Unity in Christ’s Family

John came into the family room where his parents were watching the news. He heard the end of a report about a man trying to collect a large inheritance. “If that man’s parents died, why can’t he get the money that was left?” John asked after Dad turned off the TV. “He ran away from […]

John came into the family room where his parents were watching the news. He heard the end of a report about a man trying to collect a large inheritance. “If that man’s parents died, why can’t he get the money that was left?” John asked after Dad turned off the TV.

“He ran away from home when he was sixteen years old,” Dad explained. “That was thirty years ago, and he never contacted his family again. They searched and searched for him and found out he’d moved to another state. They wanted to have a relationship with him again and made repeated efforts throughout the years to contact him, including several visits to the city where he lived. But he wouldn’t even speak with them.”

“But he’s back now, so won’t he get at least some of the money?” asked John.

Dad shook his head. “Apparently not. His parents gave up trying to get a response from him and didn’t include him in their wills.”

“But now, after they’ve both died, he’s finally shown up and thinks he should have the inheritance?” asked John.

“Yes, but now it’s too late,” replied Dad. “He contested the will, but the courts upheld it. They said he’s not entitled to any of the money.”

“Wow!” said John. “I bet he’s sorry he didn’t make up with his parents when he had the chance.”

Dad nodded. “He learned a hard lesson–and a very common one. Do you realize that something similar happens every day?”

“It does?” asked John in surprise. “You mean there are lots of people who leave home and refuse to have a relationship with their parents?”

“That happens often enough,” said Dad, “but what I really meant is that God offers an inheritance to everyone who comes to Him through Jesus Christ. Because of our sin, we’re cut off from God, so He sent Jesus to pay the price of our sin so we could have a relationship with Him. But many people ignore His offer of reconciliation. When life ends, they’re going to want the inheritance–eternal life–given to those who are part of God’s family, but it’s going to be too late. That’s why it’s important to accept God’s offer to have a relationship with Jesus now, while we still can.” (Pause)

The passage we heard from Ephesians expresses a new understanding that Paul has talked about in his other letters but never fully developed. The abolishment of the barrier between Jews and Gentiles is the key to understanding God’s plan for the universe. His plan was and is to unify the entire universe in Christ Jesus. That is God’s gift to us, and we should be grateful for what He has done for us.

The author of Ephesians refers to God’s gift of grace as a lavish inheritance. Something we didn’t earn, but which is gifted to us. How often do we settle for less when God is dying to give us grace? How often do we settle for the tired old habits of religion-legalism and dogmatism- instead of waiting in expectation for the lavish gift of forgiveness, the mystery of adoption by God? How do we correct our vision?

When the New Testament speaks of a mystery, it normally refers not to a secret but to a truth that has previously been unknown. The mystery of God’s will focuses on God’s great plan to centre all things in heaven and on earth in His Son, Jesus Christ. The dispensation of the fullness of the times refers to the time when God’s plan will be fully revealed at the Second Coming of Christ. Then everyone on earth will recognize that Jesus is Lord.

The fact that we are chosen by God gives us a purpose that we can hang on to in our slippery world. Our wide-open, permissive society is similar to the sinfulness of first century Rome. It doesn’t provide a purpose, but God does, and that purpose is to be holy and blameless in love. Second-best isn’t good enough for us as Christians. To be chosen for a purpose means that to be human and Christian is to be holy, and to make our lives an offering to God. Our destiny as Christians is in the hands of a God that loves us so much that He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins so we can have eternal life with Him.

Those in Christ have every spiritual blessing needed for spirit, soul and body; for the past, present and future; for salvation and service; for time and eternity, both now and forever. The spiritual blessings believers have in Christ encompass every need and aspect in their lives. Paul specifies that these blessings are in the heavenly places so that readers will understand: this promise is not one of earthly blessings that will pass away but of spiritual blessings that will endure forever!

God hates uncleanliness. He hates to see anger boiling in the heart rather than the love that He placed there. God hates the lackadaisical heart that finds it hard to care about God, let alone anybody else. God hates gossip flowing freely off the tongue rather than encouragement or words of praise. God hates the self-indulgence that often replaces compassion and attention to the needs of the people around us. God hates the uncleanliness of the jealousy that chokes off our ability to have healthy relationships.

