However, God does not “park” us here in this abstraction. No.
In Ephesians 4, He extends this to our life on this globe. As God so often clarifies Himself in Scripture, when He unfolds more about the ways He works, we discover that His commands are anchored in an the eternal Truth rather than a function or ritual to be carried out, as though it were “homework” handed out by a kind but stern teacher. And in this matter, that of our life in the Body, the truth is that this is our calling, the vocation for which each member was born.
As I read this I am reminded that He has the core of my being wrapped in His eternal timeless present and omniscience.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship [poemia], created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 4:8-10)
Two things about this section.
Firstly, poemia has been interpreted into English variously as “workmanship” (KJV) as well as “masterpiece.” A beautiful result.
Secondly, the 1611 King James Version puts “prepared” as “ordained.” Knowing both of these interpretations helps us grasp the essence of the thought: who I am in Christ is not primarily mine to do: but rather something I am made as. God says, “Do as you are.” (De-contextualizing this disables this verse).
What happens when I don't? I find myself mimicking people around me-and it's like putting clothes on inside out and backwards...they cover me, but it's not right, comfortable nor beneficial.
It comes down to a decision of the will: it is my choice is to become more – or less – who I actually am in Christ (which is in opposition to following my own will: in popular culture termed: “doing your own thing”). And, lest this idea (of becoming more who I am, unique and His), bring to mind thoughts of randown thoughts of “unique snowflakes and rainbows,” you should recall that the most radical-and often-objectionable behavior is to live in love towards all. Clearly from Ephesians, this is the path to growth, but it not to be confused with the path of ease. (Christians are often tempted to perceive trouble and conflict as “signs” of sin. And, often feel guilty for making others uneasy for living in the light of truth. Christians need to consider Christ as our example for this.)
In summary, God’s appeals to us to understand our past (Christ’s sacrifice, our redemption from the spiritual powers of darkness and self, and current ongoing advocacy for our sins), as well as our present spiritual reality: oneness with Christ through the Holy Spirit, oneness with one another via the Spirit of Christ, the urgency of living in love, and the ever-present residing in ‘church,’ our future, which is now.
Paul captures many of these same truths: the Church of Christ, and Christ in me, our oneness, and our collective and individual “growth goal” in Colossians:
1:24b“…his body, that is, the church,…26 the mystery [secret] hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery [secret], which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.(Colossians 1:24b,26-29 ESV) (and) ….2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…. 6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Col 2:2-3, 6,7 ESV)
I don’t know how to say it more to the point how the unity of the Church is captured in one beautiful phrase:
“…that their hearts may be encouraged being knit together in love…” (with the goal following this).
The word here “knit” is notable if you 've ever knitted (or worn anything knitted?). You can pull apart a seam sewn together very easily, but in contrast, “unknitting” something results in the abolishment of the entire garment. This goes back to the “organic” nature of the Body of Christ.
It comes as no surprise then, that the working out of the practical aspects of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is underscored with love: all things to the edifying of the Body, as Paul states in Romans:
5 One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike [sacred]. Let everyone be fully convinced (satisfied) in his own mind.
6 He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
7 None of us lives to himself [but to the Lord], and none of us dies to himself [but to the Lord, for]
8If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or we die, we belong to the Lord.
9 For Christ died and lived again for this very purpose, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 Why do you criticize and pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you look down upon or despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.
11 For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God [acknowledge Him to His honor and to His praise].
12 And so each of us shall give an account of himself [give an answer in reference to judgment] to God.
13 Then let us no more criticize and blame and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance in the way of a brother.
14 I know and am convinced (persuaded) as one in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is [forbidden as] essentially unclean (defiled and unholy in itself). But [none the less] it is unclean (defiled and unholy) to anyone who thinks it is unclean.
15 But if your brother is being pained or his feelings hurt or if he is being injured by what you eat, [then] you are no longer walking in love. [You have ceased to be living and conducting yourself by the standard of love toward him.] Do not let what you eat hurt or cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died!
16 Do not therefore let what seems good to you be considered an evil thing [by someone else]. [In other words, do not give occasion for others to criticize that which is justifiable for you.]
17 [After all] the kingdom of God is not a matter of [getting the] food and drink [one likes], but instead it is righteousness (that state which makes a person acceptable to God) and [heart] peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
18 He who serves Christ in this way is acceptable and pleasing to God and is approved by men.
19 So let us then definitely aim for and eagerly pursue what makes for harmony and for mutual upbuilding (edification and development) of one another.
20 You must not, for the sake of food, undo and break down and destroy the work of God! Everything is indeed [ceremonially] clean and pure, but it is wrong for anyone to hurt the conscience of others or to make them fall by what he eats.
21 The right thing is to eat no meat or drink no wine [at all], or [do anything else] if it makes your brother stumble or hurts his conscience or offends or weakens him.
22 Your personal convictions [on such matters]--exercise [them] as in God's presence, keeping them to yourself [striving only to know the truth and obey His will]. (Romans 14:5-22 Amplified Bible)
God the Father sent me the means, the opportunity and the motive for transformation (Romans 12:1,2). The entirety of my life is assurance, but also sanctity: I am in “church” everyday because I am continually dealing with God’s created humans.
This is not limited to the Church, nor is it restricted to the “unsaved.” In Ephesians and in John, God speaks of the entire human race as those whom He loves. By necessity, then, through the Holy Spirit, He wraps up my transformation in the care and redemptive enterprise He is working out in the lives of others whom He loves. I move beyond my self-centered oneness to other-centered unity in Christ, here and now.
- Charity Johnson