International Sunday School LessonPurpose: To acknowledge how necessary God's grace is to move us from the blindness and helplessness of sin to a life of good works.
For Week Ending May 10, 2009
For Week Ending May 10, 2009
Scripture Text: Ephesians 2:1-10 (NRSV)
(1)You were dead through the trespasses and sins (2)in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. (3)All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. (4)But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us (5)even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (6)and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (7)so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. (8)For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— (9)not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (10)For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
My Thoughts by Burgess WalterThis is our second lesson from Ephesians, and as we stated in our last lesson, this letter was written as a circular letter to the Asian churches that Paul had established during his missionary journeys.There is some tension between the doctrines of Ephesians and the doctrine of some of Paul’s other writing which has caused some to dispute Paul as the author of Ephesians. I will try and point out some of those tensions as we progress through this lesson.
As we noted last week, this letter is written to Christians and to the Churches established by Paul. The writer begins by recalling our former state before we became part of God's family. “You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived”. Just as we studied about six weeks ago in the book of Ezekiel 37 we were the living dead, moving about as dry bones, with no life, no purpose, no hope and cut off completely. We were guilty of following “the course of this world”. And so doing the writer says we were following “the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient”. The author is clear in proclaiming those outside of Christ are lost, and the same as dead.
The reasoning then, is if we follow our own desires and we are in bondage to “the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses”, we are separated from God and in need of being restored to God as one of His children, as God intended us to be. “We were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else”. Then we have the most important two words in this text “But God”. Despite our own perverse will, God's plan for us is something other than death. “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses , made us alive together with Christ”. This passage of scripture emphasizes the here and now as opposed to some distant happiness, and that reveals the tensions with other passages. In Romans 5:1-11, Paul seems to say “not yet” compared with today's “already”. Romans 5:9 states “while we have been justified, we will be saved.” In Romans it seems to be about the cross, in today's lesson it seems to be about the resurrection. Our text today is certainly more comforting if we are facing trials and tribulations it is nice to know, God's love has, “made us alive together with Christ”.
Paul's logic concerning salvation sometimes seems unclear or hard to follow, but in today's text it seems to be presented in a nice uncomplicated package. “For by grace you have been saved through faith”. Our salvation is God's work and not ours; “we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” Paul states something similar when he describes the “fruits of the spirit” in Galatians 5:22-25. James states “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). A little saying has been making the rounds lately but it is well worth repeating here “God loves us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way”.
Why do you think you deserve a place in heaven? Which do you prefer, the plan for salvation found in Romans 5 or the one found in Ephesians 2? Why? Both have been canonized so both are applicable, both are the word of God for the people of God.