During Fall 2017, I taught Calvary Monterey the book of Ephesians. During the series, I also wrote about Ephesians in sixty-plus short, devotionally styled posts. Each Thursday, through 2018, I will release a post. I hope you enjoy. For the entire series, please visit nateholdridge.com/united-for-unity-posts.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 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, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:7–12).
Next, Paul moves from the spiritual blessings from God the Father to the spiritual blessings from God the Son. The first blessing believers have received from the Son is that of redemption and forgiveness.
The Bible uses words filled with great imagery to communicate our conversion at the cross of Christ. The word “justification” has a courtroom in mind; we have been declared innocent before a holy and righteous judge, for another has taken our penalty. The word “adoption” has a family in mind; we used to be strangers, but now we are His full children, heirs of His inheritance. The word “reconciliation” has warring nations in mind; we were at enmity with God, a bitter war against Him, but now He has made us His friends through the cross of His Son.
Here Paul uses the word “redemption,” which points to a previous slavery we have been purchased out of. Much of the Roman Empire was enslaved. Paul imagined a moment where slaves those were purchased to be granted their freedom. Their debts were canceled and they were allowed a new life. God has done this redemptive work for sinners. Jesus paid as a ransom the price for sin which had enraged God’s holiness. The very sin He hated He paid for.
To the woman caught in adultery Christ, after all the other accusers departed, said, “Neither to I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). He had redeemed her from that old life. She need not return.
The second spiritual blessing we have received from God the Son is that of becoming part of God’s mysterious plan. We can call it mysterious because Paul does. Apparently, God had a purpose, “a plan for the fullness of time,” and we are now in the know about it. What was God’s eternal plan? “To unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.” God’s deepest plan is to unite all things in Jesus Christ. Paul isn’t affirming the universalist’s fantasy — mandatory and forced salvation upon all! — but is declaring the extent of the renewal God has and will win in Christ.
Our world is fragmented. Nature is divided and at war with itself. Classes of people are at constant odds with one another. Nations wage war against others. Ethnicities hate and attack others. Religions battle. Genders clash. The spiritual dimension is divided between light and dark, good and evil. Even human nature itself is divided; we are a dichotomy. Most of all, God and humanity are divided. But the plan of God in Christ is to crush all this fragmentation. Jesus is the only one who can. His cross is the only place that will. Someday we will see this deep cosmic renewal, but we are now part of His deep plan, living it out for His glory.
Believers are part of this great, mysterious plan of God. We have been redeemed by the Son, forgiven of our sin, that we might be part of His right now work of uniting all things to Himself. As we love and serve and obey, His kingdom expands. We quote Isaiah, that “of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7). When we live out His great promises, when we follow Him and keep His commandments, we are united more fully to His government. It has expanded. May the “all things” of our lives, every element within them, be united to Christ.