2 At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. 2 You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. 3 At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else.
4-5 However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! 6 And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. 7 God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.
8 You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. 9 It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. 10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.
11 So remember that once you were Gentiles by physical descent, who were called “uncircumcised” by Jews who are physically circumcised. 12 At that time you were without Christ. You were aliens rather than citizens of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of God’s promise. In this world you had no hope and no God. 13 But now, thanks to Christ Jesus, you who once were so far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:1-13, Common English Bible)
Today we finish it. Over the past week or so, we have looked at the various parts of an ancient statement of faith (but not the oldest, that is the Nicene Creed), The Apostle’s Creed. We started Wednesday of last week with the first part of the Creed, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth…” We centered in on the first person of the Trinity and how God created all that is, all we can see and all we cannot.
On Thursday we checked in with the second person of the Trinity and the second section of the Creed. “…and in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified dead and buried, the third day he rose from the dead and sittith at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.” It is the longest part of the creed. This part of the creed brings to light that Jesus come to earth and lived as one of us. He walked and talked and breathed just like one of us. He lived and died just like any other human. But he rise again and because of him we have salvation.
On Friday we finished the portion of the creed on the Trinity when we said, “I believe in the Holy Spirit…” The Holy Spirit, who conceived Jesus but who Jesus sent to live as one of us, and lead us through our lives, if we choose to follow.
Tuesday of this week we picked back up again with “I believe… the holy catholic church, the communion of saints…” Earlier in its history, prior to the Protestant Reformation, the creed probably did not hold the level of controversy it holds today. The controversy centers around three words, “holy catholic church.” Many people hold that this part of the creed refers to the Roman Catholic Church. That is the upper case “C” for Catholic. The word “catholic” in the creed has a lower case “c” form and means “universal.” We also talked about the communion of saints and that by nature of faith, we are all saints.
Yesterday we spoke of confession and forgiveness. Our section of the Creed was “…The forgiveness of sin…” Specifically we said, that through grace God wants to forgive us but we must confess to have forgiveness. That doesn’t mean going to a priest for some formal confession, but that we, when we confess, will find forgiveness through grace.
Today is our conclusion. “I believe in…the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”
The story goes that a preacher died and went to heaven. He stood at the pearly gates where Peter questioned him before admitting him to the Holy Kingdom. “Pastor,” St Peter said, “We work on a point system here. It takes 100 points to get into heaven.” At first the pastor is indignant. “It takes 100 points to get into heaven.” Slowly, however, a smile starts to appear on his face. “Well St. Peter, I have preached the gospel every Sunday for over 40 years.” St. Peter answers, “Preached every Sunday for 40 years. One point.”
“One point, that ‘s it, all that work and only one point.? Yep, 1 point, 99 to go.” “99 to go? Oh, I know… For the past 40 years I have made a point of being visiting retired pastors at least once a month.” Peter says, ” Oh you are right. That one is good. One point.” I have to tell you, I thought the preacher was going to explode he was so mad.
“How about going to visiting people in the nursing homes? Surely that has to be worth some points.”
“Absolutely,” said Peter. “That is worth another point.
“Three points, that’s it after an entire career of preaching and visiting, all I have is there points! By the grace of God I will never get in.”
“Grace of God,” said Peter, “97 points, come on in.”
Its humorous but it contains an important truth. It is not about us. It is not about what we do. We cannot now , never could the human creation at any point in history earn its way to salvation. We won’t be able to earn it in the future, it is about faith in the Risen Christ. Nothing else matters.
Paul puts it this way in today’s lesson, “You are saved by grace through faith.” God’s grace saves us, but we also have acknowledge the reality of God in our lives, know God is with us and at work. And, even though we have done nothing to earn it, God give us that grace anyway.
The 16th century church reformer, “Martin Luther” called the doctrine, “Solo Fide,” by faith alone. Having faith is all you have to do alone.
While I was doing my online research for this post I ran across a post from “Crosswalk.com” from April of 2017. The article by Liz Kanoy carries the Title, “4 Important Things You Need to Know About Salvation.” As I read them I thought that she is absolutely correct.
First, the basis of salvation is grace. As our lesson says, “By grace you are saved.” That is scripture. According to the work of John Wesley and more importantly, Christian Doctrine, scripture is primary.
The thing for us to remember about grace is, it is a free gift from God. There is nothing you can do to earn it. You don’t have enough money, none of us have enough money, all of us together don’t have enough to buy it. There is only one way to receive grace, the free gift from God.
Second, the instrument of salvation is faith. We get that free gift, according to our lesson, through faith. “You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith.” We receive salvation as a result of fatih.
When Nicodemus came to Jesus to learn more about Jesus (in John 3) , Jesus replied, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17, Common English Bible). Whoever believes (has faith) will have eternal life…
Third, the result of salvation is good works. “Well Pastor, you say that you can’t earn grace but James says, ‘Faith without works is dead.’ So what’s up with that?'”
I am so glad you asked. God does not give us salvation because of the things we do, God gives the gift of grace because we have faith within us. We do work in the world because it is thing people of faith do. But to carry it a step further, if you were drowning in a swimming pool and someone came and dove into the pool and saved your life, wouldn’t you be thankful for what that person did for you? Sure you would. Any of us would. Now, because you are thankful given the opportunity to serve that person, wouldn’t you do for them what you could? Chances are, you will think that noting you do can make up for what they did, but you are going to do what you can to say thank you.
Such is exactly what we are doing with the works we do. When we serve the world with the love of God in Jesus Christ, we are saying “Thank you” to God for what God has done for us.
The fourth element mentioned in the article was that we can count on God to finish what God begins. Throughout the Bible God always finishes what God starts. I am not going to spend time with this one.
Instead I am going to insert my own number four. Salvation is a journey and not a single moment in time. From the time God creates us, God never quits working on us. Is there a moment in time we accept God’s free gift of grace? Without question there is. Wesley would call it the moment of justification but God remains at work within us to sanctify us through the remainder of our lives.
Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:12, “12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13, NIV). If salvation itself is an instant in time, how can we then “continue to work out our salvation…” (paraphrased)?
We respond to God in faith, God responds back with the promise of eternal life. God also promises to be with us always. That says to me, God promises us eternal life as long as we remain open to receive the free gift.
I believe in…the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.”
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Seeking the Genuine,
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved