Summary: Here we have a wonderfully concise yet comprehensive summary of the Christian gospel and its implications. Here we discover the wonder and intricacy of God’s eternal plan for his world and especially for his people.
You may have been following the reports, over the past few months, of the State Government Report prepared by Sir Rod Eddington on Melbourne’s East-West transport needs. The one thing that seems to have come out of that exercise and particularly since the Eastlink toll road opened is that the need is now and that the planning for improved transport should have started some 10 or more years ago. What’s clear is that when you’re thinking about major projects like that you need years and years of planning if things are going to work out.
I imagine planning for the Olympic Games was going on long before Beijing was given the nod in 2000. And look how well they’ve done it - apart from the fog of course. Someone suggested that the Chinese d
ivers who’ve been blitzing the field were probably picked at the age of 3 to begin their training. And even on a smaller scale project planning needs to be done well in advance. So our building committee has been hard at work for the last few months working on the early plans for our new building.
But we’re talking today about a really big project. Big projects need extensive planning and today we’re looking at the greatest plan in history. Here we find a cosmic plan, a plan that was first thought out before the world was created and that’ll be brought to completion on the day when Christ returns to take us to be with him in the new world, the new Jerusalem.
But before we look at God’s cosmic plan let’s notice how Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians.
He begins with the usual sort of greeting. Paul an apostle by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus. That is, those who are set apart by belonging to Christ. Then he adds this extra clause: "And who are faithful in Christ Jesus." Given the context, these are those who have resisted the pressures of pagan Ephesus; pressures to compromise on the basics of the faith, pressures to accept other ways of worshipping God. These are those who remain in Christ Jesus and who see their place in Christ Jesus as central to salvation.
Then after giving the usual greeting of grace and peace he offers praise to God
Praise to God
As you read through these verses do you get the feeling that Paul is a bit excited by what he’s praising God for. The words just tumble out, one after another don’t they? "3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love." He doesn’t even stop to draw breath, This is amazing stuff.
God has blessed us.
How has he blessed us? In Christ first of all. That phrase "In Christ" occurs eleven times in the first 11 verses so it’s obviously an important concept in Paul’s mind. So what does he mean by it? What does it mean to be "in Christ"? Well, I take him to be saying that those who have believed in Christ, those who remain faithful to him, are incorporated into his very being. We’re incorporated in the sense that we’re made part of his body. This is a major reason for us working on living in unity with one another, because there is only one body. He takes up the idea later in chapter 4 where he tells us to clothe ourselves with the new self that’s created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. It’s as though the new creation is brought into being in us as we’re renewed by the Holy Spirit coming to live within us. We’re remade the way God wants us to be. We’ll see more of this idea later when we get to chapters 4 & 5.