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Sep 5 2021 Ephesians 2 - Experiencing the Power of Grace

You have freed us by Your grace. Teach us now – we need to be taught by You!

Ephesians 2:1

I have laid this out a bit differently – hopefully to help us see how Paul helps these things to CONNECT. Paul is connecting all of these thoughts throughout the book.

And you

(He is back to the you/we language – he is speaking to the Gentile Christians – and in verse 3 he switches to WE – Paul and the Jewish Christians – and he flips back and forth between these two distinct peoples and what God has done for each of us in Christ)

were dead in your trespasses and sins,

2 in which you formerly walked

(We have Paul’s view of people outside of Christ – to put it in our language – those outside of Christ are the walking dead! – they are dead, and they are walking! This is humanity’s true condition! I’m sure Paul is thinking of Adam and Eve here – you can eat of all of the trees except for 2 – life and death, and knowledge of good and evil. They eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil – and were told they would die – did they physically die at that moment? No. They died to who they were meant to be in God)

according to (under the influence and control) the course of this world

(the actual word is usually translated as age – he couldn’t do that because we would get in a big argument about how old the earth is! – but this present evil age is the age between the resurrection and Christ’s return.),

according (under the influence and control) to the prince

of the power of the air,

of the spirit that is now working

in the sons of disobedience.

In other parts of the New Testament, Satan is referred to as the god of this world – and here, the prince of the power of the air. This is a bleak picture for humanity. Yes, there is victory in Christ, but that victory only applies to those who are in Christ. Everyone else lives within this complete darkness.

We have been transferred from the kingdom of the world to the kingdom of Christ. But even the transfer is an already but not yet.

Even though we have the victory, and He has overcome the world, we are influenced in ways we don’t recognize.

This has all been said to the Gentiles – now this is speaking of the Jewish Christians:

3 Among them we too all formerly lived

in the lusts of our flesh,

indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind,

and were by nature children of wrath,

even as the rest.

So Paul lists the three enemies of those in Christ – the world, the devil, and the flesh. Outside of Christ, humans are under the control of those three enemies. He paints this bleak picture of those outside of Christ. This could be a hard thing. Especially in a culture where we believe that people are basically good. But no, Paul has described his theology of what people are outside of Christ. People are lost and condemned, but we have to turn the page – to the slide:

4 But God,

God would not leave humanity like this – he wasn’t finished with people.

being rich in mercy,

Extravagant mercy – pity/compassion – Chesed – When it is translated into Greek, it is translated this way – and then He builds on that:

because of His great love with which He loved us,

God loves us – He is merciful and compassionate – and more than that – Great love! Rich Mercy!

God is compassionate, gracious and abounding in lovingkindness – like to Moses in Exodus!

(5 even when we were dead in our transgressions,

It comes back to that. Whether Jew or Greek – we are all the same. The only solution for any of us is Christ. And what did God do? He took the walking dead and…

made us alive together with Christ

(by grace you have been saved),

6 and raised us up with Him,

We now are united in the resurrection of Jesus. Then he says:

and seated us with Him

in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

What we have here is the gospel! The main points of the gospel – the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus Christ. Rarely do I talk about the ascension when I share the gospel! I bet you don’t either. You might ask – what does that have to do with it? Everything – Ephesians 1:19 – These are in accordance with the working of the strength of his might.

19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

We will all be sitting on his throne – a really big throne –

The way they view the world is like this – the earth/land – is down here – but then there was the firmament – the atmosphere – the place of the prince of the power of the air – and above that – heaven. We are seated above the prince of the power of the air.

Paul said in another passage – we will judge them! Those beings! We will! Now, again, it is an already and not yet – but then it will be completely done – above them – over them! This is the experiencing of the victory – yes, we are forgiven, but we have also been placed in a position of authority – already/not yet – an amazing victory Christ has won for us. This is an important part of the gospel. By the way – this death and resurrection of Christ allows us to win the victory over evil!

Ephesians 1:

7 so that in the ages to come

(when we think of heaven, we think of eternal rest/sleep – some think, oh my gosh – and others think, I’m so tired, that would be great! – but not in the AGE to come, but in the AGES to come – and I’m sure it is a lot more than any of us can imagine!

