Wednesday

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." (v. 3)

Ephesians 1:3-10 Wednesday 7 August 2013


Background

Ephesians is one of the most controversial books in the NewTestamentbecause scholars are unsure who wrote it, to whom, andwhy. It is presented as a letter written by Paul the apostle, tothe blossoming church in Ephesus. Classically, it is one of his'letters from prison'. However, opinion is very much dividedwhether it was indeed written by Paul, or includes his wordsexpanded and elaborated by someone else; whether it was actuallymeant for a different church, or a circular letter intended for anumber of churches. These possibilities lead to different theoriesas to why it was written. However, there seems to be universalagreement that Ephesians (as we know it) is indeed a very goodbook! It's entirely worthy of its place in the Bible. It isinsightful, meaningful, deeply spiritual, and useful forinstruction on the Christian faith. Generations of Christians ofall denominations agree: it is inspired!

The passage we're looking at today is absolutely majestic - oneof the richest passages in the whole Bible. It's a song of praise;a prayer of blessing to God (the early Jewish Christians would callit a "berakah"), and it most probably had a tune that went alongwith it. Maybe Paul wrote this 'song' that would be used bychurches all around the eastern Mediterranean. Maybe someoneinserted it here to add praise and authority to the beginning ofthe letter. Maybe Paul knew this popular hymn and elaborated on itto get his letter off to a flying start. Whatever! It's amagnificent piece. In the original Greek it's all one sentence! Theauthor doesn't stop for breath as the praise pours out; overflowingin wonder at what God has done, is doing, and will do.

To some extent, every good hymn of praise should consist ofblessing God for works in the past, what God'sdoing in the present, and an expression (in faith)of what God will do in the future. So this passagebreaks up very nicely!

Past
Everything that is being expressed in this hymn is to beseen in the light of the relationship between God the Father andJesus Christ. This is not just the vague 'divine being' thatcountless religions claim to know something about: this is God asrevealed specifically through the person of Jesus the Messiah, hislife, death and resurrection, and the Jewish faith that he came tofulfil. "In Christ" or "in him" means all of that. When we readthat our life is now "in Christ", or we hear of all these things weare "in him", it is about us relating to God through Jesus -because only in Christ will we know and love the one true God, ashe knows and loves us. This is best expressed in Baptism, where thesymbolism is that we are 'born again' into relationship with God:dying and rising out of the water to identify ourselves with therisen Christ. Indeed, this hymn was most probably part of an earlybaptism liturgy.

So, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Not everyphysical or material blessing, but every spiritual blessing.Perhaps part of our journey as Christians is about actuallydiscovering these blessings that God has already given us. Then thehymn talks about God choosing us, as far back in the past as we canimagine. In fact, that we were chosen to be in relationship withGod through Christ even before the world was created. Thisexpresses a sense of faith that God is actually in control, despitethe appearances of the world, and that God's love for us is notautomatic ("because God has to"): it is because God has chosen.

Who is the 'us' in question? It could mean the Jewish Christians(like Paul and his companions) who found this new relationship outof God's chosen race. More likely, it could mean all Christians,including those from outside Judaism (like the original recipientsof the letter). Or it could mean the human race - chosen from thebeginning to bear the image of God. Whoever it is, the importantbit is the relationship to God's ultimately-chosen one: Jesus.God's choosing showed the free grace and love with which God wantsto enter into relationship with us. Our choosing is our freeresponse to that. And the purpose of God choosing us in the firstplace is to make us holy and blameless in his sight. As part ofthat choosing, we are predestined in love to be adopted into God'sfamily: God made room for us alongside Jesusthe Son, freelyplanning to give us the grace that he gave to Christ.

Present
We have been chosen and planned for us to be in God'sfamily, sharing the holiness and love of Christ. So we (who havereceived Jesus) are now redeemed. Those who had become slaves toother masters have been bought back. Those who were once deemed tobe God's people but fell away have been re-deemed again. "Throughhis blood" (v. 7) - that is the ultimate sacrifice of Christ whichcovers all of the sacrifices God's people once had to make - wehave right now forgiveness for the times we have broken God's law.First it was the free gift of God's choosing us in love. Now it isthe free gift of forgiveness. We call this all grace. When God'slove comes to us and we realise we have been chosen to be in thefamily, the light of that love opens our eyes to the forgiveness weneed if we are to live as holy people. That grace is richly"lavished" on us.

Future
We are brought into a "mystery". A secret. Within God's will, thereis a plan. And in this we find hope in an often hopeless world. TheGreek word used here expresses the stewardship of Christ over allthings. Just as we are "in Christ", so the whole world will one daycome to be, because God's gracious love is not for us alone. Allthings, all beings, all people, all creatures, on earth and inheaven, will be brought together: summed up in Jesus Christ theLord. God has been speaking the Word since the very beginning inall creation. One day we will see that Jesus is the summary of thatWord, bringing everything together, and all will find their truepurpose in relation to him. Wow!


To Ponder

  • When we read this passage on its own, it may seem very distant- a bit too majestic to make sense of our lives and faith. And whois this "us" it speaks of? The author, however, is very keen tomake sure the readers know it applies to them too: Verse 13emphasises "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, thegospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked withthe seal of the promised Holy Spirit."This is not just an ancienthymn - the truth applies to us today, if we will let it. How do yourespond to these words in verse 13?
  • Explore some of the great Christian hymns of praise and spotthe dimensions of past, present and future [eg "Praise, my soul,the king of heaven" (Singing the Faith (STF) 83), "I willsing the wondrous story" (STF 323), "Ye servants of God" (STF 340),"All my days" (STF 343), "In Christ alone" (STF 351)]. Try tonotice this pattern whenever you worship.
  • Spend some time in prayer and praise yourself thinking backover what God has done for you, what blessings you are receiving atthe moment, and what God has promised you in the future.
Previous Page Tuesday
Next Page Thursday