God’s Grand Plan: A Theological Vision (Ephesians 1:1–3:21)
In this daily reflection from The High Calling, Mark Roberts considers how when our core identity is determined, not by what we do for a living, but by our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, everything in life shifts.
The first half of Ephesians unfolds the grand narrative of God’s salvation of the whole cosmos. Even before the “foundation of the world,” God graciously chose us in Christ for relationship with him and to live out his purpose in the world (Eph. 1:4–6). At the core of this purpose, God will “gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:10). To put it differently, God will restore the whole cosmos, once broken by sin, under the authority of Christ. The fact that God will renovate his creation reminds us that this world—including farms, schools, and corporations—matters to God and has not been abandoned by him.
God’s restoring work, centered in Christ, involves human beings, both as recipients of God’s grace and as participants in his ongoing work of gracious restoration. We are saved by grace because of faith, not because of our works (Eph. 2:8–9). But our works are vital to God, “for we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph. 2:10). Thus we are not saved by works but for works. These works, which include all that we do, are a part of God’s renewal of creation. Therefore, our activity in the workplace is one crucial element of that which God has prepared for us to do in fulfillment of his purpose for us.
The church features prominently in God’s plan for putting the world back together in Christ. His death on the cross not only made possible our personal salvation (Eph. 2:4–7), but also mended the breach between Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:13–18). This unity between former enemies epitomizes the unifying work of God. Thus the church serves as a demonstration to the whole universe of the nature and ultimate success of God’s cosmic plan (Eph. 3:9–10). But the church is not merely a unit of people who gather once a week to do religious activities together. Rather, the church is the community of all believers, doing everything they do in all the places of life, whether working together or separately. In every sphere of life, we have “the power at work within us [which] is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20). Notice that Paul uses the civic term “citizens” (Eph. 2:19) to describe Christians, rather than the religious term “worshippers.” In fact, Ephesians gives virtually no instructions about what the church should do when it gathers, but several instructions about how its members should work, as we will see momentarily.