(Ephesians 2:8-10, 17-22)
Millport Mennonite Church, Nov. 20, 2011
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:8-10)
Who is this God who supposedly created us for good works? Since we live in a pluralistic world where the term “God” does not automatically translate into the same thing or reality or person for everyone, we must seek first to establish who God is that Paul is referring to in this passage. Failure to answer this question I believe, is failure to understand who we are as Christians and hence failure to understand our purpose. Paul made sure that we were not left to our own discoveries as to who this God is. From Ephesians, the God Paul is referring to, is none other than the father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3).
This God is not like the other gods and idols that are the object of worship for many people today in our culture. This God is the creator of all that exists. This God is not hidden; this God has made self revelations in many ways but more fully in Jesus Christ. Any other revealed gods that do not have Jesus Christ as the full revelation deserves no worship from us! This is because through Jesus, God the creator has blessed us, chosen us, redeemed us and declared his plan to us (Eph. 1:3-14).
We are therefore, a people chosen by God because of God’s grace and loved dearly by God; we are not our own, we are called for a purpose. This purpose is that we join the creator through Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit in redeeming the entire creation. This is because God loves the world and invites the world to love Him back.
As I read this passage I see apostle Paul retelling an old story in a new context while maintaining the purpose of the original story. In Genesis 12, God called Abram and Sarai from their pagan background. God blessed them and commissioned them to go forth and be a blessing to all peoples on earth (Gen. 12:1-3). This story continues in the Exodus, when the chosen people of God were a delivered people from the Egyptian slavery by an outstretched arm and a strong right hand in order for them to go forth and worship God and in their worship to witness to the world about the creator and redeemer God.
It follows that from that Exodus story, God is forever known as redeemer, protector, provider etc. Likewise, in Christ we as followers of Jesus have been redeemed through his shed blood and are therefore freed to worship and witness for Christ as the new people of God. This is in line with God’s plan to finally bring all things together in Christ; things in heaven and on earth (Eph. 1:10).
This mandate to worship and witness is quite a challenge to us in our seemingly disconnected lives characterized by the chasm between our faith convictions or profession and how we actually live our lives. The message I believe is that our lives ought to put on display our faith. Israel was called and redeemed in order to worship God and that through their worship the world would be led to join in the worship of the creator God. Therefore, Israel was to embody God’s vision that the redemption has already began and that the creator did not abandon the creation to its own devises. Like delivered Israelites in Exodus, as followers of Jesus we ought to embody that same message for our families, our neighbors and all the people around the world. After all the apostle reminds us in Ephesians that what we know about God and what we do for God must not be separated.
I believe that when there is such a chasm between belief and life, our capacity to be missional in the world gets greatly diminished because our witness gets skewed by how we live our lives. Don’t just tell people about the Good News of Jesus live the Good News. As the Holy Spirit empowers us, we are to embody what Christ already did in himself; in him all things come together, the walls of hostility are broken. The point is you are created in Christ for good works (Eph.2: 10).
But just in case we are mistaken here, Paul makes it very clear that all the blessings we have in Christ as followers of Jesus comes not as a result of our works; it comes because we are saved by God’s grace. Our mission is God’s mission not our own mission. We are co-creators with God charged with a mandate to remind the world that the creator has not given up on it, in fact the creator is redeeming the world through God’s son who loved the world and gave his life for the world and has commissioned the Church to carry the mission forward through the Holy Spirit.
Therefore with that view in mind, we can confidently say through the eyes of faith the world is God’s good creation even though the realities around us seem to say otherwise. Having said that, we also must remember that whenever God is at work, there will always be a cross to bear this is why Jesus invited his followers to deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow him. The question is, what does cross bearing mean for you as individuals, as families and even collectively as a congregation? Could it mean stepping out of your comfort zone and doing some uncomfortable things because the Lord has called you? For Paul, it meant being imprisoned for the sake of Christ. Take sometime and ponder this question.
Because we are God’s chosen and redeemed people, God is working through us his church to declare his vision for the entire creation. Through the Church (you) God’s manifold wisdom is declared to the principalities and powers, to the controlling forces of the world that attempts to make us subservient to them (Eph.3:10).
In Christ and through Christ, we are empowered and called forth to live out the life of the new creation as the Spirit empowers us. In the world we live in are controlling forces that use money, sex and power, as well as political influence and positions that tempt us to live in their own ways. These powers must know that Jesus Christ is Lord and they are not.
These powers must know that in Christ the dividing walls of hostility fall as people’s lives are transformed in him this transformation brings forth unity as the people of God unite and show the powers that be that they are not in charge of the world, Jesus alone is. Politicians and political allegiances must not dislodge Jesus as our Lord and savior and therefore the one to whom our first priority and allegiance in life rests. We are called to be instruments of God’s redemptive plan in Jesus. We must not live as if our faith does not matter and we must be prepared to carry the cross as we follow Jesus as his disciples. We are created in Christ for Good works! Amen!