By Zac Poonen
The balanced message of the gospel is found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In Chapters 1 to 3, there is not a single exhortation. Those chapters only describe what God has done for us. The next three chapters are then full of exhortations of what we must do for God. These are the two sides of the gospel coin. If either side is absent, the coin (gospel) is a counterfeit one. There is a curse pronounced in Galatians 1 on those who preach “another gospel“. So we must be careful to preach the full gospel – and the correct one – to others.
God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ ( Eph.1:3 ). Our Christian life must begin with what God has done. We love Him because He first loved us. We serve Him, because He first served us. God knew us before the creation of the world ( Eph.1:4 ). We can’t understand that because we have past, present and future, whereas God’s Name is “I AM” ( Exod.3:14 ). God lives in an eternal present. So He knew each of us by name long before He created anything. He placed us in Christ even before the worlds were created.
Here is an illustration of what it means to be “in Christ“. If you take a piece of paper and put it inside a book, and then burn the book, the paper will be burnt too. If you bury the book in the ground the paper will be buried too. If you send the book up in a rocket to the moon, the paper will go to the moon too. In the same way, we were placed in Christ (from all eternity past, in God’s mind). So when Christ was crucified in A.D. 29, we were crucified with Him. When He was buried, we were buried. When He was raised from the dead and ascended up to heaven, ” God raised us up with Christ, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus “too ( Eph.2:6 ). This is an amazing truth. But we can experience the reality of it, only if we believe God’s Word – not otherwise. “According to your faith it will be done for you” ( Matt.9:29 ), is a law of God.
We must be established in what God has done for us in Christ. Only when that foundation is laid, can we build our house, with the exhortations found in Ephesians 4 to 6 about walking in a new way and resisting and overcoming Satan etc. Otherwise we will wallow in the mire of discouragement and self-condemnation frequently. So meditate much on Ephesians chapters 1 to 3 first.
Many Christians lay the foundation in one place and then build the house in another! So the house collapses. Every exhortation found in the last 3 chapters of Ephesians is based on God’s love for us and His perfect acceptance of us (mentioned in the first 3 chapters). This is elementary. But we still tend to forget it. One day, we think that God will accept us more because we read the Bible for 45 minutes, and on another day, we think that He is frowning on us and won’t listen to our prayers because we did not get even one minute to read the Scriptures. And if something goes wrong, we feel that it was because we didn’t read the Bible that day! That is superstition, and believing that God’s acceptance of us is based on our Bible-reading and not on what Christ has done for us. Bible-reading is no doubt very, very important. But that is not the foundation of our acceptance. That is part of the superstructure. It is very, very, very important for you to be established in this truth. Otherwise the gospel becomes man-centred – and you will be putting doors and windows into the foundation! Those who ignore or devalue these truths (found in Ephesians 1 to 3) invariably end up as Pharisees.
But of course, the whole purpose of laying a foundation is to build the house. So we don’t stop with the foundation. We must keep building the superstructure.
“Grace” is God stretching out His Hand and offering us every heavenly blessing. “Faith” is our hand stretched out to take those blessings from God’s hand. So we can get only as much as we claim in faith in Jesus’ Name. God has put millions of blessings in our heavenly bank account and given us numerous blank checks signed with Jesus’ Name. All we have to do now is fill in the amount and go to the bank and claim our inheritance.