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Redeemed, forgiven and adopted

I’m going to confess something to you. And it may make you think less of me. For others of you, this may make you think more of me in a relatable sort of way. Here goes. One of my bucket list items is that I want to go out to Los Angeles and take all the tours. 

I want to stroll the Walk of Fame and see all of the star plaques embedded in the sidewalks. I want to take a studio tour or two. Maybe hop a bus and see where some of the stars live. But you know what? If I do, I still won’t have known any of those people, will I? I will have seen where they have lived, but I won’t know them. 

I wish I knew who the Christians at Ephesus really were. In Ephesians 1: 3-14, the apostle Paul has good news for exiled and newly formed Christians. As he writes to them, the words are powerful that he uses to help them understand the sense of belonging we could find in Christ. 

Elizabeth and I had a chance to walk the streets of ancient Ephesus a few years ago. We spent the better part of a day there. We got to see where the Ephesians of Paul’s time lived, and got a feel for how they lived. The ruins even betray a little of what their culture was like.

They were affluent people. Ephesus back then was a vital sea port, which made it a relative cultural crossroads. There was much beauty and opportunity in a place like the Ephesus of Paul’s time.

Like most gatherings within the fledgling Christian movement, there would have been a scattering of Jews. But obviously there would have been a tremendous number of Gentiles as well. The culture was pluralistic, including the variety of spiritual beliefs and practices the people may have held. Getting Jew and Gentile on the same spiritual page in the name of Christ would not have been an easy task. Getting Christian pilgrims and pagan seekers, especially in a Hellenistic age of intellectual curiosity, into a shared practice of faith would have been a worthy challenge for Paul’s abilities. 

This same apostle Paul, will tell the Galatians in Chapter 3 of his letter to them, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” That is the Paul who makes the case in our Ephesians scripture today that in Christ, all who come to God are adopted “…and blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” 

Yes, I wish I knew the ancient Ephesians and just what this news meant to them. When they had heard the word of truth, and had accepted life in Christ because of that hearing, Paul seemed to see them, according to Dr. Thomas Slater, as a new ethno-religious community. A body of believers, we might call them. But one with an amazing inheritance of resources, hope, possibility and eternity at their disposal.

They were everything I’ve just said, but had to be so despite their noticeable diversity. Just like the church of today, they were people who weren’t the same age and didn’t think just alike. They were people who didn’t always interpret culture and events quite the same. People who weren’t necessarily doing the same thing and didn’t always believe just the same, but still trying to find unity of spirit and action. They were brought together by their Salvation in Jesus Christ. Like we are supposed to be, they had their hope because of Jesus and God’s calling upon their lives also because of Him. 

This is an important section of Paul’s letter that celebrates the blessings that we might elect to receive if we follow Christ. It brought welcomed news that we 21st century Christians may tend to take for granted. Especially for those who may have been exiled or displaced at that time, and certainly who were living as Roman citizens in a vast empire against their choice, this might have sounded like good news. 

Maybe you’ve felt exiled at some point in your life. Or maybe something challenging has moved into your life and made you feel as though the way you had known was now being “occupied” by an invading circumstance. Into all of our lives, in Christ we are redeemed, forgiven and adopted. That is a powerful connection that should give us hope.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.