God hates uncleanness because he hates anything that sells us short-short of what we can be, short of our destiny. God hates anything that harms us or prevents us from being the people He designed us to be. God hates anything that chokes off the life He desires for us.

God hates uncleanliness because God is holiness and we are not. God has higher hopes, holy hopes for us, and yet we fall short. And let’s be honest-cleanliness is next to impossible. But God is holiness, yes. At the same time, though, give thanks because God is also pure mercy.

God is love, and love does not wish to live alone. By definition, love requires relationship, so God chose for himself a people to be His own special possession. Love and sacrifice go together. We have been redeemed, justified and drawn near to Christ through His blood. This is the power of God because the love that initiated it is God’s love. Through God’s forgiveness we have redemption because of Christ’s sacrifice. As a result of this forgiveness we can respond to God in all wisdom and prudence. Through God’s forgiveness we are gathered into one body and we become God’s children. We become what we want and need. We become part of God’s family. We find unity in Christ.

When you were in school, were you ever among the last children to be chosen when teams were formed in Physical Education classes? Perhaps you felt the same way a little boy named Ronnie did. Ronny squirmed back and forth unable to peel his eyes from the black asphalt below him. He hated this part of physical education class. He shifted his weight back and forth and listened; wishing and praying that he would hear his name called.

“Simon.” The boy next to him smiled and hustled over to his team. Ronny sighed. There were only a few kids left and he knew he would be the last one picked. He was right, as he found himself standing alone, again. Ronny, shoulders drooping, joined his team. Getting picked last stinks.

There are none picked last in the Kingdom of God. God does not choose us because we are the most athletic, the smartest, the strongest, or the most religious. We cannot do anything to earn the salvation God graciously and freely gives us. It has always been a part of God’s plan to adopt us into His family, so we cannot take the credit. There is no room for pride.

Our team captain is Jesus Christ. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are holy and blameless in God’s sight. We are set apart. Through Jesus we are a part of the body of Christ. We are on His team. We are not picked last, but first. In fact, Jesus picked us long before any of us existed! We are valued by Him because He had us in mind from the beginning of time. He took the time to create us. We belong to Him. He has a plan for us. Most important, He will never stop loving us.

The word “beloved” is a reference to Christ. The believer’s relationship with the sinless Christ is what makes him or her acceptable before God. When we believe in Christ, He works a miracle in us. We are purified and empowered by God. We obtain the riches of God’s grace in abundance. We have everything we need for life and godliness. We are to share these gifts with an unbelieving world. That is the point of the parable of the wicked, unforgiving servant. We didn’t deserve grace, but now that we have it, we have to give it as liberally and as graciously as we received it.

Six times in the Letter to the Ephesians Paul reminds readers of God’s riches: grace, the glory of His inheritance in the saints, His mercy, Christ and his glory. Because God is the source, this wealth can never be depleted and can never be lost.

The original form of the term “redemption” recalls the word “forum”, the place in ancient cities where slaves were bought and sold. Believers have been redeemed from the bondage of sin and freed by the shed blood of Christ. The believers’ inheritance consists of the promise of eternal life with God and all the spiritual blessings the heavenly Father supplies until then. Not only do God’s people receive an inheritance from God, they also make up His inheritance.

When something is sealed, it is marked with the owner’s name and secured as being in his or her possession. God marks believers as His very own by sending His Holy Spirit to live in them. The Holy Spirit Himself is the seal.

Whatever our situation may be, we are assured that God will work things out after the counsel of His own will. He will turn our sorrow into joy, and our groaning into glory. There will be times in our lives when our spiritual growth will be slow and times when it will be fast. God doesn’t always hurry in the development of our Christian life and He is not bound by time. Those of us who are deeply spiritual will be the ones who have made up their minds that they are going to stick with the Word of God, love other people and allow Him to live His life through them.

The Gentiles heard and responded to “the word of truth, the gospel of salvation”, which must include both the message of divine forgiveness and the vision of a transformed world. The Spirit is the advance instalment of the fulfilled vision. What will the vision be like? It will have the features we recognize in the Spirit. And what are they? Some might think of ecstasy and wonders. People who have listened to Paul will answer: love.

This elaborate and somewhat flowery acclamation is grounded in its underlying vision of divine love. People and things will be one when they acclaim love and compassion and acknowledge those alone as what rules. That vision of Christ is then a vision for the church and the whole world. It already shows itself where barriers and prejudice are broken down.

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