With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Ephesians 1:8-10

 

Greetings! I hope you had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend (if you’re in the U.S.). I had the privilege of preaching at my home church. And since it was Labor Day Sunday, I preached on work and how our work is an expression of our relationship with God.

black and white image of woman coming up for air after being submerged underwaterToday is my first day back to writing new Life for Leaders devotions in some weeks. As you know, I took a break in August. Now I’m ready to go on as we continue our devotional study of Ephesians.

Have you ever been reading along in a compelling novel—and then for a few days or weeks your attention was directed elsewhere? By the time you finally got back to your book, you had to sit back and remember the story you had been reading, perhaps even reviewing some sections to refresh your memory. You knew that if you were going to enjoy the richness of the narrative, you had to have its broad sweep in mind.

I’d suggest that we’re in a similar situation when it comes to our devotions based on Ephesians. If you have been receiving Life for Leaders for a while, you know that for quite some time we have ambling slowly through the New Testament letter known as Ephesians. Today we continue this leisurely stroll. But before we press on in the text it would be good for us to remember the grand story of God as it’s revealed in this marvelous letter.

This story begins before the creation of the world, when God chose us to belong to him as his beloved, adopted children (Ephesians 1:4-5). In Christ, we were redeemed and forgiven through the riches of God’s grace lavished upon us (Ephesians 1:7-8). God’s ultimate purpose, though, is not merely to save individuals. Rather, God seeks “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:10). God will reverse and mend the fragmentation and brokenness that sin introduced into the world and that has plagued the world ever since Genesis 3. God will ultimately make all things right through Christ.

According to Ephesians, we who have been chosen by God to exist for the praise of God’s glory participate in this unifying process in Christ (Ephesians 1:12-14). Because of God’s love, we have been raised from death to life (Ephesians 2:4-5). Because of God’s grace, we have been saved, putting our trust in him (Ephesians 2:8). Moreover, we have been newly created in Christ so that we might do good works God has prepared for us, thus sharing in God’s work in the world (Ephesians 2:10).

God began his work of unifying all things under Christ by bringing together Jews and Gentiles in one body (Ephesians 2:11-18). The cross of Christ not only leads to forgiveness of individual sins (Ephesians 1:7), but also forges reconciliation and peace between once divided peoples as it breaks down the wall of hostility that separated them (Ephesians 2:15-16). We who have been reconciled are united together as a holy temple, where God dwells through his Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22). Our unity as the church bears witness to the whole cosmos of God’s plan to bring all things together in Christ (Ephesians 3:10). God is at work in and among us, strengthening us, helping us to know his unfathomable love, and doing through us more than we could ever imagine, for his glory (Ephesians 3:16-21).

This grand vision of God’s work not only inspires our worship, but also calls us to a new way of living (Ephesians 3:20-4:1). We participate in God’s story, not as passive characters, but as active contributors to the narrative. We are to act so as to enhance the unity of God’s people, a unity based in the very identity of God (Ephesians 4:1-6). Moreover, God gives grace to each and every one of us so that we might be his ministers, contributing to the growth of the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:7-16). We do this through all we do in life, not just in the gathered church, but also as we are dispatched into the world.

Because we have been raised from death to life in Christ, we are no longer to live as we once did, trapped in futile thinking and selfish sensuality (Ephesians 4:17-20). Rather, we are to put on a new self, a new way of living, marked by truthfulness, kindness, forgiveness, and love (Ephesians 4:20-5:2). We are to do work that is good and that enables us to be generous with others (Ephesians 4:28). We must reject the dark ways of our past, choosing instead to live as children of light, reflecting God’s goodness, righteousness, and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9). By doing this, we invite those who live in darkness into the light of Christ (Ephesians 5:11-14).

The story doesn’t end here, but that’s as far as we’ve come. Tomorrow, we’ll examine Ephesians 5:15 as we prepare to move on to complete the letter. For now, I’d encourage you to consider the following questions.

Something to Think About:

When you read this summary of the grand story of God in Ephesians, what thoughts arise in you? What emotions do you feel? What do you hear God saying to you through this story?

Something to Do:

Reflect on the story of God in Ephesians, holding tight some part of that story that resonates with you. Jot down a note where you’ll see it (your phone, your desktop, etc.) so you can remember this part of the story throughout your day.

Prayer:

Gracious God, thank you for the expansive, moving, transforming story of Ephesians. Thank you for choosing me before the foundation of the world, for saving me, forgiving me, creating me anew in Christ, including me as a member of your body, using me to promote the unity and growth of your church. Thank you for delivering me from darkness into your marvelous light.

Help me, dear Lord, to live in your story. May your narrative shape my life as I seek, above all, to exist for the praise of your glory by walking in the good works you have ordained for me.

All praise be to you, glorious, gracious, holy, loving, redeeming, reconciling, unifying God! Amen.

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
commentary:
Introduction to Ephesians

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