It’s human nature to be offended by others, and I’ve certainly had my struggles with offense. But as I studied the ending verses of Ephesians, a light bulb went off in my head. Paul began his letter to the church at Ephesus with “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:2) and he ends the letter with: “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love” (Eph. 6:23-24). This incorruptible (imperishable) love is the kind of love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” and never fails (1 Cor. 13:7-8).
The great theme of Ephesians has been that even before God laid the foundations of the world, His plan and purpose has been to unite all things in His Son, Jesus Christ. This was once a mystery hidden deep in God – unknowable to us. But now God’s purpose has been revealed to you and me – and revealed not just in words, but in this living, breathing, visible reality called the Church. God’s eternal purpose for the uniting of all things in Christ is being worked out today in the bringing together of formerly alienated and hostile people in the one body of Christ.
And so now it’s in this light that Paul again expresses this prayer-wish at the end of his letter: “Peace to the brothers.” This peace is something we have – right now. We are, as a fact of reality, brothers and sisters in the one body of Christ. “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall…for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Eph. 2:14, 18) As Wood writes: “This is more than a farewell greeting; it is a prayer for reconciliation. Paul longs to see the whole brotherhood of believers in Ephesus and its environs—Jews and Gentiles alike—at peace with each other in the one body of Christ.”
This peace that we have because of the “new man” that we are together in Christ is experienced, it’s lived out in the exercise and the constant practice of mutual love – a love that flows from the one faith that we all have in common with each other. (cf. Lincoln) “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-3)
So why do we cultivate the quality of long-suffering? Why do we bear with one another in love? Why do we forgive when we have been sinned against? Why do we walk with all humility and gentleness toward each other? Not primarily for any advantage to me or for any benefit to you, but because anything else would be to hide the glory and preeminence of Christ, who has made peace through the blood of His cross (Col. 1:20). Why do we love each other, being fervent to keep the unity of the Spirit? Because, with Paul, we have had our eyes opened to that great mystery of God’s will to see His Son exalted and lifted up through the uniting of all things in Him.
And now here at the very end of his letter, Paul expresses once again His heart’s desire and prayer: “Peace to the brothers, and love with faith…” But why? Because Christ is worthy!!! We are brothers and sisters in the one body of Christ not primarily for our sake, but for His. “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” (Col. 1:18) And we know from Ephesians that God’s bringing together of formerly alienated and hostile people in the one body of Christ is all for the sake of His Son (it’s not about you and me) – so that in Christ all things might be united, things in heaven and things on earth, in Him.
At the end of Ephesians, we’re reminded that what matters is not what we know about Christ, but that we know and love Christ Himself. All of this doctrine in Ephesians—all of this Gospel truth–it’s all summed up in a Person. What Paul has been calling us to all along in Ephesians is the love of that Person – the love of Christ. Knowing the truth will never do us any good if it’s divorced from a genuine, sincere, pure, and undivided love for our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of who Christ is—because He is the one who fills all in all (Eph. 1:23), because He is the goal and end of all creation – things in heaven and things on earth (Eph. 1:9-10), because all things have been subjected under His feet, because He has been given as head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:22)—because of who Christ is, therefore any true love for Christ is necessarily consumed with His preeminence.
The question to be asked at the end of Ephesians is this: What are your notions of Christ? Do you love Him? Are you most happy when He is most preeminent? And have we come to see that His preeminence is most gloriously displayed in our love for one another? “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love” (Eph. 6:23-24). It is this love that will ultimately conquer our enemy. As we love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, we will love others as we love ourselves (see Mark 12:29-31). It is as we surrender to this amazing love that we are motivated and empowered to stand! “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). There’s no room for offense if we truly love the Lord and seek for Him to be first for His glory.