Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ephesians 2: Bible Verse as Pillar

Every flavor of the faith has a few "core" verses, scriptures taught from childhood and repeated over and over. If theology is like a game of Tetherpole, these verses are the pole, unchanging and unmoving no matter how much the ball of "debatable issues" gets batted back and forth.

As a new, teenaged believer at North Avenue Alliance Church and later in Campus Crusade for Christ at UVM, one such verse was Ephesians 2:8-9. I don't even need to look at the text: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, lest any man should boast." From a Reformation POV, that verse pretty much says it all. I learned to recite this verse almost as readily as our Catholic brothers and sisters learned Luke 1:28.

I know exactly what that verse means to me, and have been writing about the gist of it all last week during the Galatians blog posts. But I have often wondered: what do our Catholic brothers understand Paul to mean here? Is Christian salvation indeed by grace, through faith, and that not of ourselves? I ask this in sincerity and in a true spirit of inquiry because I know what I was taught lo these many years ago: Roman Catholic emphasis on on the salvific value of ritual works (confession, communion, baptism etc.) opposes the benefit of God's grace to the believer, per Ephesians 2:8-9 and other verses. Just ask any fundamentalist preacher! What I don't know, and have never really asked, is how a learned Roman Catholic preacher (like, say, PETE GUMMERE !?) would interpret this passage. Sure am hoping I hear the layman's 30 second elevator speech some day, and will be pleased to consider it, and pass it on......

.....And I say this in what I hope is a spirit of fraternal peace in Christ. For "He himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create the one new man out of the two...."

By grace I am a fellow citizen "with God's people and member of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone."

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