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God's grace in Ephesians 2

Lynne Baab • Thursday October 29 2020

God's grace in Ephesians 2

I had an interesting conversation with a friend about two months into the pandemic. She was working very hard at her job (from home), and she was eating really well and getting in her 10,000 steps every day. She said that deep inside, a voice was telling her that if she did everything well enough, God would release her from the demands of sheltering in place.

I wonder if any of you have felt somewhat like my friend – now in the pandemic or at other times of your life. “If I just do things right, then God will approve of me and bless me.”

The Apostle Paul addresses that pattern of thought in Ephesians 2. He begins the chapter by saying that we “were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived” (verses 1 and 2).  After talking about sin for a couple of verses, he moves to the topic of grace:

4But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – 6and  raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

Notice the repetition in verses 5 and 8: “by grace you have been saved.” Notice the other words that convey ideas related to grace: “mercy” and “great love” in verse 4, “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us” in verse 7, and “gift of God” in verse 8.

Ephesians 2 has been a key passage for me many times when I have started down the path of self-justification before God, when I’m trying to prove something to God or to myself. Grace, mercy, great love, kindness, and gift are key characteristics of God that I try to nurture in my mind and heart, over and over and over.

Oddly enough, the last verse in the passage indicates that our actions do matter: “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” (verse 10). My friend’s hard work serves others. Her healthy eating and consistent exercise help make her physically and emotionally strong so she can serve. All of the ways we live our daily lives matter. However, we too often feel tempted to view our daily habits as a way to earn God’s approval rather than as aids to help us walk the path that God has prepared for us as beloved, grace-filled children of God.

God of grace, mercy, great love, and kindness, help us accept the gift of your love for us. Help us rest in your presence as your beloved. Help us serve and love others out of the abundance of the great love you have given us. Help us to nurture the healthy daily habits that enable us to be your people in the world. Thank you for your grace shown to us in Jesus. Amen.

(Next week: Partners in experiencing God's grace. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love to get new subscribers. Sign up below to get an email when I post on this blog.)

Need a boost in challenging times? Do you find it hard to navigate both sadness and gratitude? Check out my book, Two Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian Life, which encourages us to hold grief in one hand and gratitude in the other. It guides us into experiencing both the brokenness and abundance of God's world with authenticity and hope, drawing on the Psalms, Jesus, Paul, and personal experience. It is available for kindle and in paperback, 80 pages. To see my other books and Bible study guides, look here.

This afternoon I’m recording a podcast about listening for a chaplaincy podcast. I’ll give you the link when it’s online. So today I’m thinking about listening, and here are resources I have written:

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