Life-altering Grace

Ephesians 2:1-10

We all have a prior life before we met Jesus. When we met him, he changed our lives forever by his love and grace. Before Jesus, our lives were filled with disobedience and little love for God or our neighbor (2:1-2). In this passage, Paul reminds the Ephesians of their past and how they were most deserving of God’s punishment, “being children of wrath,” because of their past sins and wrong-doings (2:3).

Then Paul changes with the word “but.” He starts focusing on God rather than us. He shows that even in the midst of our sin and death, God continued to be loving and merciful to us (2:4). Mercy means to not give someone what he or she deserves for a wrong action. God did not respond to our sins by giving us more punishment. Instead, God acted mercifully and gracefully by sending Jesus to show us how to live and to be the sacrifice for our sins. Through Jesus, God has brought us back to life or made us alive (2:5). Only God’s grace can bring new life because without it, we could never get out of our death-inducing lives (2:8-9). In this passage, death is more than the end of life when we quit breathing. It is a present reality, in which our actions bring life or death to people around us. By depending on the Spirit and acting in grace, love, and mercy, we can be life-givers. God’s grace saves us from death, but his saving us is not a result of our good actions. However, how we treat people is still important to God, for he created us from the beginning to do good works that bring life to our neighbors (2:10).

Other notes and ideas:

From the beginning of the chapter, I realize again that I was once a son of disobedience and that I acted and still act in ways that deviate from God’s original plan for the world as well as bring death to people’s lives around me. While Jesus has brought new life to me, I am still not perfect, nor will I ever be in this life. Remembering my past helps me, though, to be more graceful and merciful to those around me who have yet to see God’s grace working in their lives in a profoundly personal way. I am always reminded that I was once in their place also, being dead in my trespasses and sins, so I have no right to judge them. I do have an obligation though to bring grace into their lives, helping them to see the grace available to them through Jesus, for it is the only truly life-changing force in this world. Violence will never bring life-change, but grace and humility will affect the heart in ways that we will never fully comprehend until we spend eternity in a new heaven and earth.  I must try in every moment to be an agent of grace in my neighbors’ lives.

In verse 3, Paul uses the phrase, “a child of wrath,” and I sometimes wonder if we do not focus too much on the wrathful side of God. Especially since the realease of Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, I have heard a lot more talk about the wrathful side of God that we see in the Old Testament, and I wonder if we have fully realized some of the paradoxical attributes of God. If we claim that God is wrathful and is justified in destroying his enemies or even those who sin too much in the Old Testament, how can we also claim that God is peaceful and nonviolent, as I often hear Anabaptists talk about in Jesus’ teachings? Did God change personalities between the writing of the Old Testament and the birth of Jesus? Jesus calls us to be nonviolent agents of grace of peace, and I believe that this teaching stems from a God of peace and grace, not a God who arbitrarily decides that certain people should be destroyed and that the best way to get people to love him is to scare them by promising eternal punishment after death. I wonder if those descriptions of God that I see in the Old Testament are really the authors of the books projecting onto God what they expect he would do because if they were Him, they would act in such a way.  Maybe in the midst of their sinfulness, they thought that what they were doing was honoring to God because of scriptures they had read that seemed to support those kinds of actions.

I would love to hear your thoughts on these ideas.

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~ by randallkoehler on February 22, 2012.

One Response to “Life-altering Grace”

  1. I see where you are coming from with your closing thoughts, and honestly, I have been thinking a lot about this issue. I am currently reading through the Old Testament, and I am in a class that is going through it too. The only ideas I have been able to come up with is that maybe the death and destruction that we see in the Old Testament was what was necessary back then… and maybe it just manifests itself differently nowadays. Horrible things still happen all over the world, and most of it to “good” people. Yes, a lot of it is caused by humans and our sin, but what about illnesses? I don’t know how we could blame the patient with cancer for having that disease, and I don’t know that there is anyone else we could blame for it either. God shows us mercy, and God shows us love and grace, but sometimes God doesn’t save us from these horrible ends. Why? I ask myself that so often. Could it be because we are still sinning and turning from Him so often? Could it be because we have our other “idols” in our culture and personal lives? Could it be that that “wrathful” God we see in the Old Testament is still our God trying to break us down so completely that we turn to Him and be saved? I don’t know. It is so hard to think of sometimes because I don’t think any of us like to be punished or think the ones we love capable of disciplining us so extremely, but maybe it is necessary. These are just the thoughts that came up after reading your post.

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