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God’s Masterpiece (2)

M C Davis, Leeds

Divine grace seen in our position in Christ as His Body, and God’s purpose in our redemption (2.1-22)

If Ephesians 1 emphasises our possessions in Christ, the second chapter emphasises our position in Him. And since position determines both possessions and authority, regardless of where and how we may be physically (Paul was a prisoner in Rome when he wrote this letter), we have power and authority in the spiritual realm because of our position in Christ. First, then, vv.1-10 explain that we are trophies of God’s grace in Christ, destined to be examples of His kindness to the hosts of heaven in eternity. Once we were spiritually dead in trespasses and sins, characterised by disobedience, controlled by Satan, and subject to God’s wrath. But God in infinite mercy and love intervened to save us in the person of His incarnate Son quite undeservedly. When we trusted Christ we were given new spiritual life with Him, the same life that raised Christ from the dead, and through faith-union with Him we are now seen as sitting together in the heavenlies in Christ, sharing His exaltation on the throne of God. God’s purpose in thus saving us and making us a new creation in Christ Jesus is that we may fulfil, in our daily lives in this present world, those good works that He had prepared from eternity for us to do for Him. Have we discovered what God fitted us to do in this world for Him? Are we doing those good works?

Second, vv.11-22 describe how God in Christ has removed the spiritual distance there was between ourselves as Gentiles and God. Before the cross, Jews had a great advantage over Gentiles in their relationship with God, having a covenant relationship with Him, whereas Gentiles were afar off, and without Christ. But, again, God has intervened in Christ, so that on the basis of the shed blood of Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary the enmity of the Mosaic law was removed forever. God now has reconciled both Jews and Gentiles who believe on Christ to Himself as Father on the same basis, with equal privileges, and in the same body of the New Testament Church, the one new man in Christ. This new body of the Church is based upon Jesus Christ Himself as the most important foundation stone and upon the testimony to Christ that the apostles and New Testament prophets bore to Him. And it is gradually growing by the addition of believing converts into a holy temple dedicated to the worship and service of the Lord Jesus, and also into a dwelling-place of God through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Are we living our daily lives consciously in an atmosphere of worship, consecration, communion, and service, or have we lost sight of this aspect of our unique holy calling as members of the whole Body of Christ?

Divine wisdom seen in the formation of the Church, and Paul’s unique ministry in God’s revelation (3.1-13)

Paul here explains to the Ephesian believers his privilege as the apostle to the Gentiles, because of which he was suffering imprisonment. To him God had granted the revelation of the mystery of the composition of the New Testament Church, namely, that Gentiles are now accepted in the Body of Christ as fellow-heirs with Jewish believers, and there is no longer any distinction between them in Christ. God’s programme for earthly Israel will resume after the coming of Christ for His Church, as Romans 11 declares, but in the present Church age different conditions apply. The truth of the New Testament Church was not revealed in any previous age before the cross, and is a unique feature of God’s ways with men. In fact, by the Church universal God is now making known to all the hosts of both good and evil angelic beings in the heavenlies His manifold wisdom in His plans of redemption for this world. If believers understood the implications of their position in this unique vessel for God’s testimony in the world more clearly, they would probably be better directed in their spiritual energies in the present age. For the New Testament Church is God’s heavenly people and, uniquely amongst all the redeemed, associated with Christ Himself and destined for glory with Christ in heaven, not earth. Our task in the world, therefore, is primarily the building up of the Church to completion, not any attempt to establish the Kingdom of God on earth by worldly means. Let us reassess, therefore, our individual and corporate testimonies and nature of service in this light. How much of it all is really consistent with what God wishes to do in and through His Body, the Church, in what is called characteristically "the Church age"?

Prayer for enablement to appreciate and experience the full wonder of Christ’s love for the Church (3.14-21)

Paul prays that we, like the first readers of the letter, may come into the spiritual good of all that they have learned concerning their possessions and position in Christ. Head-knowledge is not enough; heart-knowledge is required. How much do we consciously cultivate our inner lives of communion with the Lord? In an age when external appearances and outward presentation alone are emphasised it is imperative that we enter into the meaning and intent of Paul’s prayer here. Are conditions in our innermost lives such that Christ our Lord and Saviour has come to dwell, to "feel completely at home", in our hearts by faith, or are there areas from which He is excluded in thought and practice? Nothing here will change for the better before we begin to appreciate Christ’s personal love for us. That appreciation of His love is the foundation of our personal lives, its full extent the subject of our fellowship enjoyed with all other saints in the Church universal, and the full knowledge of its all-surpassing nature the desired aim of our spiritual experience. God’s grand objective for our lives is that we might be "filled with all the fullness of God" (v.19), that is, constantly and completely controlled by our appreciation of the full character of God Himself. How far is the full character of God seen in our lives? If we are disappointed or discouraged about our lack of spiritual progress, we are assured that God is able to do far more in us by His Spirit’s power than we ever thought possible. Surely, our true underlying desire is in full accord with the apostle’s, when he prays that there might be glory gained for God in the Church in Christ Jesus for all eternity. How far is God being glorified in our lives now? For that is the purpose of both our creation and redemption.

Our appropriate earthly conduct as members of the Body of Christ (4.1-6.9)

Walk in unity (4.1-16). Living consistently with our high calling as the Body of Christ necessarily involves endeavouring, being diligent, to live in unity with all our brethren and sisters in the Church universal. But we do not need to form this unity, because it has already been formed at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit baptised all believers into the one body. What we find so difficult is maintaining the unity which God has already formed. This exercise involves mutual submission to Scripture, humility, longsuffering, and love. If Paul’s previous prayers in this letter have been fulfilled in us, we should be able to do this. But God’s object in and with the Body of Christ, as with any purely human body, is not just coordination, cooperation, and maintenance of things as they were at the beginning, or even as they may be now, but constant and steady spiritual growth and development of the Body. This is achieved by the individual exercise of God-given spiritual gifts to the ultimate goal of the full maturity of the Body corresponding to that already found in Christ Himself, the Head in heaven. So, are we exercising our respective gifts for the good of the rest of the Body and to glorify Christ? Again, we see how important in this process of edification is Christian love. It facilitates the whole process. Truth alone can mar or wound the Body, but when tempered with love it achieves its objective far better than otherwise.

To be continued.

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