Am I loved? The central question of every human heart is answered with a resounding yes in Ephesians: The Love We Long For by Scotty Smith. Through this easily accessible, self-contained small group study, each participant will grow in their understanding of the riches of God’s grace and how the love of Christ shapes every relationship and interaction they have with others.
Smith invites men and women to reflect on the God of the Bible by reading the book of Ephesians slowly, discovering the implications of God’s love for every aspect of their lives and relationships—including husband and wife, parent and child, in the workplace, and within the church family.
In this interview with Scotty Smith, he shares more about his study and the important takeaways from Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus for Christians today.
Q: Why is Ephesians one of your favorite books to study?
God used the book of Ephesians to rescue me from a piecemeal, eclectic theology of performance and pragmatism. As a young believer in 1968, I believed God’s grace was the A, B, Cs of getting us into heaven when we die . . . which it is, hallelujah! But Ephesians taught me the Christian life isn’t just about preparing to die; it’s also about preparing to live. The gospel of God’s grace is the A to Z of the entire Christian life. Ephesians launched me on the journey of moving from little “g” gospel, to an all caps GOSPEL. My gospel was just too small, and I still consider myself a neophyte in the riches of the gospel of God’s grace. I trust I’ll be saying that even five and ten years from now.
Q: You write that the book of Ephesians swings on a hinge. What awaits on each side of the door for readers of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus?
I love doors, especially the door of God’s welcome, opened for us by God himself, swinging freely on hinges of grace. On one side of the door of Ephesians, the lyric of the gospel is written in bold print. On the other side of the door is where the music of the gospel is found. We must go through the door to get onto the dance floor of God’s welcome, grace, and love. Ephesians is great doctrine plus existential delight.
In this letter, Paul teaches us the vital relationship between theology and doxology. Informed minds are to become inflamed hearts, by the grace and truth of the good news. Paul writes this letter modeling for us what I call “gospel-astonishment.” The more he grew in awe of every good thing we have in Jesus, the less fear and disappointment had power over his heart.
Q: What do you mean by “There’s nothing more than the gospel, just more of the gospel”?
To say there’s nothing more than the gospel, just more of the gospel, is to affirm there’s always more of Jesus to discover, experience, and enjoy. After all, the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ—who he is and everything he has done and is doing. The gospel is a person before it’s a set of propositions.
Throughout eternity we will be in discovery mode—growing in the knowledge and enjoyment of the entire Trinity. Our glorification must not be confused with calcification. When Jesus returns, we will be made whole, and will finally have the capacity to take in more and more of the glory and grace of Jesus. Life in the new heaven and new earth won’t be sedentary, but exploratory—dynamic, not static. There’s always more to the gospel, because there’s always more of the good news to be understood, experienced, and savored.
Q: What are the spiritual blessings we receive through God’s grace?
Okay, let’s list just a few of the blessings that are spelled out in the book of Ephesians. We were chosen and loved by God even before he created the universe. In his perfect timing, God raised us to newness of life in Jesus. We didn’t just need a second chance, but a whole new life. God didn’t send Jesus primarily as our model to follow, but as our substitute to trust. Jesus has done for us what we could never do for ourselves.
Through the finished work of Jesus, God forgave all our sins, took away all our guilt, and robed us in the righteousness of Christ. He sealed and now indwells us by his Spirit, adopted us to be his children, and wrote us into his grand story of redemption and restoration. We’re in a journey of perpetually coming alive to the multidimensional love of Christ—a love that surpasses knowledge, it’s so grand and inexhaustible. God’s love for us in Jesus is the only love better than life, the only love that is “enough,” and the only love that will never let go of us. How’s that for starters?
Q: What is wrong with saying, “Just give me Jesus?” Why do we need the church?
First of all, we love Jesus only because he first loved us. But to say we love Jesus but not what he loves (the church), is quintessential foolishness—if not the epitome of narcissism. Jesus loves his church, and no one is more attuned to her brokenness and messiness. It’s as ludicrous as saying, “I need Jesus, but not what he tells me I need.” Jesus has made us a part of his Bride (the church), gifted us for service in the church, and has declared his purpose for the church in the history of redemption. All of this is spelled out in Ephesians.
Q: We know we’re supposed to have a personal relationship with Jesus, but what does that look for those on the outside?
Ephesians shows us how Jesus’s relationship with us radically impacts every other relationship into which we are called. The indicatives of his grace (every good thing we have in Jesus) lead to the imperatives of love (how we relate to others, with the resources and reach of grace. Jesus’s relationship with us topples our people idolatry—looking to people to give us what only Jesus can provide. The more alive we are to God’s love for us in Christ, the more we will love others “as unto the Lord.” That is, as an act of worship, gratitude, and the obedience of faith. Nonbelievers get to smell the aroma of grace and not the stench of our judgmentalism, posing, and inconsistency.
Q: As Christians, we are taught God’s love for us in Jesus is the only love that will sustain. How does that love translate to our daily lives?
God’s love for us in Jesus is the only thing that can meet our deepest longings (since God gave us those longings), take on our most pronounced brokenness and sin (since Jesus’s name is Redeemer, not Re-Do), and free us to live and love to God’s glory (since nothing and no one else can give us this radical freedom). We move from viewing the Christian life as doing more for Jesus, into a lifestyle of being with Jesus and cooperating with his commitment to make all things new. Union with Jesus becomes our core reality, and communion with him becomes our consuming delight.
Q: Speaking of love, what does Ephesians teach about roles in marriage? Where do we often miss the mark in our understanding of the husband as the head of the household and the submissive wife?
Ephesians frees us from a simplistic and reductionistic view of marriage. Marriage is less about rigid roles as human spouses and more about our relationship with our true, ultimate, and eternal Spouse, Jesus. A gospel-centered marriage is radically different from what we most often see among Christians. God’s grace frees us as spouses to be the “chief repenter” in our marriages—the first spouse to own our sin and brokenness, and the first spouse to run to Jesus for mercy and grace.
When a husband and wife are alive to the servant love of Jesus in the gospel—the way Jesus loves us as his beloved Bride, the more readily they both relate to the other with this same servant love. Headship and submission become less about who has the power and authority, and more about sacrificial love and learning to wash one another’s feet. Jesus is the only Spouse to whom we will be married forever—a theme we talk about in this study of Ephesians.
Q: How does the gospel relate to parenting—both in our roles as parents and children?
As Ephesians demonstrates, when the gospel is “in play,” we live as characters in and carriers of God’s story of creation and new creation. Parents love their kids, “as unto the Lord,” and kids love their parents, “as unto the Lord.” That is, we relate to one another by God’s design, and for his delight. Parents love as an extension of their experience of being reparented by Abba, Father, and kids love their parents, knowing the only perfect parent is Abba, Father. Parents repent of looking to their children’s behavior and success to validate them. Children repent of looking to their parents’ approval to validate them.
Q: How do we build a culture of grace wherever we worship, live, work, and play?
A culture of grace (as opposed to moralism, legalism, and performance) is cultivated when believers individually and collectively inhabit their relational contexts with humility, kindness, gentleness, and joy—each being an expression of the transforming power of God’s grace. In worship, we move from being consumers to those who are consumed with the glory and grace of Jesus. Vocationally, we work with a view to God filling the earth with his glory, rather than looking to our jobs to fill us with glory. We live more as called women and men, less as driven women and men. At play, we rejoice that God commends delight and enjoyment, and we stress less about winning and personal vanity.
Q: Paul also wrote about our work relationships. What can we learn in Ephesians about our attitudes in our jobs and bringing the gospel our workplace?
As Paul wrote Ephesians, he did so in the context of the great narrative that unfolds in the Bible from Genesis through Revelation: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. This is what is meant by the gospel of the kingdom—the good news of what God is doing in and through Jesus in every sphere of life, on every square inch of the earth, “far as the curse is found.” The worldview assumed in Ephesians is that work was really good before it got really broken. But in Jesus, we are now called to offer the world the firstfruits of what life will be like when Jesus returns to finish making all things new.
This world will not be destroyed and replaced but purified and restored. When Christians live, work, and play with a view towards our coming life in the new heaven and new earth, all of life is lived to the glory of God—with sacrifice, humility, and hope. To bring the gospel into the workplace certainly means we long for coworkers to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. But it also means we love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with our God, because he is making all things new through Jesus. We work, not to just to make money and retire, but to fill the earth with God’s glory. We do our jobs, not as though we’re working for “mere men,” but as unto the Lord.
Ephesians: The Love We Long For
Am I loved? The central question of every human heart is answered with a resounding yes through this study of the Ephesians. Through an easily accessible, self-contained small group study each participant will grow in their understanding of the love of Christ, and the riches of his grace and how that love shapes every relationship and every interaction with others.