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Ephesians (2010)

Blessings

Ephesians 1:1-14

Lesson audio

Often called the Queen of Epistles, the letter to the Ephesians is in fact one of Paul's most poetic works. We may begin by examining the salutation:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Ephesians 1:1-2 NASB)

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be an apostle? Many preachers today claim to be an apostle, but perhaps we might examine the original qualifications.

·         First, you have to have been an eyewitness to the resurrection of Christ. Either you were with him in his earthly ministry, or he has appeared to you in bodily fashion. This seems to rule out most of the apostles of today.

·         You have to have been commissioned as a messenger of the Lord. You don't volunteer to be an apostle; you don't nominate yourself; you get picked.

·         Most important, God does the choosing.

That's how Paul describes himself in his salutation for this letter. It's the "from" clause. The letter itself is addressed to the Saints at Ephesus. And what does it take to be a saint? The root word is the same word that is used for "holy." It means that you are set apart from the rest of the world, that you are dedicated to Christ, in short — you are one of the faithful.

As is customary, Paul gives them his greeting in the ancient fashion by tendering his good wishes. Those wishes are for grace and peace. Grace, in the original Greek, is the source of our word for charisma — it's a gift. Peace is that peace which is not the absence of war, but a right understanding in the heart. It is the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Blessings from God

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, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

(Ephesians 1:3-6 NASB)

Predestination

It's unfortunate for the typical student of the Bible that the subject of predestination comes up so early in this letter. Most students understand the subject just well enough to understand that they do not understand. It is intrinsically tied up with God's foreknowledge; it is intrinsically tied up with the concept of free will. And for those who study it at any length it is just simply intrinsically tied up. We may briefly review three of the main Protestant positions:

·         Martin Luther held that we were unconditionally elected if we are going to heaven. The predestination (or election) of God applies only to those going to heaven. As for the rest, is a mystery of God.

·         John Calvin, on the other hand, held that we were unconditionally elected either for salvation or hell. Where you're going is already determined.

·         Arminius, the third great founder of the Protestant movement, held election was conditional — upon the faith or disbelief of the believer. He does hold, however, that God already knows the result of that decision. This view is closest to what our church would teach.

Like many other churches, ours does not teach a particular view of predestination. We believe in free will; we believe that God is omniscient and knows the future. All is surveyed but the power is given.

Blessings of God

One of the least noted but most striking comparisons between the Old Testament and the New Testament is this: in the Old Testament, blessings are usually physical blessings. In the New Testament, they are spiritual. Paul gives a brief list here of spiritual blessings:

·         We are holy and blameless. It is a matter of how God looks at us. In the Old Testament, animal sacrifices were used; now it is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

·         We have adoption as sons. We are joint heirs of the kingdom of God with Jesus Christ. It's not just that we've been forgiven, it's that we've been accepted into God's family. There is a great deal of difference; on the one hand we have what might seem to be just a formal forgiveness. On the other hand we have a welcome home.

·         Indeed, Paul has not the time in his letter to list all of the spiritual blessings we could have. But he does tell us that we have "every spiritual blessing" — just in case he missed something.

Why?

There is an obvious question here. Simply put, why would God do such a thing? The answer seems to be in his glory. Remember that glory is to God like style is to an artist. If you walked into a museum with an ignorant friend, he might be impressed that you could point out which painter created which particular work. If you know enough about art, it's easy to tell the console from Rembrandt. But your ignorant friend might not know that; he might ask you how you knew such a thing. You would reply that Rembrandt’s style is different than that of Picasso. The same thing is true with God; his style is different than ours. He is extravagant in forgiveness where we are stingy.

Nowhere is this shown as well as in the grace given at the Cross. If style is to be noticed, it must be seen. Grace must also be seen — and was certainly seen in abundance at the Cross. Which brings us to an interesting point: all good things, all gifts given from on high are from the Father, via Christ. We cannot see God the eternal with our eyes; we can only see his works. That's why he sent Jesus. This way we know what God in the flesh acts like.

