Todays readings.. 1 Chronicles 20&21, Ezekiel 31, Ephesians 1&2
“Grace” is a special word for Paul – it is often defined by ‘christian’ writers as ‘unmerited forgiveness’ but that is scarcely satisfactory – although we can see how such a definition applies to Paul. It is the ‘opposite’ to ‘earning’ salvation by keeping the law – or practicing rituals such as those developed by the Roman Catholic church.
It is ‘heart- challenging to see how Paul uses it in writing to the Ephesians, the letter of Paul we started reading today. This letter is a rich source of spiritual “food” – we must digest it carefully and slowly.
The thought that first attracted our attention today was that God [1v.4] “chose us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
When Adam and Eve sinned and were put out of the Garden of Eden God had already planned for a seed (descendant) of the woman to “bruise the head” (Gen. 3 v.15) of the descendants of the serpent – an allegorical way of saying God had plotted the way ahead to counter-act on-going human sinfulness.
This happened, writes Paul, “through Jesus Christ (the ultimate special descendant of Eve), according to the purpose of his (God’s) will, to the praise of his glorious grace … through his (Christ’s) blood … in him we have redemption … the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us …” [v.5-8] The word “grace” is very special to Paul; it was an wondrous act of grace to blot out all Paul’s deeds in killing Stephen and persecuting countless believers. Grace is commonly defined as ‘unmerited forgiveness.’ In the 2nd chapter Paul says God has made believers “alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace …” [v.5-7]
Our minds must digest this ‘picture’ thoughtfully in order to ‘see’ it correctly. Remember how Jesus described Capernaum as being “exalted to heaven” [Matt.11 v.23] because of the abundance of the miracles they witnessed (but did not appreciate). Believers need to have hearts that are ‘lifted up’ in appreciation!
In contrast, Paul deplores “the spirit that is now at work among the sons of disobedience.” [v.2] This is a ‘spirit’, an attitude of mind, that now totally dominates our world!
We do our best to turn away from this ‘spirit’ – but know we cannot be ‘perfect’ by our own will. But in Christ we have access to “his glorious grace” and to “the immeasurable riches” of that grace.
Although these riches are far beyond what we deserve; they are a wonderful reassurance and strength for those struggling against sin as they now live having committed the rest of their lives to Christ.
The world is now suffering from extreme spiritual poverty, but those who establish a genuine spiritual relationship with God and his Son have “immeasurable riches.” “The coming ages”, when all will be revealed, are surely now very near.