Thursday, March 20, 2014

Created in Christ for Good Works

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 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, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Eph 2
Justified by grace through faith,
For good works created before hand
United as one in Christ, being built together as a temple for God.
The three thoughts expressed in this chapter.
We were dead in our trespasses, we could do no good. This is important. Either we are with Christ or against Christ. Either we are alive in him and therefore doing good works in him, or we are dead in our trespasses and we do evil as children of wrath. We belong to the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of the devil this world’s prince. This is our default position, what we are born to, sons of disobedience, children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. This is the hard thing for people to understand, those who think religion is about being good and doing good in order to earn heaven.
Aren’t we judged by our works? It is the question we as Lutherans’ are often asked. Scripture talks about it here and there, we even confess this in the Athanasian Creed. So we answer sure, we will be judged according to our works. But if you want good works you need Christ. Only in and through him can we do good works, apart from him everything we do is bad and evil. It just is, no matter how good it looks to us. It is either done in service to God as a child of God made alive in Christ, or it is done in service to the prince of this world as children of wrath. In faith we have good works, even if we don’t see them ourselves, without faith we have none, even if we think we do. Just as the devil will appear as an angel of light, so evil and bad works will often appear good and pleasing, fruit pleasing to the eye, like the fruit that deceived Adam and Eve to sin. This is most certainly true when the work is used as a means by which to reject the love and sacrifice of Christ on the cross, to say that we are capable of earning our salvation. When the aim of our works is our salvation, something that has already been given to us in Christ, then they are evil through and through. No, only on the basis of our salvation in Christ, or creation in him for good works are we able to do good works, and these works do not have our salvation as their goal, but the salvation of our neighbor. These good works we do together. Not as individuals but as members of Christ’s body who are being built up together as a dwelling place for God.
This is the communion of saints, because saints work together for the common good of the Kingdom of God. It is not that you as an individual are created in Christ for good works, but we are created in Christ. Together we are one in a mystical union, every one of us having been buried into the death of Christ and united with him there, that we could be raised to walk in the newness of life. Now we do. It is a walk we take together, the good works the common wealth of Israel. So all divisions of race, of class, of education are torn down, the dividing wall of hostility broken in pieces and pulverized like the Berlin wall in Christ. For in the church we are all one, made one, a dwelling place of God together despite all that might possibly divide us in the secular world. Here we work as one for the common good of all together. Here together we, we do the good works prepared for us beforehand, being united together in him abiding together in him as together we partake of his body and blood. And the good works we do all have as one main focus, the death and resurrection of Christ for the justification of mankind, the salvation of humanity. For there is no better work than to share the work of Christ on the cross with friends, family, coworkers and neighbors, then the fruit of our salvation is the cross, the fruit of a different tree, a fruit that does not look so pleasing to the eye, the body of Christ, whipped, tortured, and beaten, dead and limp on a cross. But this fruit is the fruit that has died to this world of death, to rise again to new life in the kingdom of God.

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