Two little words…

Christians can learn a lot about unity in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians  — if only we properly understand his use of two little words.

Which words?

We’ll get to that in a sec. First, let’s make sure we understand the context of this letter. It is written to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ — to Christians. Paul makes this clear in his opening remarks…

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus…” — Ephesians 1:1

There. We now know to whom Paul is speaking. Remember that when we get to the pronouns “you”, “us”, and “we.” Got the context? Good. Let’s proceed.

In Chapter 2 Paul points out to the Ephesians who they once were — sinners deserving every ounce of God’s wrath.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” — Ephesians 2:1-3

Now, in case you were unaware, mankind is a mess. Even if Scripture did not make that abundantly clear in places like Psalm 51:5, Romans 5:18-19, Jeremiah 17:9, the first three chapters of Romans, or the passage in Ephesians quoted right above, we would still know this to be a fact just from the empirical evidence all around us. People lie, cheat, steal, and kill all the time. They do it as individuals and they do it as groups. This calls to mind a quote I ran across once…

“One thief is called a criminal. Ten thieves are called a gang. One hundred thieves are called the mafia and 100,000 thieves are called the government.” — Anonymous

This is why we have crime and war. People are just no good — individually or in groups. And Paul is pointing out to the Christians in Ephesus that this is who they once were — just like the rest of mankind.

And now those two little words…

“But God…”

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith.” — Ephesians 2:4-8

Paul wants these believers to know just what God did for them. He:

  • Made them alive
  • Saved them
  • Raised them up with Christ
  • Seated them with Christ in the heavenly places

Paul also pointed out why:

  • Because God is rich in mercy
  • Because of God’s great love with which he loved us
  • So that He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace

Paul then tells these believers what is possible for them as a result…

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” — Ephesians 2:11-16

There had always been animosity between Jews and Gentiles just like there has always been animosity between people groups all around the globe. But, we know from Revelation chapter 5 that this salvation God provided for the believers in Ephesus He has provided for members of every people group in the world. He will save for Himself a people from every nation and tongue. This is the Kingdom of God. This is the Church — with one voice praising God and singing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.” A Kingdom comprised of people who didn’t like one another very much. How can these people come together in unity? Let’s consider it.

There was a more dangerous animosity between God and man — one that was completely justified on the part of God. And yet, God reconciled sinful men to Himself through the work of His Son Jesus Christ. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, is pointing out that those who have been reconciled to God in Christ Jesus should, necessarily, be reconciled to one another. If God was able to kill His hostility toward us, then our hostility toward one another should be killed as well. Especially when you consider none of us occupy the moral high ground.

Dear Christian, is there something going on today that threatens to put you at odds with your brothers and sisters in Christ? Don’t be surprised. Because of the influences of our world, our culture, and our flesh there will always be a temptation to allow animosity to grow between us.

But God…

About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

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