Ephesians 2:4-10

4 Brethren, God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! Because of the way human language works, and especially the differences between spoken and written expression, there are a few phrases in this morning Epistle that are very awkward when read, and make it a little difficult to really get at what St. Paul is saying. So I’d like to read it again, but with these descriptive phrases removed so that perhaps it’ll be a bit easier to hear what he’s trying to convey. Brethren, God, Who is rich in mercy, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. And then there’s the descriptive phrase that seems to break the flow of the written text, but is very valuable (of course) none the less. After Paul says that God is rich in mercy, he writes—“for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins.” In other words, we call God merciful because He loved us even when we were His enemies, slaves to sin. Over the last several weeks we’ve had a few readings where St. Paul is making very similar points—where he’s speaking directly to the issue of man’s salvation. Paul tends to do this a lot. Christ came into the world to save sinners (Paul says). The entire dispensation of God’s will for mankind is that we be with Him. This is the purpose of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. And it’s why St. Paul spends so much time talking about our salvation in Christ. This is the goal, the created purpose, for human life. Theosis, sharing in the life of God. As St. Paul wrote this morning, being quickened together with Christ, raised up with Christ, and made to sit in heavenly places in Christ. St. Paul, in our Epistle reading, is showing us how incredible God’s plan, His will, is for mankind. And if we receive his words, it leaves us in awe of our Creator.

St. Paul begins by impressing upon us that God, the Creator of everything, “He Who Is” as the services call Him, God is merciful to us and loves us. This is a word amazing enough to carry us the rest of our lives, we would never need to know anything else, if we could truly understand it. God loves us. And He loves us not because we’re good children, but our Creator continued to love us even when we rejected Him and became His enemies. God was merciful; He gave us a love we didn’t deserve. And while we were still dead in sin, the Son of God was Incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and came into the world to die so that the love of God could be revealed. He knew before He came that most of us would continue to reject Him. He knew the suffering He would have to undergo, and the sufferings His followers would one day be subjected to. But He came anyway, so that the love of God could finally be revealed fully to mankind. So man could at least have the chance to know that His Creator, the Sustainer of the universe, still wanted His children who had rejected Him and thrown Him to the curb, ignored Him and defied Him at every turn. And those of us, the wretched children of God (as we refer to ourselves in the pre-Communion prayers of Church), those of us wretched children who choose to respond to this final plea from the Creator aren’t made servants, or sent to purgatory, or placed on a second tier for all of eternity. St. Paul writes that God the Father “hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” The enemy is taken into the house and made to be one of the sons, just like we see in Christ’s Parable of the Prodigal Son. If we think back on our lives, and compare them with the statutes of the Old and New Testament, if we just compare how we have lived with how we should have lived, we’ll quickly see what an indescribable gift this is from God. He places His beloved, those of us who choose Him over all else, are placed “in heavenly places in Christ” so that for all of eternity God “might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” God wants to take us into His home, and make us to be His lawful children. It’s a staggering doctrine. That the Creator of all wants to make us His children…it’s incredible. And as if the things that St. Paul has said don’t already make us feel our deep unworthiness for this calling, St. Paul continues. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” We can’t accomplish God’s purpose for our existence on our own. We can’t be united to the life of God by our own effort or will. Our salvation is a gift of mercy and grace from God to man. But should we choose to accept this gift of God, we can then become the workmanship of the Creator. As St. Paul says, “created…unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Not only does God love us, unworthy as we are, and not only did He die to offer mankind salvation, unworthy as we are. Should we accept these gifts, His mercy continues, and we become the workmanship of Christ. God accomplishes good works in the world through us. We become part of the revelation of God to the human race. As we near the time for the Fast of the Nativity (which starts just 11 days from now), we should begin contemplating this gift of salvation offered to us by God in Christ. And the question that we can begin to ponder even now—do I truly believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Am I responding with everything I am to the offering that God has made to me? To be God’s workmanship, to be the adopted sons and daughters of God, is the greatest thing that God could possibly have offered mankind. Am I giving myself to Christ in a way that is worthy of these blessings? The Fast will give us a time to re-orient our lives to Christ—let’s spend the next week and a half analyzing where we are, and where the offering of God would have us to be. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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