A reflection on Ephesians 1:3-14 for Sunday, January 3, 2021
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.
Ephesians 1:3-14 (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!
Make no mistake, Paul was a great thinker – 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 this 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 for the remainder of this little letter.
Paul opens 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!
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?