Monday, 4 August 2014

Love at Ephesus (4): An Undying Love

I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.
Ephesians 6:23-24

What will enable us to live a life worthy of the calling we have received? What will empower us to serve Christ in our daily arenas of home and work? What will equip us to resist evil forces? Paul closes his letter to the church at Ephesus by asking God to bless them with peace, grace, love, and faith – small words for huge truths writ large across the letter as a whole. So it is that he brings us back to where he started, with what God has done in Christ through the Spirit, and our response to the incredible blessings lavished on us.

The letter began with grace and peace (1:2) and now closes with it. The peace is that which Christ has brought about through his death, reconciling us to God, creating in himself one new humanity, and calling us to walk in love with our ‘feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace’ (6:15). The grace is that which flows generously from God’s own heart as a totally undeserved gift, which saves and liberates those who were dead in sins and in bondage to hostile forces (2:5, 8).

Paul also invokes God’s love – a major focus of his prayer for them at the climax of the first half of the letter and his exhortations in the second half – a hallmark of the new community in Christ. That he asks for ‘love with faith’ means this love has been moulded and transformed by their faith in the true and living God. As with peace and grace, the source of this ‘love with faith’ is nothing less than ‘God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’.

Paul finally prays a blessing on all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. The letter has referred to the Father’s love for them, Christ’s love for them, and their love for each other, but this is the only place where their love for Christ is made explicit. Like the readers of 1 Peter, they – and we – are those who love him without seeing him (1 Peter 1:8). That we do so ‘in immortality’ could refer to the kind of love we offer – incorruptible, undying – or the immortal realm in which we are united with the exalted Christ. Either way, death cannot touch it. By God’s grace we take such confidence into this week, and every week.

No comments: