Our focus this week is on the amazing teaching of God’s word of how believers have been incorporated “in Christ.” This is a tremendously rich feature of Paul’s theology. Some would suggest it is the grand, overarching theme which unites all other themes in Paul’s theology. What does it mean that Christ has gathered us into himself?
LIFE GROUP LESSON:
Share an experience of mistaken or stolen identity. Have you ever been misidentified? What was it like?
How do people form an understanding of their identity in our culture? What dangers are involved?
- Read 1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:12-19. How do these passages inform us about our identity as God sees it? What does this mean for our lives today?
- Read John 15:5-8; Romans 6:1-10; Galatians 3:26-28; Colossians 3:3. What do we learn from these Scriptures about being “in Christ”?
- Read Ephesians 1:4-14 section by section. What benefits flow to us on account of our being “in Christ”? How important is this notion of being who we are “in Christ”?
- Below you will find some quotes from a renown Systematic Theologian, Karl Barth, drawn from his 1921 commentary The Epistle to the Ephesians. Read the quotes and discuss their meaning in light of the biblical truth you have discovered thus far.
Pray for one another that each would see himself or herself as they are “in Christ.” Pray that the each one would be able to face the challenges and opportunities of life with an full understanding of his or her “position” in Christ.
This is one of those truths that affect everything. How does this find its practical expression in the most pressing issues you face today? Perhaps it is to change your thinking and behaviour so that they are in line with your identity in Christ as you face those issues.
Next time we will be looking again at Ephesians 1:4-14, but this time with a focus on the themes of election and predestination. This is often a difficult and controversial theme in Christian theology. It is a major theme, but is it really important? What does this mean? How does it work? What does it say about God? What does it say about man beings? What does it imply about how the will of God relates with the will of human persons? Does the notion of election turn God into a cold-hearted, capricious, even angry Supreme power? What is lost if God is denied the operation of his prior electing will? What danger is there in elevating the human will to such a degree that the divine will can only respond to it? These questions and more will be raised in our discussions.
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 1:2)
From Karl Barth’s The Epistle to the Ephesians:
Verse three of chapter 1 sets the tone for the entire epistle. “We are created by God, from whom we come, and for God, toward whom we are moving. We are standing on the ground of the [blessing of God]; we are moving toward the goal of the [glory of God]. The knowledge of God is the presupposition, and the knowledge of God is the goal of all human being, having, and doing, including our present speaking and hearing of divine things! This is what Paul wishes to shout to his readers in this doxology.” (p. 81)
Paul intends “to jolt [us] out of [our] constant forgetfulness, to save [us] from the quicksand of trivialities, and to deliver [us] from both false subjectivity and also false objectivity by confronting [us] with the fundamental questions of human existence and the answer that is already given by God. Paul will not allow [us] to remain as mere spectators and contemplatives; rather, he summons [us] into the sphere of this subject – to a calling, a movement, and upheaval … in which [we] come to our senses and walk before God. And all of this takes place in Christ.” (p. 81)
The meaning of the phrase “in Christ”, is that “we are placed before God, called by God, born from God, and determined for God. God himself has blessed us, and for this reason we should praise him.” It means that “in Christ” is our election, liberation, hope, and the sealing of the Spirit. Paul does not understand these as a series of discrete truths, from which we can choose some and ignore others. What is presented here is one indivisible truth. It can only be grasped in its totality. (p. 83)