Image via Wikipedia
This is part of a series of posts based on the Churches Together in England publication one light: one world. If you click on the link you will find the biblical texts. This post of the same name covers the purpose of this series.
Ephesians 1: 7 - 12
This passage moves between past, present and future, although not necessarily in that order. It focuses on Oikoumene, the ultimate reconciliation of all things to God. But we need to understand this is pointless, unless it makes a difference in the here and now.
So, the author begins in the present, reminding his readers of their experience of gifts of redemption and forgiveness. A third gift we have here and now is knowledge of the mystery of his will; the gathering up of all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.
It is interesting how Universalist this passage seems to be. It does say 'all things'. The main problem with Universalism is, to imply all will be saved rather subverts the idea that a saviour is necessary. My understanding of the Methodist take on this question is that it is God's intention that all shall be saved. There is, however, no certainty that all will be saved. If there is free will then there must always be the possibility that some will not choose God.
I feel great discomfort with the idea that we must fear the wrath of God. God is wrathful certainly, but the wrath is not directed to those who don't believe in evangelical doctrine. It is directed against the oppressors, those who exploit others for personal gain, lust for power or take pleasure in cruelty. Make no mistake about it, these are the true atheists. Whether or how they might be saved need not detain us here.
Christians are not called to condemn those who do not believe. They are called to lead the way in every generation. The passage deals with the past in its final verses. Christians have obtained an inheritance, they are destined, they are the first and live for the praise of Christ's glory.
To be destined is to be selected for a purpose. It does not necessarily imply anything about those who are not selected. They surely have a destination too and this might be facilitated in a positive way by those who have already been selected. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that we are called for our own benefit rather than the benefit of others.
The problem from an ecclesiological point of view is this reading of the passage sets aside the necessity for church. Institutional structures are not necessary for salvation. They support those who choose to live in the way of Jesus Christ but are not necessary as institutions. This will be a less than welcome idea for several traditions. There is more to be said about this.