Study Guide

God in Ephesians and Colossians

God

He's the Creator of Heaven and Earth and the omnipotent ruler of the universe. But he's also pretty wrapped up with everything that's going on down here on Earth. Doesn't the Almighty have anything more exciting to occupy his time?

Let's find out.

The Wayback Machine

Back in the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. the Old Testament), God was a pretty busy deity. He "created all things" (Ephesians 3:9)—the entire world and all of humanity—and only took one day off afterward. The guy was a real workaholic.

Then God decided that it would be pretty nice to have some kind of relationship with his creations, so he made a covenant with Abraham and all his descendants (who eventually became the Jewish people). God would bless and love his chosen people, and all they'd have to do in return is obey every single commandment he gave them. There were only about 613, so that was no big deal. Who needs bacon anyway?

Needless to say, the people didn't do such a great job. Folks just couldn't seem to stop sinning and disobeying and worshipping other gods left and right. What's an all-powerful God to do? Smite them all? He tried that once with the whole flood thing and it didn't work out too well. Luckily, according to Christian scriptures, God had another option to fall back on: Jesus.

He set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:9-12)

Paul says that God sent Jesus to fix everything. After Jesus lived and died, God took the big book of ours sins that he had been writing down since the beginning of time and tossed it away. He wiped the slate clean and got ready to start over with humanity. Second time's a charm?

So Graceful

But why did God do all this? Well, he certainly didn't have to. He laid out the rules plain as day, and humanity didn't follow them. So why did God change his plans? Just out of the goodness of his divine heart:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:7-10)

What a sweetheart.

Gentiles Wanted

God's back-up plan for the world also includes being lax about who he lets walk through the Pearly Gates. God's old covenant was just made with the Jewish people. No non-Jews allowed. But now he's happy to hang with anyone who digs Jesus:

In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:5-6)

Oh, and remember how God was really big into all those laws that he handed down to Moses? How he totally smited people for thousands of years for disobeying them? Well, never mind all that now:

He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace. (Ephesians 2:15)

Right. He did it so that the Gentiles and the Jews could be on equal footing. Though we're not sure anyone who was ever stoned for collecting sticks on the Sabbath would be too happy about it…

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

After God sent Jesus, lots of things changed. But it wouldn't exactly be right to say that God changed his mind. Sure, it sort of seems like he had one plan, but that when that didn't work out, he had to go with Plan B (or should we say Plan J.C.?). Paul is super clear that God intended to send Jesus to Earth from the very beginning of time:

He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will. (Ephesians 1:4-5)

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15-16)

Yup. According to Christians, God had this whole Savior thing planned from day one of creation.

Did God know that we would screw everything up eventually? If yes, then why did he spend thousands of years messing around before beginning Operation Messiah? Was he just testing humanity? Seeing if we could work things out on our own before calling for backup?

Seriously…we're asking.

Meanwhile, in the Rest of the Bible

Some folks feel that God is portrayed kind of differently in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. It's true that the original tales of God have a whole lot of divine wrath raining down from Heaven, and in these letters, God is definitely a loving and forgiving guy:

  • "God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us […] made us alive together with Christ." (Ephesians 2:4-5)
  • "Forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32)
  • "[God] has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)
  • "Forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you." (Colossians 3:13)

But…if you step out of line, the Creator of Heaven and Earth will totally cut you:

  • "No fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." (Ephesians 5:5)
  • "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient." (Ephesians 5:6)
  • "The wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient." (Colossians 3:6)

See? Not all that inconsistent after all.