Today’s New Testament Lesson in the Book of Common Prayer comes from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in the second chapter verses one to ten.
Background: First off this letter may or may not have been addressed to the Christians in Ephesus; some manuscripts do not include the “in Ephesus” in the first verse of the letter. Also since the letter does not address any specific problem taking place in Ephesus, unlike most of Paul’s other letters; it is possible this was meant to be a circular letter. Circular letter meaning it was circulated around to many churches in the region of Asia Minor. In the first chapter Paul greets the reader and sends them a blessing, a prayer, and thanksgiving. The main purpose of the letter is, generally thought to be, Paul encouraging unity in the Jewish and Gentile Christians and reconciliation with the whole of creation through Christ.
Text: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. ButGod, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in 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, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)
Reflection: In the beginning of this passage Paul describes our former lives, those before we followed Christ. In this life we were dead; we follow the course of the world and the passion of our flesh. Paul paints a very gloomy picture, being dead and following the prince of the power of the air, being sons and daughters of disobedience, being children of wrath; it sounds terrible. The worst part is most of us probably did not feel that bad before following Christ or think we were terrible people. But Paul’s point is to show that everyone started out on the same level playing field, Jew and Gentile were both just as bad. “BUT God,” Paul pulls it out here showing us relief from the big downer he just placed on us. God made us alive with Christ even when we were terrible people and dead, because of our sins. Paul explains, God did not see us, but he saw Jesus and he exulted us in Christ. But Paul does not stop there because just as neither Gentile nor Jew were better, we are not responsible for the grace or faith that saved us, it is from God. He even states “that no one may boast.” He also encourages the reader to do good works, because we were created for them.