Loved, not because we ticked a list but because we were lost – Monday, 29th week in ordinary time – Ephesians 2: 1-10

Loved, not because we ticked a list but because we were lost – Monday, 29th week in ordinary time – Ephesians 2: 1-10

Paul is now addressing the Gentile Christians of the Church in Ephesus. He is recalling their new exodus from a spiritual death (verse 1) to new life in Christ (verse 4)

Physical death separates us from those we love on earth; but spiritual death on earth is a separation from God. Prior to their conversion, the Gentile Christians was spiritually dead and alienated from God. This alienation took place because of their “trespasses” and “sins” in which they once lived. While modern day sensibilities may look at these words harshly, in Greek their words weigh heavily but are presented with understanding.

Transgression (paraptoma) indicated that someone slipped and fell while “sins” or hamartia in Greek simply translated as “missing the mark.” While both these words may not be presented as condemnatory, both acknowledge the idea of failure; failure to walk upright (paraptoma) and failure to hit the target (hamartia). Both convey the idea of failure to meet God’s standard of holiness. But the point is clear, apart from Christ, one is dead in his trespasses and sins.

This failure that caused one to miss the mark is the direct result of making choices that are made based on the world’s standards. These choices when they clash with divine law pervert the divine freedom that was given to us; or as often happens, when one makes choices that are governed by false pretenders. Religious mythology current in the author’s day spoke of a demonic ruler of the earth whose function was satanic, though the name is not used here for him, he is referred to in today’s text by the word ‘air’ or “eon,” He is the ‘air’ of this world and the prince of the power of the air.

This spiritual battle that the Gentile Christians face is not theirs only. Paul admits in verse 3 that “all of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh.” This “all of us” is a reference to the Jewish Christians too. This is a bold statement considering that a Jew believed that they were saved and the Gentiles were to be used as kindling fire for hell. Now, Paul admits that Jews and Gentiles have all sinned. They had given into moral decadence ruled by human passions and controlled exclusively by temporal, secular goals and values. They had given to the desires of their senses and in the bargain ‘lost their senses.’!

But sin has its consequence and because man is a creature of a just and righteous God he stands subject to God’s judgment. This should not be read as a God waiting in the wings to trap man; this is not a capricious God or a God filled with anger. The ‘wrath of God’ spoken here, in response to sin, is God’s judgment of evil as a result of sin. Paul is not saying these things to make the recipients of this letter feel guilty. He is instead telling them what they used to be, so that in verses 4-7 he can show the contrast between what they used to be and what they are now called to be.

The last word for God is not condemnation, but that does not mean we get a free ‘get out of jail card’; His righteous judgment is not separated from him. Even at the very moment when we were most helplessly and hopelessly captured under the dominion of evil powers and pressures (verses 2-3) God in his love entered into history to save and redeem us. As verse 4 tells us, he is a God ‘rich in mercy’, a God who acts out of “love” which he used to love us even when we were dead in our sin.

The Greeks had three specific words to describe the intensity of love; agape, philos, and eros. Eros or a sexual love is not found in the New Testament. Philos is used to express the affection that one person feels for another and for the love that God has for people (John 16:27). Agape is usually used in the NT for the love of God. It is the kind of selfless love that focuses on the welfare of the other person rather than one’s own self-interest. Agape love is the love with which God loves us.

It was God who chose life for us, making salvation a free and unmerited gift in Christ. By this unmerited gift we were granted the most amazing gifts; we were raised with Christ and given a seat in the heavenly places; from paupers, he made us princes.

Paul wants to reiterate that point made so strongly in Galatians ( 2:16). It was grace and by grace alone that we were saved. Charis which comes from the Hebrew word chessed, most often refers to the grace or the undeserved favour of God. In Galatians, Paul opposed the idea that one was saved by “works of the law.” Here, the problem of works of the law is not specifically mentioned but rather “works” in general. This represents a broadening of Paul’s point to apply to all human efforts designed to earn and secure salvation.

But this author by no means minimizes the importance of good works. However, while good works have a role to play the person we become it was not good works that saved us. Good works is not a way or as for the Jews, the way to salvation. God did not look at a list but he looked at those who were lost. Such amazing and unmerited grace DEMANDS a response of faith. God may open his heart to us but if we do not respond to his amazing grace then we out of step and we slip (paraptoma). Once again satan has bit our heel and like a game of snakes and ladders we slip  (transgression) and miss the mark (hamartia) and fall again.

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