Once Upon a Time

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Ephesians 1:

Most commentaries on Ephesians divide the letter into two, more-or-less, equal parts. We're told that Part 1, which includes chapters 1-3, is theological. It focuses on doctrine having to do with God, salvation, humanity, the church, and so on. Part 2, comprising chapters 4-6, is ethical. It spells out how we are to live in light of the theological truth of the first part of the letter. So, chapters 1-3 give us the "is" of doctrine. Chapters 4-6 give us the "ought" of the Christian life.

This description of Ephesians is right on many accounts, as you'll see if you read through the whole letter. It does over-simplify things a bit, since elements of Part 1 beg to be lived out and much of Part 2 is profoundly theological. But the doctrinal—ethical perspective on Ephesians can easily neglect something essential about this letter. Yes, it contains rich doctrine. And, yes, it instructs us in daily living. But Ephesians also tells a story, an expansive story, one might even say the grandest story of them all.

This story focuses on God and his work in the cosmos. It features God's work through his Son, Jesus Christ. It highlights God's work through his Spirit. Human beings are featured prominently in God's story, though in a supporting role. We are at first recipients of God's activity and then participants in his universal work.

According to Ephesians 1:4, God's epic begins, not just with the creation of the universe, but even before that. This verse reveals that God chose us in Christ "before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." The first act of God's story is not the formation of the physical world, but rather God's gracious decision to make us his own and to set us apart for his purposes. (God did this, by the way, with full foreknowledge of our sin and with a plan to deal with that sin. As we continue on in Ephesians, we'll learn more about God's plan.)

Many classic stories begin with the familiar words, "Once upon a time." God's story in Ephesians starts differently. It might be rendered, "Once before there was time." God transcends even time itself. What a wonder! And this transcendent God included you in his story from the very beginning. Now that's a double wonder!

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you think of God's story, what comes to mind? What are the main themes, actions, characters, etc.? Do you ever think of your life as part of God's story?

PRAYER: Gracious God, how I thank you for telling your story in Scripture, and in Ephesians in particular. Thank you for the power of this story...and for the fact that it's true.

Help me to understand the grandeur and depth of your story. Teach me to see my own life as a chapter in your epic. Thank you for writing me in! Amen.

Images sourced via Creative Commons.