By Roy E. Ciampa, Ph.D., S. Louis and Ann W. Armstrong
Professor of Religion, Samford University
We Are Joined Together
Ephesians 1:20–23; 2:8–10,19–22
God has created us with a natural desire to belong, whether to a family, a group of friends or some other group that provides us with a sense of identity and belonging. The church, the body of Christ, is where we are intended to find our ultimate identity. It provides us with our ultimate family, citizenship and community identity.
The church is the body of Christ. He is head over all things. (1:20–23)
Paul has reflected on Psalm 8:6 and Psalm 110:1 and it shows in these verses (as it does in 1 Cor. 15:25–27). That Christ has been seated at God’s right hand (v. 20) was anticipated in Psalm 110:1.
In verse 21, Christ’s superiority over “all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named” is probably Paul’s way of referring to “the enemies” who would be made His footstool according to Psalm 110:1: all the spiritual and human powers who might try to compete for ultimate authority.
That “all things” are placed under Christ’s feet (as Paul mentions in v. 22) was anticipated by Psalm 8:6.
Paul’s reference to “feet” in verse 22 echoes Psalms 8:6 and 110:1. Psalm 8 applies to Christ not because it only ever had Him in mind but because it speaks of God’s original and ultimate intention for human beings, which is realized in and through Christ, our representative King.
Depending on the translation, Christ has been given “to the church” as head over all things (ESV) or, alternatively, Christ’s role as head over all things “for the church” (CSB, NIV, NRSV). Either way, Christ uses His authority for the benefit of the church, His body (v. 23).
We have been united with Christ, and we are raised up from death and seated with Him at God’s right hand (Eph. 2:5–6). That part of Christ’s story (being raised and seated at God’s right hand) has become our story as well. Christ exercises His authority for our sake and, as Christ’s body, we are to express His presence in this world.
Christ brought us into His church by His grace. (2:8–10)
The church is made up of people who have come to be redeemed on the same basis: by God’s amazing grace.
This makes us a community uniquely qualified and empowered to share grace and mercy since we know it is by God’s rich mercy and great love (v. 4) that we have come to experience salvation. Any sense of spiritual entitlement or moral superiority is undermined by the knowledge that God’s grace, His unmerited and unexpected kindness and favor, is what qualifies us to be in God’s presence, now or ever.
We are members together in God’s household, Christ’s church. (2:19–22)
As God’s church we are given new identities related to institutions of nation (citizens), family (household) and worship (holy temple). We are God’s citizens, household and temple. And none of these can function on an individualistic basis. Citizens work together collaboratively for a nation to flourish. Households depend on each family member to love and support the flourishing of the whole family. As for temples, just as the physical structure depends on a cornerstone, a wider foundation and the parts of the superstructure (all mentioned in vv. 20–22) working together to maintain structural integrity, those who carry out the work of the temple are part of a team who promotes and supports the worship of the one true God. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 12:12, we are one body with many parts, and each of us depends on the others (and they all depend on us and the proper use of our spiritual gifts) for the health and vitality of the church and for the glory of God who has made us for Himself.