Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
In our New Testament reading from Ephesians 3, we find that the Lord Jesus has called together all people, regardless of their background, to be one in Him. This is a difficult concept for us, particularly because we either want to build too many walls or break the walls down inappropriately. We begin by looking at the situation on its face.
Jew and Gentile together have been made one because Jesus has called them all together, to be heirs, partakers of God’s promise. He has made them one body (v. 6). On the surface, that would seem to indicate that somehow everyone is perfectly safe. Everyone is a Christian. By this logic we should all be universalists.
Let’s go one more step down the road. These people are partakers “through the gospel.” What’s that? In verses 7-9 it’s the message of God’s grace which has been proclaimed by the apostles and others in the Church. In verse 9 it brings “to light for everyone” how God has planned for life. We still may think we should be universalists. However, verse ten makes it clear that the gospel works “through the church.”
God calls and speaks to all nations, making them heirs, and bringing them into one body. That body is His Church. It’s a very particular thing. The Gospel is a very particular message, not only that we can have eternal life and hope in God’s promises, but that it’s accomplished through Jesus’ giving of himself as the only valid and effective sacrifice for our sin. It’s by God’s grace that we can believe Jesus is in fact God the Son who has restored all people into one body.
We have just moved from a universalistic expectation to a very particular one. Yes, it’s available to all, without reserve. But it’s a very specific means of grace. It’s only through Jesus, God the Son, the Lord of all, that we are brought into this body of Christ. It’s preached to everyone, but is received only by God’s grace through faith in the promises of God. Though the Lord calls and speaks to all nations, He dies it through the particular agency of the Church.
What attitude are Christians to have? We are to be grateful, welcoming, and encouraging to all, that they may also see the grace and love of God in Christ. Do we do it well? Not always. But it’s always been the way God has ordained to gather people to eternal life. Lord, make us faithful.
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