Ephesians: The Glory of Christ in the Life of the Church
Would you use words like “glorious,” “cosmic,” or “multifaceted-wisdom” to describe church-world at New Covenant? Does it seem to you that serving in the nursery, praying with your CareGroup, or greeting a visitor to Sunday morning worship play a role in God’s grand, unfolding plan to redeem the cosmos through Jesus Christ? I doubt that any of us would immediately answer yes. Our life together often seems routine and even mundane. Any connection to God’s eternal purposes would appear to be distant at best. Yet the opening verses of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians blow the ceiling off our small perspective of life in the church:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world....In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. ...he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
As if those statements were not mind-boggling enough, the Apostle Paul goes on to state that God purposed that the glorious nature of his eternal plans would be made known to everyone in the universe (seen and unseen) through us, his people: “...to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:9-10, ESV).
John Stott summarizes the message of Ephesians this way:
The letter focuses on what God did through the historical work of Jesus Christ and does through his Spirit today, in order to build his new society in the midst of the old.
It tells how Jesus Christ shed his blood in the sacrificial death for sin, was then raised from death by the power of God and has been exalted above all competitors to the supreme place in both the universe and the church. More than that, we who are ‘in Christ’, organically united to him by faith, have ourselves shared in these great events. We have been raised from spiritual death, exalted to heaven and seated with him there. We have also been reconciled to God and to each other. As a result, through Christ and in Christ, we are nothing less than God’s new society, the single new humanity which he is creating and which includes Jews and Gentiles on equal terms. We are the family of God the Father, the body of Jesus Christ his Son and the temple of or dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore we are to demonstrate plainly and visibly by our new life the reality of this new thing which God has done: first by the unity and diversity of our common life, secondly by the purity and love of our everyday behaviour, next by the mutual submissiveness and care of our fight against the principalities and powers of evil. Then in the fullness of time God’s purpose of unification will be brought to completion under the headship of Jesus Christ.
The whole letter is thus a magnificent combination of Christian doctrine and Christian duty, Christian faith and Christian life, what God has done through Christ and what we must be and do in consequence. And its central theme is ‘God’s new society’--what it is, how it came into being through Christ, how its origins and nature were revealed to Paul, how it grows through proclamation, how we are to live lives worthy of it and how one day it will be consummated when Christ presents his bride the church to himself in splendour, ‘without spot or wrinkle or any such thing...holy and without blemish’ (The Message of Ephesians, pp. 24-26).
If you would like to grow in your understanding of and appreciation for God’s eternal, cosmos-redeeming purposes for the church, join Brad Eggers and me as we lead a study through the book of Ephesians. This adult class will be offered Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. in Room 305 beginning April 7. If you are interested in a 10:45 a.m. class, stay tuned for next week’s Life Together article which will feature a class led by Jim Gordon entitled “The Legacy of God’s Triumphant Grace.”
Serving the Risen Savior,
Pastor Dave DeHaan