Drawn to the Cross: In Grace
You were dead through the trespasses and sins 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. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and sense, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 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--by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and sealed us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God--not the results of works, so that no one may boast. 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. -Ephesians 2:1-10
So John Newton, the author of The hymn we sang, Amazing Grace, wrote those words after having a transformation in his life, coming to faith, he had been a captain of a slave ship and recognized that there were things in his life that he needed to set right. And so that opening verse, Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. Once was lost, but now I'm found was blind, but now I see. It doesn't sound like a good state of affairs that he's recounting in that hymn. But Paul would even go a step further. He begins our reading this morning by saying You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, you weren't just a wretch, you weren't just blind. You were dead. Now, he must not be talking about literal death here because he had an audience that was hearing him, but yet... I think there's a lot of truth to that. He said that You know what the life you're living right now, you're on a road that's only leading to one place, to the grave, you're living by your own standards, your own whims, your own wants, your own wishes, and your oblivious to what God would have you to do...
And he says that this life that you're living is so insubstantial, he says that you're following the rulers of the power of the air that you can't even grasp and put your fingers around... It's nothingness. And this is how you're living. Now, when it comes to this grace that we receive from God, we often recognize and trust that we have a role to play in this... Paul spends the first three verses of this passage talking about all of these things that people are pursuing that are leading to death, he said we lived in this, this was the life that we had, desires of flesh, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else, we're all in the same boat without Jesus Christ, he says, and for many of us, we wanna say, but at that point, we made a decision, we changed our lives, we turn things around and we accepted Jesus, and we wanna wedge that in there, but Paul doesn't go there.
Paul talks about what life is like before and without Jesus, and then verse 4, he says, 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. By grace, you have been saved. So life before Christ, dead. Life before Christ is bad, not good. And nowhere in there doesn't say that we do anything, because it goes from this life that is apart from God, that leads to death to... but God is rich in mercy. Now, Paul is gonna pick up on that more and talk about the fact that we didn't do this. This was God's doing. So that we cannot boast. But God is the one who initiated this. God isn't just merciful. God is rich in mercy. God has so much mercy that it covers a multitude. Even all of my sins, all of your sins, all of your shortcomings, all of those things that will make us unworthy. And yet God, rich in mercy, and out of this abundant and amazing love that offers us and brings us into life alongside of Christ is being offered to us.
So what did we do? What did we do to merit? Receiving this love. And the answer is nothing. It's grace. Pure and simple, it's grace. Grace is often defined as God's unmerited favor, something that we don't deserve, and yet God offers it to us anyway.