Ephesians 2: 1-7. Part 9
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 aspersions on others for their behavior. 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 there. These verses describe a person who is not a follower of faith in God along with their world view. 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, if I may say so. 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. Then in the original Greek language in verse 4, there is the powerful “But God . . . .” It is God’s volition 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 in my next blog when we look at Ephesians 2: 8-10.
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 (this time in the New International Version):
“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, 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. They can expect that it will happen!
Categories: How Can the Bible Relate to Us Today?