As disciples, we can either promote or hinder God’s objectives. No wonder that Paul prayed for the church to possess a profound insight into understanding God and God’s workings with his people (Ephesians 1:17-19).
If we can succinctly summarize with one word how Paul described God’s plan and activity in Ephesians, that word might be unity. In his words, God’s core objective involves “to head up all things in Christ – the things in heaven and the things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). This phrase captures not only God’s desire to create unity between himself and humanity, but Jew and Gentile as well.
Lest we forget, Paul reminds us of the distance that exists between sinful humanity and God (Ephesians 2:1-3). Nevertheless, through Christ, God closes this gap by pouring out his power toward those who believe. God’s power can transform the spiritually dead to become alive with Christ (Ephesians 1:19; 2:4). Furthermore, it exalts them “to the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:6).
This redeeming, purifying and adopting us through Christ has been God’s determined plan from the very beginning (Ephesians 1:4-7). Unity has always been the goal.
Furthermore, through Christ, God is at work to unite within one household both Jew and Gentile where God then draws near to dwell among them (Ephesians 2:11-22). Certainly, God is heading up all things in Christ, both that of heaven and of earth.
Accordingly, disciples can either promote or hinder God’s objectives. We can either “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) or we can “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30).
So how can we live in a manner worthy of the high calling God has given us? (Ephesians 4:1). Starting with Ephesians 4, Paul outlines how Christians ought to live in response to what God has done and is doing.
Briefly stated, we begin by accepting and utilizing God’s efforts to create unity so that human ideas and values will not misdirect us (Ephesians 4:3-16). We press forward by embracing those characteristics, attitudes and behaviors compatible with Christ while repudiating destructive and divisive sinful ways (Ephesians 4:17-5:21). Finally, within the distinctive societal roles we find ourselves, we employ appropriate godly ways.
We need to perceive the pleasures of sin as undermining God’s unifying project. Although we might be tempted to view a particular situation as though it were all about us, our pleasure, our desires fulfilled, our pride, etc., it is not. We need to be aware and be intentional in how we live out our distinctive societal roles as those working with God to achieve his objectives in this world.
The Christian life does not involve following a list of arbitrary rules. The Christian life entails participating in God’s plan to maintain God’s unifying work through Christ.