This article continues an ongoing blog series, called “Identity Matters” which is taking us expositionally through the book of Ephesians.
Back in my younger years, I used to view life as a story and guess who the star of the show was? Me! That’s right. And you would have been supporting cast. It was all about me.
I fear that sometimes I can still slip into that mindset even though I may not articulte it quite that way. We all have a tendency to become self-focused and everyone around us becomes merely supporting cast, including God. For some, God may be a background character that occasionally makes a cameo. For others, God may be a very important character, just not the central role. God may be the co-pilot, but we’re flying the plane and charting the course.
In our ongoing, expositional journey through the book of Ephesians, we are learning a lot about our identity and who we really are. In my last post, we reveled in the glorious truth that as redeemed children of God we are not guilty. That is a truth to be celebrated. However, what we are discovering in Ephesians chapter 1 is another truth that isn’t as fervently celebrated, but should be. Namely, that you are not the main character of the story.
Now, we are right in viewing life as a story, but the apostle Paul is going to remind us of something very important. Paul is going to put us in our proper place and show us that Jesus Christ is at center stage. What’s more, He’s not just at the center of your story. Instead, the destiny of the entire Cosmos revolves around and is summed up in Jesus Christ. God is,
making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:9-10)
In the New Testament, Paul likes to use the word “mystery” to describe a secret that was once hidden or vaguely understood, but now has been fully disclosed and revealed in light of what Christ has done through the gospel.
And what is this mystery? What is this secret that God has graciously allowed us in on? Paul says God has a purpose. A plan for the fullness of time. God is sovereignly moving history in a specific direction towards a specific goal. And what is that goal? Paul says in verse 10 that the goal is to unite all things in Jesus Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.
The Greek word translated as “unite” is anakephalaiosis. It’s basic meaning is “to bring something to a main point” or “to sum up.” The word connotes the idea of a re-unification or a re-establishing of harmony where discord and division once existed.
That describes beautifully where history is headed.
Ages ago, when God created the heavens and the earth, everything was in harmony and united under Jesus Christ. All of the angelic powers obeyed God. Man was perfect and holy and at peace with God in submission to His will, dwelling in a garden paradise where there was no pain or sorrow or death. The earth was totally perfect.
But at some point in the distant past things went terribly wrong. One of the angelic powers launched a cosmic conspiracy against God and he led Adam, the first man, to commit treason and join the revolt. The reverberations of Adam’s sin were nothing short of cataclysmic. Man became alienated from God and banished from paradise, and all of Adam’s descendants have continued in that sinful rebellion against Him. Man also became alienated from man. From the discord we see between Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, to Cain’s murder of Abel in Genesis 4, to all of the racism and wars and conflicts and division we see everywhere among people today, no matter where we look, we see the cataclysmic effects of the fall of man.
The Bible says that sin also ruptured the fabric of the universe. Creation itself was spoiled. The earth that yielded its produce for Adam before sin, now resists him, producing thorns and thistles. A world that used to be at peace now produces earthquakes and tornadoes and floods. When Adam fell, all of creation fell with him. We have a Cosmos in revolt against its original design. Man shakes his fist at God and fellow-man, Satan is described in the Scriptures as the god of this world, and death reigns.
When we think of salvation and redemption we tend to personalize it. We tend to make it about us, as if we’re the main character in the story. But the mystery that God has revealed to us is showing us that the stakes are much bigger than we think. God’s redemptive plan includes more than we realize. It’s not ultimately about you. It’s instead about God taking a universe that is being torn apart and fractured by sin and bringing all things back into their proper place again. He has set in motion a plan where he is now gathering all things together in Jesus. Though things are now out of alignment due to sin, God is realigning the universe towards a proper relationship to Jesus.
How? Through the gospel of Christ. Paul writes,
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)
Through the blood of Jesus man can be reconciled to God. We’ve already seen this truth earlier in Ephesians 1. But Paul, going into chapter 2, will remind his Jewish and Gentile readers that while their races have been marked with discord and division, the two sides have been brought near to one another “by the blood of Christ.”
Jesus is recreating the harmony between humans that once existed in the garden.
In addition, redemption includes a restructuring and recreation of the entire universe. The entire planet, which Paul describes in Romans as “groaning” under the weight of sin’s curse will groan no more when Jesus comes and restructures the Cosmos into the paradise it once was, ushering His people back into the paradise that was lost.
But what about the enemies of God? What about humans that persist in their rebellion, refusing to bend the knee to Jesus Christ and acknowledge His Lordship? What about Satan and his wicked angels who instigated the revolt in the first place?
There are two ways that Christ will create peace and harmony according to the Scriptures. One, is through the removal of hostility and corruption through redemption and the gracious forgiveness of sins.
The other way is through conquest.
The reconciliation that happens through the blood of His cross is expressed in salvation for those who believe, but for the Satanic powers it is expressed through their shameful defeat and disarmament as Christ triumphs over them. (Col 2:15) What’s more, the triumph that began at the cross will be fully consumated at the end of history.
The Bible is clear that the Lord Jesus Christ will return, and as in ancient times you would have the conquered publicly acknowledge before everyone the lordship of the conqueror and begrudgingly pay homage to Him, you have the Bible giving us this same kind of picture of what’s to come at the end of the age in Philippians 2, where Paul declares that God has highly exalted Jesus and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
There is a time of reckoning coming. Jesus Christ is Lord. All will acknowledge it sooner or later. You will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord now, with joy and gladness, or you will be forced to your knees when the King returns and rounds up all the traitors and rebels. In the end, even the most powerful of the rebels, Satan himself, will drop to his knee as a conquered foe, bowing low in homage, and will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
When you and I live like we are the main character in the story, we’re not just being naively self-centered, we are being Satanic. Self-centeredness is a form of idolatry as it makes life all about me. I am putting me and my efforts and my glory at the center of all things and that is a the heart of Satanism.
The Scriptures are telling us a different story. A better story. Jesus Christ is the star of the movie. He’s the main character. He’s the hero. He’s the King. He’s the center of all things, and from eternity past the plan of God has always been the enthronement and exaltation of His Son.
If the core of your identity is bound up in yourself. If you are moving through life with tunnel vision as if it’s all about you, that’s going to have dramatic consequences in your life and in the lives of those around you.
But if we see ourselves rightly, and put our lives in context, then the story of our lives must always be viewed within the greater context of God’s amazing and beautiful and eternal story of Redemption, which is His plan to unite and reconcile all things to Jesus in heaven and on earth. Knowing that changes everything.
Are you grieved over broken relationships? Are you mourning injustice? Are you weary of the heartbreak in this world? Are you broken by sickness and living in the shadow of death? Take heart that we are moving towards a time where all things will be made right and new.
So we do not lose heart… For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 )
Oh how we must have an eternal perspective and remember that the things that grieve our hearts so much are not the end of the story! Instead, the Scriptures tell us,
For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death… (1 Cor 15:21-25)
All of history is marching forward to a specific destination determined by God, and God is orchestrating everything in a way that is getting us closer and closer to that end. History has a destination, and that destination is Jesus, with the entire Cosmos submitted to His Lordship. A Cosmos that will be remade, renewed, and restored. Paradise lost in the garden will be regained in the New Heavens and New Earth where there will be no more pain or sorrow or sickness or death. (Rev 21:4)
None of that can happen if God is only your co-pilot. Thank God that He is calling the shots and not us!
Your identity, your story, your very life, is bound up in the bigger and grander and more glorious story of Jesus, our King and Savior and Hero. He has graciously chosen to let you in on this beautiful mystery that assures us that something much better is coming for all who believe.
Grace and Peace,