THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS contains two main themes. First, Christ has reconciled all creation to Himself and to God. Second, Christ has united people from all nations to Himself and to one another in the Body of Christ. Ephesians provides vital instruction regarding who we are in Christ through redemption and sanctification; information which, unfortunately, many believers do not know or understand. In the faith-based film Overcomer, Hannah Scott (played by Aryn Wright Thompson), a student at Overcomer Academy, is led to salvation through Jesus as Messiah by her school principal. The principal then tells Hannah to go home and read Ephesians 1 and 2 and right down everything said about who she now is in Christ.*
The Zondervan Bible Commentary identifies Ephesians as “…a fitting crown to the extant writings of Paul… in it his teaching is brought to an integrated wholeness and finality” (1). In Ephesians, Paul describes the blessings bestowed upon us through Christ, which have become available to Jew and Gentile alike. He expounds on our new life in Christ, and he discusses the signs or marks of a new life through Jesus.
Who Christ Is
Tertuillian (AD 160-220), one of Christianity’s earliest theologians and apologists, wrote, “Others attempt to distinguish two beings in one person, the Father and the Son, saying that the Son is the flesh, that is, the human being that is Jesus; while the Father is the spirit, that is, God that is Christ [however] God’s eternal nature precludes change or transformation [because] transformation involves destruction of what originally existed: what is transformed ceases to be what it was and begins to be something else” (1). Origen said the following about the two natures of Christ: “Therefore with this soul acting as a mediator between God and flesh—for it was not possible for the nature of God to be mingled with flesh without a mediator—there was born the God-man [deus-homo], the ‘substance’ [substantia] being the connecting link which could assume a body without denying its own nature” (2). R.C, Sproul writes, “Christ was vere homo, vere Deus, that is, “truly man and truly God,” having two natures in one person.”
This God-man, this Jesus of Nazareth, built tables and chairs and rebuilt lives. C.S. Lewis said, “Let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about [Jesus] being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Jesus described Himself to others in several ways:
- I came down from Heaven, indicating He has always existed (John 6:38-39)
- I am more than “just a good man” (Mark 10:17-18)
- My many miracles are a sign of who I am (John 10:36-39)
- I am without sin (John 8:46)
- I and the Father are One (John 10:30-33)
- Before Abraham was, I AM (John 8:58)
- I forgive sin (Mark 2:5-7)
- I am the way, the truth, and the life; the only way to the Father (John 14:6)
- I will rise from the dead (Mark 8:31)
- My words will never pass away (Matt. 24:35)
- I came to seek and save what is lost (Luke 19:10)
- I am the light of the world (John 8:12)
Who We Are in Christ
Ephesians provides general instruction regarding the truths of the cosmic redemptive work of God in Christ; the unity of the church among diverse peoples; and proper conduct in the church, the home, and the world. It delineates peace, unity, and love as a grateful response to God’s free grace. Believers in Christ are identified as saints (“holy ones”) in Ephesians 1:1. Paul shows how we have been saved by grace, and no matter how wretched we once were, we now have equal standing as part of God’s Chosen. As Christians, we are made holy, separated from sin, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the incarnate will of the Father; fully God and fully man. His death satisfied the “wrong” in mankind that caused separation from the Father.
The following is found in Ephesians 1 and 2 regarding who we are in Christ:
- Blessed with every spiritual blessing (1:3)
- Chosen before the foundation of the world (1:4)
- Predestined for adoption to Himself (1:5)
- Redeemed through His blood (1:7)
- United with Him in all things (1:10)
- Obtained an inheritance (1:11)
- Sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (1:13)
- Made alive together in Him (2:5)
- Raised up and seated with Him in heavenly places (2:6)
- Brought near by His blood (2:13)
- Made fellow citizens of heaven (2:19)
Paul said we are reconciled to the Father through Jesus Christ: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:16-19). By faith, we have obtained access to the Father’s grace through Christ (see Rom. 5:2). Being “in Christ” allows for walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him; through Him we bear fruit in every good work, and we increase in the knowledge of God (see Col. 1:10).
Restoration comes to us through reconciliation to the Father. God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing, from redemption through the blood of Christ to being made an entirely new creation; not just a propped up, spruced up, remodeled version. This promise was grounded in truth from the beginning. Adam and Eve sinned and God responded by shedding the blood of an animal, creating a “covering” for them from the skin of the slain animal. Isaiah said God will create a new heaven and a new earth—the former things will not be remembered (see Isa. 65:17). Nothing can be made “new” (i.e., “a new creation”) until the “old” passes away. We are redeemed and reconciled now as a new creation. The entirety of creation will become new as the old is destroyed by fire; the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed (see 2 Pet. 3:10).
It is remarkable to see how much we mean to the Father, and who we are through the Son in just two chapters from Paul to the Ephesians. The truth he shares about who we are in Christ is confirmed throughout Scripture. Because we become a new creation, redeemed by the shedding of Jesus’ blood on that fateful day in 33 AD, our relationship with the Father has been set right. Not only is our standing with God restored, we are equipped through Christ to do battle. Walk, therefore, as one who is chosen before the foundation of the world; who has been sealed with the Holy Spirit and made “alive” in Christ.
Steven Barto, B.S. Psy., M.A. Theology
Footnotes and References
(1) Zondervan Bible Commentary, Illustrated Edition, F.F. Bruce, gen. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 1435.
(2) Tertuillian, “On the Incarnation,” in The Christian Theology Reader, 5th ed., Alister McGrath, editor (Chichester, Sussex: UK, 2017), 228.
(3) Origen, “The Two Natures of Christ,” in The Christian Theology Reader, ibid., 230.
* There is much confusion today over the term “Christian.” The term was first employed at Antioch in Syria (see Acts 11:26). This Scripture identifies “Christian” as being in the way of Christ, indicating true believers are those who follow the ways of Jesus (see Acts 9:2; 19:9; 24:14, 22). See my post about hypocrisy and Nominal Christians, November 12, 2021.