Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

Ephesians

Baroque Music

Ephesians 1:1-14

We begin a series of lessons from the book of Ephesians. This is the second of the Epistles, or letters, we have studied. In the first, Romans, Paul wrote to a group of Christians he did not meet. In this letter he is writing to old friends. He does so in a complicated manner, layering theme upon theme. Indeed, verses three through fourteen in this lesson are one sentence in the original Greek. We will do our best to unravel and examine the threads in this tapestry. Like baroque music, with theme playing upon theme, Paul brings to us exalted good news: grace and peace, from God and Jesus.

Introduction

(Eph 1:1-2 NIV) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: {2} Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Letters of this time followed the general format seen here. Unlike other letters, Paul spends little time introducing himself to these old friends. But he does make two points which are worth our consideration:

·         First, that he is an apostle. That is to say, he is an ambassador of God, speaking to them on behalf of God. An apostle must be one who has seen the risen Lord.

·         But more than that, he is one by the will of God. No one appoints himself an apostle; only Christ himself does that. If I see a vision of Christ risen, that is not sufficient. Only his command will do.

Which means, in sum, that we should pay careful attention to what is said. Note to whom the letter is sent: the saints, the faithful.

·         From the rest of the letter we can see that this is not sent to some select collection of souls, but to ordinary people - for Paul talks to everyone in this letter.

·         The word "saint" implies one who is blameless and pure, in the original. As such, the saint is set apart (the word carries both meanings)

The salutation comes next. It is a formal form of greeting, but in those days it carried a meaning - it introduced the rest of the letter. It is a form of a title, if you will. It carries the meaning of the letter in it:

·         Grace - the word is the one from which we get our word "charisma" - carries with it not only the idea of graciousness which we have today but also the meaning of a gift. This graciousness is a gift from God.

·         Peace - the word means not an absence of war so much as a quietness of heart, a sureness in the soul. It can mean "to be set at one" - to have achieved perfect unity with the Father.

·         These things, grace and peace, are not grown or developed by man, but given as the free gifts of God and Jesus.

We shall see these gifts next as the blessings from the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

The Blessings of the Father

(Eph 1:3-6 NIV) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. {4} For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love {5} he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- {6} to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

It is important to note that God is eternal. When he does something important for us, it matches his character, and that "something" is eternal as well. We see that here.

Spiritual Blessings

Paul talks about "spiritual" blessings here. It is not that we do not receive earthly, physical blessings; rather, that these are more important. As the Israelites were given earthly blessings but promised spiritual ones when Messiah came, so now that He has come the spiritual blessings are here.

·         This does not mean that they are of no use on earth. Consider the Beatitudes! "Blessed are the peacemakers" - is peace of no use on earth?

·         Note the phrase "has blessed." This is not a continuous thing, nor is it a promise for the future - this is something which has been completed. We have it now, if we will but realize it.

·         Note also that we have "every" spiritual blessing. There is nothing left to be done! Nothing is missing, nothing is left out.

·         How did this come about? He chose us. I need not get into the debate about individual predestination to say this: he decided, of his own will and purpose which no one can alter, that we should receive these things. This is no accident.

·         But see! This happened before time began, before the foundation of the world. It is an eternal thing. Long before the Fall, long before anything was created - indeed, before time was, if we can use such an expression - God made it his purpose to choose us. This must indeed be a sign of his great love.

·         So this choice then was not out of sorrow, nor from running out of options - but because he loved us. He did not have to create us, but this choice was made before anything physical existed. Thus we can be sure it was out of love.

·         How much love? That we would be adopted as his sons. Only the parents can adopt. The state cannot tell me that I now have a new son; only the parents can say that to the child. This was his purpose from the very beginning. Indeed, how great his love must be!

Our Response

Doctrine must have its practical effect. It must be worked out in our lives. So Paul tells us the intention God has for us:

·         We are to be "holy." In God's eyes, through the blood of Christ, we are holy. But this is not sufficient; we must be the children of God and follow his intentions. He intends for us to be holy, that is to say, separate from the rest of the world. "In the world but not of the world," as the old verse reads.

·         We are to be "blameless." What does that say about our conduct? What does that say about the witness we show to the world?

Why are we to do these things? This too is part of our response: it is to the praise of his glorious grace.

·         First note that it is praise. Do we praise the Lord God Almighty any time but in worship on Sunday? Do we say of God that He is who He is?

·         Note also that it is praise of his grace. We can often tell others how God has blessed us physically; are we willing to tell them of the blessing of his grace? Are we willing, with John Newton, to tell of "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me?" Telling others that I am blessed physically is easy (and not very convincing). Telling others that I am forgiven despite what a sinner I am is not so easy - but much more likely to show who God truly is.

