OUR SUNDAY VISITOR
God is rich in mercy
Reading II : Ephesians 2:4-10
- The Letter to the Ephesians emphasizes that God’s salvation is a gift and not something earned by human effort.
- In the Hebrew Scriptures the major covenant virtues of love and fidelity are manifested in God and demanded of humans.
- In Ephesians we are told again that it is because of God’s great love and abundant mercy that we are brought to life in Christ.
SOURCE: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor
Feasting on the Word
Through Christ we are made alive
The imagery of this passage is vivid, and one option for preaching would be to shape a sermon that illustrates that imagery and moves with the shifts in Paul’s thinking. Paul leaps from the image of death (“you were dead,” v. 1) to life (“made alive together with Christ,” v. 5) to sitting with Christ on a throne (“seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” v. 6). Wow! Is that who we are? Imagine how the preacher might picture these dramatic changes accomplished for us in Christ. Maybe the sermon begins with a playful, joking illustration of “deathly” existence. But then the preacher turns serious and uses the writings of novelists or real-life stories to paint the living death of stale, meaningless existence. Then, through Christ, we are made alive. So the preacher gives concrete examples of the gladness and meaning of life together with Christ—stories of life with new purpose are appropriate here. Then the preacher turns to the amazing image of actually being seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Imagine that on a hard, failure-filled day. Imagine that when feeling excluded. Imagine that while facing the end of earthly life. Christ does more than bring us out of death to life; Christ makes us royalty.
SOURCE: Content taken from FEASTING ON THE WORD, YEAR B (12 Volume Set); David L. Bartlett (Editor); Copyright © 2011. Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.
God gave us spiritual life in Christ
SOURCE: Content taken from CHRIST-CENTERED EXPOSITION COMMENTARY (32 Volumes); David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida (Editors); Copyright © 2013-16. Holman Reference. All rights reserved.
Life Recovery Bible
God empowers us
Eph 2:1-10 Here Paul affirms two essential truths related to recovery: (1) we are all born with an evil nature, powerless to stand against our tendency toward sin and failure; (2) God is rich in mercy and love, and even though we are far from him and entrapped by sin, God graciously reaches out to us. God wants to forgive us and give us the power to rebuild our life. Through the work of Jesus Christ, God has already conquered the power of sin and death. When we admit that we need God’s help and ask him to act on our behalf, God empowers us to overcome our problems and dependency.
SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Life Application Study Bible
We stand acquitted
Eph 2:4, 5 In the previous verses Paul wrote about our old sinful nature (2:1–3). Here Paul emphasizes that we do not need to live any longer under sin’s power. The penalty of sin and its power over us were miraculously destroyed by Christ on the cross. Through faith in Christ we stand acquitted, or not guilty, before God (Romans 3:21, 22). God does not take us out of the world or make us robots—we will still feel like sinning, and sometimes we will sin. The difference is that before we became Christians, we were dead in sin and were slaves to our sinful nature. But now we are alive with Christ (see also Galatians 2:20).
SOURCE: Content taken from LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE NOTES, Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
CATHOLIC BIBLE STUDY
Salvation in Christ is a gift of Grace
by Michal Hunt
In today’s Second Reading, St. Paul reminds us that God is rich in mercy and always keeps His promises. God promised David that his kingdom would endure forever and a future Davidic heir would rule all nations (Ps 2:7-9). Jesus is that Davidic son and heir (Lk 1:31-32) whose sovereignty over all nations will restore all repentant sinners and bring them back from the exile of sin and death to the Promised Land of Heaven.
Our good deeds
St. Paul states that salvation from sin and death is God’s gift, and we should accept it in faith. Our good deeds cannot purchase our hoped-for justification and salvation; we cannot work our way to Heaven. Instead, our good deeds must be a manifestation of our purification and gratitude to God for His abundant love and mercy. The sinner who receives God’s forgiveness and restoration of fellowship with Him and the faith community should desire to do something good in return for the gift of God’s mercy and grace.
