How Can the Bible Relate to Us Today?

Grace: God’s Undeserved Love to Us (Revised – 10/31/2022)

[Ephesians 2: 1-7]

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Ephesians 2: 1-7. Ephesians Study Part 9 (Revised)

[Author’s note on 10/31/2022: I first wrote this piece two years ago in November of 2020, and it has been the most viewed blog on my blogsite by far. However, I didn’t feel that I gave enough background on the word “grace,” so I corrected that with some additional thoughts and edited some other areas to make the wording clearer. I apologize for the problems in formatting as something has changed in the WordPress editing since I first wrote this piece. Note that I still encourage the reader to read the associated, follow-up piece entitled, “Are You God’s Poem?” posted November 21, 2020. Regardless, I have added and edited as follows – I hope it is helpful to you: {John M}]

People spend too much time trying to determine what sin is – and trying to figure out if OTHERS are sinning.  How about those memes on social media?  They seem all too ready to cast negative views on others for their behavior, beliefs or attitudes.  In years gone by (and not all that long ago), people in many religious groups may name some perceived sins, such as dancing, bowling, playing card games of any sort, going to movies, billiards – you get the idea.  I’ve tried to simplify the definition of sin as follows: “Sin is anything (including attitudes) that hinders a person’s relationship with God, with others or with oneself.”  As we read through verses 1-3 of Ephesians 2, we see that Paul certainly lays it out.  As with all of Ephesians, these verses are addressed to believers. However, this passage focuses on a person who is not a follower of faith in God before they became a believer in God [JM – 11/10/2022] and describes their resulting world view.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” [Ephesians 2: 1-3. NIV]

Then we come to verses 4-7:

“But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses [“sin”], made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” [Ephesians 2: 4-7.  RSV]

The New International Version starts out verse 4 in a rather subdued manner.  It reads, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy . . . .”  To me, this waters down the forceful contrast of Paul’s original wording in which he starts the chapter delineating what life is like without God (see above for verses 1-3). In the original Greek language in verse 4, there is the powerful “But God . . . .”  It is God’s volition [his choice] borne by his love for us and his subsequent strong action that resulted in Paul affirming that God “. . . made us alive together with Christ . . . .” in verse 5.

Grace.  What a powerful word.  If you ask anyone who has grown up in a conservative church (I can’t speak for others’ experiences), they will tell you the definition of “grace” is “God’s unmerited favor.”  What in the world does that mean?  One of my crusades is to simplify church jargon so people who have not grown up in church can understand the concepts we bandy about so lightly.  I simplify the definition this way: “‘Grace’ is God’s undeserved love.”  I will be addressing this concept of grace more in my blog posted November 21, 2020 when we look at Ephesians 2: 8-10 [See “Are You God’s Poem?” – November 21, 2020].

What is “grace“? Our New Testament is translated from the Greek language, regardless of what language you feel more comfortable reading in your version of the Bible, whether it be in Spanish, French, Swahili or Chinese. All New Testament Bibles are ultimately translated from the original Greek language. To understand “grace” then, I will conduct a brief overview from its original Greek language.

“Grace” is usually translated from some form of the Greek word, “charis.” This term in English gives us the word “charity” and “charitable.” This same Greek word was sometimes used in the New Testament as pleasantness or attractiveness, as in “Let your conversation be always full of grace [chariti, a form of charis] . . . .” [Colossians 4: 6a] “Grace” is also used to indicate approval or favor, such as in Luke 1: 30, “‘Mary, you have found favor [charin, a form from charis] with God.‘” Also, in Luke 2: 52: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor [chariti, again a form from charis] with God and men.
{Source of this paragraph: The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. E-J. Abingdon Press, 1962.}

However, it is the Apostle Paul who brings out the full meaning to which we are accustomed. Grace (charis), God’s reaching out to humankind or to us as individuals with his love, is from God only. We have done absolutely nothing to deserve God’s love except that it is God’s desire to reach out to us and restore us as a broken humanity back to a loving relationship with himself. That is grace.

Next, let’s contrast an earlier passage in Ephesians in chapter 1 with verses 6 and 7:

. . . which [God] exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at this right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”  [Ephesians 1: 20-21. NIV]

Now compare Ephesians 2: 6:

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus . . . .”  [Ephesians 2:6.  NIV]

Do you see the difference?  In the first passage, Paul emphasized how God’s mighty power raised Christ from the dead and seated him at the place of honor as the ruler over everything.  The emphasis is on Christ.  In the second passage, though, the wording is remarkably similar, but the emphasis is on us.  We ourselves as believers are in the heavenly realms and being treated with honor.  The purpose can be found in verse 7 [NIV]:

“. . . in order that in the coming ages [God] might show [or “exhibit”] the incomparable riches of his grace [charitos, another form of charis], expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

What an honor.  What a privilege.  God loves us as believers so much that he wants to be sure we are taken care of AND raised to a place of high honor.  This contrasts, of course, to this world where there are regions in which Christians are looked down up and persecuted for their faith.  This gives encouragement and hope to those believers who live in areas in which they struggle.  Remember the definition of hope in the Bible?  Something promised has yet to come to pass, but God’s people can count on the promise to happen.  We can expect that it will happen! 

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