I'm preaching on Ephesians 2 tomorrow and, true to form, have way more content than I can communicate in the 30 minutes we have. I thought I might pop it up here to ease my conscience about not sharing it on Sunday. That's how this whole blog got started in the first place anyways.
In the first few verses of Ephesians 2, Paul charts four changes that happen when Jesus saves us. Here they are ...
1) We experience a change in state (from death to life)
2) We experience a change in motivation (from cravings to grace)
3) We experience a change in leadership (from the ruler of the kingdom of the air to King Jesus)
4) We experience a change in community (from those in that former kingdom to the new kingdom created in Jesus)
I'll still talk about the death to life transition on Sunday, though not in the depth I was planning to in my initial draft. This imagery around death communicates the desperation of our situation and our powerlessness to change it on our own. We don't just need a helper or a teacher; we need someone to come and save us. And that's just what Jesus has done. The same One who conquered death in his resurrection triumphs over the death that attempts to hold us still and bound.
The change in motivation corner of the passage is powerful. Paul pictures us as being motivated by the desires and thoughts that fan into flame the cravings of our flesh. Gratifying those cravings lead us step by step deeper into our enslavement. And people have learned to steer and manipulate us via our cravings: marketers, politicians, and even preachers. But Jesus wants to liberate us. He breaks the power of those cravings and gives us grace as a motivation.
We hardly ever think of grace as a driver of behavior (hence Paul's series of rhetorical questions in early Romans), but that doesn't change the fact that God loves to move us forward with grace as the motive power. We don't do the good works that he prepares in advance for us to do because we owe him something or are busy earning our keep. We dive into those good works because God has prepared them for us, the God we love and who loves us has prepared for us the gift of great, good work. And that's a beautiful thing.
Paul bounces off of the ruler of the kingdom of the air comment multiple times in this section of Ephesians. He has throughout the letter the cosmic scope of our salvation always in view, even if only out of the corner of his eye. The spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient leverages our bondage to transgression and sin and uses it against us, to hurt us and do us harm. He's driving the bus - not us - and he's driving it off of a cliff. Thank God Jesus takes the wheel. We can't do it ourselves (remember, we're dead). We need a better leader, one who loves us. We need a leader who has our best interests in mind and who cares for us. That's who we have in Jesus.
Finally, we look at Paul's language of a new community. He hints at it in the first several verses of chapter 2 and then dives fully in in the second half of the chapter (which Alex is preaching on next week). But suffice to say that the community we're a part of apart from Christ is a community marked by transgressions, sins, and disobedience. We drift away from God and isolate ourselves from each other. We form mono-ethnic enclaves and terrorize those who are different from us. We lost touch with compassion, mercy and love and become cold, hard, dead warriors for truth, justice and whichever way gives us power. How different this is from what Jesus offers us in his kingdom and in the new community that he's creating through his death and resurrection!
This is five minutes of rough scattershot, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I was sad that I didn't get to preach it.