He might show

the surpassing riches of His grace

(His grace is so magnificent it will take MANY AGES to come to reveal it!)

in kindness toward us

in Christ Jesus.

The next few verses, Paul takes a deep dive into grace. We think of unmerited favor – undeserved favor. This is a somewhat simple description.

John Barclay wrote a history of how grace was used. Don’t buy it! But all the scholars quote from this guy and he is on YouTube explaining it!

This concept of grace is more of a grace gift.

8 For by grace you have been saved

through faith;

and that not of yourselves,

it is the gift of God;

Here is the grace-gift. Barclay, in his writing – understood that for us to understand grace clearly, we need to understand the concept of gift-giving in the 1st century – it is very different from our concept of it. For us – the most virtuous gift is the one given with no strings attached. Not the case in Paul’s day and New Testament time.

For them, gifts were given intentionally for the purpose of establishing a relationship of reciprocity. Melissa talked about this a month ago. This gift was given with certain expectations. They were generously given often, but discriminately given – to people deemed worthy, or useful. There is no argument about how they viewed it! Paul’s explanation of Grace-Gift was radically different from his culture – and also subversive – AND different from our understanding of it.

God’s grace is given without merit or status – not something that can be earned. For Paul’s people – that would be a complete change of mindset.

God’s gift was given indiscriminately – for His world! No! You don’t do that! That subverted their entire social system – which was based on giving gifts and expecting certain things – reciprocity.

Third – for Paul’s understanding – a grace gift was absolutely NOT without strings attached!

9 not as a result of works,

so that no one may boast.

“In Paul’s mind, grace is perfect because it is a gift given to somebody who is not worthy, but it is also a gift given with the expectation of reciprocity.” - Tim Mackie (Paraphrasing Barclay!)

It is unmerited – it is freely given – but the grace-gift comes with certain relationship expectations. The gift was given to restore our relationship with God, and God expects that when we receive that gift, we continue in that restored relationship. That is expected. We don’t hear of the gift of Christ and claim it and then go off and leave Jesus forever. Jesus comes with you! Once that happens, He is with you and expects a relationship.

Barclay: Grace in the NT is unconditioned, we do nothing to earn it – nothing we can do to deserve it – BUT it is NOT unconditional. It comes with a relational expectation!

When we give a gift to one of our kids – you give it freely – especially of your grandkids! You’re not worthy of it – it doesn’t matter – it is yours!

Say you give your kid a car – it is given with certain expectations – you expect them to take care of it – not leave it unlocked to get stolen

God expects us to appreciate the gift of Christ He has given us – to grow that relationship – that is not a work – not an earning.

9 not as a result of works,

so that no one may boast.

What kind of works do we think of? Going to church – doing ministry - being good… you can’t boast about that – you didn’t win favor with God because of those things! Paul would have been speaking of the works of the Torah – following the Law – being Jewish… - You Jews cannot boast that you are superior to the Gentiles because of the Torah – it does you no benefit without Christ – it is all in Christ. Grace has a communal aspect to it. It is unconditioned, not unconditional! That is profound! What does that mean in reality?

Paul goes on to tell us what that means for us:

10 For we are His workmanship,

created in Christ Jesus

Not earned – not because we are worthy – but what is the expectation? :

for good works,

which God prepared beforehand

so that we would walk in them.

All of that happened so that we might do good works! He is thinking something more than going to church or writing a check – but He will tell us how! Are they our good works? Are we weighing our good works to our bad works?

which God prepared beforehand

so that we would walk in them.

Notice, he started with WALK and now back to walking – in the good works He has called us to do.

1 Corinthians 15:10 – Paul had just gone on about being the worst apostle –

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain (I did not leave it out in the rain to get stolen or rust ); but I labored even more than all of them, (He recognized it was freely given – but there were expectations) yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

Even the labor is recognized as an act of grace.

We’ll have to stop here – but workmanship – Craftsmanship – Masterpiece – we are His masterpiece! And down the road, it would be good to see how that works out.


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