Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity – Nov 1, 2020
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Our scripture reading this morning 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 were 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 the 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.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
May the Lord add his blessing to His holy Word.
SLIDE 3-Title slide
Kid’s Object lesson
- What are you? (Vocational: farmer, nurse, doctor, childcare worker; Racial; National) More fundamentally: what kind of being are you? Today’s text will inform how we see ourselves.
- Over the last several months, we have been exploring the riches of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. We’ve been in chapter two the last month, looking closely at the dramatic change that God has brought about for all who believe in Christ. In vv. 1-3, (Marcus read) Paul gives us the truly horrible news 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. Then, beginning in v. 4, (Bronwyn) he pivots to the extraordinarily great news: But God, because of his inexplicable love and mercy toward us, made us alive in Christ, joining our lives to his, seating us in the place of highest authority at the Father’s right hand.
- SLIDE 4 Having made this point, Paul now wants his hearers to be clear on the fact that God has done all of this on his own initiative, out of his love for us. In vv.8-10, he’s going to highlight God’s grace in saving us and introduce us to one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith: the recreation or refashioning of ourselves into the image of Christ. It’s utterly breathtaking in its implications!
- We begin with the big picture. SLIDE 5 Paul’s overall argument in vv.8-10:
8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” (Central claim consisting of three key ideas: “saved”, “by grace”, “through faith”)
“And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (This statement—four explanatory phrases—builds on the central claim, that God is the source of our salvation)
10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Advances the central claim by explaining the larger context: we are made new by God in Christ through the Spirit to live the life he intended)
- These three verses make up one of the most important summaries of the Gospel found anywhere in the bible. (worth memorizing)
- Let’s start at the beginning with the central claim: SLIDE 6
8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith.”
- This central claim consists of three key ideas:
- “saved” – The verb σῴζω has a broad semantic range of meanings: to rescue, deliver, protect, heal, preserve, restore, make whole: 123x in NT.
- “by grace” – Grace is χάρις (159x in NT) and refers to God’s undeserved, gratuitous favor and help for those in need. When you add the preposition “by”, it tells us that grace is the objective source of our salvation. How is a person saved? It’s only by God’s grace. Salvation doesn’t come from ourselves, our good works or someone or something else.
- “through faith” – explains the subjective means of our salvation. We’ve established we are saved by God’s grace alone. But how do we access that grace? That’s where faith comes in. It connects us to what saves us: the grace of God. And what is faith? Faith, πίστις, is relational trust. It is a sure and certain confidence in the Father and in Jesus to save us.
- So how are these three ideas related? SLIDE 7 (Illustration of swimmers in danger of being swept over a waterfall).
- God is the one who saves us by his grace. Our faith doesn’t save us. Our faith in Him is simply the means of connecting us to his saving action. Why is this important? What is wrong with saying I’m saved “by faith” “through grace”?
“And this (salvation) is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
- This sentence underscores the free, undeserved nature of our salvation. It contrasts God’s grace with human works. In this context, works refers to anything that we do to gain status or privilege before God.
- We don’t earn our right standing with God. It is given to us as a “gift”, a δῶρον, that was made possible by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. (the gift of Lee’s box made possible because of the life, death, resurrection of the olive tree)
- When we understand the fact that we are saved solely by the gift of God, it humbles us and subverts any basis for boasting. It also assures us that, because we didn’t earn our salvation, we can’t “unearn” it. Our role is to merely keep believing, “clinging” to God and his salvation by our faith.
10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
- We are God’s “workmanship”, ποίημα (poema): his artistic masterpiece, made to reflect his glory and character. He created (κτίζω) us “in Christ” by the renewing work of the Holy Spirit in us. The implications of this are simply breathtaking! This is our new identity “in Christ” (cf. 1 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Titus 3:5-6; Eph 4:23; 1 John 3:9). Billheimer reading
- He re-created to do “good works” which he had planned in eternity past, long before we were born (cf. Eph 1:4). Paul will discuss these “good works” in detail in chapters four through six. They consist of all the ways we speak, act and react in all areas of life (family, work, relationships, etc.). Paul’s point in vv.9-10 is that we are not saved BY good works, but we are saved FOR good works. Martin Luther: “We are saved by faith in Christ alone. But faith in Christ is never alone.”
- How did God re-create us? Paul tells us in Ephesians chapter one. The Father chose us before time to be adopted as his children (Eph 1:3-6). Jesus joined himself to our humanity and redeemed us from sin, granting us forgiveness (1:7-12). And the HS joined us to Christ personally, sealing us in him and being the guarantee of our final inheritance (v.13-14). So, our old self “died” with Christ, and we were raised again and seated with him in the spiritual realm.
- “walk in them” – Notice Paul comes full circle. We once walked in our sins (v.2). We now walk in good works (v.10).
- Through the work of the Son and the Spirit, the Father has re-made us in the image of Christ so that we can be born of God as his children and live a whole new quality of existence. No longer sinners by nature, we are made “righteous and holy” in Christ, restoring the image of God in us so we might image him to the rest of the world through our good works. Let’s pray SLIDE 10