March 11, 2018: 4th Sunday in Lent

Let us pray: Dear Savior, one of the most comforting truths of possessing Your grace is knowing that every aspect of our salvation rests in Your strong hands and not our feeble ones!  Today once again impress that truth upon us. Amen


TEXT:  Ephesians 2: 4-10

Dearly Beloved By Christ:  

Imagine being schooled in physics by Albert Einstein!  Or, if you’re a military commander, imagine going to a class taught by Napolean?  What philosophy major wouldn’t drool over being a student of Plato or Aristotle? In retrospect, I can imagine those things, at least a little bit.  That’s because in seminary, I was taught one class by Dr. B. W. Teigen of our synod before he retired. I’ve mentioned B. W. before in this venue. Personally, I consider him one of the Lutheran giants of the 20th century.  When B. W. taught, especially in his aged years, all students listened—whether they wanted to or not—because he engaged in a discussion with himself.  He dominated the topic.

My favorite memory of him is a discussion of this text before us today.  You know the words well: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.”  I still see him at the white board with his marker telling us: “Here is grace”—and then writing it in big letters. Next he started to draw lines around it. The first line was in response to: “through faith and this not of yourselves.  Then came along line: “it is a gift of God.” The third line on the board was: “not of works.” And the final line was: “so that no one can boast.” Then showing us grace hemmed in on all sides by his lines, he told us: “See, God has protected His grace on all sides from human arrogance and the devil’s schemings against it.”  Grace stands alone. It comes from God alone. It alone saves us. It needs nothing added to it. To God alone is the glory.


Many of you were without power this week after the big storm.  No electricity meant no hot water, no heat, no lights, and cooking was problematic.  It meant huge hassles. Remember how joyous and relieved you were when it came on and normalcy was restored?!  That’s a microcosm of life. We long for harmony and balance in our lives. When something intrudes and upsets that balance we devolve into grumpiness and frustration.  It takes many forms, whether they are a lack of power, an illness, chronic pain, or the uncertainty of bill paying. And of course, the biggest problem of all is: death.  That’s why we need help. We need salvation from our problems. We need comfort amidst anguish and sorrow.

God knows all this better than we do.  After all, He created us without pain and sorrow and then we brought it on ourselves by walking away from Him.  We created our own “deadness” as it were, in all its assorted forms. But, St. Paul reminds us here that God has an eternal antidote to all this mess.  “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”  Those words are akin to the power being restored! You didn’t flip the switch, create the power, or fix the downed line on your own. Someone outside of you did so. And ultimately, the One Who flips the switch to “On” in our lives is God.  He does so through the work of Jesus Christ, His Son. He does so not because He owes us, but because He loves us—grace!

After saving our souls with His death for us on the cross, God in Christ, did even more.  “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”  Luther picks up on that thought when he explains baptism this way: “You were buried with Christ by baptism into death, so that just as He was risen from the dead, now you, too, may walk in the newness of life.” When Christ died for you your present status with God changed from: a dead sinner into a forgiven one.  When Christ arose from the grave, that status changed from being bound to your earthly body with its frailties and mortality to a new creation already within God’s orbit. These gifts are all the product of grace. And if you doubt that, note the tenses of the verb used here by Paul. Our status, because of grace, is we’re already raised up and already seated with Christ at the heavenly table.  From God’s vantage point it is assured. It is real. Our bodies just have to grow into the idea and reality of grace.


Of course, you don’t always feel so liberated, but you should.  For when you possess saving faith, everything mentioned here is yours!  Present tense. Present reality. You possess it, even if your mortal body aches and your psyche groans.  So, to further solidify the truth of this glorious gift from God, Paul includes that great explanation of grace which is beyond our comprehension: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Yes, Grace stands as a beacon of warmth and light amid a cold, harsh world. It is beyond the bounds of our wildest imaginings. It is against everything our flesh stands for. We would never act this way on our own. We would never dream of treating our deadly enemies this way. But God, in Christ, did!  Wow!

And now comes the only response there is to this gift: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Think about that for a minute. In eternity, before He created the world and we messed it all up, God knew exactly who you are because of His love for you in Jesus Christ. He willed to save your soul.  He willed to forgive you all your sins. He willed you to someday be at His side in heaven. And He also, before time began, prepared all those noble, true, just, and holy deeds that you would accomplish in life.  He wanted you and He entrusted them to you, because Grace, undeserved love, is His guiding principle. And you thought your life didn’t have much meaning?

  1. W. Teigen had it right.  Grace is from God alone, gives glory to God alone, and is protected on all sides from any adulteration by God alone.  Focus on those truths and let His grace perfect His workmanship in each of you….Amen