Reflections and comments on Ephesians 1:1b from a missional perspective.
“of Jesus Christ”
Paul is a “sent one” of someone else. To be sent requires someone to do the sending. An apostle does not send oneself. An apostle is one who represents the one who sent him and he represents him not only in words, but also in the way he conducts his life.
Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ. This is an important distinction. He was sent in the same way that Jesus was sent. An apostle of Jesus is sent to live as a representative of the life of Jesus, the kind of life that led to his death. We can see this in the words of Paul in Philippians 2:1-11. We are all to have the same mind as that of Christ Jesus.
Let me use the words of Deitrich Bonhoeffer in his Ethics to go deeper into this:
“Jesus Christ is the very embodiment of the person who lives responsibly … His entire life, action and suffering is vicarious representative action … All human responsibility is rooted in the real vicarious representative action of Jesus Christ on behalf of human beings. Responsible action is vicarious representative action.
“The responsibility of Jesus Christ for all human beings has love as its content and freedom as its form. … Human beings are not called to realize ethical ideals, but are called into a life that is lived in God’s love and that means lived in reality” (231-232).
There is so much to unpack here with regard to the idea of being a sent one “of Christ Jesus.” The following is a very basic outline of the logic:
- Jesus assumed responsibility for fallen creation.
- Jesus came lived, acted, suffered, died and rose again as an act of that responsibility.
- Jesus took responsibility for that which we were responsible. He stood in our place as our representative.
- To be our representative, he had to enter into our realities, acting and suffering, foregoing self-preservation that comes with distance, idealism, rules or a set of principles. Representation came in flesh and blood.
- Love is personal, not an abstract principle.
- To be sent of the one who was a vicarious representative is to take on the responsibility of suffering for the sake of others in the same way (see Col 1:24).
Jesus’ death and resurrection is a once in history vicarious representation. We cannot do what Jesus did. But to be sent of Jesus Christ is to participate in his way. We don’t get to be sent differently than he was.
For the previous post on Ephesians click here.