Grace and works

Lent 4B – Ephesians 2:4-10

Last week we had the 10 commandments (Hebrew: mitzvot); this week we have the final verses from the Hebrew Bible (Tanaka) in 2 Chron 36 which record the failure of Israel to live up to these commandments which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and exile. It is only through a pagan king, Cyrus, that Israel has the chance to ‘go up’ and start again in Jerusalem after the 70 years of the exile. So how do you live the commandments? How do you manage to be saved from these destructive tendencies that we know within ourselves.

St Paul has a clear answer for us in the second reading – Ephesians 2:4-10. This magnificent reading declares that our God is rich in mercy and freely chooses to share his love and mercy, and above all his grace with us to save us. So we are saved in grace – not by works (of the law) lest we should boast. But he continues in 2:10 with the further declaration that we are God’s work of art (Greek: poeima) created in Jesus Christ for good works (Greek: ergois agathois).

This is actually one of the ways that the Hebrew word Mitzvot is translated into the Greek Bible – so Paul is reminding the Ephesians that while they are God’s ‘work of art’ (important in a city that is dominated by the great temple dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of art) they have to complete the original purpose of God for their life by ‘good works’ – which are a response to God’s grace in Christ. Not doing so is not completing the work of our life – like breaking a great symphony just before its climax and fulfillment.

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Recorded at St Michael’s, 6pm (11’00”)

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