In Christ… Together

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Have you ever had to write a letter from a prison cell? I haven’t, but I think – no, I’m certain – if I did, it would include whining, pitifulness, more whining, sad faces, and a big helping of extra-whiny on top just for good measure. That’s not what we find in the Letter to the Ephesians, though.

It’s debated who actually authored the letter, but if it was the apostle Paul (as many believe it was), then he would’ve written it while imprisoned in Rome. However, Paul didn’t spend even one sentence wallowing in self-pity about his situation. Rather, he was laser focused on reminding Christians of everything God had done for them and, in turn, how they should live their lives in light of those gifts. No matter he was in prison… Paul had a mission. And nothing would get in his way.

The letter begins in remembrance, thankfulness, and praise:

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.  (Ephesians 1:3-6 NRSV)

In these three short verses, Paul praises God for:

  • Spiritually blessing us in Christ
  • Freely and by grace alone choosing us to be made one in Christ
  • Viewing us as holy and blameless when we stand before him in love
  • Adopting us as his own children through Christ, his Beloved

Throughout these verses (and as we’ll see, the entire letter), Paul repeatedly emphasizes that we – corporately, not individually – are one body in Christ. As Klyne Snodgrass states in The NIV Commentary on Ephesians, Paul uses the specific terminology ‘in Christ’ as a way to talk about Jesus as our Lord. A believer’s life merges into the life of Christ (and all other believers) to become one body of which Jesus is the head. It is ‘in Christ’ that we find our salvation and spiritual blessings. It is ‘in Christ’ that we are at home.

We can’t help but give praise and thanks to God as we’re reminded that he chose to reveal his love to us by his grace shown through his Son Jesus and his gift of the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence. Paul’s theology emphasizes our blessing as one body and reminds us that corporate worship is essential to our life in Christ, who lives in constant relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit; therefore, we are to live in loving relationship with others – a relationship we will examine in detail as we move further into the Letter to the Ephesians.

Lent – Day 25

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Today’s Thought: Just a Psalm.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

This week, I’m sharing a few of the most basic—and, I believe, oftentimes taken for granted—elements of Christianity. Yesterday, it was prayer as conversation with God. Today, it’s the Psalms as prayer, worship, and Christian identity. Anglican priest N.T. Wright sums it up beautifully…

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Lent – Day 13

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Today’s Thought: What do I worship more than God?

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:2-3)

In The Letter of James, addressed to the twelve tribes of the dispersion, the author reflects frustration similar to what we read yesterday in Luke. James (generally identified here as the brother of Jesus) is trying to bring the early church together in serving God, but their personal wants and desires are getting in the way. James fears for their relationship with God, as well as the future of the church, and he doesn’t hold back in his letter.

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