Two Words that Change Everything
As we close the series on the 4 pillars of the church, it is easy to see that when all the components of the church work together, there are times when it can look messy and disordered.
However, there are two words found in the book of Ephesians that turn this disorder into a masterpiece of God’s creation. Two words that bring together everything that we do, two words that transform the way we view each other, two words that transform the way in which we view the world around us.
There is a difference between the church as we see it, and the church as God sees it. God sees through our masks and our pretensions. Martin Luther was the first to make the distinction between the visible church and the invisible church. It is possible for people to be members of the visible church that are not actually part of the Body of Christ. A person is not automatically saved by being a long-time member of any church.
Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 25:31-46. We have already established that the church is the people of God, not a building or a weekly event. If we want to contain the church to nice orderly meetings, and social events, our church paradigm is too small.
Paul writing to the early church in Ephesus prays that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened (Ephesians 1:17-18). He prays that they would have their spiritual eyes opened, that they would grasp the extent and the implications of what God has called them to as the church.
Jesus is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23), he is the head of the church universal and invisible. This is a profound mystery (Ephesians 5:32).
At the beginning of chapter 2, Paul reminds the Ephesian church of their condition before Christ, they were dead. Paul is not referring to a particularly bad segment of society, he is referring to all humanity. The universal human condition is that we are all dead in our sins. This is not being physically dead, but it is a spiritual death, not being aware of the things of the Spirit.
Before we become Christians, we are dull to the Word of God, we are deaf to the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we have no love for God and we have no personal relationship with Jesus.
Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ everything is meaningless. All debates and discussions on worship style and format is meaningless, giving of your finances to the church is meaningless, attending prayer meetings is meaningless, you may frequently volunteer, or you may be a deacon, a Sunday School teacher or a Life Group leader – if you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you may be a registered member of the church, but you are not a member of the church invisible, and you are not going to spend eternity with Jesus Christ, the head of the church.
Paul clarifies what it means to be dead in sin, and in verse 2 he writes; “when you followed the ways of this world.” Who are you following? Are you more interested in the outcome of a ball game, or the latest news on a TV personality than in knowing and following the will of God for your life? We live in exceptional times, never in the history of humanity has any generation been subjected to so much information. I recent survey revealed that only 19 percent of those who call themselves Christians read the Bible on a regular basis. Of that 19 percent, the average person reads the Bible 30 to 40 minutes a day, assuming they read the Bible about 5 days a week, that would be a total of three hours per week.
Now compare that to the amount of time you and I are subjected to the media; TV, newspaper, smartphones, radio, magazines, billboards and other mass media. One survey combining all the media available to us, listed that we are exposed to the media on average 12 hours per day. That is a stunning 84 hours a week. Now compare that to 3 hours reading God’s Word, no wonder the average church member struggles with temptation and sin.
Then thankfully the chapter makes a huge turn, and Paul goes from pointing out the depths of sin and God’s wrath and begins to focus on the grace of God. God’s wrath and God’s grace must be held together when we view God’s character. When we have a clear perspective on God’s hatred of sin, it makes his grace a richer treasure than we can ever imagine.
Verse 4 begins with a sentence that changes everything; “But because of his great love for us, God…”
our human minds cannot begin to comprehend how much God loves us.
Verses 5 and 6 are some of the most incredible verses in the Bible, in verse 5 we read; “God, made us alive with Christ…”. Then verse 6; “God raised us up with Christ…” and finally in verse 6; “and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ”
These three phrases are how we describe Jesus being raised from the dead, ascending into heaven and being seated on the throne. But Paul says that we were with Christ as believers. The two words I referred to earlier; “IN CHRIST”, change everything. It is impossible for us to comprehend all that this means for us, and we will only begin to fully understand what it means to be “in Christ” in the age to come as verse 7 states
Those two words, “in Christ” are incredibly important for our daily Christian walk, we need to pray and ask God for understanding, that is why Paul began this passage by praying for wisdom and revelation.
Paul goes on in verses 8 and 9, to make the statement that we are only saved by the grace of God, through faith. This faith is not a simple rational belief, no this is supernatural faith that comes from God.
Our salvation is not a transaction, we cannot do anything in order to be saved, even the faith that we need to believe in Jesus Christ, comes from God.
Paul concludes this section by stating; “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…” (v10). The Greek translated here handiwork, means a masterpiece or a work of art. We are created, we are not improved on or whitewashed over. We have become new creations in Christ Jesus.
Looking at a masterpiece of art, people want to know who the artist was. And so it must be with a Christian, our lives need to reflect the work of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Do we see ourselves like that? Do we see our fellow Christians like that? Sometimes it is hard to see ourselves and other Christians as masterpieces but because we are “IN CHRIST”, God the Father sees the new creation and not the old broken vessel that we were. That is why Paul prays in verse 18; “that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened”