Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him…”

This is how the apostle Paul begins his letter to the church at Ephesus, modern Efes, Turkey. Paul had a good habit of calling the churches to whom he wrote to inspect the things in their lives that were true “in Christ,” and then urging them to live in light of that truth. I am thankful for what is true of me “in Christ,” and need daily to be reminded that I am not saved by my good works or even because of my faith. I am saved by what God the Father did by means of Christ in crushing Him for sins on the cross and imputing that same Man’s perfect righteousness to me so that I might stand before the throne of God completely, faultlessly perfect “in Christ.”

That truth of substitutionary atonement, the means by which we are justified, then leads us, as Paul writes, to be “holy and blameless before Him,” not as a means of earning salvation (for it is a free gift flowing out of the riches of His grace – see 2:7-9), but as the result of a heart that has been changed to prize Christ, our savior, above all other possible desires and joys in creation.