The "Ephesians Road"
Though I have used this presentation many times, I have come to see it as less than adequate. I find that it "cherry picks" isolated verses from Romans, leaving one with a truncated message that tends to be more person-centered (focused on human response) than it is Christ-centered. The net result is a message not fully faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ taught by Paul in Romans and elsewhere.
Certainly, one can (and should) use Paul's epistle to the Romans to proclaim the true and full gospel. But these days, I tend to use Paul's gospel presentation in his epistle to the Ephesians. Trevin Wax (in Holy Subversion), refers to this presentation as The Ephesians Road. It focuses on the finished work of the Father, Son and Spirit toward the salvation of all humanity. Here is that presentation in outline form:
- God's plan from the beginning is to unite all things in Christ (1:4) through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus (1:7). It is a finished work, accomplished apart from our participation.
- Because of who Jesus is and what he has done, we humans have been reconciled to God - "adopted" as God's dearly loved children (1:4). In Christ, God has done it all.
- As God's children we are called to receive and live out of our inheritance, and to be vessels through which God blesses others (2:22).
This presentation takes the first two chapters of Ephesians and shows how salvation begins in the heart of God and is focused on the person and work of Jesus. It shows how the benefits of this salvation come to us through grace alone, and leads to our grateful response within the context of the Church.
Note that in each step on this "road," salvation is fully "in Christ," not in one's personal response to Christ. By taking this Christ-centered approach, the focus is placed where it belongs - on who Jesus Christ is (as fully God and fully human), and on what he has done for all humanity as our representative and substitute. With this focus, any "idolatry of the self" is subverted (though personal response to Christ remains key to God's plan to draw us into communion with himself).