Perhaps the pinnacle, or as some have stated, the “Magnus opus” of Pauline theology, is the letter to the Ephesians. While some have questioned the authenticity of Paul’s authorship and whether the letter was indeed written to the church in the city of Ephesus, this letter or book provides a view, perhaps even a transcendent view, of God’s eternal and glorious church.
Perhaps no other New Testament book provides such a mountain top view of the church of Jesus Christ as does the book of Ephesians. In this short book, Paul describes an eternal church that is from and in Christ, with Christ at the head and the church His body representing His fullness.
God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, 23 which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.” (Eph 1:22-23 CEB).
For Paul, the glory of Christ and the glory of the church are synonymous—the church is glorious because Christ is glorious.
I love hiking the mountains around my home in Arizona. On the northern edge of Tucson, are the Catalina Mountains, which rise to over 9,000 feet above the valley of the city resting at 2,500 feet in altitude. The drive up the Catalina Highway to the top of the mountain range takes about an hour from my east side home.
Once on top, there are numerous hiking trails and scenic overlooks of the city that are simply breathtaking. On a clear day, especially in the winter months when the air is thin and dry, one can see for miles, including other mountain ranges in the distance. I have a couple of places on the highest peak, Mt. Lemmon, where I like to hike and take in the view and pray over the city.
From these lofty positions, I gain a view and perspective that I simply don’t have while in valley and city. From this “transcendent” view, the city looks picturesque and tranquil, trouble- and pain-free—when I pray, it seems that my prayers “cover” the city below me. From this perspective, everything seems possible, and the noise and problems of the city are unobservable from this height. Granted, the problems and suffering of many are still very real in the valley below, but my perspective is loftier, grander and if possible, more full of faith as to what is possible in the city below.
A Lofty View of the Church
I believe that the apostle Paul, by the Spirit, was given such a lofty view of God’s eternal church. Paul recognized that the individual believer was being saved from sin through faith in Christ (Eph 2) and was being transformed into His image and likeness (Rom 8:29). Paul begins this letter from a different perspective in chapter one.
After his opening salutation, Paul blesses and thanks God for what has been given to us in Christ; namely, “every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven.” (Eph 1:3 CEB). Rather than start with the issue of sin, as Paul does in Romans 1, Paul in this epistle writes from an eternal perspective of what God has done in Christ for the believer before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4).
The New Nature
The cross of Christ and His resurrection has freed you from your old nature (Rom 6). You have a new nature, new desires, and have been empowered by the Holy Spirit through regeneration to live as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Your past failures do not dictate your present or future in Christ. The old is gone, all things have become new.
Our desire should be to seek those things that are above and not of the earth. We are to be in the world, but not of it. We are citizens of a heavenly Kingdom; our desire and pursuit should be toward God. That said, as we learn to live from our true identity and purpose in God, God delights in giving us the desires or our heart. To enjoy life and His creation.
As we learn to see ourselves in the Spirit, as a new creation, we begin to live out of our union with Christ (Eph 2:6). God doesn’t want to merely change you, He wants to transform you. You are not an extreme makeover, but a completely new creation in Christ! This began when, by faith, you accepted Christ and His free gift of grace—the Holy Spirit then indwelt you—and is in the ongoing process of transforming your mind. Your behavior is determined by your thinking. Renewing the mind to have the mind of Christ is not an option for a Christian—it’s essential!