDE 5 This morning, we’re going to follow Paul’s train of thought and look at vv.6-7, where describes two additional actions God took on our behalf and the startling reason for them.
- I hope what we talk about today lights a fire in our bellies! It should! It’s the heart of the good news of the Gospel, and it out to electrify us everytime we hear it. So, to get our hearts in the right place to hear from the Lord and respond in faith, let’s pray.
- SLIDE 6
- Start with the big picture. Let’s look at Paul’s overall train of thought in vv.5b-7:
- “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,”
7 “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
- So, our direction today, is very simple: talk about what it means to be raised up with Christ; what it means to be seated with Christ; and then imagine together what it might look like for God to show us his grace in kindness in Christ Jesus. Sound good?
- Let’s start at the beginning. SLIDE 7
“6 and raised us up with him”
- This is a single compound word συνεγείρω (pronounced “soon-a-guy-row”), used only here and in Col 2:12 and 3:1. Paul never uses this term in reference to our physical resurrection. Paul is talking about something different. Let’s back up a minute and walk thorough a theology of the resurrection, so we can understand Paul’s comments here in their proper context.
- Jesus’ resurrection occurred all at once, as a single event. When Jesus died, the material part of him, his body, remained Where? in the tomb while the non-material part of him, his soul/spirit, Where did that go? went to the place of the dead or the underworld (Heb. sheol or Gk. hades).
- Same thing happened to everyone up to that point in time: the righteous went to the part of hades called “Paradise” or “Abraham’s bosom”, to await their release by the Messiah, and the unrighteous went to a different part of hades to await the final judgment (cf. Lk 16:19-31). Only exceptions might have been Enoch and Elijah.
- When Jesus was resurrected, his soul was rejoined to his body, and the substance of his body was instantaneously transformed such that all its weaknesses, congenital diseases, injuries were gone forever. In addition, his body had new, “super-human” properties. What do I mean by that? It was still material, still human flesh, but was now what Paul would call a “spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:42-49) or a “glorious body” (Phil 3:20-21).
- Then, as a whole person (spirit/body unit), Jesus was raised up to the new Paradise, the place of His and the Father’s presence in the heavenly realm, taking all the righteous saints with him, who are now with Christ and the Father in heaven. They are referred to in Heb 12:23 as “the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” (no bodies; atypical state)
- Since the time of Jesus, every believer who dies experiences a two-step resurrection process. Their souls, instead of going to an intermediate place of the dead in the underworld, are raised immediately into the presence of the Father and Son in the heavenly realm. That’s why, for believers in Jesus, death is not a tragedy but a victory, a release, a joy! (May 24, Diane). Meanwhile, unbelievers—those who reject God’s love and offer of salvation—go to the place of the unrighteous dead to await the final judgment.
- When Jesus comes again to earth, the righteous dead will come with him and their bodies will be resurrected, made new and glorified, and rejoined to their souls forever. And those Christians who are alive on earth will be taken up to him while their bodies are instantaneously changed into glorious bodies (1 Cor 15:51-52).
- So, back to Eph 2, when Paul talks about our being raised up with Christ, he isn’t referring to the resurrection of our soul (which happens when we die) or of our body (which happens when he returns). He’s talking about another reality altogether. SLIDE 8
- Paul is referring to the fact that, when believers receive the Holy Spirit, they are bound by an inseparable connection to Jesus which gives us the means to share or participate in his life. So whatever is going on with Jesus, we share in that. So, when he was raised up to heaven, our lives were, in a very real sense, raised up with him so we can experience what is going on there. As Paul put it in Col 3:3: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Ex: we are like the tick; we stick like a tick).
- So, through the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit, we are given the spiritual capacity to be in two places simultaneously. Sound weird? It is only weird if you are thinking in spatial-temporal terms. But there are many ways to be somewhere.
- But it’s not hard to imagine being in two or more places simultaneously in different respects. I can be here physically but somewhere else emotionally. Or I can be here physically or somewhere else virtually (Ex: Zoom; HS is like the broadband network that connects all of us all together). 100 years ago, incomprehensible.
- According to the NT, we are in Christ and he is in us. This is where our imaginations can help us spiritually. When you imagine God, where do you image Him? (Try imagining him in you, not above or beside you)
- So, Paul says here that, through the indwelling HS, God raised us up with Jesus. Well, then what? Next, he says, God:
“and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”
- “seated us with him” is another compound verb συγκαθίζω (pronounced “sug-cot-theed-zo”).
- What kind of chair do you suppose Jesus is seated on? Camping chair? Plastic patio chair?
- Look back a few verses at Eph 1: 20-21. Read? Three things worth noting:
- “heavenly places” – not on earth; not yet. When will Jesus reign on the earth? He is seated in the realm where the elohim Elohim: the “host of heaven” consisting of all the non-material or spiritual beings that populate the non-material sphere (e.g., angels, cherubim, seraphim, watchers, living creatures, etc.). Quite a menagerie of exotic life forms.
