Monday, May 2

His Workmanship, Part 3

Commentary on verses 6-7 of Ephesians 2, in which we answer the question, "Why might I be just a little like the Stanley Cup?"
and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6-7 ESV)

Yes, we start this section right in the middle of a sentence, which, I'll admit, one should never do; but these are long and complicated sentences, and a blog post needs to be brief, so I stopped in an awkward place in the last piece. In verses 1-3 (Part 1), we saw a description of what we were before God's intervention in our lives; and in verses 4-5 (Part 2), we see the beginning of the description of what God does for us when he intervenes: He makes us alive together with Christ. Verse 6, then, starts us off by telling us more about what is included in being "made alive together with Christ".

  • And raised us up with him. Our identification with Christ includes being associated with his resurrection. Just as he was raised to new life, we are raised to new life. Our new life is grounded in Christ's resurrection.

  • And seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. We were not raised to new life and just left there, but rather we are taken and seated up in heaven beside Christ. In some sense, that's where the resurrected ones are right now. Paul says in Philippians that we are already citizens of heaven, and in Colossians he tells us that our life is hidden with Christ in God. We already belong to another realm.

    Then why am I here in this house typing at the computer this morning? It's because my actual physical presence in my "home country" is yet to come. Meanwhile, I am like a resident alien in a hostile foreign country. "In the world, but not of the world" is how Christ described the situation his disciples would be in after his own ascension. And so with us, too. I'm here at my computer, here in this world; but I'm not of the world, for the governing principles of my life are those of another realm.

    John Piper compares this to the Tony Bennet song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco". Just as the person whose heart is in San Franciso has affections that draw him back to that city, and tastes that are formed by the sensibilities of that city, so it is with those who are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Our affections and tastes are governed by the place where our citizenship lies, the place where out heart is, the place where our life is hidden.

    In Colossians 3 Paul tells us that this has practical implications for our lives in the here and now. Our resurrection position ought to be the impetus for our new life behaviour. That our "life is hidden with Christ in God" ought to push us to "keep seeking the things above". We need to
    put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5 ESV)
    and clothe ourselves
    with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another... (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)*
    We have a whole new way of life--our heavenly, resurrection, seated-with-Chirst life--that needs to be lived out daily in a world we no longer belong to.

  • So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. The song has it right when it says "It's all about you, Lord." The overarching purpose for this whole saving work of God is to show something about himself: It reveals the immeasurable richness of God's grace.

    In chapter 1 of Ephesians, Paul says God's redemptive work is "to the praise of the glory of his grace." That God would take people who are the Ephesians 2:1-3 kind of people and resurrect them to new life, and make them a heavenly kind of people--a people who are exalted to heavenly places alongside of Christ himself--shows how infinitely deep God's grace is.

    My dad says it's a bit like we are God's trophies in God's trophy case. Or maybe it's the whole of the church--all God's resurrected people together--that make one big trophy for God. We become something God can point to in the ages to come to show his own workmanship, and through his workmanship show the depth of his own gracious character.

    This whole salvation process that takes place in history is a grand demonstration of something about God himself. It reveals to us, and probably to other beings as well (the angels, for instance), how magnificent and unendingly deep God's grace is.

  • Stay tuned for more in part 4.

    *See the rest of Colossians 3 for more specific information on how this "hidden in Christ" life ought to work it's way out in our present "in this world" life.

    **Photo is of the Stanley Cup, the greatest of the earth-bound trophies.
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