The 3 Actors of Ephesians—And Why They Matter to the Story of God
“The story of God in Ephesians will change your life if you let it,” exclaims Mark D. Roberts in his new Ephesians commentary. “It will open your eyes to seeing God, your life, the church, and indeed the entire universe in a whole new way” (1)
That’s because this story isn’t only about God. Yes, he’s the primary actor. But there are two other actors that play a commanding role: “me” and “us.”
Like all commentaries in The Story of God Bible Commentary series, Roberts draws the reader into God’s Story by illuminating and explaining each passage of Scripture in light of its grand narrative—helping us live this letter in our own contexts. He begins his endeavor with a goodly introduction orienting us to this letter, particularly the actors within it.
Understanding their role in the drama of Ephesians will help us understand the story of God in greater detail. Below, explore a brief sketch of Roberts’s exploration of these characters.
The Story of God in Ephesians
“The story of Ephesians is truly the story of God,” Roberts explains, “a drama in which God is primarily actor and the entire cosmos his stage. God is also the primary author of this story, though it comes to us in human words” (1).
First, the story that Paul tells in Ephesians is God’s, encompassing the entirety of time itself—stretching from the dawn of creation and ending in eternity; God is the one writing its script. But he’s also an actor within it who has accomplished and is accomplishing much for his glory. Roberts offers us a thrilling paragraph-long sentence to highlight God’s activity, which includes:
- Choosing us in Christ
- Lavishing grace on us
- Putting all things under Christ
- Making Christ the head of the church
- Seating us with Christ in heaven
- Saving us by grace
- Building us into his temple
- Revealing the mystery of the gospel
Finally, God-as-actor shows up throughout Ephesians in distinctively trinitarian ways: “The story of God is centered in Christ, in whom God acts and who dies on the cross to bring unity and peace to broken humanity. God, who is identified as our Father and the Father of Christ, is also manifested in the activity of the Holy Spirit” (12).
The Story of “Me” in Ephesians
Although God is the primary actor in the story of Ephesians, we’re given supporting roles, too.
As Roberts reveals, “Even though chapters 1–3 focus on God’s activity, they also reveal our involvement in God’s story. … Ephesians 4–6 spells out the nature of our participation in greater detail, urging us to live our lives worthy of the calling that was revealed in Ephesians” (13). What part do we play?
- We’ve been chosen to be holy, set apart for God and his work (1:4)
- We’ve been predestined to exist for God’s praise and glory (1:11–14)
- We’ve been saved, created anew, and given good works to do (2:8–10)
- We make known God’s wisdom to the spiritual powers within the heavenly realms (3:10)
- We live God’s story in practical ways at every juncture in life (5:21–6:9)
Roberts concludes, “we are not incidental to God’s story. Nor are we merely those upon whom God acts. Rather, we are, by grace, participants in God’s story, sharers together in his work of redemption in Christ” (13).
The Story of “Us” in Ephesians
Lest we interpret God’s story to be a “me and God” kind of story, Roberts draws our attention to one final actor: Us.
The theme of togetherness fills the story of Ephesians, underscoring the essential role of the church in the plan of God. (13)
Roberts goes on to explain how the “together” aspect of our life in God’s story and in Christ “is seen in striking stylistic and linguistic features of Ephesians. … In the letter Paul uses ten different words that begin with some version of the Greek word sun, which means ‘with’” (14). Here is a sample:
- God made us alive together with Christ (2:5)
- God seated us together with Christ (2:6)
- We are heirs together with Israel (3:6)
- We are sharers together with each other in the promise (3:6)
- We are held together with each other in Christ’s body (4:16)
“The unusual inclusion and combination of these words underscores the ‘together-with-ness’ of the Christian life. We are together with Christ and therefore together with each other” (14).
The heartbeat of this togetherness and our own individual narrative participation is the important theme of unity. This theme “permeated the letter,” formed the “core of Paul’s ethical instructions,” and “shaped his teaching on how Christians are to live with each other as members of Christ’s body” (11).
“If you take Ephesians seriously, it will change your life,” says Roberts. Let him show you how by helping you listen to God’s story through carefully explaining it, and by drawing you into living this story—all for God’s glory and the good of the world.