And the pastor began to speak to them in parables, saying:
There was once an exceedingly wealthy man named John who owned a mansion house containing many rooms. For reasons none could understand, he cared about street thugs and young men who had completely lost their way in the world. One day he sought out a young boy named Billy and offered him a room to come and stay at his home, in order that Billy might put behind his world of crime and relational connections to the life of the street. At first Billy was skeptical, and even though there were frustrations with the street life, it was all he knew. He laughed at John, as did his gang of ruffians, but John continued to pursue him with the great opportunity for a total transformation. And over time, a day came when Billy made the decision to walk out of the hood, and into the mansion. Billy was always thankful for what John had done for him, but over time, he began to remember the details a bit differently than the historical reality. The way his mind recalled them was that, out of all the guys in the hood, he was the smart one who found a good deal and was wise enough to make a choice to change his life. There was a subtle sense within him (not that he actually put words to it) that there was a little something unique about him that made John single him out. He was pretty proud of his life transformation! Not many ever did such a thing! However, the reality was that, bottom line, Billy really had nothing much to do with his good fortune, it was all because of John that it ever happened at all.
We’ve been talking about some big words – cross words – in this series of sermons and devotionals. I’m going to give you some more today. I realize now that I used to think like Billy, but here is the day that changed. A college professor taught that there are three views about salvation: Pelagianism, Semipelagianism, and efficacious grace.
Pelagianism (named after a guy who lived in the late 300s) is a view that man is not really that badly tainted by sin and that he can work his way into a good position with God by following Christ’s moral example. This is truly works salvation, and I knew that was totally wrong.
Semipelagianism is a view that God sees that man is very sick because of sin, sorta throws down a rope from heaven, and man grabs hold of it if he is smart and ends up being saved from his perilous condition – spiritually rescued like a helicopter with a rope picking up someone off the roof of their house in the midst of a huge flood. I heard this, and at age 18 in college thought – “yep, that’s correct.” But the prof said that “no” it was not.
Efficacious grace is the view that man is total depraved – meaning that he is so lost because of his imputed sin from Adam that he is spiritually dead. A dead person cannot respond to anything. God brings life and salvation – opening the eyes and the mind to understand and respond to the Gospel – for apart from that grace and act of God, the lost soul would not and could not respond. Hence salvation is fully a work of God. It seems that we respond, and in time and space we do respond to the Gospel and are commanded to preach the Word as the vehicle through which God’s grace and truth is disseminated … but the real work of salvation is all of God.
That is what today’s passage is teaching. And when one understands God’s grace in this way, and when one sees what the Lord has done in raising us up and seating us in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus … Wow! It really is a gift. Take these thoughts with you this Sunday to the table of the Lord, and I dare you to stand there with those elements in your hand … with dry eyes.
Ephesians 2:1-10 – Made Alive in Christ
2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 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. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.