Ephesians 2:1-10 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Did you spend some time with grace this past week? I sure hope you did. So what did you see in faith when you thought about grace?
I had a lot of time to think about grace this past week. A LOT of time! I spend more hours staring at the ceiling or a pillow than I have for a long long time, and I’ll admit, a lot of that time was spent realizing how weak I am. It was hard, you know? To see everyone else around me doing everything for me. That’s not easy. I didn’t have a lot to offer them except sick smell and a pitiful woe-is-me I’m a guy I have a completely treatable illness but still I’m dying attitude. Yet in my family and especially my wife I saw grace. And then I thought of God’s. And again I just sat there with my mouth open and with my eyes welling up and I thought again and again of our text for the past two weeks. I thought of grace. And I came up with my little way of explaining what grace means to me in my life and my faith.
Grace to me means God bringing the unworthy corpse that is my weak, sick, disgraceful, sinful, imperfect, hostile, angry, want nothing to do with God sin-sick self to full life. Grace is making nothing more than something- it’s making the nothing everything. Grace is a love that runs so deep and that lasts so long that we don’t have enough time in our entire lives to wrap our minds around it. Someone once called it Amazing, and even wrote a song about it, but that just begins to describe grace. God didn’t feel a slight twinge of pity for fallen mankind. He felt “grace.” And that grace, that xaris, that gift of kindness that no one has fairly earned led God to love. Agape love.
Selfless love. Love that loves the loveless, that sacrifices for the selfish, that puts in a state of saving those who are constantly putting themselves in the state of what should be lost. It is by grace you are being saved. You are in a continuing state of being saved people. You dear friend, and each and every Christian is, as a professor at the Seminary once said, “an inexpressible living demonstration of how incomprehensible grace is.” (Habeck Ephesians pg. 42 NPH)
God calls the results of us knowing this by grace through faith incomparable riches, he calls it life after death; but in the last 6 verses of our text God describes grace 5 times in one simple phrase: Christ Jesus.
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
When God moved on from words that we can only try to wrap our heads around, he landed at the words not of man, but the very Word made flesh. When God was done describing bringing us from death to life, from corpse to living soul, he finished this most amazing section of Scripture by brining life to grace itself- for grace is Jesus Christ. And grace is for you.
If you want to summarize what grace alone meant to Luther- I think all you have to do is think about what grace means to you- it means that into the heart of darkness, into the pit of death, into this fallen and sin-filled world God kept a promise that goes all the way back to grace- undeserved, unearned, incomprehensible grace- God sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. What is grace? It is dying for those who don’t deserve it. What is grace? It is a life led without sin to be sin for us. What is grace? It is a cross with our Savior hanging to pay for the sins of the world- so completely, so fully that he could even declare “It is finished.” Once, for all. The righteous for the unrighteous. What is grace? Grace is an empty tomb that shouldn’t ever have been filled in the first place with anyone but me. What is grace? Grace is an ascended Savior who watches over you every day with the exact same love he had when he rose triumphant on that first Easter morning. His thoughts about you haven’t changed. They never will. He loves you. He forgives you. He graces you with his love every day, no matter how bad that day is going or the next will go.
What laid at the heart of the Reformation was the very heart of God- come and see Jesus again, come and see that your life is restored, that your guilt is washed away, that your sin is forgiven- not by works, so that no one can boast- but by my Son, my only Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Grace lives in Christ, and by faith, a free gift of God, not by any work or confession or will of man, Christ lives in you. You live in grace and always will.
What does that mean?! When your conscience sears your soul, live in grace. When you need motivation to get out of bed in the morning, look first to grace and remember you are God’s dearly loved child- no one can rob you of that joy! When you are at work or school or play, let grace be that which motivates you to serve others, in grace, not looking for return, but simply because you are still returning the thanks for the grace you have been shown from God. What does grace mean to me? I need more than a sermon. I need my entire life. Every moment of every day just to think about it, how incredible it is, and will always be. To think how “grace” is more than a word, it’s a state I live in now and forever with my God.
It led a man to a Reformation. More importantly, it led him to his Savior. May we live in that grace as our God in love continues to smile upon us until heaven. In the name of grace, our Savior Jesus Christ we ask it- Amen.