How would you like to be remembered by your friends? If someone were to honestly say first things that came to their mind about you the – what would they be?
A few years ago, a number of my relatives got together. One of my aunts had a friend over to visit while they were there, and it was fascinating to hear how each of the people present came back with a different word to describe this man. Keep in mind that the people assembled were not by nature unkind people. But these are the things they remembered about my aunt’s friend:
One person called him a Philistine. A second called him a clod. A third said he was a moocher. And a fourth proclaimed him a jerk and a boor.
So much for good first impressions!
In contrast, the Ephesians had a wonderful reputation before St. Paul. Paul (who is far removed from their immediate area) had heard of their faith. He’d heard of their love for the saints, which was evidence of their faith. It’s clear that God had already blessed them – and what blessings they were!
For this, Paul gives thanks. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Paul must be overjoyed to find that the very people to whom he is writing about God’s spiritual blessings in the heavenly places are the very people who are already showing evidence of God’s grace in their lives. In the first part of Ephesians, St. Paul reveals how God’s plan of salvation and blessing, which He planned from eternity past, is already at work in your lives. And here is proof positive in the lives of the Ephesians of the very things Paul is teaching the Ephesians.
While verses 3-14 are all a hymn of praise to God for His plan of blessing, verse 17-23 are a prayer on behalf of the Ephesians, that they may truly know what God is already in the process of giving them. Not only does Paul give thanks for the faith and love of the Ephesians: he also remembers them in his prayers, that (verse 17) God may give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation.
Paul is not content that God is blessing the Ephesians: one of these temporal blessings is that they might know about God and His blessing, even in this life. And so he prays this beautifully moving, theologically rich prayer.
What is Paul’s prayer? That the Ephesians would know how God blesses them in 3 ways:
1. the hope to which they were called
2. their inheritance in the saints
3. the greatness of God’s power to those who have faith
When God saves and blesses His people, He doesn’t do it immediately and all in a single instant, as some would like you to believe. God saves individuals initially when they are united with Christ (baptism and faith); He saves them progressively in their life in His kingdom (faith and faithfulness); and He saves them finally in heaven (glorification).
First, we should know the hope to which we are called (verse 18). At the beginning of your new life in God is God’s call. You were called: God has summoned you to Himself, before the foundation of the world. To what were you called to, when God called you? Paul doesn’t say here, but we know from other Scriptures that you were called by God:
1. to belong to Jesus Christ (Romans 1:6)
2. to fellowship with Jesus Christ (I Cor. 1:9)
3. to be saints – to be holy (Ephesians 1:4 and many other verses)
4. to freedom (from sins and former life) – (Galatians 5:1,13)
5. to be one body; to the peace of Christ – and on and on
And God has called you into His kingdom and His glory.
The second thing you should know is the riches of the inheritance in the saints (verse 18b). If knowing God’s calling relates to the work of the Father in the past, then the inheritance you have, sealed by the Spirit, represents the future work of God, especially the Spirit, in your life. You were adopted as a child of God, and adopted children have all the rights and responsibilities of a natural-born child. My brother has adopted 2 bi-racial children, and they are treated the same as if they were natural-born children. His kids are heirs of all that he will leave them, including his fascination with cars of the 60s and early 70s.
As a kid I remember watching many different TV programs where someone in the show would become the heir to a million dollars if they stayed in a haunted house, or got married, or fulfilled certain requirements. I remember thinking: “Wow! Just think of what I could do if I were heir to a million dollars?!”
The fact is that Paul wants you to know that you are the heir to a fortune worth much more than a mere million or billion or even trillion dollars: you are an heir of God’s kingdom. You are an heir to the vastest treasure ever known: a heavenly treasure, guarded for you by God Himself. Strewn among this vast treasure, which is now yours, is the forgiveness of your sins, eternal life, and a life made holy. Thrown in for good measure is peace with oneself and one’s neighbor. Ultimately, if you are in a faithful relationship with God, you are heir of the most valuable thing in the universe: you are an heir of God Himself – for He is your ultimate inheritance
The third thing you should know is the greatness of God’s power by which you have inherited this dazzling treasure. Paul spends the most time on the third thing he wants you to know about God’s plan to bless you: and that is the greatness of God’s power. If God’s call represents the beginning of God’s work, and His inheritance represents the end of it, then it is His power which connects the two and which makes His will certain in our lives.
How can we know that God will bless those He adopts as His children? Because He has the love and the power to do it. We know God’s power, which is the power of His explosive, creative love, in 3 ways: Jesus’ resurrection (verses 19-20); His enthronement in heaven (verse 20b); and His headship over all things (verse 23).
Death is an insatiable enemy: no mere human has ever vanquished it. The greatest of us succumbs to it, sooner or later. But God has done what no man could ever do: Jesus Christ died, but rose from the dead and conquered death. God’s power in your life is immeasurable, and if you want proof, it exists in the Resurrection of your Lord Jesus Christ.
After Jesus died, He conquered sin and death by rising from the dead; but His triumph didn’t end there: He also ascended into heaven, where he sits enthroned at God’s right hand.
The Left Behind series and much of popular theology has it very wrong: Satan does not own the earth, and He is not its Lord: Jesus Christ is, and He proved it by ascending to the right hand of the Father.
Everything in both heaven and earth is being put under His feet (verse 22), and this, too, displays the power of God.
Wait – there’s more. We see the power of God not just in His past Resurrection or invisible Ascension but also in His Church, here and now. Verses 22 and 23 are deceptively brief ideas: though they pass in a second of thought, they have the most colossal implications.
Christ is the head over all creation, but He is especially the head of the Church, which is His very Body. This is no mere analogy: in a very profound but mysterious way we are truly united to Jesus Christ. This is the union with Christ that I love to talk about. The Church is the holy temple of God which He fills and makes holy with His presence. Just as the glory of the Lord filled the temple in the Old Testament – so much so that the priests had to leave it! – God’s glory and power and kingdom fill His Church here on earth and in heaven.
He fills us with His presence. He fills us with His power. He fills us with His righteousness and goodness so that we are made like Him. You are therefore holy vessels that God has prepared to bring into His treasury. But, being earthen vessels, He blesses us and shows His power most frequently and powerfully through suffering.
These are the things you ought to know. But knowing is never just knowing: it’s also experiencing the thing that is known.
So how would you like to be known by others? If you want the best reputation from the best person (God Himself), then seek to know Him with every thing He has created you to be.
Prayer: Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, I ask that You may give me the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of you, that the eyes of my understanding being enlightened, that I may know what is the hope of Your calling, what are the riches of the glory of Your inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of Your power toward us who believe, according to the working of Your mighty power, which You worked in Christ when You raised Him from the dead and seated Him at Your right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. Memorize Ephesians 1:17-21, that you may always have it as a prayer in your heart.
2. Meditate further on either your treasure in heaven or on God’s power.
Resolution: I resolve to meditate on God’s power and love and my inheritance in Him today so that I may better measure the things of earth.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Adoration of the Lamb from Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece – from Wikipedia entry on Ghent Altarpiece
Category: Give Us This Day