A brand-new gift comes with a sense of goodness and potential, and we do a lot to preserve that goodness and to keep that potential alive. New car owners want to keep the inside smell as fresh as possible, new phone owners protect their screens with cases and covers, and new book owners may hesitate to even take it off the shelf in fear of bending the spine too far or ripping a page!
The sense of newness applies also to time. A new days, new week, or new year is a symbol of new hope. Time will not be brand new in 2022, yet there is something that awakens in us as we consider a new year. Feelings of goodness and potential resurface—but for preexisting things, such as lifestyle habits, relationships, and careers. Our New Year’s resolutions, then, are often attempts to recommit ourselves to something good and full of potential.
As Christians, let us recommit ourselves to a goal that Ephesians puts before us. Let us renew our excitement toward something that God made new and gifted to us. Christian, make a resolution for 2022 to continue or to begin “working properly” in your church in order that it “builds itself up in love” (Eph 4:16).
Primer on Ephesians
Before I unpack this goal a little more, I want to offer a quick primer on Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. Paul is writing from jail to believers who lived right in the heart of a prosperous, ungodly society. Some believers in Ephesus were recent converts from a dangerous, yet common lifestyle driven by magic (see Acts 19). Paul wants this church, and others like it, to walk not according to their culture but according to their salvation.
Paul reminds these Christians that the triune God, according to the plan he set forth from before the beginning of time, chose people from various peoples and places and brought them together to form his body—the church. Paul explains that God brought together both Jews and Gentiles to create “one new man” (Eph. 2:15). The main emphasis here is not on the individual Christian but on the church as the body of Christ. The one body for the one head.
And why did he create the church? Ephesians gives many great reasons, including these two: (1) to display the “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness” (Eph. 2:7) and (2) to reveal his “manifold wisdom” to all the earth (Eph. 3:10). In other words, this new thing is meant to reveal God’s glory to the world!
Therefore, our goal for 2022 is to preserve the goodness of this plan and to protect our church’s potential to demonstrate God’s kindness and wisdom. Let us put God’s manifold wisdom and the riches of his kindness on display by being eager to preserve the unity given to us and by walking in the potential God declares for us.
In Chains to Unity
One of the most important lessons that Christians in our culture can learn from Ephesians is that reality that God has made peace between people that he has brought together. Where there was hostility, Christ killed it and made peace. Where there was a division, God broke it down. Where there were two, God made one (Eph. 2:14–16).
Here’s the bottom line. If we find ourselves against this peace, we are against God. And not just against his work, his goal, or his ultimate purpose. We are against Jesus himself: “He himself is our peace” (2:14).
Paul explains Christians are in bondage to peace (4:3)—similar to how Paul himself was in bondage in prison (4:1)! This peace, this unity, is not something we can slip off but a reality we must recognize. We cannot choose to abandon these chains of peace when we face interpersonal differences due to masks, money, or movements! Christ himself is our peace.
If we learn to live in that reality in 2022 (and beyond), the culture around us will be in shock of how we can put aside seemingly irreconcilable differences. To God be the glory!
Good Works and Great Growth
When we think about our church goals for 2022, we should think about how to maintain our church’s potential. How can we keep things in an optimal state for internal unity for the sake of the external display of God’s glory? The answer is good works according to the gifts Christ gave us.
Ephesians 2:1–10 is a passage every Christian should know by heart. There is so much jaw-dropping truth in these verses. One such truth is that we are God’s good work, made to do our own good works (which were prepared by God for us to do!).
But It is no coincidence that this passage is sandwiched by a mention of the church (1:22–23) and a discussion of the “one new man” created from Jews and Gentiles (2:11–22). To put it plainly, these good works are essential to the life and growth of the church.
When we think of what is essential to the life and growth of the church, we may think first of pastors. Ephesians certainly affirms the importance and the goodness of this role. But the epistle explains that this role is not meant to be the sole person helping a church grow. Instead, Paul writes that pastors are to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (4:12). That means you too have a role in building up your church.
This is so important to realize. For it is not that your church will just grow more when you do good works, but it is that, if you are not doing them, you are counteracting the growth of your church (4:15–16). You are harming your church’s potential for unity, for growth, and for the ultimate purpose of displaying the glory of God.
Christ Accomplished; We Glorify
Christian, use the start of 2022 as a chance to recommit yourself as a peacemaker and a good worker within your church. You can and should do so, because of all Christ has accomplished for us (read Ephesian 1–2!). And though striving after unity these days is a daunting tasks, let’s take God at his word, which says that he is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (3:20).