April 26, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Ephesians 1:20-22 (NRSV)
God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church.
According to Ephesians, the power that raised Jesus from the dead is for and within us through the Spirit of God. But we experience this power, not as separate individuals, but as members of the church, the body of Christ. If we are going to live in the reality of the resurrection, we will do it in the community of Christ’s people.
This devotion is part of the series: Why Easter Matters.
One of my favorite novels is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. I was inspired to read this lengthy book (over 1200 pages) by the musical, which I first saw onstage in 1991. The musical begins with a scene of convicts doing hard labor. After they sing their anguished cry, “Look down,” we are introduced to the main characters of the story, Jean Valjean and Javert. A few minutes later, Valjean encounters the Bishop of Digne, whose grace transforms Valjean’s life, though the Bishop’s part in the musical is very small.
The novel begins quite differently. We are not introduced to Valjean or Javert at the beginning. Rather, for seventy pages we read about the Bishop and his exemplary Christian life. If you were unfamiliar with the musical version of Les Misérables, when you started reading the novel you might think that the Bishop was the chief protagonist. Yet, he actually sets the stage for the entrance of Jean Valjean, the main character of the story.
Ephesians 1 reminds me of Les Misérables. To be sure, the main protagonists are introduced right away: “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2). Yet, more than any other book of the Bible, Ephesians features the church. The word “church,” for example, appears in this letter with more frequency than it does in any other biblical book. Even when the word “church” is not used, Ephesians continually speaks to and about the community of God’s people in Christ. It is a book about the church.
The last few words of Ephesians 1 give us our first glimpse of the church: “And God placed all things under [Christ’s] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:22-23). The church is identified as Christ’s “body” and as “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
At the end of Chapter 1, we sense that the church plays an essential role in God’s work in the cosmos. God the Father has made Christ head over all things “for the church” (Ephesians 1:22). The church is Christ’s body, the physical representation of Christ on earth. And the church is, in some mysterious way, the vehicle and container for all that God is doing in the universe.
The last part of Ephesians 1 begins to reveal how central the church is to God’s plans for the world. We realize that, no matter how many mixed feelings we might have about the church as we experience it today, the church as the body of Christ is not something to be ignored or dismissed. Whatever God wants to do in and through us, God sees us as essential parts of the church. We will only be all that God envisions for us when we are active members of the body of Christ.
When you hear the word “church,” what thoughts, feelings, or images come to mind? Are they positive? Negative? Neutral?
Why do you think Paul introduces the church as Christ’s body?
In what ways is the church an essential element of your discipleship?
The next time you’re in a group of gathered believers, like in a Sunday morning worship service, reflect on the fact that the church is Christ’s body. What might this really mean for real people gathered in real community? What difference might this make in your church?
Gracious God, as we come to the end of Ephesians 1, we’re struck by the introduction of the church. We have so many different thoughts and feelings about the church. It’s easy for us to define “church” in light of our own experiences. Yet we really need to know how you define “church” so that we might bring our thoughts and feelings in line with yours.
As we seek to live in light of the resurrection of Christ, may we do so, not by ourselves, but as members of Christ’s body, as sisters and brothers in his family. Amen.
Banner image by Diana Vargas on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Remember This Easter: Your Life’s Work Is Not Futile.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.