Have you ever been excited to be a part of something bigger than yourself? To be in on a very important goal whose greatness brings you glory?
In the book of Ephesians, we find that God has let us in on the Greatest Goal of All – to bring blessing to mankind, who does not deserve it. St. Paul’s message is that as a result of God’s blessing us, we live in a new cosmos, a new world. We are part of a new reality, a new humanity, and a new society because we are seated in the heavenlies with Christ – all because of God’s plan of blessing.
What’s the best sentence you’ve ever read in your life?
For me, it would have to be Ephesians 1:3-14. In one single sentence (it looks like in the Greek it’s only one sentence!), Paul reveals God’s mysterious plan, planned from before the world was created, a plan of such rapturous delight that Paul forgets to take a breath and use any periods! Paul’s writings are always concentrated, but Ephesians 1:3-14 is so concentrated that it’s as dense as a neutron star!
He chants a sevenfold benediction, punctuated by the threefold refrain: “to the praise of the glory of God’s grace”- which is a key phrase in Chapter 1. In verse 3 Paul begins with blessing God because He has blessed us. In fact, the whole book of Ephesians is about how God shares Himself with us and how we are to respond to this.
If God is the one who acted first in creating us; if God is the one who acted first to save us, then our every thought, word, and deed ought to begin with God. Yet in so many churches when you hear someone preach or see them on TV they begin with us. I’ve seen commercials on TV for a local church that doesn’t even mention God: it simply says, in effect, “Come to our church because it’s filled with people just like you.”
Verses 3, 6, 12, 14 all mention “to the praise of His glory” because the new cosmos all centers on the glory of God, from beginning to end.
This God who is worthy of all praise has blessed us with “every spiritual blessing” (verse 3). I can scarcely imagine all of the blessings that God has in store for those who know Him, but I do know some of them: true forgiveness for the many ways I have failed Him; comfort in all my trials in this life; unimaginable bliss in the world to come; a life that is more and more conformed to His will, that seeks to please Him and bless Him, and in the process returns blessing to me; and perhaps most of all – His presence with me.
Paul seems to believe that you already have all these gifts, if you are a Christian, for God “has blessed” us with every spiritual blessing.
But if you want to see what Paul saw – God’s glorious plan to bless and exalt mankind – though he is sinful and deserves nothing but death – then you must go where St. Paul went. St. Paul did not see this dazzling vision of God’s purposes, which are His glory, by standing here on earth. No, he ascended into heaven with Christ and from the heavenly places he saw what I want to see. These divine mysteries can only be gazed at if you recognize with Paul that as Christians, as those upon whom God has bestowed His name and His inheritance of treasure, you are seated with Christ in the heavenly places.
Let’s go: the vision of God and His eternal plan of salvation is waiting for us!
Ephesians 1:3-14 is one of the best places to learn about the Holy Trinity, for Paul teaches something about the role of each person in God’s incredible plan.
Paul begins with the work of the Father. In verse 1, Paul says that he himself is called by the will of God: it is the will of the Father that is done in God’s plan to bless mankind. In verse 2, Paul tells us that it is the Father who has especially blessed us through His Son. And in verse 4 we learn that it was the Father who chose us in him before the foundation of the world. How incredible that God would choose me to be part of His glorious plan for a new world!
It is the Father who destined us in love to be His sons, according to the purpose of His will. Sometimes we think that only the Son or Spirit is love, but it is especially the love of the Father that has made us His sons. Our response, in verse 6, is to praise Him for His glorious grace.
Already, Paul has left me breathless – and there’s more to come!
The eternal will of the Father reaches down to us in history, in our lives, through the Son. We have been adopted as the sons of God (verse 5) only because of the work of God’s only-begotten Son. None of us were born into the family of God: God had to adopt us, which He did through the work of His only natural Son.
It is through the Son that this loving Father has made known to us the mystery of His will (verse 9), and it is in this Son, Jesus Christ, that God is gathering all things into one. This is the work of the New Creation, of making a new world in which God’s creation is able to live with Him again.
God’s plan to unite heaven and earth will be done finally in the future, and it comes through the work of the Spirit (verse 10). We must never forget the plan of salvation that is unfolding day by day before our very eyes. Pentecost is past, and the Spirit has already been given; we are presently in the process of moving closer and closer to the time when all will be done; and one day in the future, earth and heaven will be forever married.
We know that the Father’s loving plan will be fulfilled because we are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (verse 13). The Father has made many promises to His adopted children – a promise of forgiveness of sins, a promise of eternal life with Him, a promise of a time of heavenly bliss. All of these future realities – which we are in the midst of receiving even now – are sealed by the work of the Spirit in your life. It is the Spirit who guarantees to us that the Father’s loving will is a reality (verse 14).
As a human father, sometimes I make promises I’m unable to keep or that I forget to keep. But through the seal of the Holy Spirit, we can be 100% certain that what the Father has promised will come to pass – that if we have faith and live a life of faith, we will see God’s plan of blessing to the end. How could such a certain promise – of such magnanimous blessing – not result in the praise of the glory of the grace of God?
But all of this incredible plan of God’s blessing – salvation – requires something from you. Though it is all the work of God and planned from eternity past and executed by His will through His Son and by His Spirit, you are required to do something.
What could that something be? What could you possibly give God in return for His magnificent, mind-blowing blessings?
In one sense – nothing. You could never repay such an expensive gift. But you can give what God has enabled you to give – you can truly please God by giving Him yourself: body, mind, and soul; thought, word, and deed.
Some people are destined for greatness. I think of Mozart who composed his first symphony when he was 4. But you were destined and appointed – by God – for something much more glorious. You are destined and appointed to live forever for the praise of God’s glory.
What can you give God? You can give back the glory He lovingly shared with you. You can live for the praise of His glory. Remember: this is the eternal, ultimate purpose of all things – to bring God glory.
And there is no higher honor in life, no greater purpose, than to participate in God’s glory by giving Him glory and praise.
Prayer: Father, I praise You for Your love that planned all things according to Your holy will; Jesus, I praise You that through Your life I have been made a child of God; Spirit, I praise You because You have guaranteed the wonderful promises of the Father to me. Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I praise You because You have blessed me with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. Go back and read Ephesians 1:3-14, slowly meditating on each phrase and praising God for His blessings to you.
2. Plan to praise God throughout the day today. Find a number of different ways and times to be able to praise Him.
3. Praise the Holy Trinity in slow motion throughout the day. Praise the Father in the morning, the Son in the afternoon, and the Holy Spirit in the evening.
Resolution: I resolve to find ways to praise God throughout the day because of His glorious plan of salvation through which He has blessed me.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
The Holy Trinity – Andrei Rublev – Wikipedia entry on Trinity
Category: Give Us This Day