“Transforming Grace” (Series: From the Mountain Peak)
Scripture: Ephesians 1:1-2
The gospel is not just good news that anybody can be saved but that anybody can be changed. Which means the grace of God is not just for salvation but transformation. When you receive God’s grace, far more than just your eternity is changed but your present identity is transformed. This is evident both in the life of Apostle Paul as well as the saints in Ephesus as we see in Ephesians 1:1-2.
When Paul identifies himself as the author of this letter, he reminds you of his transformed identity. Just a few years before, Paul would never have penned this letter. In his life before he met Christ, Paul went by his Jewish name Saul and he lived a very zealous life as a Pharisee. In particular, his life’s mission and purpose was to persecute Christians and the church of Christ. But coming face to face with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was not only saved but he was transformed. He began to go only by his Roman name, Paul, because his life’s mission and purpose were changed. Jesus commissioned him to be an apostle to the Gentiles and so everything in his life became about serving this new mission and living out his new identity.
Reading “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus” rather than “Saul, a persecutor of the Church of Christ” is a testament to the power of God’s grace to transform anybody. We all have people in our lives who make us hesitant to believe the power of God’s grace to change a person. You may believe the power of his grace to save them but you won’t hold your breath to see them change. But what would happen if you believed they could actually be transformed? What if you no longer dismissed, ignored or avoided people because you labeled them “hopeless cases”? Imagine the resurgence of new love, new hope and new prayers for them. If you approached such people holding on to the hope of God’s transforming grace, your relationships with them would improve, your love for them would increase and your prayers for them would deepen.
Paul then addresses his recipients who he calls “saints.” This is Paul’s preferred designation for Christians and believers. He uses this term nearly forty times in his letters. What did Paul hope to accomplish by addressing them in this way? The answer is to highlight the transforming grace of God in their own lives. The Ephesian Christians weren’t mere “saved sinners” but radically changed “saints.” This status had nothing to do with what they did but with who they were because of what Christ did for them. An identity that is achieved can be lost or improved upon but an identity received by God’s grace is perfect already. Therefore your saint status has nothing to do with how you feel about yourself but with how God views you because of his Son.
There is incredible freedom in knowing your identity as a saint is not earned by your effort but given by God’s grace. If it becomes your primary, fundamental identity then you rest in knowing God’s view of you doesn’t change nor does your own view of yourself change depending on your performance. Christ has secured it for you by taking on the fullness of your sins and giving you his perfect righteousness. When you receive this new identity then there’s no going back to who you were. You are not a sinner. You are a saint. You’re not a fraud when you do something for God even though you still feel like a sinner. You’re actually a fraud when you sin against God because you are actually a saint! This is who you really are. And in order to sustain you, God supplies continuous grace and peace for you through Jesus.
Suggested Group Discussion Questions
- In what ways do you impoverish the gospel when you only talk about what it does for your future and for eternity? What do you miss out when you only talk about what the gospel does in the present, here and now? Do you tend to think about the gospel more in a more future-oriented way or present-oriented way?
- Have you ever been surprised by the evidence of God’s grace in a person’s transformation? Would you mind sharing a little bit about that? In what ways did that encourage you? On the other side, are you discouraged by anybody who seems to lack evidence of transforming grace in their lives? How have you been responding to that person? What hope does Pauls’ testimony give you?
- If you are a Christian, do you tend to identify more with a sinner identity or a saint identity? Why do you think that is/what factors bring that about? What kind of practical fruit can you envision would be borne if you embraced more of your unchangeable saint status in Christ?
- Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this message?
- Everybody should formulate a one sentence prayer response and request to everything heard and discussed. Have a few people share what they came up with.