EPHESIANS 2 “BUT GOD!”
Bible Background: Ephesians 1 celebrates God’s great plan for redeeming and claiming all people in Christ. Chapter 2 tells why that is necessary, and how God is doing that. This chapter also contains the heart of Lutheran/Christian teaching: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God!” (2:8)
Digging Deeper: 1. Paul is blunt “You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived.” This ‘sin’ stuff, this living for one’s self, this trying to make it apart from God, is terminal…it does not work! “All of us” were estranged from God (and from each other.) But God changed all that! (“But God” is a great summary of the Good News!) God showed amazing mercy and grace and instead of leaving us for dead (in our trespasses), and made us alive together with Christ! This is a complete transfer ‘from death to life!’ It’s the power of Christ’s resurrection at work, in us-who have been baptized into Christ.
2. It’s been noted that “Grace is the difference between Christianity and other world religions.” Have you ever pondered that? That need not make us argue how much better we are than this group or that group. In truth, the same grace that saves us can provide the orientation to view other religions-such as Jewish and Muslim neighbors with openness, rather than with judgement.
3. Paul also notes that we are saved by grace for good works. It is not the goodness in us or any good works we manage to do that save us. It’s grace that saves us from sin/self/self-centeredness and equips us to accomplish good things for Christ, with our lives.
4. In verse 11, Paul recounts how Jews and non-Jews were once at odds. “You were aliens…but now, you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace…” This is not a mild statement. This was a radical declaration in a culture dominated by Roman power! It wasn’t the Emperor who would bring a ‘forced’ peace. It is Christ who creates a new humanity, reconciling all of us to God. What might this have to offer our culture’s divisions and tribalism? How can we as Jesus’ followers help break down dividing walls and end hostilities? In what ways do our hearts and minds need to change yet? In what ways do our actions or our politics need to change?
5. Look at the banners up on the wall by the cross in our chancel. The cross stands out, of course. And we are referred to as ‘living stones’ who are being built into a spiritual house for God. That is almost exactly the image of Ephesians 2:20-22. How will we help build up the body of Christ? How are we willing to be built up?
Read Ephesians 3 for next week; or read the whole letter each week!