For the corresponding sermon to this scripture passage, listen here: http://crossview.info/sermons/2014_05_04.mp3
Today’s Scripture Focus: Ephesians 2:1-10
These ten verses, again all one sentence, are a continuation of the thought in the second half of chapter 1. The readers need to understand who they are in Christ; first, however, they must understand who they were. Ephesians 2:1-3 remind the readers that all humans were born with a propensity to selfishness. All committed “transgressions”, which are unintentional violations of God’s law, and “sins”, which are things we do on purpose that hurt others and ourselves. This makes us “children of wrath” who, while thinking we are only pleasing ourselves, are actually serving spiritual forces of evil. Living like this makes us the walking dead.
The expression “God helps those who help themselves” doesn’t come from the Bible. In fact, the author teaches just the opposite in verses 4 and 5—God helps the helpless. God saved us in Christ because God loved us. While “grace” is when we get something good we don’t deserve, “mercy” is when we don’t get something bad we do deserve. God is “rich in mercy”, meaning there is an unlimited supply available for all of us. Paul here says that in Christ, we are already saved and in God’s presence. This is only possible if we are “in” Christ, since it is He who has completed the work of salvation and ascended into heavenly places.
Verse 8 emphasizes that in Christ, we are already saved. This is different than what Paul says in earlier letters like Philippians, where churches are instructed to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Why such a different tone in Ephesians? Ephesians was written AD 60 at the earliest. Almost all of Christ’s original followers were already dead. Everyone had thought Christ would have returned before now, including Paul! Since Christ had not physically returned yet, perhaps there was a spiritual component to the Kingdom that needed to be emphasized until He did. Yes, Christ was returning to bring the Kingdom, but we can live in the Kingdom now.
This is the great mystery Paul wants the Ephesians to understand. Though by all appearances they were created for death, God had really created them for good works. However, since they were powerless to do good works on their own, God, in mercy, gave grace to all who believed. “Grace” here is a power to save from sin and secure for holiness. In other words, we can’t be saved by doing good, but by grace we are saved for doing good. We can live the life we were created to live through the gift of grace. The surprise ending of this mystery is that this was God’s plan all along, even before we were created.
Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
1.) Ephesians refers a lot to the “mystery” of God’s plan. What are some things in life you don’t understand now that you hope to see clearly when you get to Heaven?
2.) Is there anything in today’s scripture that especially speaks to you?
3.) What questions would you like to ask about today’s scripture?