You have heard it pointed out that, even though it is important to have Jesus in your heart, the New Testament speaks more often of us being in Jesus. And the book of Ephesians easily illustrates this point, where, in six short chapters, the phrase “in Jesus” or “in Christ” or some equivalent is used over thirty times. Clearly Paul wanted us to understand this very important concept. We are in Jesus. But we need to keep in mind this emphasis on being in Christ as we read the rest of the book.
Chapter One: The Body
Paul starts right off with a strong focus on our position in Christ. Everything is happening in Christ. But he is in the heavenly places. How can any of this be any good to us, when he is so far from us? Paul tells us that there was a mystery that God planned from the beginning, that at the right time God would gather all things together by bringing them into Jesus. This happened at the incarnation, when God the Son became a man and took on a body. By taking on a body and becoming our brother, he united himself to us (Heb. 2:11).
Chapter Two and Three: The Mystery
Remember that Paul said the incarnation was a mystery, which God had planned from the beginning as a way of bringing together heaven and earth. Before the coming of Jesus, the way to God was only hinted at through the temple sacrifices. And so all of the worship of God, all the laws and regulations of the Old Testament, stressed the distance between God and man. One of the ways that this was illustrated was by the separation between Israel and the Gentiles. But this distance was destroyed by Jesus. In particular, the distance between Jew and Gentile, between heaven and earth, was destroyed by a body. And that body is the mystery that the world has been waiting for (3:3-6). So the reconciliation of Jew to Gentile was a sub-mystery, a junior mystery, which was intended to show us all the larger mystery, the great mystery of the reconciliation of God and man in Jesus.
Chapter Four and Five: Body Life
Ephesians 4 is about unity, one body (4:4-6). This is the one body of Jesus – which doesn’t just represent, but actually, through the mystery of the Gospel, is the meeting point of God and man, meaning it is our redemption. It is where we are reconciled to God. This is all a profound theological point. But it is also a very practical point. Paul teaches that if we are the body of Christ, then we need to act like it.
Corporate life and gifts (4:11-13, cf. 1 Cor. 12). Notice that this is all to serve the one body of Christ and that it is leading us to become one perfect man. Who is that perfect man? Christ. We are growing up into this man. We think of the new man individually. And we all have to do this as individuals. But the new man that we are putting on is something that is done in this corporate community. We are putting on the man that God is making out of the church, the man who has been being described throughout this book.
This all means that you don’t grow in sanctification on your lonesome. You grow corporately as the Gospel shapes you. And you get shaped in community. In all the relationships that Paul describes here – your marriage (5:22-33), your job (6:5-9), your parents and your kids (6:1-4), your fellow Christians (those you share a baptism with 4:1-6), the officers of the church (4:11-16).
Chapter Six: The Aristea of God
And notice the last thing that Paul tells this body, this new man, to do (6:10-20). We usually read this passage as individuals. But Paul is speaking about arming this corporate body, this new man – the church militant. When we read this as individuals, we set our sights too low. We think of putting on the armor of God as a matter of being diligent about our quiet times. But Paul is talking about us as the body of Christ being on the march here in Moscow.
We are the presence of Christ here in Moscow. We are the presence of this mystery, the Gospel, here on the Palouse. And the way we live out our marriages, our friendships, our relationships with our employers and employees – this is the presence of Christ here, the aroma of life. And each of these relationships is an opportunity to advance his kingdom here, to put on the armor of God as a collective body and to declare this mystery to the watching world.