Ephesians 1-3 has some powerful statements in it. Those chapters are about how God is bringing everything together in the universe under the head of Christ. And that the Christ-follower has been given immeasurable blessings in the heavens, welcomed in to God’s ongoing drama for the sake of the glory of His Son.
But chapter 4 is the turning point.
Chapter 4 is when Paul moves from telling his readers who they are to what they are supposed to do. That, in and of itself, is significant.
Think about it – how often do we go to church and hear, “This is how you’re supposed to live.” And we set up structures in our lives based on that. And those structures are fine. They’re helpful. But it seems a little out of order.
It’s not until Paul has spent 3 chapters telling Christians who God is, who they are in light of who He is, and what the universe is really all about that he finally says, “Therefore, as a prisoner of the Lord, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
We are guilty of putting the “how” before the “why.” And maybe that’s why we are also so guilty of committing ourselves to religious forms that ultimately will fail us and lead us into legalism. We commit ourselves to these forms before we understand that those forms are an expression of who we are.
To do religious education like Paul, we must first educate ourselves about who we are in Christ. Then we start to see all the disciplines of godliness not as structure and form, but as a way to grow into the people God has made us to be in Christ. We stop doing them solely because we’re supposed to, and start doing them because those expressions help us… become us.
When we do it in the proper order, we avoid a “gospel” that is behavior oriented, and embrace the true gospel that is identity oriented. The problem is that it’s alot easier to simply talk about behavior. People like lists, because lists give us a gauge of how we’re doing, a stick to measure ourselves by.
But is there really a stick to measure ourselves by in the system of grace? Or are we forced further into faith, believing what God says about us regardless of whether or not we feel it?