“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 senses, 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 seated 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 result 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.”
“The faith, [Paul] means, is not from ourselves; for if [Christ] had not come, if He had not called, how should we be able to believe? . . . Thus the work of faith is not ours.” -St. John Chrysostom
Summary – This is one of those hard-hitting Reformational texts. St. Paul built up the case for what God has done in “pre-history,” behind-the-scenes, for our salvation, but now brings it back to earth. There are two sections here: verses 1-3 paint a bleak picture of man’s state. Hopeless. Dead–not dying, dead. Verses 4-10 turn a million candle spotlight on the bleak picture as God in Christ re-paints it. Hopeful, alive, and living.
Insight – Things can be miraculous in the Kingdom of God. Not only does God call humble people of the world to make the proud ashamed (1Cor 1:18-25), He also calls dead people to life to re-make the world. Remember the story of Jesus’ good friend Lazarus who died, but Jesus called him back to life? Think of the Kingdom of God that way. All people in the world, because of sin, are “dead”–like Lazarus. The turning point is the first two words of verse 4: “But God.” Lazarus was dead, “But Jesus” showed up. We and all people were dead in our sins, but because God is merciful He “made us alive with Christ.” But that’s not the end of the story. While God was calling us to faith in Him, He was preparing good works for us to do. Soon after Jesus raised Lazarus, the two of them were feasting together (Jn 12). We were not saved to leave this world, but to work under Christ’s leadership to re-make it. So thank God for the gift of faith–it was not your doing. And work in this world for God that His Kingdom may come and His will be done!
Child Catechism – How can sinful people believe in God? God allows them to believe.
Discussion – What are the implications of being “dead” in sin? If our salvation and new life in Christ is an un-doing of Adam’s sin, what re-starts as the redeemed begin to walk in good works? (Hint: what was Adam supposed to do in the world before he sinned?)
Prayer – Father since you tell us that no one can call on your name without your grace, we recognize now that our prayer is possible only because of your grace. Make us a thankful people and keep us from boasting in our salvation, since it is not our doing. Lead us as we live in this world and may your Kingdom come here in this world. Amen