We just finished a sermon series on Paul’s stunningly beautiful letter to the Ephesians. In it we saw the gospel spread out like a banquet before us, showing us the rich beauty of God’s great salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ Jesus alone. We saw God’s plan to create a Church, a bride for His Son, a people who live out the glory of the Sovereign King in enemy-occupied territory, during a time in history where the victory has been won at the cross and yet will only be fully consummated at the close of this age, when sin and death and the enemy are finally done away with forever.
And then, almost sneaking up on us, as if to sum up the entire letter, come the final two words: LOVE INCORRUPTIBLE. The astute children’s Sunday School student knows to answer most questions with one word – “Jesus!” So you might tend to guess that LOVE INCORRUPTIBLE is a reference to the unending, untainted love of God for the elect. Oh, how He loves you and me! God is love, indeed, and throughout Ephesians, Paul affirms the love of God for His lost sheep. But as the context shows so clearly, this would be the wrong interpretation.
Almost unthinkably, the full final sentence says this: “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.” Whaaaat? Wait, is this even possible? I thought we established in this very letter that we bring no merit to our relationship with God, relying entirely on His love for us to redeem us from enmity with Him into our new position as adopted children of God. This final sentence seems to be saying, “Grace to you if you love God with unfailing love.” But who loves God like that?
As is so often the case in understanding scripture, the solution is to add in the next little bit of context. Here at the end of the letter, this means backing up a verse. “Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Breaking this down, the apostle leads off his benediction with a prayer that the brethren might receive from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ both peace and “love with faith.” His prayer is that the believers should all receive love from God, which comes to us by way of faith, toward the end that we are enabled to love God “in incorruption” – with a love that does not fade or fail or fall prey to the seductions of sinful flesh or satanic schemes.
This is the completion of the salvation of God that is in Christ Jesus. The fundamental sin of rebellious mankind is that we do not love God – in fact, we are born at war with God, and our birth-bent stays with us for all our days on earth. Therefore, our salvation from sin is not complete until everything in us that does not love God has been eliminated forever. Then, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:53-55, death will be swallowed up in victory as we are translated out of sinful flesh and into incorruptible, imperishable bodies that are free from our current sinful susceptibilities.
This is every Christian’s great hope: to be made able to love God with all purity, free of sin’s corrupting influence. We have this desire only by the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross, through which we escape the just penalty of our sins and have the righteousness of Jesus imputed to us. The love of God changes us by new birth in the Holy Spirit, which makes us brothers and sisters of Jesus, God’s eternal Son. Our love for God is made firmer daily through the ongoing work of God in our hearts. We are re-made daily to reflect more and more of the glory of God in our actions, desires, and affections.
By God’s great grace, we can all look forward to becoming beings who truly love God with love incorruptible. We can know no higher joy than this! May we know more and more of this joy, even as we daily strive to slay sin in our corruptible flesh.
Consider David’s heart for God, as expressed in Psalm 27:4:
One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
Here is our eternal bliss. This is eternal life. Praise God for this, his ultimate gift to us of incorruptible love for Him!