Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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The Riches of His Grace!!3/18/2012
Dear friends,

God's Peace to you!

One of the most difficult concepts for us as human beings to grasp, to understand and to believe is the reality that God is gracious to all. The five letters of G R A C E have been used as an acronym to bring forth this truth in this manner: God's Riches At Christ's Expense. That is essentially what has happened through the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. In our text from Ephesians and from our other readings today, we will see this from various angles.

In the Old Testament reading that Dave will read, (Numbers 21:4-9) we see a historical happening that Jesus drew upon when He was speaking to his followers in the New Testament (John 3:14-21) when He was trying to get them to understand that He was the One who was sent to save the them. Often we struggle with the simplicity of the Gospel of the Good News of Jesus Christ because we as humans live in a world that makes success dependent upon effort and merit. We think: "There must be something that we must do to be saved."

Our text shows that we were dead in sins, God made us alive and that now being alive in Christ, we walk in the good works that God has ordained that we should walk in. We desire to walk in obedience because we have been saved and not in order to be saved. May the Lord open this passage of Scripture to our minds and hearts today so that we can live in true freedom in His Spirit! Instead of being bound to live for self, we have been freed from serving self so that we may serve Him by serving others.

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Our text of meditation is from Apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesians and is one of the clearest explanations of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus, who we are as Christians in that we believe that which God has done for us and what this means as to how we conduct our lives today in this present world. Our text is from Ephesians 2:1-10 which could be outlined in this fashion.

2:1-3 We were dead in sin and not able to deliver ourselves.

2:4-9 God has made us alive in Christ through the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

2:10 God has created us to live in the power of the resurrected Christ, which do by grace through faith.

A number of the other letters that the Apostle Paul wrote addressed specific points but in this letter that does not seem to be the case, but rather it is a general letter that is written to describe how God has so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

As always when we take a portion of Scripture from within a book, it is important to review that part of the letter/book that comes before the text in consideration in the meditation so that we will understand our text in the right context. Therefore, let us outline the first chapter of this affirming, encouraging aand instructive letter to us.

In the first 12 verses, our beloved brother speaks of that which God has done and that which He has delivered unto us through the Gospel. God did this because that is what He has always wanted to do independent of any merit on our part. After communicating to the hearers of the grace of God that is theirs in verse 2, Paul breaks forth in praise, saying; Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: and then goes on to list in detail what these blessings are. Interwoven in these beautiful words of grace one can sense not only the great love that motivated our God to be our God in loving and saving us, but also the great thankfulness that Paul had for this indescribable gift of union in Jesus Christ which is salvation.

Paul moves from his descriptions of what God done through Christ to the means by which this knowledge is imparted to us when he writes: KJV Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,KJV Ephesians 1:14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Essentially he is saying that this gift of grace through faith has been received through the hearing of this Gospel and that the evidence of this reception is the testimony of the Holy Spirit within the hearers. They have heard the Gospel, they have believed it and are living in the knowledge of what God has done for them. According to Paul, that is their beginning of their faith walk/journey and so that they would come to a clearer and greater understanding of this reality, he, in verse 15, begins to pray for them after edifying them through the acknowledgement that Christ lives in them. He does not pray at all about their circumstances of life, but rather he prays in this manner:

15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

If one follows this prayer carefully, it becomes apparent that Paul was praying for them so that through enlightenment of the Spirit of God, that they would grow in these three aspects of their faith walk:

1) That they may know what the hope of their calling into which God has called them.

2) That they might know the riches of their glorious inheritance that God has given them with the saints.

3) That they with him would know the immeasureable greatness of his power toward us according to. because of the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him above every name that is named....

Christ is seated in the heavenlies and has been give all authority and all power. This is the God who has decided to be our God, the One who has done all this through His Son Jesus Christ and the One who has loved us and given this Gift of His Son for us, has come to us in Him and now He lives in us and we in Him. Wow! Wow!

Now as we begin the second chapter, the hearers are reminded of what they have been delivered from and how this deliverance occurred. It is as if Paul tells them: "This is what you have,(in the first chapter) but this is what you once were. Think about it. To hear of what we once were and to be reminded of the deliverance that we have received by God is always a benefit to us and for us. Let us read the first three verses of chapter 2.

KJV Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

The Apostle is describing the state of humanity before the redemption that Christ accomplished and the state of anyone before coming to a place of repentance toward God and faith towards Jesus Christ.
It is the state of all who have come under the condemnation of sin because of the fall, a condition which no one is able to rouse themselves out of since they are dead. In the fifth chapter of Romans we see this explained:

Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

Now he reminds them of that which God has done because of the richness of His mercy and because of His love. Instead of allowing us to remain dead in sins and trespasses, He has made us to live through Christ so that when Christ was made alive, we were made alive. This is a beautiful place in the Scripture in which a "but" brings good news rather than not so good news. We remember how often the Apostle Paul in the beginning of his letters affirms and encourages those to whom he is writing and then proceeds with a "but." By this I mean that he has opened his dialogue with warmth and thankfulness, and then proceeds to talk about some of the things that he has concerns about in their life of faith.

