This week we’re continuing our study on the book of Ephesians. The four of us (Ty, Scott, Zach and Greg) have really wrestled through a lot together on the concept of grace, and have come to some really impactful understandings. We want to share some of them, but encourage you to jump into this short letter found in scripture. Read it. Reread it. Write down your thoughts. Ask God about it. Talk with someone else and invite them into conversation. We really do get to learn a lot when we engage with scripture and community.
Ephesians is full of reminders and encouragement, and is a letter from Paul written to the people of Ephesus on what Christian life and community can really look like. It’s a great bridge between Jesus’ teachings on the kingdom of Heaven, and Paul’s own focus on salvation. Paul rarely talks about the kingdom in his other epistles but makes reference to it here. It’s an amazing reminder that the gospel has a much bigger purpose than sin management.
After reading through this letter, a great question to ask might be:
What is necessary for Christian community to thrive?
Paul talks about some of these things, and God’s empowering grace is the central theme of this whole book.
A lot of it is written almost like a chatchism. Maybe you grew up in a mainline denomination, went through confirmation, and are very familiar with catechism. Maybe you’re thinking, “cat-a-what?”
Catechism really is just Christianity 101. It’s used in some denominations as a way of teaching people, children and adults, what Christianity is really all about and what Christian doctrine consists of.
Ephesians is a letter Paul wrote to a church that he had previously planted on a missionary journey. He spent two years with them and then moved on to other things. Time passed, Paul ended up in prison in Rome because of his faith, and as he’s in prison he writes this letter to the people of Ephesus, almost a “back to the basics” of sorts.
Ephesians breaks down into a pretty clear progression.
Jesus is into us and He chose us. Last week we had the conversation, “What are you going to do with what you have been given?”
Grace is for you. And grace is actually for all people.
This grace equips us to be set apart, and to live as God’s people, able to accomplish far more than we could without His grace.
You may be wondering or have already thought what is grace actually?
Grace is simple elegance or refinement of movement.
Wait. That’s the wrong one.
Grace is the free and unmerited favor of God. It’s us getting from God what we don’t deserve. Paul talks about the grace of God appearing to offer salvation to all people in Titus. He says in Romans that grace plays out in God demonstrating his love by having Jesus die on our behalf even while we were sinners.
Okay, I get it. Grace is undeserved stuff from God. I can google verses about grace all day long. But how do I move from
“Grace? Yeah, I get it.”
“Grace? Oh yeah, I GET it. I am in it. I am it. I swim around in it. It goes through me. I’ve experienced it firsthand. I’ve seen it change me and others.”
A couple of questions to help break apart the tendency to just “get the right answer”, and to realize that true understanding requires that we learn to see the world through the lens of grace.
Can someone give and/or receive grace while being oblivious to it? Why or why not?
Can someone be forced to give and/or receive grace? Why or why not?
Paul communicates so much truth about grace and identity is Ephesians 2. He says we were dead in sins without Jesus, deserving of God’s wrath, but because of His love for us God chose to make us alive in Christ and save us by grace.
Remember who you were apart from Christ and that you have been brought close. Don’t forget it! As you continually remember this grace, let it be something that joins you and other followers of Jesus together as a holy temple to the lord.
You see, grace isn’t given to us just so we can feel good about what God has done (though we can), or so that we can go to heaven when we die (though we will.) Eternal life has already begun in Jesus, and grace was given so that we may join together with other believers “as members of God’s household” and “as a temple to the lord.”
That is an amazing picture that we are so much better together.
So what is your responsibility in joining together as members of God’s household and as a temple to the Lord?
These responsibilities have to be pursued through grace or they will just be us struggling as humans. We could take the other side and just focus on the grace given to us and never step into actually joining together as members of God’s household.
Paul’s writing here and other places shows the beautiful marriage of impossible grace realized that leads to empowered living and building up the body of christ.
Take a minute and pull out your bible or open your bible app and read Ephesians 2. It won’t take long.
Think through everything that Paul says we, followers of Jesus, the body of Christ, can claim as true now that we’re in him.
You are alive in Jesus.
You have been saved by grace.
You are God’s handiwork.
You have access to God.
You are not under the law but under grace.
Take a moment to reflect. Do you really understand these as true and believe that this is how God actually sees you?
We can come up with all kinds of reasons why we’re disqualified from God’s grace, but scripture is the story of God coming to all kinds of people, disqualified in every way imaginable, and saying
I say that you’re qualified, and I’m not basing it on your track record. I’m basing it on mine. Remember this and let it empower everything you do.
These truths were in place long before we were born, or even before we said yes to Jesus. They are true because God says they are, but understanding and applying these truths to our own lives absolutely changes how we live.
Grace is for me. It’s for you. It’s for us, the body of Christ. And it’s for those who are not yet part of the body. And this grace leads us to see ourselves, our friends and family, our neighbors, and other followers of Jesus the way He sees. Through God’s grace, we live out the exact things God has spoken as true over us since before time began.
Where are you in the process of understanding, applying and being empowered by grace?
Take It Deeper Questions:
Read Ephesians 2
What is your ancestral heritage? How does that heritage impact where you are today?
Define grace by illustrating it in a parable or a story.
How is it possible to know about God’s grace while it has no personal impact?
How has your understanding of God’s grace changed over time?
How does Paul’s understanding of God’s grace impact his life?
How does a lifelong process of greater understanding of God’s grace impact your life?
Bible Reading Plan:
Some great places to be reading as we talk through Ephesians:
2 Corinthians 12:1-10