Skip to content

This God (Ephesians 1:2)

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Lionel Windsor
Lionel Windsor lectures in New Testament at Moore College, Sydney.

I teach at a Sydney theological college that’s right in the middle of one of the most irreligious parts of the Western world. Our campus sits between a long-established, determinedly secular university, and a vibrant, socially progressive inner-city suburb. Quite often, I join in with a group of college students, heading out into our community with the aim of engaging people in conversations about Jesus Christ. The results are varied. We’ve had some great conversations and some not-so-great ones. Some people say “no” straight away, with various degrees of politeness. Others are happy to talk for hours. But one thing I’ve discovered, and been a little surprised by, is there’s a large number of people in our community who believe in God.

However, what people actually mean when they say they believe in God (or god) is another question. It’s highly varied. People believe in a supreme cosmic force, a benevolent sovereign, an unknowable Other, and a great moral police officer, among others. Even the various atheists we meet have very different ideas about the kind of God (or god) they believe doesn’t exist.

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, Roman Forum. According to the plaque: "The temple—as indicated by the inscription—was dedicated by the Senate to Faustina in AD 141 and, when he died, to her husband the emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161 AD). The long walls of the cella, in square peperino blocks, were originally covered in marble. At the centre of the staircase, added later, are the remains of an altar. The statue visible behind the six columns of the façade probably belonged to the temple, which in the Middle Ages was turned into the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda. Later pope Urban V reused construction materials from inside the church to restore the Lateran Palace."

What do you think of when you hear the word, ‘God’?

The Bible is all about God. But since the concept can mean so many things to different people, it’s important for us to come to grips with who this God actually is, and what he’s like. In Ephesians 1:2, in the introduction to his letter, Paul says some very important things about God:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:2

In fact, he uses the exact same formula in many of his other letters. But this isn’t just a clichéd formula. It’s not just Paul’s version of ‘to whom it may concern’. Paul repeats it because it’s such a good summary of certain amazing truths about God. It’s not everything you can say about God—obviously there’s far more to say about God than can be said in a single short verse. But still, in this verse there are some profound things we can learn about God—things that are also important for understanding the rest of the letter.

The God of grace

Firstly, God is a God of grace. Paul begins “Grace to you”. The word ‘grace’ is a ‘gift’ word: God is a God who gives. What kind of things does God give, and how does he give them? Lots of things, according to the rest of Ephesians! Firstly, and most wonderfully, God gives people who believe in Jesus the gift of salvation: forgiveness, life, and a relationship with him forever. This grace is completely undeserved, because by rights we actually deserve God’s judgment. So Jesus gave himself for us: he died for our sins and rose from the dead so we could have that salvation. God’s grace is also lavish: God has made us his children and showered his grace on us. And his grace, his gift, calls forth a response in us: it makes us into people who want to love him and praise him and live for him.

Salvation is central to God’s grace, but God gives us even more! He has also given us the gift of knowing him, and knowing his plans for the universe through Jesus. He gives us strength: strength to know him and live for him and stand for him. Also, he gives various kinds of other gifts to each one of us, to enable us to speak about Jesus and serve and care for one another and to bring the message of Jesus to the world. God has given Paul the gift of preaching the gospel to all the nations. And to each one of us he has given us grace, so that we can speak words of grace to others.

The God of peace

God is also a God of peace. Peace doesn’t just mean ‘the absence of war’. In the Bible, the word is often equivalent to the Hebrew word Shalom—which is still a standard greeting in modern Hebrew. It means ‘wellbeing’ in the biggest sense—it’s about us and our relationships and our world being right and whole and as they should be.

This idea of ‘peace’ is important for understanding God and his activity. God is actually the one who made everything; he is the creator of the whole universe and of each one of us. But the world, including our own lives and relationships, are not whole and right and as they should be. There is not perfect peace in our world, is there? There is human sin, hopelessness, stupidity and hostility. Yet God is a God who actively makes things right. How does he do that? He does it through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul keeps talking about this in the rest of his letter to the Ephesians. God makes peace between himself and us, by forgiving our sins and saving us from judgment. Jesus’ death on the cross makes peace between Jewish people and the nations who would otherwise be in a state of hostility. The gospel itself is a gospel of ‘peace’, because it brings about reconciliation with God and unity between diverse people who believe in him. And ultimately, God’s great purpose is that all things will be “summed up” in Christ (1:10), so that all things are made right and whole and as they should be.

