17 October 2012Ephesians 2:1-10
"But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through 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." (vv. 4-6)
Two ways of walking (Greek = periepatēsate) are contrasted in this passage:
- walking according to the ways of this world (verse 2)
- walking in the way which God has prepared for us verse 10).
The two ways of walking are further contrasted: the way of this world is the way of the "dead" (v. 1); of the "flesh" (v. 3); of the "children of wrath" (v. 3). By contrast the way which God has prepared for us is the way of life; the way of "good works" (v. 10); the way of knowing ourselves beloved creatures (verse 4).
It is characteristic of the thinking of Paul and his followers that the world should be understood as two distinct realms - the realm of the flesh, and usually in Paul's thought, the realm of the Holy Spirit. This can lead us to a dualistic way of seeing things - particularly a negative attitude towards everything which is bodily in favour of spiritual things. And yet Paul has two different words to describe bodily things - the word flesh ('sarx') and the word body ('soma'). The problem with sarx is that without Christ it is simply uninhabited flesh. Its owners abuse their bodies through over eating or under eating; through over indulgence or strict abstinence, but never inhabit their bodies as part of their beloved selves. Yet sarx, inhabited by the spirit of Christ, becomes body. The physical self becomes a means of grace, a place for receiving the good life that God has to offer.
Unlike the "ruler of the power of the air" (v. 2) against whom this writer is railing, God is concerned with the redemption of bodily life. This redemption happens as we allow ourselves to be joined to Christ as he is raised bodily (verse 6) and as we allow ourselves to be made alive with him (verse 5) - the verb for which concerns not biological existence ('bios') but life in all its fullness ('zoe'). The resurrection of Christ is the gateway to this new life. It is a mystery. Yet it not a mystery to puzzle over, but an invitation to walk with Christ the way of life which God has prepared for us.
- How would you contrast the ways of this world with the way that God has prepared?
- What has helped you to learn to value your body as a means of grace?
- What habits might you need to leave behind in order to be made more fully alive with Christ?
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