Tuesday

17 March 2015

“For by grace you have been saved through faith” (v. 8)

Psalm: Psalm 124


Background

It is not entirely certain who wrote today's passage. Many people believe that this letter was written by Paul to the church that he had founded in Ephesus, on the western coast of modern-day Turkey (Acts 19). Others, however, argue that small but significant differences in language, style and theology indicate that it was written by someone very close to Paul, but not the apostle himself. Some would also suggest that this is not a letter to a specific church at all, but a sort of sermon. Whatever the truth of the matter, the power of these words to challenge us is undeniable.

The writer speaks of the vital change that has taken place in the life of all humans because of what God has done in Christ. Previously, it was if we were in quicksand or a muddy bog. We could not escape by ourselves - we were so trapped by our own desires and selfishness. The writer personifies these evil forces as "the ruler of the power of the air" (v. 2), which many understand as meaning the devil. God took the initiative, though, and reached out to save us. We did not earn this escape, nor deserve it. It was God's free choice to reach out to us: God's "grace" (vv. 5, 8). However, not only has God saved us from our inevitable doom and death but has promised to shower the "immeasurable riches of his grace" on us (v. 7). It is as if we were released from prison for a crime we had knowingly committed, and then given a cheque for a million pounds!

The passage underlines that we are released from all the things that imprison us (hatred, envy, etc) solely by God's loving gift of Jesus Christ. However, we must be careful not to believe that this is 'cheap grace' that requires nothing of us. Elsewhere, the Bible is very clear that this great love deserves us to respond in kind, and reflect Christ's love to the world in all that we say, speak and do. (See, for example, Matthew 18:23-35 or Galatians 5:22-26.)


To Ponder

  • In our society today, what kind of people are trapped by "the desires of flesh and senses" (v. 3)? How can we help them?
  • Paul often wrote how about God had redeemed or ransomed or saved us in Christ. In so doing, he was drawing on contemporary images and metaphors that were relevant to his original audience. How can you explain the essence of today's passage in language that your contemporaries would understand?
  • In what ways can you respond to God's great gift to you today?

 
Bible notes author:  The Revd Geoffrey Farrar 

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