gratitude & hoopla: Ephesians 1: A Summary

gratitude & hoopla

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

20.11.05

Ephesians 1: A Summary

Having come to the end of chapter 1 of Ephesians, I'd like to summarize Paul's message in my own words. The chapter sweeps from the mind of God before the creation (v.3) to the final denouement of the cosmic drama, when all things in heaven and earth shall be united to him (v.10). This is supremely a chapter of assurance. Paul says that all who are "in Christ" have been chosen before the foundation of the world (before God said "Let there be light," he chose you, Believer) and are destined, in accordance with his plan and purpose, to stand before him "holy and blameless," (v.4) in perfect unity with him. Paul calls this our inheritance, (v.11) summarizing it as "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." (v.3)

So the Ephesians, and by extension all who are "in Christ," find themselves in the midst of this unfolding plan of God. The drama isn't over, but into the midst of it, and at the perfect time, Christ entered the scene (v.9). Through him, and because of the work of the cross, we have adoption into the family of God (v.5), redemption (purchase from our former owners), and the complete forgiveness of all our sins (v.7). And in him the formerly mysterious will of God, his plan for us and for all creation, has been unveiled (v.9). Furthermore, in him we now enjoy a down payment of the heavenly blessings mentioned above. A downpayment of unity with God. A down payment of knowledge of his will. A down payment of holiness and blamelessness. It is the Spirit of God, and it is an infallible assurance to our hearts that we are indeed bound for glory. (v.14)

We might describe such a situation as this as "the way between." The well-worn metaphor of the road or the journey is appropriate here. At the end of the journey, a glorious inheritance awaits us, unity with God, standing holy and blameless before him. In the meantime, we are clearly "not there yet." We have great assurance certainly, and reason for confidence, but as yet it cannot be said that we experience that perfect "unity with God." What then might be an appropriate prayer for travelers such as ourselves, a people in the midst of the way?

Well, Paul prays that the Ephesians would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God, (v.15) so that they will have a clearer understanding of their destination, and be able to draw on the power of God on their behalf along the way. (v.18) In our case, the journey is not the destination--the destination is the destination. It is the destination toward which we travel that governs the way we choose to go. Coming to a fork in the road, the relevant question is, which way is the way to the heavenly Kingdom? In short, we want to be headed in the right direction. So the better we know our destination ("the hope to which we are called"), the more determined and steadfast we will be to get there.

However, there are problems. So in addition to knowing more about our destination, we will need to know the power of God on our behalf. There are, along this way, obstacles, enemies, temptations, that will surely do us in, if we are left only to our own devices. We need, then, knowledge and power.

Thanks be to God that he is not reluctant to wield his power on our behalf, for the sake of bringing to pass his eternal purposes. Nothing can stand in his way. It is the same power that was at work in Christ, having raised him from the dead and placed him in a position of authority in the heavens. (v.20) It is a power greater than death, and above all of this world's rulers and dominions. (v.21) And here Paul gives us one more verbal rendering of the purpose of God. All things will be "under the feet" (subject to the authority of) Jesus Christ. (v.22) His Lordship, in other words, will be made complete.

So that's chapter 1 of Ephesians, according to me. As I said above, it is supremely a chapter of assurance. It assures those who are in Christ of what God has done for them, what God shall do for them, and the power available to them now. But the reason that God's power is necessary is that, well, we have enemies. At the end of the chapter, Paul speaks of this world's thrones, powers, and dominions. At the start of the second chapter he will speak more of these things, and also of the former condition of believers in relation to those powers.

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