Monday, February 09, 2009

overwhelming, mysterious love

In a class going through the book of Ephesians, Byard Bennett (an award he won and I easily understand why- though I don't understand why different faculty come up on the award page!) is helping us see, both in ways known to the original hearers of the letter, as well as for us today, just what this book along with related writings from Paul is telling us, about our life in God through Jesus Christ.

Yesterday Byard helped us see how though we're involved in salvation, it's really not about a decision we make or anything we do, that's not what Paul is getting at at all. After all, we're dead in our trespasses (falling aside). So that we have no desire for God at all. Along with that we're set on our own ways, ways that lash out against God and God's will. (Unfortunately I don't take notes anymore, and Byard expressed it better, I go on memory here). There is no way we will turn to God ourselves; we are as good as dead.

Without believing in double predestination, the teaching that God simply chooses some of the human race for salvation through Christ, and lets the rest go to deserved eternal damnation, no, Byard and I reject that, Byard does not believe this is in Paul's thinking at all, neither here nor in the Romans 9-11 passage, Paul is teaching that God's love through Christ comes over those who believe in a mysterious way, which brings about salvation. Yes, the sinner is involved in it, but Paul makes no mention of that in the Ephesians passage (so far our track in the class: a "dense" passage, a lot in it). It's truly like through this love we end up overwhelmed and won over to God through Christ by the Spirit (who is not mentioned in that context of salvation, yet is mentioned in a different yet related context later).

God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that all would repent and live. There is something mysterious about this salvation, not to be solved by any theologians. Yet we know the ground of it, Jesus Christ, his person, word, life and work for us, and the result of that work. So that all who hear the good news of Jesus, and in repentance believe in both an accepting and submissive trust, are saved. In Ephesians God's great love for the dead is seen to bring new life in Jesus.

This great love continues on in our lives. God doesn't just abandon us after salvation. It's ongoing, as truly our salvation in Scripture is: present tense. That's a good thing. Left to myself I would drift away. I would not work through the issues in my life as I need to. I would go back to what I was before Christ. Although it is said that in Christ we are a new creation. So something in our lives is different now in Jesus.

I wish each of you could have heard the great teaching (and the service and sermon were powerful yesterday, but the message is not up on our church's website yet). I try to replicate something of it here. Life changing. Byard played a clip for us from one of the renditions/movies of the Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing in which Benedick and Beatrice try to hold out to the end, denying any love for each other in the public setting. But when letters they had written for each other yet held on to, are brought to the intended recipient right there, they end up giving in and having to acknowledge that their hearts are changed and that they do actually love each other. And they end up embracing that love and each other. A picture of how our hearts are changed towards God through Christ.

What might you like to add to this?

6 comments:

L.L. Barkat said...

Love that example from Much Ado! : )

nAncY said...

what a wonderful message
very uplifting

Lanny said...

I wonder how many slaves, when emancipation came to them, turned back half way down the road or even a year later and begged to be returned to their former slave state?

Ted M. Gossard said...

L.L.,
I found on Youtube a 1984 movie made for tv of it. Actually it was quite good. Byard's was different, and of course quite well done. Deb and I want to find that movie and watch it.

Better yet is if I'd read it straight from Shakespeare himself!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Nancy,
Yes, it truly is.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Lanny,
Good question. I don't know what all played into that, though at times something of love could have. Of course slavery was outlawed. I have heard stories, faintly I recall of slaves wanting to return. For one thing they didn't have sufficient support, and certainly plenty of opposition in the outside world. Maybe there are those few stories of masters treating their slaves quite well and like family.