Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
Sermon held prior to the the Lord's Supper
Liturgy: (Psalms and Hymns are from the "Book of Praise" Anglo Genevan Psalter)
Sing: Psalm 150:1
Sing: Psalm 51:4
Scripture reading: Ephesians 4:1-6
Text: Ephesians 4:1
Sing: Psalm 40:4,5
Lordís Supper Form: Hymn 1A
To table: Hymn 44:1,2
At table: Ephesians 1:3-12 - Psalm 65:2
Ephesians 2:1-10 - Psalm 130:2
Ephesians 3:14-19 - Psalm 147:1
Sing: Psalm 133:1,2
Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ!
The Ephesians are, says Paul, to "walk worthy of the calling with which you were called." What is this calling? What does a worthy walk look like?
In the previous chapters of this letter the apostle already spoke about this calling. This calling, he says in chap 1, goes back to the decision of God the Father to choose certain persons to salvation in Jesus Christ (vs 4). He chose certain persons to salvation not because they were better than others, for all "were dead in trespasses and sins", all "walked according to the course of this world", "we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind" (2:1-3). But even though we were offensive to God, repugnant because of our transgressions, "God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us" (2:4), gave up His only Son for our salvation. That is: Christ died for the unworthy, died for us while we were still enemies of God (Rom 5:6ff), died for us while we were still dead in sin (Eph 2:5). God did not delay His act of mercy at Christmas (the sending of His Son) until we were sufficiently aware of our sins and misery. God did not withhold His kindness on Good Friday (sending Christ to the cross in our place) until we were repentant of sin. No, "when we were dead in trespasses," when we could still do no more than a carcass can do (and thatís nothing other than reek!), God "made us alive together with Christ" (Eph 2:5). Nor is that all! God "raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (vs 6). That is: those by nature dead in sin receive a place in heaven in the very presence of God Himself! What this is? This is grace, this is kindness, this is mercy; the unworthy get smothered in heavenly love while they are still dead in sins!
Yet even that is not all there is to the calling of God! For the God who gave His only Son for the benefit of the unworthy has given all authority to the ascended Christ. And Christ has poured out His Holy Spirit Ė Pentecost. What the Spirit does? He sovereignly takes these unworthy people, still dead in their trespasses (though Christ has already died for them!), and raises them to new life (Eph 2:18; 2:22f; 3:16). Does the Spirit wait with changing and renewing sinners until sinners are sufficiently sorry for their sins? Does the Spirit wait with His renewing work until sinners show kindness to others? Not at all! The ascended Christ sends His Spirit to work in the unworthy, in those dead in sin! Such is the mercy and kindness and the love of the Savior that He sends His Spirit to smother with love those who are unworthy of His love! In the words of Eph 2:8: "for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." This is the marvelous mercy of God which the Lord would impress upon us at His table today: it is the unworthy who may eat and drink with Christ at His table. You see: this table is a display of Godís mercy. And how we need that mercy!
What, now, does a "walk worthy of the calling with which you were called" look like? Those who have freely received so much, brothers and sisters, are characterized by lowliness and gentleness. People aware of their own brokenness, people aware of their sins, people aware that they deserve damnation, do not look down at other people as if they are worse. More, people who have tasted the grace of God are happy, eager, to bestow that same grace upon others. As God in Christ smothered me with unlimited mercy while I did not deserve it, Iím eager to smother another with unlimited mercy though he doesnít deserve it. Indeed, as we become more mature in faith, the weaknesses of another increasingly disappear from before our eyes. For: who am I Ėby nature dead in sin, and yet object of Godís kindness- that I should pass judgment on another??
Who belongs at the table of the Lord? Not the perfect, not the worthy. But I do, and others like me. Why? Because Christ died for those dead in sin Ė me, and you. And the Spirit was poured out to make alive those still dead in sin Ė me, and you. He smothered me in kindness, and the more mature I am in faith the more readily I shall smother in kindness those who are unworthy, no matter his weakness or his transgression.
Does that mean that we ignore or belittle the otherís sins, or even our own? Not at all! Rather, the more we realize for whom God gave His Son at Christmas and for whom the Son poured out His Spirit at Pentecost (for me, while I conducted myself according to the lusts of the flesh! Ė Eph 2:3), the more tolerant we become not of evil but of infirmity. Evil we address, and condemn. Infirmity we accept, and gently encourage greater growth in God.
In practice: I smother the unworthy other in the same love as God in Christ showered upon me. Amen.