This week’s lectionary passage from Ephesians is one of the great hymns/poems/doxologies in the entire Bible. In its original Greek, these twelve verses were one long sentence. The good news: modern-day Bible translators have broken it up into smaller segments with separate sentences–thus making it more accessible and manageable. The bad news: modern-day Bible translators have broken it up into smaller segments with separate sentences–thus depriving us of the power of this theological truth.
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, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. –Ephesians 1:3-14 NRSV
Many sermons could be preached, classes taught, and much private devotional time spent on this passage. Note, in particular, how many times “in Christ,” “through Christ,” and “in him” are repeated. Clearly God chose (“elected”) Jesus Christ to be the great blessing to humankind and all creation.
As well, nowhere in this passage (or for that matter, anywhere in the Bible) is there even a hint of Jesus Christ being a personal savior for individuals. This is God’s “big picture”–as a plan for the fullness of time–and we have been permitted, by grace, to be adopted into Christ’s body. The focus here is not at all on our acceptance of Christ but of God’s activity in Christ. We, not as individuals or collection of individuals but as a community of faith, live and dwell in Christ. Indeed, this is the abundant life Jesus spoke about, as recorded in John 10:10.
Why then have so many Christians trivialized Christ by reducing him to the status of “personal savior”? For if our salvation (and here I speak of salvation not merely in regard to life after death but our complete relationship with our Creator here and now) rests on our choosing Christ, then does that not negate grace? Maybe they should go back and re-read these words by the writer of Ephesians. The Ephesian writer is clear: God chose Christ and we have been brought in, adopted, into this glory.
*From the 2012 ForeWords archives
- If This Doesn’t Compel You, What Virtuous Act Would? (godsbreath.wordpress.com)
- Are You a Follower? (livinginthereign.wordpress.com)
- Crucified With Christ (musingsofernie.wordpress.com)
- God Can Do Abundantly More Than You Can Imagine (kevinnunez.org)
- Living the Surrendered Life (Day 10) (christlikeministriesnwa.wordpress.com)