Who are you? (a meditation on what it means to be in Christ)

This post was originally slated for this past Friday, I am putting it up today. ~ Pastor Mike

In him… ~Ephesians 1:11

Your English teacher may have despised run on sentences; Paul, on the other hand, gave us a beautiful picture of the gospel via a run on. Though our English translations of the Bible will tidy it up for our grammatical senses with periods and paragraph breaks, Ephesians 1:3-14 is one long sentence where Paul poured out the beauty and grace of what God has done for us through Jesus.

IdentityElsewhere, Paul wrote about us being a new creation just as Jesus spoke of us being born again (2 Corinthians 5:17, John 3:1-16). These things are about our personhood and identity. In the beginning God created all of humanity, male and female, in his image. Though we have marred and corrupted that image through sin, we still possess it. Coming to Jesus by grace through faith restores that image. At once God has created us new, though over time he buffs out the stains and corrosion.

In Jesus we are new creations and new people, we have new lives and new purposes. It’s a new identity but fully and completely bound to Jesus for the glory of God.

At least twelve times (by my quick count), Paul wrote some variation of the phrase in him or through him—some preposition connected to Jesus. This defines us if we are God’s people. We are those in Jesus. Three times Paul wrote, “To the praise of his glory” or “To the praise of his glorious grace.” This is our purpose of being in him. We are made to praise him for his glory while basking in his grace.

Opening his sentence, Paul said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” I’ve written previously about the difficulty of translating blessed into English. When it comes to us blessing God, it would have to do with giving God joy through our praise of him. When it comes to God blessing us, it would have to do with God bringing us into a joyful sense of being through showering us with his goodness and love.

And what does it mean to be blessed by God in Jesus for his glory, according to Paul?

It means that we are chosen to be holy and blameless. What a wonderful beauty. The picture of who we are in sin is not pretty (just read 2:1-3). We are dirty, corrupt, hopeless, and helpless. We are deserving death and God’s wrath. We are his enemies, allies with a great cosmic evil. Yet when it comes to our lives in Jesus, God does not choose us because we are good or because we have made ourselves good. He chooses us in order to make us holy and blameless. This is why it is grace through faith not of our works but all of his works. We are fundamentally, radically new persons. And when the world or Satan tries to tell us otherwise, we can say, “I’m in Christ.”

It means that God has adopted us into his family. In sin, we “were by nature children of wrath” (2:3). In Jesus we are adopted sons and daughters (1:5). Not only a new identity, but a new family with its rich inheritance (more on that in a moment).

It means that God has redeemed us and forgiven us. The blood of Jesus on the cross has purchased us out of our dismal estate of sin. It has paid back every debt we owed God all the times we rejected him and his goodness. It has absorbed judgment and wrath. It has wiped the slate clean and given us a fresh start that never again becomes clouded. No more do sin and failure define us. In moments of weakness we still stumble and fail, but by his grace God lifts us up and sets us back on our feet. He disciplines but he no longer punishes. We experience his love even when the discipline seems painful, and we are infinitely removed from his wrath.

It means that we have an inheritance. This comes from being a part of the family. There are many things of eternity that we only catch brief glimpses of through scripture. Whatever the mysteries, one part of this inheritance is clear: Jesus creates a new heaven and new earth, and we get to rule alongside Jesus as kings and queens over the new creation. In the beginning we were made rulers of creation, subject only to God. In sin, we subjected ourselves under sin and Satan. In Jesus, we are set free and subject again only to God. When Jesus restores, we get the fullness of a good creation once more with him.

Finally (at least for Paul’s run on sentence) it means that we have received the Holy Spirit within. What Jesus promised in John 14 and 16, he made a reality in Acts 2. Ever since, every follower of Jesus receives the fullness of the Holy Spirit when they turn from sin and turn to Jesus. The Spirit within us is a seal of promise and a guarantee. We indeed do belong to God and his family through Jesus, and he indeed will give us a great inheritance from his love.

All of these things now define us.

Who are you? If you are in Jesus, you are one infinitely loved by a God who has cleansed you, forgiven you, redeemed you, made you a part of his family, and given you great promises. And he has done all of this without any begrudging feelings. After all, he is the one who has lavished upon us the wonderful riches of his grace (1:7-8).

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

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