Salvation Accomplishes Even More
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
In our study of the first part of Ephesians 2, we saw that God's salvation by grace through faith includes far more than a ticket to Heaven after death. In fact, God saves us from a deathly existence in this life, allowing us to begin to experience the reality of the resurrection even now. Moreover, as we accept the gift of salvation, we are recreated by God, becoming his masterpieces so that we might live our lives for his purposes and glory. Salvation transforms our individual lives now, as well as in the age to come.
But salvation accomplishes even more than this! The second half of Ephesians 2 reveals further implications of Christ's death on the cross. It shows that our salvation touches, not just our personal lives, but also our relationships, our lives in community with others. The cross of Jesus Christ is meant to transform social structures. Salvation has everything to do with how we live together as well as how we live individually.
A simple word in Ephesians 2:11 makes it abundantly clear that the second half of the chapter is a further exposition of the first half, an elaboration of salvation by grace through faith. This word is "therefore" in English (dio in Greek). Though verse 11 introduces new ideas, it is based on verses 1-10. Moreover, as we'll see, the flow of thought in verses 11-13 reflects the flow of thought in verses 1-4. God's grace in Christ not only brings us from death to life, but also brings together the brokenness of humanity.
If we stop for a moment to remember what happened when sin entered the world, we would not be surprised by what we will soon discover in the second half of Ephesians 2. As you recall, when Adam and Eve sinned, the very first result was interpersonal. They sewed fig leaves together in order to hide from each other (Gen. 3:7). Later in Genesis 3, God spells out other ways in which human beings will experience brokenness in their relationships because of sin (Gen. 3:16). The rest of the Old Testament provides abundant evidence of how our broken relationship with God infects and fractures our relationships with each other. So, if God were to save us from sin and its results, as in Ephesians 2:1-4, then we would expect salvation to mend, not only our relationship with God, but also our relationships with each other.
If this thought intrigues you, I would encourage you to read all of Ephesians 2:11-22. It might be even more helpful to read all of Ephesians 2 together, to get a clear sense of the flow of the argument.
In tomorrow's reflection, we'll examine further verses 11-13 of Ephesians 2. For now, you may want to consider the follow questions.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways have you experienced the relational and social results of sin? In what ways have you experienced God's salvation having relational and social ramifications?
PRAYER: Gracious God, as we begin a new section of Ephesians, we thank you for what lies ahead. Help us to understand in a fresh and deep way the breadth and depth of our salvation. Expand our minds. Renew our hearts. Heal our relationships. Transform us so that we might be agents of transformation in this world. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.