Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Dead and Alive - March 15, 2015 - Fourth Sunday in Lent - Text: Ephesians 2:1-10
Our text for this morning contains a very familiar verse and one that is particularly important for us as Lutherans, the verse which reminds us that we are saved by God’s grace, through the faith which He gives to us, and not by our works. This verse is one which is important to us and sets us apart from other religions, cults and sects and even from many other denominations. Not only is our text for this morning familiar, so are the Old Testament lesson and the Gospel lesson.
In the Old Testament lesson we hear the account of the grumbling of the children of Israel in the wilderness. As we follow the life of the children of Israel, we know that God took care of them, watched over them, provided for all their needs and yet, they still found things to complain about. In the Old Testament reading for today we hear them complaining about a lack of food and water, as if God had not provided these in the past and as if He would not continue to provide these for them now. They sound a lot like we sound today. God has provided for all our needs and yet, at times, we tend to doubt if He will continue to provide for our needs today and tomorrow. We would rather trust in ourselves than in Him. In the Old Testament reading we are introduced to what is called a type of Christ. A type of Christ is something which looks like Christ will look like when He comes. In the Old Testament reading the serpent is the type of Christ. The serpent is that thing which brought death, but is also that thing which would bring life. If a person was bitten by the serpent, the person would die, unless that same person looked at the image of the serpent on the pole which would then bring life to that person.
In the Gospel Lesson we are given what we call the antitype, that is Christ Himself. Christ is the antitype. Christ is a human being, as well as truly God. In Genesis we are reminded that Adam, a human being, brought death into the world. In the Gospel lesson we are reminded of Christ, a human being, who brings life into the world. Thus, as a serpent brought death, so a man brought death and as one looked at the serpent on the cross to gain life, so we look at a man, Christ on the cross to gain life, eternal life. Paul expounds on this in our text for this morning when he reminds us that our salvation is ours by God’s free grace.
Paul begins by laying out our condition. We being with verse one, “1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (v. 1-3).
Paul reminds us that we are spiritually dead. We are conceived and born in sin. From moment of conception we are spiritually dead. And just as a physically dead persons cannot raise himself, so it is with spiritually dead people, there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. Indeed and unfortunate it is that there are those that would suggest that we are to reach out to God, we are to choose, accept, or do something, anything to save ourselves, which is just as impossible as it is for someone to raise themselves from the dead.
Not only are we spiritually dead, we are also spiritually blind. We are so wrapped up and involved in our sinfulness we cannot see how sinful we really are. We cannot see what is right or good. Indeed and again unfortunate are those who do not see their spiritual blindness and so unwittingly lead others to think they can do something, even anything to bring themselves alive from spiritual death.
Thus, we are also enemies of God. If we are not for God, we are against Him. Paul says it this way, that we “follow the prince of the power of the air,” in other words, we follow Satan. Yes, we are enemies of God, fighting against Him. This fighting against God is, or rather, happens before Christ has His way with us, in other words, this was our condition.
After laying out our condition, Paul lays out God’s rich mercy. We continue at verse four, “4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (v. 4-7).
God shows His great love for us in this that He raised us up with His grace and He did this while we were yet sinners. We talked about this a couple weeks ago, that is that someone might give their life for someone or some cause deemed worthy, but for someone or some cause deemed unworthy this would never happen. Yet, God shows His great love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, while we were sinning and fighting against Him, He gave His life for ours. This is just as John spells it out for us in our Gospel reading for this morning, the Gospel in a nutshell as we call it.
God in Christ has given His life for ours, yet God is not through with His giving. He also gives us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. As we talked about last week and many times before, the greatest gift we are given is the gift of forgiveness of sins, because with forgiveness of sins is life and salvation.
And here, our Lord gives us a glimpse of His immeasurable riches in heaven. Our God is a gift giving God. He gives and we are given to. And when our Lord gives He does not give some now and hold off and give some more later. There are no conditions on His giving, that is that He will give us some now and if we do this or if we do that He will gives us more later. No, our Lord always gives us the whole lot of His gifts and a whole lot more.
Finally, in our text for this morning we have the infamous words that remind us that we are saved by grace through faith. We pick up at verse eight, “8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 8-10).
We are saved by grace and I do like how this is spelled out as, grace is “God’s riches at Christ expense.” God’s grace is His undeserved love. We do not deserve any of the gifts our Lord gives. As a matter of fact, this is what Paul is so well laying out for us, we are spiritually blind, spiritually dead and enemies of God. There is no reason we should imagine that God owes us anything. And the more sinful we realize we are, the greater God’s great grace is understood. Yet, as we know, God’s grace did not come without a cost. While it costs us nothing, it cost Christ His life.
We are saved by grace and through faith. This faith is something that is given to us as well, This faith is given through the means of grace and this faith is the instrument which grabs hold of and makes the rest of the gifts ours. Thus, we see that not only is faith important, but the object of faith is important. Not only does it matter that we believe, it also matters in whom we believe.
And finally, Paul does bring up the issue of good works. We are saved for a purpose, to do the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. Thus, we see that these are not good works we initiate, but these are good works which God initiates, which God works in and through us and which are done to His glory. Always the focus going back to our Lord. And what are these good works which God prepared in advance for us to do? They are works which the Holy Spirit works in and through us, so we can take no credit in these good works. They are good works which begin with loving God and loving our neighbor, and we show these good works by living confident lives of faith, that is by living with a joyous trusting attitude in all things. They are good works which include encouraging each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, encouraging each other in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They are good works which include spreading the good news of Jesus. They are good works which give glory to our great Lord.
What Does This Mean? We live in a world in which many people are looking for meaning and purpose. For too long we have been taught, and unfortunately too many people believe, that we are simply a product of many thousands of accidents. Our Christian country has digressed to the point of being a country in which there are some Christians. As we look at the three lessons for this morning and in particular as we look at these texts wrapped up in our text, Paul reminds us, as Moses does in Numbers and as John does in his Gospel, that we do have a purpose. Our purpose in life is first and foremost that God created us to love us. As we were reminded last week, parents do not have children in order to be served by them, but parents have children in order to love them, care for them and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, so our Lord created us, not to serve Him, as if He needs anything from us, but in order to love us, care for us and bring us up in His nurture and admonition.
God created us. We sin. God redeems us. God created us to love us and to do for us. At the same time, God redeemed us for a purpose, to do good works. But, lest we think in terms of our good works as something we do on our own, let us remind ourselves that our good works are good works because they are good works which He works in and through us. Remember Paul’s words, that these are good works which were prepared beforehand. God is the one who initiates. God initiated in the creation of the world. God initiated in our redemption. God initiates or gives us faith, bringing us from spiritual death to eternal life. And now we see that God initiated in our sanctification.
What a Great God we have. God does, God gives and we are done to and we are given to. And even when God does and gives, we continue to follow our former ways of resisting and sinning. We tend so much to be like the children of Israel. Thanks be to God that He does not and will not give up on us. Thanks be to God that He continues to do for us and give to us.
What a great trio of lessons we have again this morning. With God’s Word, we cannot go wrong. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” So that, “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us,” has taken care of everything. God gives and we are given to. Thanks be to God and to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.