The relationship between Christ and His Church is significant. The Church is the blood-bought people that God is uniting to Himself through the work of the cross. I’m talking about the “big-C” Church here, the trans-historical body of believers who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, not just the local church congregation, although that is also vital to the life and work of the Church. In reading through Ephesians, I have noticed that Paul addresses the letter, “To the saints who are in Ephesus,” but then he goes on for pretty much the rest of the book to very thoroughly define who those saints are. I don’t know about you, but when I write a letter, I don’t spend the entire letter explaining who the letter is to. What Paul does in Ephesians, though, is basically to say, “I am writing this to the Church, so this is who the Church is and what the Church does as a result of that.” So the entire book pretty much could just be looked at as an explanation of the “To:” line in his letter. Although there are plenty more pictures of who the saints are and how they live in Ephesians, what stands out to me are 3 broader pictures of how Christ relates to His Church:
1. Adopted as Children (Ephesians 1:5)
In Ephesians 1:5, we are told that God chose us for adoption as sons through the work of Christ in redeeming us through His blood. Though we were orphans, spiritually fatherless and without and inheritance, God saw and chose His people to be adopted into His family. This means that we relate to God as His children, whom he loved and chose to sacrifice everything to bring into His family. I think of my various friends who have adopted, and the lengths to which they have worked to get their children. Some have traveled across the world, sparing no expense, others have rescued from poverty and hardship, all to bring in that child who they are calling their own. This is what God did for us, and Christ was the payment, the expense. He gave up His life so that we could be made sons and daughters and share in His inheritance, the glory and presence of God. We as the Church are loved as children that God was willing to give up everything for, and as His children we are a family united by His love.
2. The Head of a Body (Ephesians 1:22-23)
Basically from the end of Ephesians 1 through the rest of the book, Paul bases much of his discussion within the picture of the Church as a body, with Christ as the head of that body. I have two thoughts here: 1. a body without its head is lifeless (see Ephesians 2) and 2. the head is what directs the body (see literally the rest of Ephesians and the Bible). Ephesians tells us that apart from Christ we were “dead in our trespasses and sins” (2:1 ESV). It is only through Christ in the grace of God that we could be made alive, and with that life we are united to a body, the Church, and Christ is the head that directs that body. In Ephesians 4, Paul encourages believers to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [they] have been called” (4:1 ESV). He also tells the church that as one body they should have unity, and live in a way that shows that they are united in love for God and one another (4:2-4). To be in the body of Christ means that we are part of a community that works to display the love of God shown in Christ. As the Church we are a people who have been rescued from death, and are united as a community in love for God and for others.
3. A Bride and Groom (Ephesians 5:32)
The final picture is of Christ and His Church as a marriage. This is a theological idea that extends from the old testament (see Hosea and Song of Solomon) to the end New Testament (see Revelation 19, wedding feast of the Lamb). In Ephesians 5:32, Paul tells us that the relationship between a husband and wife is supposed to be a picture of Christ and the Church. This is significant because it shows us the depth of intimacy and commitment with which Christ loves us. This is a reminder that we are not just purchased slaves or followers, but we are deeply known and loved by our creator, and His desire is for us to know and love Him. Going back to the Old Testament picture of this in Hosea, we are an unfaithful bride, but Christ has given Himself up for us so that we could be made clean and be returned to right relationship with Him. As the Church we are deeply known and loved as the redeemed bride of Christ, whom he gave Himself up for, and as a result of that we love and follow Him.
So how does Ephesians depict the Church? In these pictures God shows us that as His purchased and redeemed people we are intimately known, deeply loved, and united as a family and community. These are the markers of the Church, God’s people, so live as those people.