Passage: Ephesians 1:4 and 2:10
1:4 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. 1:5 He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ,….
2:10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
Soul Search Essay
As Paul advises churches in a city (Ephesus) that is soaked through with dependence on magick (real demonic magick, not illusion magic) he takes time to point out that the believers have work to do. In a city where true Chrisitan disciples would legitimately feel threatened by the surrounding environment, Paul makes it clear that they were created, chosen and subsequently molded by God himself for purposes set before time existed.
The larger context in Ephesians is that Paul is speaking to people whose perception of life is heavily indoctrinated by magick practices, the religion of Artemis of the Ephesians and the certainty of hopelessness from experiencing ‘gods’ that thought little about human interests. The supposed gods in this environment were petty, capricious, cruel and most of all needy – needing food (offerings), drink (offerings), places to sleep (temples); all provided by humans.
To tell the Ephesians that the true God, the only real God is planful, caring, and deeply involved throughout history in every individual life is very difficult for them to comprehend. They had to go through challenges and repeated education by Paul to come to the point of understanding that magick was not needed as a bulwark against life’s injuries, insults and incapacitations. It took time before the Ephesians burned their magick books (as the book of Acts shows). They had to learn that YHWH’s choice of them is based in a character that is dependable, loving and deeply involved with them.
They had to learn that the being known as YHWH has a character that can be depended on everywhere, in every situation, through every trial, in every joy and in the events of every day, every single day, regardless of how hard the day is. Why? They had to learn, because experience in life’s inflicted pains, deep disappointments and cruel losses seem to clearly demonstrate no one greater than us cares about you and me. Becoming a believer did not make the Ephesian’s lives magically smooth and less difficult. Accepting Christ ‘outed them’ in a hostile environment. What was Paul’s answer to this? YHWH knows all that will happen and before time itself existed, YHWH, Jesus and the Holy Spirit moved intimately through billions of lives. They moved through every life in Ephesus.
The Ephesians, immersed in an environment hostile to their new belief, needed to understand that they were not adrift in a storm of heartache; swimming on their own. Paul explains that there are no surprises for YHWH. In fact, not only does YHWH know what will happen, he, Christ and the Holy Spirit (before time even began) placed specific purposes and individual moments of eternal meaning in each life. The Ephesians did live in storms of heartache, but the storms were not greater than YHWH. Within these storms were specific meaning conveying moments ordained for each life; moments that brought meaning, comfort and purpose; moments where YHWH defined people and communities. This was a radical concept for these believers in Christ who had been conditioned to believe in ‘gods’ trapped by fate.
The ‘gods’ that the Ephesians had left behind (whether they were ideas, myths, demons or whatever) were trapped in fate, because they did not transcend time. In the Ephesians’ understanding, time and fate affected all beings. These supposed gods battled each other and fate, but fate ultimately won. Everyone in the Ephesian’s universe swam in the river of time. No one could climb its banks; not even gods. Fate was the great leveler of man and gods, because it was inescapable. To be told that YHWH existed before time, that YHWH made decisions before time existed means that fate has no power over YHWH; that YHWH is greater and stronger than time and fate.
To also be told that YHWH, Christ and the Holy Spirit moved through each of their lives before time is to speak of breath taking intimacy and focus. These three persons intimately moved through your life and identified things for you to do. What are the implications of this fact? What does this planful, loving, intimate preview of your specific life which leads to tasks, to comforts, to opportunities and to trials suggest?
You are important.
You are intimately loved.
You and your life are part of something larger than you that does not belittle you in its largeness. It elevates you!
Trials, horrors, success and dullness in your life do not define you. What defines you is this intimate, entwining holiness that threads through the evil times where you worry and run away. What defines you is the deific purpose threading through the dull, barren and discouraging times where you doubt and sink inward. Life is not about you and that is wonderful. It is wonderful.
It is wonderful that you are God’s workmanship; the product of his loving touch, thoughtful craftsmanship and deep thought. Your life is both yours to choose and God created. I do not know exactly how that is true. I do know that YHWH’s creative involvement drives meaning into your life. Your choices to align with his involvement lead to beauty, rightness and redemption. These choices also offer beauty, rightness and redemption to others.
The “…good works…” that Paul speaks of are other-centered specifically, because life is not about you, but it is about us. The “something larger” that you are part of is expressed in community. Central to Hebraic thought is the ‘us’ foundation. Hebrews such as Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc. thought in terms of community, nation, tribe. Central to the thought of God’s chosen people is that identity is in community, rather than in the individual. The individual is a component of the foundational units of extended family, town, nation. The works that were set for you to do are about knitting together an ‘us’ from threads of ‘I.’ These ‘good works’ do not bring salvation, but they do bring life.
The Hebrew language is a language of action and life, because to be part of God’s people and his Kingdom is about being alive in a very special way. It is about experiencing the Kingdom now. It is about friendship with the Holy Spirit. It is about passionate life being handed by you to hurting people. It is YHWH supplied passion and life; a passion from the true character of God that easily trumps fate, time and decay. Grace is in the present. Grace is present tense, because YHWH is present in all time and outside all time.
Our glory is in being present with Holy Spirit in other’s lives. We are not conduits to others, as if we are tools. We are present witnesses and speakers of truth. We are participants in the spread of kingship within lives and between lives.
This spread is done at God’s direction to expand the Kingdom, to strengthen others when they are weak and to knit the expanding community of Christ together. You are not responsible for the results in your YHWH created moments; your good works. You are responsible to respond to directions of the Holy Spirit by acting in the us of the kingdom and in the us of an evil world. We exist in both the community of Christ and in the community of Satan. Our participation in YHWH’s meaningful moments is a recurring choice; in our choices within time to act on things conceived before time itself existed. Acting with the Holy Spirit is important. It knits. It validates. It creates. It expands who and what we are – all of us.