It seems that Christians often struggle with their “part” in their lives with Jesus. Certainly a sense of responsibility for our relationship with Jesus is appropriate; but keeping our “part” in perspective can be a challenge.
Sometimes we err in thinking too much of our part; we might also err in not thinking at all about our responsibility. And here the apostle Paul helps me.
Paul opens his letter to the Ephesians with a lengthy celebration of God’s grace and goodness. Turning his eyes toward God, Paul pens one long sentence that rehearses the “spiritual blessings” that have been bestowed on us (Ephesians 1:3–14).
Reflecting on the record of blessings, it becomes clear that God is the responsible party. He blessed us, He chose us, He adopted us, He bestowed grace on us, He redeemed us, He lavished grace upon us, He made known to us His will, He predestined us, He sealed us with the Spirit—all done according to the kind intention of His will, all carried out for the praise of the glory of His grace. It is abundantly clear that as Paul reflects on the life we enjoy in Christ, truly the responsible party is God Himself. We are what we are by His doing.
But does this mean we are to be inert, unresponsive, bumps on a log? Is there no “response-ability” in store for us in this life? Are we to be wholly inactive in our lives with Jesus?
Even in this lengthy pantheon of praise to God, Paul does provide us a glimpse into our “part.” He captures it in three words.
In verse twelve he mentions that the Ephesians were some of those who “were the first to hope in Christ.” Hope does not refer to wishful thinking or a longing for the impossible or improbable. Biblically, the idea of hope is to set one’s future confidence in promises to come. This is one piece of the Ephesians “part.” They anchored their confidence about their future life in the person of Jesus and what He has secured for them.
In the next verse, Paul touches on two more facets of the Ephesians’ response: “In [Christ Jesus] you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
The Ephesians heard or listened to the truth of the Gospel message. The truth of what God was doing in and through Jesus was announced in their hearing, and they attended to it. And then, having listened, they believed—they entrusted themselves to the God they met in the proclamation of the Good News about God’s work in Jesus.
So, in rehearsing the great things God had done for the Ephesians—highlighting God’s part—Paul also gives us a glimpse of our part. We are those who listen to the message of the Gospel, who put our faith in the One we meet in the Gospel, and who anchor our hope in Him. We hear, we believe, we hope. That is our part.
If that is the core of our “response-ability” in the face of all that God has done and is doing in Christ Jesus, there are ways we can lean into that. If hearing and believing and hoping are critical, then everything that we can do to expose ourselves to who God is and what He is doing and what the Gospel means would be appropriate a means of enabling us to “do our part.”
We don’t read Scripture because we must. We read Scriptures because there we hear the great good news that we, in grace, dare to believe. We reflect on what the Scriptures hold out to us because in them we are brought face to face with the One we want to rest in, depend on, and trust. We celebrate all that the Scriptures declare because in that declaration we have come to find our future sure and our life with the God who loves us certain.
The River places an emphasis on reading and understanding Scripture, in large measure, because our part is to hear and hope and believe. In all our courses, the essential thing is for us to keep on growing to hear what God has to say to us through His Word.