Ephesians I: All Things United in Christ - Ephesians 1:1-2, 10

God’s plan for the world is to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth. He is bringing about a cosmic redemption, undoing the division and destruction that has torn the world apart. Everything that sin has shattered – our relationship to God, natural human and supernatural relationships, even internal divisions that exist in our own hearts – all of this is going to be put right! That’s God’s plan, and Jesus is how this divided world is united once again.

And so when he writes to the Ephesians, Paul introduces himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. He’s been commissioned as a representative of the one in whom God is uniting all things in heaven and on earth. He didn’t volunteer as an apostle, or win some church vote, and so Paul’s letter doesn’t contain his ideas or opinions, but rather God’s message through Christ.

Paul writes to the saints in Ephesus, that is, those in Ephesus who, like Paul, believe in Christ Jesus. Though they are of a different race and live in a different place, Paul is united to the Ephesians through a shared faith. These are people who already agree with Paul that Jesus is at the heart of God’s plan, so Paul isn’t writing to inform them or convince them that Jesus is King; he’s writing to make it plain to them what Jesus has done and is doing to bring about God’s reunification plan for the world.

And it turns out that since Jesus is at the heart of the plan, believing in and following Jesus unites you to Him in such a way that you become part of the plan, too, as a member of His Church. Through the Church, Jesus takes people from all times, places, social conditions, races, and backgrounds, and makes them one.

The more you hear God speak through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the more you will come to love Christ the redeemer, because it’s in Him you are saved and filled with the fullness of God (that’s in ch. 3), and the more you will come to love and be built up in that love as part of Christ’s body, the Church (that’s in ch. 4), God’s means of spreading salvation and reconciliation all throughout the cosmos. Ephesians is all about unifying all things in Christ through His Church.

While v. 2 is something of a customary greeting of Paul’s, it serves in many ways as a summary statement of the message of the whole letter: Because of Christ’s redeeming, unifying work, God speaks to the Ephesians, who were once separated from Christ, alienated from Israel, strangers to the covenant, without hope and without God in the world, now, when God speaks to the Ephesians, this is the message: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Jewish Pharisee shares one God and Father and one Lord with Gentiles in Ephesus, and that God is not angry with them, but looks with favor on them, because they believe in Jesus.

The rest of the letter unpacks how that’s possible in chapters 1-3, and what it means for how to live in chapters 4-6. The first three chapters are “Grace and peace to you in Christ. God gave you this gift; Jesus did this for you”, and the last three are “Therefore, walk in a manner worthy of the grace you’ve been given. God loves you, so walk in love. God has united you to Christ, therefore walk in unity.”

And it’s critical to get the order right, and to see the connection. Grace comes before and is the foundation of obedience, not the other way around! Ephesians 2:8-10 is rightfully famous for teaching this in a beautiful way: you are saved by grace, not works, but you are saved for works. And so the very structure of the letter teaches us that grace comes first, and then the call to obedience.

That’s the order, but we also need to see the connection, which Paul hammers home by constantly using the word therefore. God’s grace and peace in Christ is the motivation for our obedience! As one pastor puts it, it’s not enough to obey; we must therefore obey. It’s not enough to walk in unity; we must therefore walk in unity. If God’s grace is not motivating our obedience and unity, then we’re not really joined to Jesus and obeying Him; we just happen to be walking in the same direction for a few steps.

But when God gives you His grace and Christ Himself is your peace, then you are built up in love, and filled with all the fullness of God, until you reach maturity and receive the riches of the glorious inheritance you’ve been promised in Christ: a world made new, united in love by Jesus, so that God might be glorified in the Church and in Christ Jesus, now and forever.

This is God’s eternal plan that Paul wrote about to the Ephesians, and it’s coming true for you, for this church in Annapolis, for the whole Church around the world and throughout history, because God blesses His Church with grace and peace through Jesus Christ.

Posted on Thursday, May 09, 2019 by CJ Bowen