Writing to Gentile Christians, Paul says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). “All spiritual blessings” are in Christ. There is a singular point of access to the blessings of the Father (Jn. 14:6).
“The commonwealth of Israel” was God’s chosen physical people (Eph. 2:12). As proud children of Abraham, they knew the promise – the promise of the Messiah. This people always had a hope of the coming Messiah who would set them free and usher in a glorious age. This was different than all others, the Gentile nations, who had no such hope (Eph. 2:12).
When the gospel of Christ went out, it went “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The Jews were the first to embrace and the first to reject the gospel. In Galatians 3, Paul defines the spiritual value of biological descendancy of Abraham as “zero.” The seed of promise was not the nation of Israel, but was the singular seed – Christ – that came through that nation (Gal. 3:16). The chapter ends with this declaration: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). Members of physical Israel had to become members of the spiritual “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16). Otherwise, they were cut off (Rom. 11:20-21). Gentiles also had to become members of the spiritual Israel. There was no way for the Jews and the Gentiles to be reconciled to God separately. They both had to approach God through the one “way” (Jn. 14:6). They both could only be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8). God’s plan for Jews and Gentiles was that Jesus “might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross” (Eph. 2:16). In chapters 1 & 2 of Ephesians, Paul nails down some specifics about this “one body.”
First, this “one body” was planned in eternity. God had “chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). He had “predestined us unto adoption” (Eph. 1:5). In Christ “we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined” (Eph. 1:11).
Second, Paul defines WHO the “one body” is. The eternal plan was “that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him” (Eph. 1:10). God reconciles us to Himself “in one body by the cross” (Eph. 2:16). Jesus’ body on the cross was the “Lamb of God,” the once for all sacrifice for sin (Jn. 1:29; Heb. 10:10).
Third, Paul defines WHAT the “one body” is. He says that God gave Jesus “to be head over all things to the church, which is His body” (Eph. 1:22-23; cf. Col. 1:24). If we are reconciled to God in one body, then that body must be the group of people who are saved – the church.
Fourth, Paul tells us who is in the “one body.” Paul says that we are brought near to God “by the blood of Christ” and “reconciled…in one body by the cross” (Eph. 2:13, 16). Those who are united with the death and blood of Christ enter into the one body. In Romans 6:3, Paul reminds the Roman Christians of this union: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”Further, Luke records that those who “gladly received the word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Then he says that “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). The work that Christ accomplished in His death is a work into which God intends for us to enter. Once we do that, God adds us to the body of Christ, the church, through which we are reconciled to Him.
Finally, Paul tells us who will remain in the “one body.” In Ephesians 2:20, he says that those in the one body are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Himself being the chief cornerstone.” As long as we remain faithful to Christ and His teachings, and faithful to the teachings of the apostles and prophets, we will remain where God has placed us – within the one body.
Cary preaches for the Bridge Avenue church of Christ in Weslaco, TX
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