Throughout the month of August, we’re taking a close look at 23 verses of the New Testament. They comprise Ephesians chapter one, which paints one of the Bible’s most comprehensive pictures of what it means for ordinary people to be “in Christ.”
At the midpoint of Paul’s remarkable run-on declaration concerning where Christians stand with God, all the verbs have had one thing in common.
God is always the subject.
He is the one who blesses, chooses, redeems, loves, and forgives.
So how exactly do we get in on all of this? We need to respond. All of a sudden we encounter three verbs that belong to us. Paul speaks of those who hope in Christ (verse 12), who hear the word of truth (verse 13), and who therefore believe (verse 14). God has done all the heavy lifting – the creating, the choosing, the adopting. God offers all the blessings – the joy, the assurance, the grace.
Our response is to hope, to hear, and to believe.
As Bible commentator Klyne Snodgrass puts it, “Salvation is entirely a work of God in which humans are totally involved.” Both parties have to be “all in.” But God always goes first. And we don’t have to spend years pounding on the gates of heaven, hoping for a response. God in his grace has already opened every door.
Richard Blackaby, a pastor in Canada, remembers the day that he and his wife Lisa decided to visit a frame shop in their hometown.
They were armed with a 50%-off coupon for any picture-framing project. It was a busy day for the Blackabys. Knowing that the store opened at 10:00 am, they decided to get there a few minutes early so they could be the first customers in line.
They pulled up at 9:49. It was a bitterly cold Canadian winter morning. The lights were already on. The sign on the door indeed said that the store would open at 10:00, but Richard suggested to Lisa that if she stood outside and looked sufficiently pathetic, perhaps they could get in a few minutes early.
Lisa hopped out of the car and walked up to the glass, peered inside, and noticed the shopkeeper. Lisa smiled at her. The shopkeeper smiled back, then went on with her work.
Lisa began pacing back and forth in front of the store trying to look like a seriously big spender. Whenever the proprietor looked up at her, Lisa smiled enthusiastically. But the shopkeeper never came to the door.
As her body approached the point of freezing, Lisa returned to the car and said to Richard, “Don’t just sit there, help me!” Richard, who is a fairly big guy, got out of the car wearing a black trench coat and mirrored sunglasses. He assumed that the woman working in the store might show him a little bit more respect. He opened the trunk of his car to take out the painting – just to demonstrate that they really did intend to make a purchase – but then noticed that the shopkeeper was on the phone.
At 10:03 am Lisa had had enough. “Let’s go to another store,” she said. “What do you mean?” Richard asked. “Surely she’ll open up now. It’s after 10:00.”
“I don’t care,” said Lisa. “I refuse to do business with these people. Any store that makes customers stand in the bitter cold for ten minutes just because their store hours haven’t officially begun is not going to get my business. That’s a principle with me.”
Richard answered, “Lisa, I know you are a person of principle, but I’d like to appeal to a higher principle.” While she may have been expecting something from the Sermon on the Mount, he pointed out instead, “We have a 50%-off coupon at this place and not for any other frame store.” She retorted, “I’d rather pay twice as much elsewhere than to get it done here for free.”
Realizing that their entire morning was now in danger of running off the rails emotionally, Richard asked, “So what happened when you tried the door?”
What followed was an awkward silence. Lisa wordlessly exited the car, walked up to the door, and pulled it wide open. It had been unlocked the entire time.
When they both walked inside they found the shopkeeper visibly shaken. She said to Lisa, “You kept staring at me and smiling at me, but you would never come in the store.” She said to Richard, “You looked like a mobster! I thought you were going to your trunk to pull out a sawed-off shotgun. I called my sister and told her I had two lunatics outside my store and to be ready to dial 911.”
Lisa and Richard honestly believed they understood the facts of the situation, but they didn’t have a clue.
They spent 15 minutes peering in at the very things they needed but never opened the door to receive them.
You can applaud God from afar. You can write a term paper on the Trinity. You can memorize the first chapter of Ephesians.
But at some point you’ll need to walk through the door – the one he has already unlocked for you.