Sept. 7 Bible Studies for Life: Connected in Christ
Sep 1, 2014
By W. WILEY RICHARDS
In order to have a fuller appreciation for the message of the Book of Ephesians, we must go back to the magnificent teaching in chapter 1, verses 3-14. First, the Bible there provides us with God’s glorious plan for the ages as it centers around the blessed Trinity. It is set forth in verses 3-6. He chose—elected—to implement a way to show forth His glories by saving those who trust in the Son. He predestined to be saved anyone believing in the Son. Second, the Bible then gives in detail the saving work of the Son (vv. 7-12). The fundamental elements of His death on the cross will bring redemption, forgiveness, the inheritance and an unveiling of the mystery of God’s will according to what He has planned through Jesus. Third, the Bible highlights the work of the Holy Spirit (vv. 13-14). He is the seal, that is, God’s down payment, guaranteed by His presence in every believer. The Holy Spirit does not seal. He is the seal.
Of central importance for implementing this revolutionary plan for the nations is an assurance of access (vv. 17-18). The Bible introduces this plan by alluding to the fact that Jesus “preached peace” to those who were afar off (v. 17). Those “afar off” in contrast “to those that were nigh” brings into focus two themes lying at the center of the Great Commission. Israel’s location was somewhat isolated. The nation was bordered on the east by mountain ridges, the Jordan River and deserts, and on the west by the Mediterranean Sea. The two main centers of civilization of Mesopotamia and Egypt were connected via camel caravans with each other. Those nations were “afar off” from the temple in Jerusalem, to which Israel was “nigh.” So, reconciliation was two-fold, between Israel and the nations and both of these with God.
The death of Christ on the cross provided the way of access in both regards. But the word “access” does not express the excitement, the vitality, of what is involved. Access is more than merely an open door. It connects the door of invitation with the Holy Spirit standing in the gap, urging both Jew and Gentile to enter. The closest to an illustration in my mind relates to sermons addressed to those with whom the Holy Spirit was dealing. We used to call that state as one “being under conviction” by the Holy Spirit. The Bible reinforces the event by stating that through Jesus’ death, we—both Jew and Gentile—have “access by one Spirit unto the Father” (v. 18).
Another benefit of being connected in Christ is that of being brought into a new family (v. 19). Although we have been brought to the Father by one Spirit (v. 17), we are not told whether this came about by the new birth (John 3:3) or adoption (Rom. 8:15). The family relationship is the same. Both “strangers and foreigners,” those afar off, have experienced a change in citizenship and been made partakers in the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1:12-13). Even more intimately, all are made members of “the household of God,” nullifying the alienation between Jew and Gentile and both with God.
A final benefit of being connected in Christ is the believer’s part in God’s building of a new temple (vv. 20-22). The Bible at this point invokes the image of an entirely new kind of temple equipped to be the habitation of God. It has its foundation stones, supplied by the teachings of the apostles and of the prophets, meaning those of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, not those of the Old Testament. Their special work may be inferred from verses like Acts 11:27. As certain prophets came from Jerusalem, they were classified with teachers at Antioch (Acts 13:1), they were grouped with apostles and teachers (1 Cor. 12:28, Eph. 3:5). The Bible carefully notes that Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone (v. 20).
In the new temple, always under construction, all the building blocks (believers) are being “framed together” as they grow into the spiritual temple, a “habitation of God through the Spirit” (v. 22). The distinction between those afar off and nigh is effectively meaningless in regard to the new temple because all believers are connected in Christ.
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