Saturday, June 25, 2016

The “With Faith” That Experiences Peace, Love, and Grace

This morning I was profoundly encouraged with these wonderful words from the Book of God: “with faith”.

The book of Ephesians begins with this word of blessing: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”[1] Paul’s desire for the church was to experience the grace and peace that were from God.

The book of Ephesians concludes with this word of blessing over the church: “Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.”[2]

What stands out in this concluding prayer is the connection between the peace, love, and grace, which all come to us from God, and the faith that we express to God in return.

The relationship between these four qualities is that the peace, love, and grace are given to us, or expressed to us. On the other hand, Paul’s desire is that they come to us “with faith” because it is faith that rises up to fully experience these expressions of God.

One of the central pictures of the letter to the Ephesian Christians is the reminder that we begin our experience of salvation as dead people.[3] Salvation is not primarily healing for the wounded (though this is clearly involved), but resurrection for the dead.

Paul says this so clearly when he writes, “But God, 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”.[4]

Notice, on one side, the mercy and love originate with God and are expressed to us. On the other side, our contribution to the mix is that we “were dead”.

When we hear that Paul wants us to experience peace, love, and grace, from the Triune, how do we experience those things if we have nothing to contribute?

Picture it the way someone would do CPR on a dead person. The First Responder would do all the work of the CPR, with the dead person contributing only their dead body to the process. However, as soon as the CPR “works”, and the heart, brain, and lungs suddenly burst with living activity, the person immediately gasps in air, fully engaging with the life that has graciously been given to them.

In a similar way, God’s salvation is always expressed towards dead people, and so the salvation must do all the work of saving us. However, the moment that God makes us alive in his Son, our alive condition immediately starts relating to God by faith, just as we were designed to do in the original work of creation.

This is why Paul clarifies, “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.”[5]

The declaration, “by grace you have been saved” is a complete thought. Paul said the same thing a few verses earlier when he said that God “made us alive together with Christ”, and then quickly interjected “by grace you have been saved”.[6] Salvation is by grace, through and through. This is why it is a gift, and not the “result of works”. It is 100% “by grace”.

However, how is it received? If it is a gift, and it is given to dead people who have nothing to contribute, how do we open the gift? The answer is, “through faith”.

Now, make sure you do not immediately think of the “through faith” as something that wounded people contribute to their own first aid. Remember that the persons we are talking about were dead when grace saved them. When God made these people “alive together with Christ,” the way they now engage with being alive is through faith. Faith is what we do now that we are alive in Christ.

So, when Paul concludes his letter with the express desire that the church experience peace, love, and grace, all which must come from the Triune, and then qualifies these gifts with the expression, “with faith,” he is reminding us that we do not need to work to feel God’s peace, we do not need to labor to feel God’s love, and we do not need to weary ourselves trying to earn the undeserved favor of God expressed in his grace.

Instead, our place in the household of God, living worthy of our gracious calling in the Lord Jesus Christ,[7] expressing the life of loving imitation as God’s “beloved children”,[8] is to exercise the faith we now have because we have been made alive by grace.

If peace, and love, and grace, were to come to us from God, but we have no faith to receive them, our lives are as bad as if they had never come at all. Sunshine over a cemetery does nothing to encourage the residents!

In fact, Jesus himself came from the Father, “full of grace and truth”,[9] and yet not everyone came to know him in this way. Although he was “the true light, which gives light to everyone,”[10] not everyone saw his light. Although, “the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.”[11] He even, “came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”[12]

This was evident when Jesus visited his hometown for ministry, and, “he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”[13] He was just as able to do mighty works and miracles in his hometown as anywhere else, and he was just as full of grace and truth in one place as another, but few in his hometown wanted to connect with him through faith, so few experienced the gifts of his grace.

The message to my own heart, and to yours as well, is that there is no shortage of supply of peace, love, and grace from the Triune. However, since we experience God’s grace “through faith,” Paul’s desire for the churches to live in God’s peace, love, and grace, includes his longing to see these things accompanied “with faith”.

And, just a reminder that, if we feel lacking in the faith department, but we long to know God’s peace, love, and grace as never before, God has even given us a prayer for that. It is very simple, and goes like this, “I believe; help my unbelief!”[14]

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.[15] 
Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.[16]

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Ephesians 1:2
[2] Ephesians 6:23-24
[3] Ephesians 2:1-3
[4] Ephesians 2:4-5
[5] Ephesians 2:8-9
[6] Ephesians 2:5
[7] Ephesians 4:1
[8] Ephesians 5:1-2
[9] John 1:14
[10] John 1:9
[11] John 1:10
[12] I John 1:11
[13] Matthew 13:58 (Matthew 13:53-58 for context)
[14] Mark 9:24
[15] Ephesians 1:2
[16] Ephesians 6:23-24

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