Paul’s letters are chocked full of amazingly deep theology. Whether its the revelation of God’s plan for Jews and Gentiles in Romans 9-11, the divinity of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11, or his reflections on the nature of the church in the Pastoral Epistles, Paul has bequeathed to the church a treasure-trove through his writings.
One of the Paul’s most studied passages is Ephesians 1:3-14. Called “the longest sentence in the Bible”, this section touches on many important topics in Christian theology, such as adoption, election, union with Christ, atonement, and a host of others. Today on Wednesdays on the Word, we are going to look at this passage and the emphasis that Paul places on being “in Christ.” We will also reflect on how this reality affects believers daily walk with the Lord.
United with Him
Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” or “in him” 10 times in Ephesians 1:3-14. He attaches this phrase to different theological concepts:
- Blessing that we receive (Eph. 1:3)
- Election (Eph. 1:4)
- Redemption (Eph. 1:7)
- God’s plan for history (Eph. 1:9-10)
- Adoption (Eph. 1:11)
That’s five major points of doctrine in nine verses! Obviously, for Paul, union with Christ constitutes a major theme in the life of the believer. However much we might emphasizes other doctrines for different purposes, the fact remains that union with Christ is the umbrella over which all of the other truths of the gospel live.
To quote Roy Gingrich, “[God] is not a merchant. He does not sell His blessings. He freely gives them to those who acknowledge their dependence upon Him for the supply of their needs and ask Him for this supply.” (The Book of Ephesians, p. 10) God has freely given us all things, every spiritual blessing that comes our way, because we are united with Christ. Outside of being united with Christ, there are no spiritual blessings but only spiritual curses.
Living for Him
Being united with Christ, Christians should expect to share in the spiritual mission that Christ has for his followers. Although we can expect to receive the blessings, we should also expect to share in the work that God in Christ has for us.
Paul continues his message of thanksgiving by reminding the Ephesians that “in him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Eph. 1:11) God has given his children, those who have united themselves to Christ through faith in him, a mission and a purpose. God’s purpose, in one sense, is secret—we do not have all the details of how the grand scheme of human history will play out: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…”. (Deut. 29:29a)
However, God has given us both the power and the insight to do his will in love, being united in Christ: “but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever.” (Deut. 29:29b) God’s purpose in giving us spiritual blessings through Christ is to do the things that please God. God has given us these spiritual blessings freely to walk faithfully before him.
In Him, In Love
Christians are showered with much favor from the Lord. Sometimes we fail to live like we’re supposed to as believers. However, one of Paul’s reasons for writing to the Ephesians was to encourage them with this good news of the spiritual blessings found in being united to our Lord.
We have been adopted by God to be his sons and daughters. We have been predestined to walk in love. We have received redemption through the death and resurrection of our Savior. The good news is that God has not only given us good gifts, but has condescended to unite himself to us so that we can experience true spiritual blessing through Jesus.
Being united with Christ is the greatest gift that we can receive, because through Jesus we receive “every good gift and every perfect gift that is from above.” (James 1:17) Let’s give thanks today for the spiritual blessings that we have received in Christ.