Ephesians 2:1 You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
“Saved by Grace” is the great slogan of the Christian Reformers of the 1600’s. Drawing on Ephesians 2:8&9, as well as Romans 3:28 and Galatians 2:16, they vigorously opposed the idea that peace with God is achieved by belonging to a church, or by paying money for remission of sin, or from completing various penitential acts. They insisted that the Grace of God is a gift that is freely given. That said – this does not mean that there is no human response to the love of God. James 2:24 speaks of the importance of faith being accompanied by works, and Jesus tells a faithful man that he needs to keep the commandments, and more particularly – that he needs to give away his wealth to the poor.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes of the danger of “Cheap Grace” that expects Godly favour without any change in human behavior. “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” Instead, he calls for the practice of a “Costly Grace”, which demands the transformation of our lives into disciples of the way of Jesus. “Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.”
It is time for those who follow Jesus to give up our sermons on the Grace of God, and step outside of our church buildings to practice Grace and Truth in a disbelieving society. Perhaps if we lived a life of Grace, our words of faith might regain some credibility.
I'm still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Second Sunday after Trinity
32 God’s Gracious Love
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 202.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.