Here in our text Paul is able to give a good "but" if one could call it that. For after stating the reality that they were dead, he used the word "but" in a positive manner so that he can transition to the good news of what God has done for them in Christ. Christ lives in them, in us and this means that we are in union with Him as we have been raised to life eternal, whereby we are sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Wow! We have been raised to a new life, we are no longer dead, but because He lives we live. We are not able to come to life outside of His life.

It seems important here to say that God is the one who has raised us from the dead and has brought us to life. God has done the raising and He wants that we would come not only to the knowledge of this reality but to a greater knowledge of this truth and live this reality out in our everyday life. We are not defeated by the world, by the devil and by our own flesh. We have been lifted out of that darkness and brought into the light which means that we now live the life of Christ. His thoughts become our thoughts, His desires become our desires, and His actions become our actions. If we want to know what He thought, what He said and what He did, we simply need to follow Him around as He walked and talked during his some 3 plus years here on this earth as it is detailed in the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Again we see the abundant and exceeding riches of God's grace mentioned, along with the word kindness, which is showed us through Christ Jesus. After God raised humanity through Christ through which He demonstrated his love toward the world, He has since then through the display of all creation, through the words of the Bible and through the presence of Christ in His body, been revealing his heart of indescribable grace in his kindness toward the world in through Christ Jesus. It continues yet today, and in spite of the rejection by those who do not yet understand His grace, God continues to pour out His grace upon the world, desiring that through His kindness and goodness many would turn to Him in true worship.

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Grace again is mentioned here. It is a gift of God, it is not something that we must earn or even can earn. There is absolutely no reason for bragging or boasting, for it has been given to us.
He is telling them that they had nothing to do with their state of being in this grace. It is a gift of God and not something that they received through effort or merit.. We were initially created by God, He saw that it was good, but this particular place in Scripture does not seem to point to that creation. They/we were created, fell, but were recreated in Christ Jesus. We were originally created to be in union with God, to live in fellowship with HIm and to walk with Him. Now through Christ we live in this original design.

The tension between faith and works is always a struggle for the human mind, for the two extremes often pop up when that discussion is entered into. One extreme says that since we are saved by grace through faith, nothing else matters. The other extreme maintains that it is not enough to just believe, but that one do certain things in order to be a Christian. One could write page upon page in the discussion of this oft discussed relationship. A good friend of mine said it quite simply a few years ago to me when he said: "We do good works because we are saved and not in order to be saved." How does one improve upon that statement? That is essentially what the Apostle Paul says in the last three verses of our text. For he says that we are saved by grace through faith and that we are God's creation whose default is to live as Christ lived, loved and served. We program a computer to have a home page so that everytime the computer turns on it comes to the home page that we have directed it to. This is similar to our "default" in God's eyes. We are created to be like Jesus in our attitudes, our words and our actions. This we live in through the power of the Holy Spirit.

How could we illustrate this? Perhaps by comparing a tadpole and a frog. A tadpole is the beginning of the life of a frog and it is meant to be a frog. A frog never goes back to being a tadpole, even though it may want to do so. A frog begins as a tadpole but is not designed to remain a tagpole.

A caterpillar is destined to be a butterfly and its beginnings are largely unseen. It can never go back to being a caterpillar, for it is designed to be a butterfly.

We are designed to be in union with God, and while the union was broken through the fall, in Christ we have been recreated to be that which we were originally designed to be and to do. We may want to go back to an existence of death, but that is not what God wants and that is not what He has designed us for. We have been created for life! Not only to live for ourselves, but in order that we might exhibit this life to others by our attitudes, our words and our actions. For that is what Christ did for us and wishes in us and through us.

This is what it means that we "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk/live in them."

May we pray the prayer that Paul prayed for his beloved brothers and sisters in Christ:

Lord, you have made us alive in Christ, we who were dead in sins and trespasses, you have raised us from death to life and you have given us the down payment of this possession through the Holy Spirit. We ask that you would give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of you. Dear Father, enlighten our eyes of understanding, so that we may know what is the hope of our calling, so that we would know the riches of the glory of our inheritance in the saints, and that we would know the exceeding greatness of your power towards us who believe. For your power was shown to be mighty, that which you did in Christ when you raised Him from the dead and set Him at your right hand in the heavenly places. Far above anything or anyone else, and He is now ruling and guiding the church here on earth through His Spirit. Lord, we thank you that you have called us to be a partaker of His body, the church, in which the communion of saints His love is experienced, in part we know, but one day it will be in fulness by experience.

May the exceeding riches of His grace be yours today in Christ Jesus!

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 18 Mar 2012 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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