Blessings of Christ

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

(Ephesians 1:7-12 NASB)

Redemption

If you want to understand redemption, you need look no further than the coasts of Somalia. The waters off these coasts are infested with pirates. Their method is to set out in a small boat with a large set of motors, with a couple of ladders. They sail alongside some merchant ship. Then they took the ladders to the ship climb up and take over the ship. The vessel is then taken into port, or left sailing in circles on the high seas, and a demand for ransom is presented. Backroom negotiations occur, as no shipping company wants to admit that they pay the pirates. Eventually, however, the pirates get their money and the owners get their ship back. That process is called redemption.

Another process that goes by that name is in the financial world. When the company issues bonds, it is in effect borrowing money from those who purchased the bonds. Most such bonds have conditions on them such that the company can buy back these bonds. This too is called redemption; the formal process of paying a debt.

However you want to look at, we are redeemed. It is as if Satan had hijacked us, and our Lord is buying us back. It is if our sins are a debt, and our Lord is paying them.

Forgiveness

I once had the privilege of being with one of my students when he was accused of a very serious crime. We went to a hearing at which he was to appear; but before he came, there was a long line of people convicted of drunk driving sitting along one wall of the courtroom. The judge would review each man's folder, and finding it satisfactory (they went to drunk driving school and finished it), he would say to each man, "you may now say that you have never been convicted of drunk driving." At first this seemed absurd to me; after all, why were these people here? But after some thought I could see the purpose. Drunk driving carries with it a stigma. By doing this, the judge eliminated that stigma.

That's the kind of forgiveness we get at the Cross. It came at the price of the Incarnation; the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

Please note the plural. There is no sense here of individual treatment; rather, it’s all of us in the true church.

Revelation

Another spiritual blessing of Christ is this: Revelation. For many things, we do not need to puzzle over , “Why did God do this?” We know what God intends. He intends to put all things into submission to Jesus Christ. He will be Lord of all. This too will be to the glory of God. (Stay tuned).

Blessings of the Holy Spirit

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

(Ephesians 1:13-14 NASB)

Inclusion

Anyone who has ever been the new kid at school knows the problem: you're not included in anything. Until you managed to worm your way into the group, you might as well be on another planet. Sometimes, the group decides you're not going to join — ever. That was somewhat the attitude of the Jews of this time. As one devout Orthodox Jew told me, "all you are is fodder for the fires of hell." Only his religious group would go to heaven. The Jews viewed anyone who was a Gentile in that light at this time. They also considered women to be a very poor second-rate human being.

The resurrection changed all that. The Holy Spirit made it clear to the church that the Gentiles and women were to share in the blessings of Christ, equally. This was a radical innovation, but it was God's plan from the beginning. The sense that these people were now part of the people of God a lot of hammering on the part of the Holy Spirit. The question still comes up today and the answer hasn't changed: you are included.

Blessings

We are told here that we are sealed. Have your considered what that means?

·         One use of the seal is to prove that something is authentic. Christian does not have the Holy Spirit, he is a counterfeit Christian. Another word for counterfeit Christian is hypocrite.

·         A second use is a guarantee of quality. In that context we are guaranteed to stand faultless before Almighty God by the blood of Christ. You can imagine wondering whether or not this would really apply to you; be of good cheer, it does.

·         A third use of the seal is to proclaim authority. A seal on a document says it's genuine (think of getting a document notarized.) It says that the proper authorities vouch for the document, and it is therefore trustworthy. A Christian with the Holy Spirit should be a trustworthy guide to Christ.

We are also told that the Holy Spirit is a deposit. This is something with which we are familiar – at least if you've ever bought a house. The amount of money deposited to hold house for you is quite large. It's often 10% of the price of the home. I don't know about you, but I don't throw that much money around all too lightly. This is God's way of telling you that he is absolutely certain to bring you home, to present you before his throne pure and spotless, and then to welcome you into his eternal family.

These 14 versus look just like the beginning of the letter, something you could skip over as a serious student. I have chosen not to do so if for no other reason than this section is really designed to show us we have reason to praise God. Look at the great blessings he has given us!

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