- “right hand” – place of supreme authority and power. He is enthroned as King of kings and Lord of lords. Phil 2:9-10: Following his ascension, Christ was “given the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus (Yeshua, “Yahweh saves”) every knee should bow in heaven, on the earth an under the earth.” This is why Jesus was able to say to his disciples (Matt 28:18): “All authority in heaven and earth is given to me”.
- “Far above all rule and authority and power and dominion”. Not references to things but to creatures: ranks of angelic beings. “Far above”, infinitely far above the highest of these. Why? Look at Col 1:15-16.
- So, in this text, Paul is teaching that Jesus is enthroned in the heavenly realm as a man. “As a man: why is that important? Jesus said he had “all authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27). We are enthroned with him, united by a common humanity and the Holy Spirit, sharing his life, power and authority over all. This has some important implications:
- In this life, we now have his authority to do his will. Do miracles, heal the sick, casting out demons: we have His authority and power. Demons and fallen angels are scared to death of Jesus and his Name. James 2:19: “The demons believe and tremble!” (Ex: Still remember first time…). Do you think this message would have made an impression on the people living at the church in Ephesus? (Athanasius, name and sign of cross)
- In the judgment to come, we will judge spiritual beings. 1 Cor 6:3. “Do you not know you will judge angels?”
- In the life to come, we will rule some part of the earth under his authority. In Dan 7:27: “the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High.” In Rev 3:21 Jesus says to the saints, “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” In Rev 2:26, Jesus says: “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.” Certain jurisdictions. Lk 19:11-27, parable of three servants: 10, 5 and 1 mina (three months wages for a laborer).
- So, Paul has told us that God made us alive with Christ and raised us up with Christ. Now he gives us the reason: SLIDE 10
“ 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
- This is one of the most extraordinary verses in the bible. What Paul claims is nothing short of revolutionary as concerns our concept of God: the Father united us to Jesus Christ for the express purpose of lavishing his love and affection on us for eternity. As Paul describes it:
- “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness” – what might that be like? Have you ever experienced “the immeasurable riches of grace in kindness” from another human being, where the lavished you with overflowing kindness and love for no reason other than the fact that they wanted to do it? (Ex: Lynn all the time; last month, SoulCare feast)
- If this is what it is like to experience the immeasurable riches of grace in kindness from another human being, what might it be like to experience it from God, not just for one night but every day and night forever?
- Paul says: “in the coming ages” – includes this life and the one to come: 100 billion trillion years from now.
- God’s kindness toward us in Christ is inexhaustible. It simply will never come to an end. As we wrap this up, let’s be really honest. Don’t we often doubt the kindness of God? Couple reasons for that.
- We misconstrue his perception of us. We think he sees us only as sinful, filthy and unworthy of his love, attention and affection. We often imagine him to be grouchy, busy, ticked off and disappointed with us. We think he sees us perpetually at our worst when, in reality, he chooses to see us at our best: spotless, holy, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, cleansed of all our sins. And he treats us on this basis: not as unworthy sinners but as his dearly beloved children in whom he finds immense delight.
- We misinterpret the events of our life. All of us naturally want our life to be happy, healthy and hassle free. We’ve come to expect a level of comfort and feel entitled to a problem-free pursuit of the American Dream. So, when sickness, financial setbacks, relational strains, disappointments and losses come, we interpret these as signs that God has forgotten about us and doesn’t care about us. But Jesus warned us that this life would be hard: “in this world you will have trouble”. But He added, “take heart: I’ve overcome the world.” So, in these difficult events of our lives, he is inviting us into a place of deeper, more authentic relationship with him and he is shaping our character and making us stronger, training us like an expert coach, so we can be ready for the challenges and greater responsibilities in this life and the to come. We easily forget this fallen, fractured world is not a playground but a battleground, a place of fierce opposition and real struggle. It’s not a quiet evening sipping cocktails by the ocean; it’s a full on gymnasium where we develop the perseverance and strength we need to be fully human. Most importantly, it’s not the final destination but a spot along the way on the long journey to becoming who we most truly are.
- We sometimes judge God for not being kind when in reality he is the best and kindest of beings. It’s our fallen world that is unkind, and it wont be this way for much longer. After Jesus comes again, it will be changed forever into the beautiful and generous world God intended.
- You have been privileged to share the very life of Christ: you’ve been raised up and enthroned in heaven with him. The reason is that God has chosen you for special favor and kindness.
- As we close, let me give you an exercise for this coming week. Each day, Let’s all take a little time to reflect on the love and kindness God has shown you, large and small. Sometimes he shouts his kindness; sometimes he whispers. As you reflect, thank him for his goodness to you and ask him to help you be increasingly aware of his kindnesses and more grateful for them.
- Pray SLIDE 11
Quick reminders – Tom
- Community group this Tuesday from 7-8pm on Zoom
- This Thursday, Oct 29th:“Take out, dine in” sign up on line. SLIDE 12
- If want to give: bowl, online, address SLIDE 13
Benediction – Sharon