Sunday, April 22, 2012

But God

Part 12 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to the sermon here.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us 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 in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (2:4-7)

God Helps Those Who Can't Help Themselves 

You’ve probably heard the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” Many people (even Christians) mistakenly think it’s in the Bible. (The saying is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but it actually has an earlier origin.) Concerning salvation, it can’t be said, “God helps those who help themselves.” Instead, God helps the helpless.

In 2:1-3, Paul describes our helpless condition prior to salvation. First, we were spiritually dead (v. 1). Second, we were enslaved by three evil forces: the world, the devil, and the flesh (vv. 2-3a). Third, we were destined for God’s wrath (v. 3b).

Amazing Grace 

“But God”! We were helpless, but God made a way of salvation. “By grace [we] have been saved” (v. 5b). Salvation is deliverance or rescue from danger (“wrath”).

1. We deserved wrath but God showed us mercy (v. 4). 

God is “rich in mercy.” “The person who is most compassionate is the one who has suffered a similar calamity. This is in keeping with God’s extension of mercy toward sinners, for he suffered the consequences of sin in his Son’s death” (Harold Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, p. 327).

Why has God showed us mercy? “Because of the great love with which he loved us” (v. 4). God is “rich” in mercy because of his “great” love. His great love has been demon-strated by the cross. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

2. We were dead but God made us alive (v. 5a). 

God “made us alive together with Christ.” Jesus declared, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). He also said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die [physically], yet shall he live [physically], and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die [spiritually]” (John 11:25-26).

3. We were in bondage to evil powers but God seated us with Christ (v. 6). 

God “raised us up and seated us with [Christ] in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” “God has allowed his people even now to share in a measure of the authority that Christ has, seated at the right hand of God (cf. 1:20-22; 6:10-18; James 4:7; 1 John 4:4), a truth that would be especially important in Ephesus with all of its occult practices” (ESV Study Bible, p. 2264).

In verses 5-6, we find three Greek words that Paul invented. He took existing Greek words and added to them the prefix syn, which means “together with”: “made…alive together with,” “raised…up with” (NASB) and “seated…with.” These words describe the believer’s union with Christ. We are “in Christ Jesus.” Since he has died, risen from the grave, and ascended to the right hand of God, so have we (spiritually)! 

Trophies of God's Grace 

Why did God save us? “So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (v. 7).

As a trophy (like the Stanley Cup) is a testimony of a team’s talent and hard work, so we who have been saved by God are testimonies of his “immeasurable” grace.

We should live lives that show that God has saved us by grace alone. 

If we thought of God’s grace more, we would be less self-centered. We would be more humble and helpful.

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