Blessings from the Son

(Eph 1:7-12 NIV) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace {8} that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. {9} And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, {10} to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. {11} In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, {12} in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

Before we begin, note how these blessings are given. The words "lavishly" and "riches of God's grace" are used. We have not received these blessings parceled out a dribble at a time. Rather, we have been flooded with them. We are dealing with the infinite blessings of the infinite God, as given through his Son Jesus Christ.

Redemption

Since the demise of Blue Chip stamps, no one really uses the word "redemption" in ordinary conversation. The people of Ephesus would have understood it well, however: it means "ransom." In those days anyone was liable to being captured by bandits and held for ransom. This "ransom" is what Christ did for us at the Cross.

Think of this: if he paid the ransom for us while we were still his enemies, separated by sin, how much more will he do for us now that we are sons?

Forgiveness

The word means pardon, freedom or liberty. It does not mean, as we so often take it, that we have paid the price. An ex-convict can tell you that the stigma remains. This word is used of one who has been released from slavery.

I once sat in a courtroom, waiting for another trial, and heard a judge pronouncing upon a number of drunk drivers. They had each been through the appropriate program to deal with their alcoholism, and this was the day on which their involvement with the justice system would end. The judge would read the documents, announce the end, and then say, "You may now say that you have never been arrested for drunk driving." At first I thought that absurd. Then I remembered the stigma of conviction. Finally, I remembered that this is just what forgiveness means to us. It does not mean, "the penalty is over." It means, "You may now say that you have never been convicted."

Wisdom and understanding

We have been given the wisdom of God; and what can equal that? Now if we would only listen to it! This is not sentimental nonsense, or a vague, gaseous feeling that "all's right with the world." It is the fact: we have the wisdom of God. He has revealed it to us.

Revelation

Some things can be understood or reasoned out; others must be revealed. The phrase, "mystery of his will," is one such thing which must be revealed. The word for "mystery" in the Greek does not mean a puzzle be worked out but rather something which is hidden. Until the coming of Christ, the ultimate fate of the world was hidden. Now we know the answer.

What a blessing that it! We are transformed from Indiana Jones, a man of desperate adventure not knowing what comes next, to Harrison Ford, the actor who read the script. (Remember the fellow with the scimitar?) So we can go forward with all confidence: we've read the script. God wins.

And what is the end of this script? Just this: in the end, all things will be brought under the lordship of Jesus Christ. The phrase "brought under" here means gather together, knit together (Chysostom) or sum up. And - of great interest to all of us - we will be with Him. If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him.

Why is this? To the praise of his glory. The theme keeps coming back.

Blessings from the Spirit

(Eph 1:13-14 NIV) And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, {14} who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.

You were included.

The first thing we must note is that this revelation has now broken down all barriers. Paul makes it clear here. The Jews were the first to hear the word and believe. But as soon as these Gentiles heard and believed, they were included too. The barriers of sex, race, culture - all drop before the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Word and Spirit

The Spirit was the witness that the Gentiles were indeed saved, as Peter noted in the house of Cornelius. But we need both the word and the Spirit. Without the Spirit, religion is formality. Without the word, it is uninstructed and wanders from the truth. We know the word, the Bible; what then about the Spirit?

Blessings of the Spirit

First, please note that this is the "promised" Spirit. This is no surprise. The Spirit was promised through the prophets of the Old Testament.[1] He was also promised by Christ.[2] Here we see that the Spirit acts as a guarantee, seal and deposit for our faith:

·         Guarantee. The word in the Greek is now used to mean an engagement ring. It is the sign that the marriage will happen. This is a meaning which has developed since the days of Paul, but it carries the meaning nonetheless. You can see why the Greeks use the word that way.

·         Seal. A seal is not only a guarantee of quality, but also (in many instances) a seal of power. It means that the authority which gave the seal forbids tampering with what is behind the seal. In this case the authority is God. Satan cannot tamper with the Christian behind.

·         Deposit. Like a down payment on a home, the Holy Spirit is our deposit from God which assures us of the things to come. It is God's way of giving us what we need to be sure that his promises will be fulfilled.

What are these promises? That we will be part of the Redemption to come, the resurrection of the dead to eternal life. We will rise and reign with him, and the deposit for that is the Holy Spirit.

Finale

One theme runs through this entire passage: Praise.

·         We see the praise of his glory. Our God has done great things, and greater things are yet to come. He is worthy of our praise.

·         We sing the praise of his grace - the free pardon of sins and the redemption to come.

·         These are combined: we should praise his glorious grace, the mightiest work of which we know which shows him to be the most glorious of all Persons.


[1] Joel 2:28

[2] Acts 1:8

 Home     Next