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As I write this, New Zealand is shocked and grieving. My own nation Australia is shocked and grieving too, along with them. The brutal terror attacks on a Christchurch Mosque on 15 March 2019 have made a deep impact on all of us, especially since a key attacker was an Australian. And even worse, tragically—awfully—this kind of incident isn’t just a one-off occurrence. This incident was of course closer to home that we’re used to. 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.
And it’s not just news stories about other people that make us think about security. In our own daily lives, there are often tangible threats to our security. Maybe for you there’s an issue of job security: Will I find a job? Will I keep my job? Is this job going to last much longer? Am I going to be stuck in a job I hate? Maybe there’s a question of financial security: Will I have enough for the rent or the repayments? Will I have enough to feed myself and my family? Will I have enough money to retire? And yet even if we have wealth and possessions, they bring their own insecurities. The more possessions you have, the more insecure you can become. You can become so insecure you have to buy “security systems” to help you feel secure, with cameras on your driveway and your doorbell linked to your phone so you can spend all day being reminded how insecure your possessions are. Or there’s insecurity about relationships: Do my friends really care? Do my colleagues really respect me? Will I find someone to love me? Does the one I’ve found really love me? Will my kids be OK? Will they grow up to look after me? There’s insecurity about our health: We get injured. We get sick. We weaken and we die. Security threats are everywhere. I wonder how many hours in your day are taken up by the quest for security?
This passage from Paul, in Ephesians 2:6–7 is all about security:
And God raised us together with Christ, and seated us together with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he could demonstrate the outstanding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.Ephesians 2:6–7
Paul is talking here 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?
Up to this point in Ephesians chapter 2, Paul has been describing our “salvation”. We were spiritually “dead” because our offences against God had brought God’s “wrath” on us (verses 1–3). But God has loved us despite all of this, and has “made us alive” together with Christ (verses 4–5). God has transformed our identity; he has made us new people, with our hope and our lives set on Christ and the new creation that will come. And all of this is God’s gift to us: “it is by grace that you are saved” (verse 5). This is amazing, isn’t it? In fact, Paul could have stopped at this point and he would have already given us some mind-blowing things to reflect on and praise God for. But Paul doesn’t stop. He goes on to say something else. And what he says is even more profound.
It’s not only that God has brought us from death to life. God has also “raised us together with Christ and seated us together with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. This is a description of victory, power and security. Back in chapter 1 (verses 19–21), Paul had used these words to talk about Christ himself. God raised Christ from the dead, and exalted him to heaven. Christ is seated in the heavenly places, sharing the throne of his Father in heaven. That means Christ is greater than everyone and everything in this universe—greater than the spiritual powers, and greater than anything that could ever threaten us. Now, Paul says that those who believe in Christ share that place with him. We’ve been raised with him and we’ve been seated with him. That means we have a security that nothing can take away. If we have Christ, we have everything. If we’ve staked our lives on Christ, then what God has already done for Christ is as good as done for us. This is all underwritten by the fact that Jesus himself is risen from the dead.
Paul then goes even further. It’s not just about present security; it’s about future security. There is a reason that God has now raised and seated us with Christ: “so that in the coming ages he could demonstrate the outstanding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” This is a glimpse of what eternal life will look like for those who believe in Christ. It tells us what we have to look forward to when our bodies are raised in that new creation. Paul here doesn’t say everything about our future, but he does tell us some very significant things. Our future is not about playing an eternal game of golf. Our future is not about floating around on clouds quietly strumming harps in freshly laundered nightwear. Our future resurrection life is about enjoying the incredible kindness of God in all its depth and richness. It’s about praising God as he shows us “the outstanding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”. Our future involves incredible, extravagant blessings from God, being showered on us, to his glory. This is something to stop and wonder at, isn’t it? This is something to lift our eyes to, and remember. It means that our future is secure in Christ Jesus.
A question of security
Those who believe in Jesus Christ have great security: now and forever. Even now, we are “raised with him” and share in his victory. In the future, when our bodies are raised, we will enjoy the incredible depth and richness of God’s kindness towards us. This is our security.
So what about all those other security questions? What about those questions about safety and jobs and finances and relationships and health? Of course, God often gives us these things, and we can thank God whenever he does. But none of them is ultimately secure, is it? It’s the security that we have in Christ Jesus that puts all those things into perspective. In fact, it’s often when those things are taken away that we see the deeper security we have in Christ shining through even more clearly. I’ve certainly felt the need to rely on the security I have in Christ when I’ve had other sources of security taken away. Time after time, I’ve seen it happen to my brothers and sisters in Christ—as they have lost jobs, houses, children, spouses, physical health, mental health, and more. Joel Hollier, a Christian who in 2013 lost his house to bushfires, in the midst of his own grief and pain, wrote:
As a broken and feeble human, I am constantly facing the temptation to find my identity and purpose in the fleeting cares of this world. Those of us who have lost all of our physical possessions—whether they be cameras or photos, are now left with a gaping identity crisis as the facade of security is wiped away from our eyes and we realise that what we so often thought of as permanent was nothing more than a smoke screen. For me, this has been such a profound experience as I have come to understand more what Jesus said when gave us the loving command to store up treasures in Heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy and where fire has no power. When our treasures are safely hidden away in eternity then what grasp can the fleeting distractions of this world have on us? Instead we will be free to live life as we are designed to—in deep, authentic relationships with the people around us, acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.Joel Hollier, 2013
For those who believe in Christ, our deepest, most fundamental security is in him. We don’t always feel it, of course. We are indeed weak, and broken, and feeble. That’s why we need to keep being reminded where our real security lies. This is a question of security that we need to ask ourselves, isn’t it? In good times and bad, where will we look for our security?
Where do you tend to look for your own security?
How might reflecting on the security you have in Christ help you to live for him?
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
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.