God our Father

The God who gives grace and brings peace is described as “God our Father”. God is not an impersonal force. He is personal, and he relates to us personally. We can pray to him, ask him for things, praise him, speak with him and know things about him. He gives us good gifts, and he is in control. It’s a beautiful thing to know God this way, as a loving heavenly Father. However, it’s important for us not just to think about God in terms of human fatherhood. You may have had a terrible father, or no father at all. Or you may have had a great and loving father. But whether it’s the father you wished you had, or the good aspects of the father you did have, all of those things are only pale shadows of what it means that God is Father. In fact, the first way to understand what it means that God is Father is to look to his own Son—Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus Christ

This God

Straight after Paul mentions “God our Father”, he talks about “the Lord Jesus Christ”. The word “Lord” means ‘ruler’. It means that Jesus Christ is in charge. Jesus is his name: Paul is talking about that same real person who was born and lived 2,000 years ago in ancient Israel. Yet he is not simply a long-gone historical figure. He is ‘Christ’. That isn’t his surname. ‘Christ’ means ‘anointed one’. It refers to the fact that Jesus is the one anointed to be king of God’s people, the Messiah of Israel and even more, the Lord and ruler of everything that God has made. He has died, and he is risen from the dead, and God is achieving all of his purposes through him.

The fact that Paul puts “the Lord Jesus Christ” in parallel with “God the Father” here hints at something that is described more explicitly elsewhere in the Bible: Jesus Christ is himself God, while at the same time being the ‘Son of God’ (see Ephesians 4:13). This is a profoundly rich truth, and we could go on about it forever. The main thing to see here is that you can’t really understand who God is without knowing about Jesus Christ. We can’t have grace and peace without the Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t access God the Father without coming to him through the Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t bypass Christ somehow, as if we can get to God some other way. That’s why in the rest of Ephesians Paul keeps coming back to the gospel of Jesus Christ as the key to all of God’s purposes, for all of humanity and indeed for the entire world.

Your God?

Is this the God you believe in? The one who gives grace, who brings peace, who is your Father, and whose identity and character and purposes are inseparable from the Lord Jesus Christ? Or is your god something different? Is your god a god who demands you to perform and to earn salvation, or who has nothing to do with your world or your relationships, or who is a distant and impersonal being, or is able to be defined in a way that has nothing to do with the Lord Jesus Christ? If so, then your god is not the God of the Bible, and he is certainly not the God whom Paul talks about in Ephesians. This God is a wonderful, giving, powerful, personal Father, who brings about all things through his Son Jesus Christ.

That is, of course, why the gospel of Jesus Christ is so vital to know well and to share with others. The word ‘god’ can mean so many different things to different people. A friend of mine has a particular line that he sometimes uses when someone tells him that they are an atheist. He says, “Tell me about the god you don’t believe in, because chances are I don’t believe in that god either.” My friend’s aim is to share the gospel of Jesus—who he is and what he has done. Because it’s this God who is so good, and so worth coming to know and trust and serve.

For reflection

The God of grace, the God of peace, God our Father, the Lord Jesus Christ: How do these truths challenge your ideas about God?

How do these truths about God comfort and encourage you?

Audio podcast


Want more?

This post is part of a series of ~70 reflections covering every sentence in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. You can see all the posts so far, and subscribe to receive updates via email, audio podcast, and social media, by following this link.

The academic details behind these reflections

Reading Ephesians & Colossians After Supersessionism: Christ's Mission through Israel to the Nations

In this series, I don’t go into detail justifying every statement I make about the background and meaning of Ephesians. I’ve done that elsewhere. If you’re interested in the reasons I say what I say here, and want to chase it up further with lots of ancient Greek, technical stuff, and footnotes, check out my book Reading Ephesians and Colossians After Supersessionism: Christ’s Mission through Israel to the Nations.

