Friday, July 18, 2014

In Christ, everything

In a previous posting I referenced the No-Fishing rule: if a sign has been posted that says NO FISHING, that must be because someone has been fishing where he shouldn't have been; if an author harps on about an issue or topic, it must be because there have been misunderstandings or misbehavior in this regard. The No-Fishing rule tells us, therefore, that for the audience of Paul's epistle to the Ephesians, there must have been some problem in understanding the centrality of Christ. That is why Paul goes on and on about what is true in Christ in the opening of the letter (Eph 1.3ff.).

Paul emphasizes a few key things about Christ in this passage:

  • He says we have been blessed . . .  in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. 
  • He says that God 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, in God's glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved
  • He insists that in Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses
  • Paul affirms that God's will is to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth
  • He reminds us about the early Jewish Christians that in Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory
  • As for the Ephesians, he tells them: In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.

Paul's point in all of this, as I've already said, is to drill the point home that all spiritual and salvific blessing is in Christ, is found in communion and fellowship with Christ. This implies that the Ephesians needed to be told these things.

We cannot look for the good things of salvation anywhere else except in God's gift to us, his Son Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we have the forgiveness of sins: looking anywhere else will lead us into despair, because no one else has the audacity to utter Son, your sins are forgiven except Christ (Mark 2.5). Even if someone else were to say it, why should we believe it? Why should anyone care, why should anyone trust that the sins have indeed been forgiven? Christ alone has been risen from the dead, and he alone gave himself as a ransom for many (Mark 10.45), he alone died one for all (2 Cor 5.14), he alone was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification (Rom 4.25). No exotic Eastern philosophy or feel-good New Age insights will solve this problem for us; at best they will tell us there is nothing to be forgiven -- something the sensitive human conscience cannot tolerate.

Likewise Christ shows us that God's plan is to gather up all things in him (Eph 1.10). Christ is the proof that God has not abandoned this creation nor any part of it, but intends that all of it be restored and saved from death and decay. Being confronted with death and destruction, our hearts yearn for something better; we are convinced that this is not the way things should be. In these respects we are right, but it is only Christ's death and resurrection on behalf of all that confirms that anything will be done. Paul affirms that Christ died for all, and therefore all have died (2 Cor 5.14), and that this death leads to justification and life for all (Rom 5.18). Again Paul affirms that in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor 15.22) -- you too! -- and therefore death will be defeated and God will be all in all (1 Cor 15.26, 28).

When all these things are present in Christ, why should we go elsewhere? When God's divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness (1 Pet 1.3), how can we think to abandon God's salvation in Christ and seek it in ourselves or in other persons? We can be too easily fooled by the philosophies and "wisdom" of the world in this regard (cf. Col 2.8). No -- everything we need for salvation, every hope we have of salvation, is in what Christ accomplished and accomplishes for us. Praise be to God!