I’m always jealous of preachers that can weave multiple texts into a single sermon. I normally find that I’m captured by one of the texts on any given Sunday to the exclusion of the others. One of my first sermon decisions is which text I focus on and which texts I let fall into the background. This last Sunday (July 10) was a difficult choice: John 8:1-11 (The Woman Caught in Adultery) was a text I’d never really studied in depth, and Ephesians 2:1-10 is one of the most beautiful and poetic passages in the Epistles. As you remember, John 8 was the focus of the sermon (how could it not be?), but I tried to weave in Ephesians 2:10 into the final point of the sermon:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Grace, God’s favor given because God chooses to extend it, has a purpose. Even in John 8, grace moves towards change. After Jesus tells the woman “neither do I condemn you” (vs. 11), Jesus follows with the command “go and sin no more.” The grace extended to the woman wasn’t just a random act, it was a creative act; it had a direction in which it moved: grace transformed the woman. Ephesians 2:10 is making the same point, God’s grace through faith, God’s gifts to us, are given with a direction, a purpose: to produce good works. People often get this wrong, they put the works in front of grace. The idea is never that our works earn or merit God’s favor; rather, God’s grace produces good works. The grace which saves us is never given because of what we do, but it is a grace that, once given, works.
Time, and the decision to focus on John 8, meant that I had to leave out one of the really profound images in Ephesians 2 last Sunday. In verses five and six, the writer traces our journey from those who cannot respond to God (“dead in our trespasses”) to our becoming the objects of God’s saving grace:
even when we were dead in 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,
Verse seven is a beautiful picture that gives a reason for this grace-through-faith gift of God to us:
so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
The “coming ages” are that future time when there is neither sin, sickness, suffering nor death. The text is not talking about tomorrow or next year, it’s talking about a new age when God’s wholeness has vanquished every vestige of the sin and death dynamic of our age. In this future age when only God’s wholeness is known, we (the objects of God’s grace through faith) exist to show “the immeasurable riches of God’s grace.” When God has vanquished everything that is antithetical to God’s peace, we will exist so that there are trophies of the immeasurable riches of God’s grace even then. That’s us, trophy wives, husbands and children.
Like I said, one of the really profound images in the Epistles.