In a few words

Image credit: Filmmaker Nick Hamer, www.outsidethecityfilm.com
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.  Ephesians 1:7 NIV

A little more interpretative in the New Living Translation:

He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.  Ephesians 1:7 NLT

A recently-released film, Outside the City, by Christian filmmaker Nick Hamer, explored the life of Britain’s only Cistercian Trappist monastery at Mount St Bernard, Leicestershire over a three-year period. During this time the monks invested in modern brewery equipment and began to brew their own Tynt Meadow niche brand of bottled ale. By contrast with this specialised activity, the rule of life they follow values quietness and reflection. A scene is shown in the refectory where, in place of conversation, the Abbott is reading from the Rule of Benedict, and we hear (approximate quote): “Be sparing with your words... for when your words are many, their emptiness is great.”

Churchgoing in the UK is in sharp decline, in the traditional denominations at least, and one thing often cited is the association of worship services with "many words" and a lack of relevance. We may fall into the trap of too many words and too little meaning, but Paul didn’t. In this one verse and about 20 words he sets out five massive foundations of Christian faith:

  • Being joined to Christ — our new life “in Him”
  • Redemption -- the NLT puts this plainly as “He purchased our freedom”. If someone else paid the fine for a prisoner's offence, or purchased the freedom of a slave from the owner, that person was described as having been redeemed.
  • Through His blood — the OT principle was clear, that without the shedding of blood there could be no forgiveness. The worship of God through priests offering sacrifices foreshadowed the one, final and conclusive sacrifice made by Jesus Christ in the Cross for our sins, past, present and future. His blood remedies our sin and makes the personal relationship with God possible, no priests required.
  • The forgiveness of sins — much conventional religion makes a meal of striving to be forgiven, when that forgiveness has already been granted to all who truly believe in and receive to their hearts Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
  • The riches of God’s grace. What we cannot earn, Christ earned for us. What we cannot achieve, we can receive in and through Him. Most man-centred philosophy revolves around merit — whether or not we deserve a particular reward. That is the basis of the pass mark or grade that operates in school, graduate and professional qualifications, driving tests and promotion boards — and produce shows and ploughing matches! It’s what we are used to, but God deciding to treat us according to His love, not our performance, is difficult to accept. Because accepting us all we can do, to respond to what He has done and the love He has already shown.

For someone who has taken that step of faith to say ‘yes’ to Jesus, it all comes down to just two words — “in Him”. Our being joined, spiritually, with Christ Jesus and His righteousness is a kind of transfusion of God's life and good motivation.

It upsets our ordinariness. And (something no religion can do) it frees us from needing to prove or earn any moral achievement.