Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a favorite. On the one hand, rich, spiritual blessings unfold easily as we read what God has given us in Christ. You can’t take one truth in before another one fills its place, like ripe fruit falling from a tree. This is a good book from which to make lists…
God chooses us.
God blesses us.
God predestines us.
God adopts us according to the kind intention of His will.
God freely bestows His grace on us.
God redeems us through Christ’s blood.
God forgives our sins.
God lavishes His grace on us.
God reveals His mysteries and purposes to us.
God grants us an inheritance.
God works all things according to His will.
God seals us with the Holy Spirit.
That’s just some of the richness in the first fourteen verses! If you want to know who you are in Christ, Ephesians is a good place to begin.
On the other hand, Paul brings up the deeper theological questions that men and women of God have been trying to explain since he wrote it. What does it mean that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world? What are the theological implications of predestination? Did God choose some of us, but not others? Are there people born without any hope of salvation?
These are real questions, and I don’t have all the answers. I can only take God at His word – all of His word. According to scripture, before salvation, we are DEAD in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Obviously, we’re not physically dead, as we’re doing a good job walking around following after our fleshly desires. But in God’s eyes, we were children of wrath by nature (Ephesians 2:2-3). We were spiritually dead, unable to respond or pursue after God. No one seeks God on His own initiative (Romans 3:11).
Something happened to us, however. God made us alive even when we were dead in our transgressions (Ephesians 2:5). God had to speak to our spirit and bring it to life. By grace, He raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:5-6). Obviously, this hasn’t happened physically yet (we’re still walking around down here), but in spirit, we are in Christ, in heaven already, redeemed and restored to a relationship with God.
Somewhere in this process, we had to repent of our sins, believe in Jesus, and receive God’s gift (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 15:10; Acts 2:38, 16:31, 17:30; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Romans 10:9-10; John 1:12). God acted on us, and we responded. I read one theologian who explained this mysterious transaction, the unexplainable balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility with the understanding that only God can grant us the ability to say “yes,” but He gives us all free will to say “no.”
Ephesians is a wonderful book to read if you want to know who you are in Christ, and how to live as part of the body of Christ. A key phrase is “in Him.” Everything we are, every blessing we have, every hope, every joy, every pleasure, every strength, anything and everything good in this life and through eternity is because of Jesus and comes to us in Jesus alone.
God knows who will respond to His invitation and offer of grace. I said “yes” a very long time ago as a 7-year-old, and He has never failed me. I can’t explain exactly what happened on that evening; I just know God spoke to my heart and convicted me that I needed Him, and I believed. And trust me, I know the Holy Spirit came in, because from that time forward, whenever I sin, He has made His presence known!
Have you said yes to Jesus? Has He opened your spiritual eyes to who He is, and convicted you of your sin and need for redemption? What a blessing and privilege! God lavishes His grace on us, extending the invitation to eternal life. Listen to that urgency in your soul to respond. Believe. Repent. Receive. Walk through the door and say “yes.” When you are made alive in Christ, you will understand it was all His work, all His grace, all His mercy, all along.
2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.