Salvation as a process
10 For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.
In this verse, as in Colossians 2:12 and Colossians 3:1-4, the use of the past tense indicates that the future event of Christians’ resurrection and glory united to Jesus in Heaven is considered an accomplished event. In other words, Jesus is victorious; He has conquered sin and death! All we have to do is to have the faith to claim victory in our journey to salvation. It is another example that one’s salvation is not a one-time event but is a process. St. Paul expresses this concept in his letters in the past, present, and future tenses.
As Christians, who are God’s masterwork, having received the gift of grace and a new life through the Sacrament of Baptism, we must provide a living example of our radically altered spiritual life. When we live up to the challenge of a holy life, we ratify God’s calling in electing us for eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven (2 Pt 1:10).
SOURCE: content taken from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. Section divisions and titles added.
Immeasurable riches of God’s grace
Points to consider
- This passage may sound like another remote treatise, especially inaccessible when it is translated so literally as required by the Lectionary. I will listen attentively for a truth that my listeners can appropriate for themselves.
- It begins: God is rich in mercy. This mercy is revealed in action, the great love he had for us such as we heard in the first reading and as we have seen in Jesus.
- As the reading progresses, we are always with Jesus: brought us to life with Christ … seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.
- And it ends with this awkward rendering: The good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. It is an echo of the Torah invitation to follow God’s commands and enter into life. The apostle insists once more that any good that we do is born of God and not of ourselves.
- Underneath all that I say is that divine longing that we can sense if we only bothered to pay attention. In the ages to come he might (that is, he longs to) show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ.
- Central point: God is in charge of our lives and has given them their final meaning. His kindness toward us, his handiwork.
- The message for our assembly: Jesus began it, and God shows us through him how we are to continue such a life of faithfulness in our own lives.
- I will challenge myself: To insist, at this middle day of Lent, on God’s work as bringing our own good intentions and efforts to perfection.
Salvation is God’s free gift
Ask the presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):
The letter to the Ephesians was written by a Jewish Christian convert, to Gentile Christian converts. It asserts that God’s plan was always to save all people. Like other writings of Saint Paul, this letter insists that salvation is God’s free gift in Christ, not earned by good works.
If you understand the first reading, you’re over half way to understanding the second. Paul is saying that, on our own, we deserve nothing from God, but that God chose to love, save and give life to us in Christ anyway. And the “us” includes both Jewish and Gentile Christians, treated together in these sentences (and distinctly in other parts of the letter), for in their own ways both groups were alienated from God and saved only by God’s grace.
Proclaiming the Passage
The first sentence is quite a mouthful. Read it to yourself over and over, until you understand its complicated structure. With numerous extra clauses, it says God did three things for one purpose. The three things are:
- brought us to life in Christ,
- raised us up with him, and
- seated us in the heavens
And the purpose is to show the immeasurable riches of God’s grace.
In proclaiming this you’ll do well to make it sound like more separate sentences, each manageably shorter, than the punctuation in our text suggests.
In the second half, Paul contrasts what we can achieve spiritually on our own (nothing) and what God gives us as undeserved grace (everything). Notice the several ways Paul states this theme. In each of those statements, make the contrasts heard.
By Grace You Have Been Saved
In the Book of Ephesians, St. Paul gives one of his most famous phrases, “By grace you have been saved.” And, without seeing the context of Paul’s use of this phrase, one can easily conclude that Paul is referring to being saved with regard to “final salvation,” and not being saved with regard to “initial salvation.” (This, of course, does not mean that it is not through grace that we achieve our final salvation, but, rather, that final salvation is outside of the scope of what Paul is speaking of in Ephesians 2:5).
Tim Staples — God’s Grace and Good Works
Ephesians 2:8-9: How can we understand the role of God’s grace in our good works? Tim Staples answers a caller on Catholic Answers Live.