Sacred Winds Ministries

Christian outreach through music and education.

These Great Things: By Grace Through Faith

Great truths are often communicated through metaphor.  Deep spiritual realities are best grasped by our minds with images common to our human experience. Jesus drew upon scenes and experiences of first-century life to make known the profound truths of the Kingdom of God. Ordinary water became living water. Ordinary bread became the bread of life.  Ordinary salt became the salt of the earth, and ordinary light became the light of the world. Ordinary birth became born again by the Spirit. Jesus himself became the Vine and those who abide in Him the branches. From the Old Testament prophets, to the Psalmists, to Jesus himself and through the Apostles, God’s Word comes to us in metaphors, making accessible the deep truths of God.

Ephesians 2 contains a striking metaphor that resonates to the core of human existence. A distinct feature of humanity is our shared self-awareness of our own existence and the contemplation of our mortality. Those in the first century, our century or any in between have and can comprehend the differences between a person who is alive and one who is dead. It’s so universal, tangible and concrete that no explanation is needed. Alive is alive; dead is dead.

Paul reminds the Ephesian Christians that they “were dead in their trespasses and sins.” Paul did not merely tell them they had possessed some kind of moral deficiency. He did not assert that they had suffered a sickness or handicap. They had been dead. However, the point of the letter is not to dwell on the past, but to celebrate the present. God has worked a true miracle in those who have put their faith in Christ. Those who were once dead God has now made alive.

The force of the contrast of this metaphor is astounding. We can understand something deficient being strengthened. We can relate to something broken being repaired. We can even imagine someone badly injured being rescued from the edge of death. But we cannot relate to how a dead person could become alive. That just doesn’t happen. Or, does it?       

The deadness that Paul speaks of is of a spiritual nature. He is writing to those who were physically alive; however, the power of death is in full play in the metaphor. The inability of something dead to exert change on itself leads perfectly into Paul’s emphasis on the grace of God.

Spiritual deadness had been evidenced with certain outward expressions. Paul describes the once-dead Ephesians as walking in trespasses and sins, following the course of this world and the prince of the power of the air, and living in the passions of the flesh. This spiritual reality made them objects of God’s just wrath. But because they were dead, they were powerless to change themselves. They were hopelessly lost.

But God intervened with His mercy and love. And through the sheer act of His will, He transformed death into life. Those who had been consigned to God’s Sacred Winds 2016wrath were now rescued. The word grace captures this miraculous event.  Paul declares, “by grace you have been saved.” This is the Greek word charis. The English word grace used to translate charis comes from the Latin gratia.   From charis to gratia to grace, the word maintains the same basic meaning. The overall sense the word means kindness. Like many words, the word grace is somewhat elastic. It can also carry the connotations of favor, good will or thanks. This is why we can talk about God’s grace, or being gracious to others, or saying grace before we eat.

In Ephesians 2, the context is about God’s salvation of sinners. Therefore, we understand grace here to refer to the intentional act of God to show kindness to sinners. Paul reminds the Ephesians that this grace has been given as a gift, not as a reward. Receiving God’s grace is only a result of faith, not a result of any human moral effort or rule keeping. Grace is why God has intervened into the lives of the spiritually dead and breathed life into them. Grace is His unconditional love. Grace is His unmerited kindness. Grace is the gift of His favor to those who believe.

Christ is how the Father has given this grace. Paul declared that the Ephesians had been made alive “together with Christ.” Believers have been “raised up” and seated in “the heavenly places” with Christ Jesus. In twenty separate references to Christ in this chapter Paul drives home that God’s grace to sinners has been made available through the person and work of Jesus. Christ is the hinge upon which the grace of the Father turns. And this grace has been extended beyond the borders of Israel. Jesus may have been the Messiah of which Israel’s prophets spoke, but he came for all. God had made His original covenants with Israel, and the Ephesians and many others were not part of that history. But now, through the blood of Christ, they have been brought near, and the wall that once divided peoples had been broken down. The Father had brought together both Jew and non-Jew and made them spiritually one in Christ.

Paul concludes his thought with another metaphor. Because of God’s grace through Christ, all believers are part of a new living temple of God. This new temple’s foundation was laid with Christ as the cornerstone along with the prophets and apostles. Now, each believer is being fitted perfectly into the building which is the dwelling place for God by the Spirit. God’s grace has not only reconciled individual sinners back to God, but has brought all the nations together into one spiritual people who collectively are the dwelling place of Almighty God.  

Grace is why the Father saves sinners. Jesus, the Son, is how He accomplishes salvation. The result is the glory He receives back. Those who believe become the displays of his “immeasurable riches of grace” now and for eternity. Furthermore, every believer now becomes God’s workmanship that will walk in good works to the praise of His glory. There can be no human boasting in this saving relationship, but only glory given to the One who makes it possible for the dead to live. In the end, recipients of this grace humbly and joyfully proclaim these great things!   

Daryl Cornett (PhD, Mid-America Seminary) serves as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Hazard, KY. He is also a member of the board of directors for Sacred Winds Ministries, Inc.

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Upcoming Events

Jun
9
Sun
6:00 pm 2024 Summer Concert: Knowing God
2024 Summer Concert: Knowing God
Jun 9 @ 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm
The Sacred Winds Ensemble continues their Great Christian Books series by exploring JI Packer’s Knowing God. The concert will feature works by James Curnow, John Mackey, John Gibson, Keith Getty, Laura Story, Adolphus Hailstork, and[...]