Today, as we continue our Sunday look at Ephesians, we find ourselves in Ephesians 3. In this chapter, there are three primary areas of emphasis to which I see Paul calling our attention. Within the larger structure of the letter, Ephesians 3 serves as a pivotal transition. Chapters one, two, and part of three have been primarily focused on our identification in Christ as a member of God’s family. Chapter 3 also serves as a transition focusing on our transformation and the work of the Spirit; and it begins to show Paul’s sending, or commission that God’s people have as sent agents of hope and healing in the world.
Identification: Much like the first two chapters, Paul continues to hammer home the point of our identification. We are united by the work that Jesus has done, is doing, and ultimately will do. All people, Jew and Gentile, now have one calling and marker that is more important than any other: saved by the work of Jesus when he conquered death. This work most fully reveals God’s relentless and passionate love for his creation. Any barrier that humanity uses to exploit, divide, or separate, God tears down and unites all people.
Transformation: Paul also writes in chapter 3 about the transformative work of the Holy Spirit. This transformation takes place in two distinct workings: personally and corporately. Paul writes about knowing and being shaped by Christ in our ‘inner being’ (verse 16), that is the deep, most hidden places of our lives. As a personal host of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Christ desires to have all of us, redeem all of us, restore all parts of us, and save all parts of us. Corporately, Paul writes of the ongoing work of God’s gathered people. Our gathered times in community should be marked by the progression and transformation of Christ among us. Our communities should visibly be growing in love, service, acceptance, and fellowship.
Commission: Paul, at the end of chapter 3, begins his definitive call to a commission. After calling us to unity, to ‘one-ness’ in all things (verse 6), Paul now effectively says, “It’s going to be hard, but for those (personally and corporately) that have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God can accomplish anything.” For the follower of Jesus, these ideas are always paired. Calling always comes with sending. Transformation always ends with commission. Experiencing grace results in extending grace. Paul ends chapter 3 as a foreshadowing of what will come in chapter 4. Perhaps they (and we) can feel a bit overwhelmed by all of this. We doubt, struggle, and wonder whether God has really saved us, or can love us that much. Paul affirms that God can (and does). We wonder if Christ’s love and grace really can unite us despite all of our differences (it can). And deep down, we all really wonder if we have what it takes: can God really work through me? Yes, he can, and it is his delight.
A survey of the Western Christian scene has shown us that we are much better at division than unity. We are far more known for being against something rather than being for something, and our political context hasn’t helped that image. We toss words and labels around that are meant to show Christ’s true followers, instead of worrying about how we might best extend grace to those around us.
Paul’s word at the end of Ephesians 3 is meant to steady and encourage us for the tough road ahead. Yes, we can remain united in Christ’s love, for nothing else matters. Yes, we can live as transformed and sent people into this world. Yes, we can make disciples and call others to join in God’s movement to restore all things.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Please enter into the discussion below. What are your thoughts? How does this challenge or encourage you?