Sunday, 15 February 2015

Alive by Grace Through Faith in Christ: Notes on Ephesians 2:1-10

Introductory Remarks
  • Having set out what God has done for his readers – the Ephesian believers, and telling how he is asking God to complete what he has begun in them, he now works through the same story of salvation again, but looking at THE BIG ISSUE OF THE DAY - how BOTH Jews and Gentiles were cut off from God, and how in Christ BOTH Jew and Gentile have been saved, but whereas before, the Jews had elevated status, now, BOTH Jews and Gentiles have been infinitely elevated in Christ and have received ALL the same blessings as each other.
  • Paul’s letter would presumably be a summary / reminder of all he taught them when he was there for three months (Acts 19:8).
  • The foundation for Paul’s teaching is the Old Testament – the better we know it, the better we can understand what he says.
  • These ten verses are a brilliant summary of our condition and God’s action. They also totally slay any notion that we might be optimistic about the human race without God. Responsibility for our actions is part of the glory of being human – being made in God’s image.

Our Dire Predicament: v1-3
Verse 1
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins
  • You = Gentiles – majority of Ephesian church.
  • Dead = separated from God (which is why you can still sound like you’re living)
  • Transgression = external, crossing a boundary and stealing what isn’t yours, creating debt
  • Sin = pollution, a contagion that spreads and takes over every element of your nature (think Ebola, but worse)
Verse 2
in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
  • All prompted by the following of the devil – deceiving us that we could and should live without God – seeking a glory and reign all our own (John 8:44).
  • All are slaves to this corrupted nature through the spirit of disobedience at work in us.
  • Genesis 3-4 plays this out and is the foundation of Paul’s teaching. (For more on this, come to Bible School!)
Verse 3
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
  • Us = Paul + Jews. Whilst on the outside, God picked them out and drew them near, giving them the law which helped them order their worship and their society as they waited for the promised Messiah and ministered to the world, they were still full on the inside of all the same corruption that the Gentiles had (see v1-2, also Isaiah 29:13) They were like “Christians” who come to church and go through the motions out of comfortable/cultural familiarity or the desire to get out of hell free, not love of God.
  • Together, Jew and Gentile were all heaping up God’s wrath upon their heads. The greatest problem we have is not the devil, or the world, it’s God who is justly outraged at our rebellion against him. Our outrage towards things like ISIS and Boko Haram are a glimpse of God’s wrath towards the human race.

The Love of God is the Turning Point: v4
Verse 4
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
  • Like a vet moving towards a rabid dog who has just tried to bite him, God moves towards us in mercy and grace, not because of any good he sees in us, for all we have is enmity towards him, but because God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit is an eternal fountain of love and life.

God’s Gracious Action: v5-10
Verse 5
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
  • At the cross, God took all the consequences of or sin into himself, judged and destroyed them. So that now, all who answer the call of the Spirit are made alive – that is: made fit for his presence, cleansed from the corruption of sin and have all their debts to God and creation paid off. (John 17:3)
  • We contributed nothing to this in the same way that a dead person contributes nothing to their resurrection.
Verse 6
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
  • However, not only has God cleaned us up, he has poured out honour upon us. He hasn’t just made us fit for his presence, he has made us to reign with him, he hasn’t just paid off our debts, but he has filled us to overflowing with the immeasurable richness of God, who is the Holy Spirit, he hasn’t just called us co-workers with his Son, he has made us his sons and daughters whom he loves with the very same love with which he loves the Son! (John 17:23)
Verse 7
in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
  • The Church in her elevated status and authority is the testimony to the world (this age) and the Heavens (the age to come) – the angels and demons that God is not only powerful and clever, but more than that, good kind, loving, faithful and infinitely diverse in the expression of his beautiful new creations (us), like an artist who constantly produces masterpieces out of dung! Not because God selfishly wants credit as many ignorantly assume, but because he joyfully can’t help himself – he loves to share his goodness and see others flourish. (And yes he IS worthy of praise – in case you were wondering!)
Verse 8
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God
  • Paul reiterates the point – Salvation is nothing from us, all from God. We don’t “make ourselves wake up”, the alarm goes off, will you switch it off and go back to sleep or will you hear it and awaken to the brightness of day that is here?
  • Faith is receiving and believing what God says and has done. If faith is centred in our willpower, then the opposite is doubt; if it is centred in God, the opposite is unbelief.
  • We need faith not only to believe the goodness of God, but also how bad we really are too. Human eyes can neither see nor believe the depth of their own depravity or the magnitude of the love of God. Unbelief (refusing the testimony of the Holy Spirit about Christ) is the only unforgivable sin.
Verse 9
not by works, so that no one can boast.
  • If anyone could boast about earning salvation, Paul could, but he doesn’t, he knows it’s crazy (Phil. 3:1-11).
Verse 10
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
  • Just as we walked in the pattern of this world, now we have been recreated in the image of Christ, so we should think, talk and act in a way that reflects that spiritual transformation.
  • We have been called into an adventure and a mission mapped out by God, which is to be like God and share the immeasurable grace we have received with the rest of creation, with family, friends, colleagues, church family, public life, the environment, the tribes and nations of the world etc. to the praise and glory of God.

Suggested Questions for Reflection / Discussion in Lifegroup
  • To see the Dead Come Alive video by fullofeyes again, click here.
  • Try to summarise this bible text in your own words, it will help you understand it.
  • Was there anything here that you found new / offensive / difficult to accept?
  • When you normally talk about becoming a Christian or the Christian life, how do you describe them, what language do you use? How might this bible text help you to understand and describe them better?
  • Now that you’re “awake” in God, what are the things that make you want to ignore him and go back to sleep?
  • What are the good works that God has prepared for you to walk in?

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