Published inEphesiansLift Your Eyes

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

Recent blog posts

  • The Shambles, York, UKBuilt together (Ephesians 2:20–22)
    Is every church on its own? How are Christian believers connected with other believers with whom we don’t meet regularly: in our region, nation, and world?
  • “Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves…” (Luke 23:28)
    Why do Christians lament? Sometimes we lament out of sympathy, but sometimes we weep for ourselves. This is the kind of lament that Jesus calls for here.
  • Busts in Vatican Museum, RomeNo second-class Christians (Ephesians 2:19)
    Even if we don’t say it out loud, we can often act as if there are different classes of Christians. But the gospel teaches us there are no second-class Christians.
  • Photo by Larm Rmah on UnsplashChrist the missionary (Ephesians 2:17–18)
    Christ is a missionary. Christ does stranger evangelism. Christ preaches to the choir. Christ crosses cultures. Christ brings peace. So says the Apostle Paul. What does he mean?
  • Fragment of the Berlin WallChrist the wall breaker (Ephesians 2:14–16)
    In this broken and rebellious world, our healthy boundaries often become hostile walls. But the cross of Christ breaks down walls and brings reconciliation.
  • Photo by John Tyson on UnsplashThe blood that brings us close (Ephesians 2:11–13)
    Despite our best desires and efforts, we humans are not very good at living up close with others. This has become devastatingly obvious in the recent Christchurch shootings. Yet in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul talks about a conflict that really was healed. This passage is about a real closeness that all believers in Christ must remember: a closeness that is fundamental to our identity.
  • Photo by foundinbklyn on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)Good works and salvation: What’s the connection? (Ephesians 2:8–10)
    A joke letter from an Australian church offering its financial donors priority access to heaven raises questions for all of us. Do our good deeds give us access to heaven? Or are our good deeds irrelevant? Where do our good deeds fit when it comes to salvation?
  • Security Threat. Photo by Andrew Neel on UnsplashA question of security (Ephesians 2:6–7)
    As I write this, New Zealand is shocked and grieving. My own nation Australia is shocked and grieving too, along with them. But news stories about terror attacks and shootings in our world are far too common, aren’t they? And whenever we hear of them, they bring to mind all sorts of questions. One of them is the question of security. As we grieve for the victims, we also think a little about ourselves. We wonder whether some day we too might be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a seemingly random attack happens. It’s unsettling. It’s not just a matter of national security; it’s also a matter of our own personal security. Paul is talking in Ephesians 2:6–7 about a security that belongs to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. It’s not a guarantee of perfect national security or job security or financial security or security in relationships and health. Nor is it a guarantee that we will always feel perfectly secure. But it is still a real security, more unshakeable and deep-rooted than any other kind of security could be. So what is this security, and where does it come from?
  • Walking past a telephone booth in OxfordThis love (Ephesians 2:4–5)
    “God loves you”: if I say just those three words, you may not hear what I want you to hear. This is because of a communication problem that arises whenever Christians try to talk about biblical concept of God’s “love”. When we say “love” we mean one thing—something wonderful and life-changing. But the word means quite different things to many English speakers. For example, the word “love” often means “strong desire”. So if I say “God loves you” then it might sound like I’m saying “God has strong feelings for you”. Another, increasingly common, understanding of “love” is the idea of “unconditional approval”. In this view, the way to “love” somebody is to affirm and approve of everything they do. So if I don’t approve of your actions and actively affirm everything you do, then by definition I’m not “loving” you (in fact, by definition I’m “hating” you). On this common definition of “love”, if I say “God loves you” then it might sound like I’m saying “God affirms everything about you and your actions”. But that’s not what the Bible means by God’s “love” either. Given this communication problem, how can I best explain the idea of God’s “love”? Well, it’s not actually that hard. The best way is to see how the word works when the Bible uses it. In Ephesians 2:4–5, Paul uses the word “love”. But he doesn’t just say “God loves you”. He explains and spells out what that love means. And he helps us to see what God’s love really means, and how amazing it is.
  • Entering a tomb in PompeiiWe too: the offenders (Ephesians 2:3)
    Judgmentalism. It’s a bigger problem than we think. Judgmentalism is certainly a danger for God’s people. That’s because God’s people have God’s word. God’s word helps God’s people to see how wonderful God is, and how terrible humanity is in comparison. But Ephesians 2:3 contains two highly significant, emphatic words: “we too”. We too, says Paul, were the offenders. We, too, were the disobedient. These words aren’t talking about all those horrible people “out there”. They’re talking about God’s people. And it’s something we, too, need to hear. These words tell us something incredibly important—something that we ignore at our peril.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor