Already but Not Yet
4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
It’s probably been over 25 years ago that I heard a sermon (preached by my husband no less) that bore the catch phrase “already but not yet.” Those of you who know me well will realize that the fact that I remember a sermon from 25 years ago is completely remarkable, for that isn’t my strong suit. But I still remember grappling with the concept that we already have the Kingdom of God in our hands, but not quite yet. It’s another one of those dichotomies that we Christians live with daily. That sermon was about Joseph from the book of Genesis, as he waited for God’s deliverance for himself and his family. Paul discusses that same idea again for us in Ephesians 2.
As we walk through our regular daily lives it is so easy to forget that we have already been raised up as members of God’s Kingdom. It is already something that we hold in our hands. And yet we are plagued by the troubles of this world. Just last week we were horrified by the events that unfolded in Boston and in Texas. How do we recognize that God’s Kingdom lives among us already when we can witness those kinds of terrible events? In those moments, God’s love feels far away. But in Ephesians, Paul reminds us that we have already been raised up by the resurrection of Jesus Christ; we are already members of that Kingdom.
Nestled into this passage lies one of the most profound verses in all of Scripture (and that is saying a great deal, for all of Scripture is profound!) “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” Here lies the crux of all of our hope. We are saved by GRACE. We didn’t earn it and we can do nothing to affect that salvation ourselves. This is 100% the work of God. No amount of good works or self-promotion is going to make any difference before God’s throne in terms of our entrance into God’s Kingdom. This happens only because He loves us and moves us to believe in His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. The good works we perform, (which HE planned in advance for us to do) are merely an expression of that faith and of our love for Him. They earn us no special favors or entrance into His Kingdom.
So the Kingdom already lies in our hands and yet we still struggle on this side of death. But the joy, the peace, the love, and the hope are already ours to enjoy and share. It is ours already – but not yet.