Ephesians presents the sweeping panorama of history—from before the world began to after God re-creates all things at the end of this age. The stage was set in the mind of God since before time began, and the scenes move quickly. They even jump back and forth in time. Always, though, always running along is the almost slow-motion feeling of being swept up into the starry host to see the new heavens and the new earth being born. By grace we were chosen to participate in the drama. Could there be a greater privilege in all the universe?
Paul is describing the reordering of the cosmos in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Included in the macroscopic vision we see in Ephesians are detailed descriptions of Jesus’s renewing and redeeming work. Essentially, we are given a picture of how he has reordered everything so that his will is done on earth as it is in heaven; we see what makes sense in this age now that he is the crucified, risen, ascended, and reigning cosmic Lord. Though we tarry, yet in this fallen world, his kingdom has come, is yet coming, and will imminently arrive in full. This age has been described in the timing of history as the “already but not yet” of Christ’s kingdom, which is burgeoning full on the horizon. With faith-eyes enlightened by the Spirit, this is what should hold our heart’s gaze when we read Ephesians.
Alive in Him is about what Ephesians is about. It is not a line-by-line commentary but a thematic treatment of the sublime truths in the letter. We have no need to “make Scripture come alive” when we read Ephesians, because Scripture is already alive (2 Tim. 3:16–17). Ephesians is not a dusty, doctrinal catalogue but a glorious vision pulsating with images of redeemed reality.
The riches of God’s mercy to us in Christ Jesus are headlinemaking facts in the church. “You were predestined for adoption!” “You are the body of Christ!” “You were saved by grace through faith!” When we understand the implications of these realities, we experience the deepest peace and highest affections for God even though we remain in the body waiting for the Lord’s return. There is a public-witness dimension to our new identity as well. The way we walk either personifies to the watching world what Christ is like (as we are Christians), or it shows a distortion of his image in us. Therefore, studying Ephesians and its content is not about making people aware of their blessings for the sake of self-esteem; it’s about the glory of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians describes in broad strokes and detailed lines how being embraced by the love of Christ changes everything. Because of Jesus there is a “new creation order” in effect from the highest echelon of the angelic order in heaven to the lowliest invertebrate growing in the deepest part of the deepest ocean. It is fitting that the Creator who made all things would redeem his creation. But what of the rebels, God’s enemies who are loyal to the Devil and the world that is passing away? How can they be redeemed? God’s glory is the answer. It is in beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ that we are changed.
That is a message we need to hear over and over again, especially in a world filled with counterfeit gospels that lead to our temporal disappointment and our eternal destruction. Since the Creator has created us with a capacity for hearing his Word, and he has spoken to us, our entire lives must be consumed with knowing and living his Word. While we tend to treat individual Bible verses like Band-Aids, Scripture testifies of itself that it is actually our very life (Deut. 32:47). The headlining banner over the individual Christian’s life and the life of the church is that there is something more satisfying and more enduring than knowing that we are blessed. It is in knowing and being known by the triune God who is blessed forever. We learn about this God in his Word. Ephesians is a call to live according to that reality—walking in the knowledge of God in our daily lives with one another. As we run the race God has marked out before us, we look behind us to see that great cloud of witnesses of those who have finished their race. We also look to the ends of the earth to see our brothers and sisters who are also headed toward that Celestial City. We understand that our life is a vapor, and in understanding the frailty of our lives and the enduring truth of God, we pass down God’s Word to the generations who will come after us. The path we trod is narrow, but it is not lonely! Ephesians calls us to walk faithfully with our eyes on eternity as it expands on the horizon and in our hearts.
Ephesians teaches us how to interpret the world around us according to eternal realities. Ephesians also takes us a step further into concrete application. We’re shown how to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel we love as our doctrine is embodied in everyday life. I deeply appreciate how Kevin Vanhoozer summarizes the concept of Christian integrity:
It’s one thing to have a high view of Scripture; quite another to do its truth. It’s not enough to admire the Bible; we have to embody it. Being biblical is not simply a matter of believing its propositions but of responding to the many things God is saying to us in Scripture. Because God does do more than convey information to us through the Bible, so those of us who read the Bible have to be more than information processors. A robust view of biblical authority requires us to obey its commands, trust promises, sing its songs, heed its wisdom, and hope for its ending.
In the course of Ephesians we are given a distinctly Christian worldview that addresses the age-old problem of evil: why do God’s children suffer pain and loss if Christ is on the throne? We are comforted regarding the reality of the unseen realm around us: should we be frightened of the powers and authorities if Christ is exalted far above them? The narrow vision we have for our lives is shown on the canvas of eternity. What are we to make of the mundane moments of our days? Do they matter in God’s grand scheme of things? Ephesians reminds us how we have “learned Christ,” and how his gospel utterly transforms literally everything. No realm is untouched—the life of the mind, our emotions, our families, our jobs, our prayers, our worries—everything is subject to the rule and sway of the will of Jesus. We cannot escape or outrun the future grace we have been given in Christ, and our daily lives are profusely marked by God’s love and mercy.
A holy invasion to fill the void in our hearts has been inaugurated through the Spirit, who descends on believers and remains in them. Jesus has bound the strong man and plundered his house, and we are the captives he has released and leads in his train. Jesus is fearlessly and perfectly accomplishing the mission of God to rescue and redeem his children in every corner of the globe. As C. S. Lewis would say, in his world-renowned Chronicles of Narnia, “Aslan is on the move.”
Content taken from Alive in Him: How Being Embraced by the Love of Christ Changes Everything by Gloria Furman, ©2017. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.