A Reflection on Ephesians 1 for Sunday, August 2, 2020 at Mosaic Baptist Church.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 1 (NRSVA)
The Apostle Paul holds quite a vision of the world around him – and he is very excited about it!
The translation above breaks the final two paragraphs of the above passage into ten long, multi-barrelled, sentences. The version of the Greek in front of me breaks it into six even longer sentences. Paul, it would seem, is trying to get a lot out. Paul often dictated his letters and seems here to be speaking at a great pace – stumbling from one cosmic thought to another.
I pity the scribe!
Paul was a great thinker – perhaps one of the finest of his time. As he writes his head seems to be full of all the implications of the Trinity’s action for a community who live ‘in Christ’.
Paul begins in what might be considered a tame and measured tone: ‘Grace to you and peace from our God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1:2). Don’t be fooled, however. The world-shattering consequences of this God initiated ‘Grace and peace’ consume him for the rest of this chapter – and this little letter.
Paul begins with an extravagant blessing over the ones who so generously blessed us – God and Jesus Christ. His claim is outrageous – ‘every spiritual blessing’ is ours. The church is a community chosen and set apart from the creation of the world, holy and destined for welcome – and adoption – into God’s family. A forgiven and redeemed people.
A community invited into the mystery of the plan and will of God.
And this is no ordinary plan. It is a plan to gather ‘…all things in him (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth.’ (1:10). We, the church, are inheritors – the ‘…first to set our hope on Christ…’ and ‘…live for the praise of his glory.’ (1:11-12). The very Spirit of God completes the presence of the Trinity in our lives as the ‘seal of the promise’ and the ‘pledge of our inheritance…’ (1:13-14).
Is it any wonder that punctuated throughout this passage is a spontaneous celebration of the God’s stance of grace toward us? We read that all this generosity is ‘…to the praise of his glorious grace…’ (1:6) and, ‘…according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us…’ (1:7-8).
Big language – for a big vision – from a big God!
And so Paul prays for the community. For wisdom. For revelation. For an enlightenment that reveals ‘…the riches of His glorious inheritance…’ (1:18), and the ‘…immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe…’ (1:19). This is a power previously unleashed in the resurrection of Jesus and the enthroning of him above every power, dominion, and name from across the ages. (1:21).
Paul pulls all these thoughts together in the final two verses of the chapter – a refreshingly succinct summary of all that has gone before: ‘…he (God) has put all things under his (Jesus’) feet and has made him (Jesus) the head over all things for the church (us), which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.’ (1:23).
A prayer and vision as cosmic as the mystery in which we are held!
Have you ever caught a glimpse of the breathtaking vision of God for this world? If so, what was this like?
Do you sympathise with Paul’s struggle to describe the love, plan, and mystery of God? To what extent do you share his excitement?
How closely do you identify with Paul’s prayer for the church to be ‘…enlightened…’? What will it take for you to share – and pray – Paul’s prayer for the church?