Ephesians 1 (11 July 2021)
Many years ago when I became a christian I decided that I needed to learn more about the faith I had been given and the new relationship I now had with God the the Father through Jesus, so I both myself a small Bible and began to read it.
Now, when people start to read the Bible for the first time it raises the question, “where do I start?”
Some people start at the beginning in the book of Genesis. Well, the first few chapters are really gripping but it doesn’t take long before it gets a bit mysterious and when you reach Leviticus and Numbers you give up.
Some people start in the New Testament, in Matthew’s gospel and dive into a longish genealogy.
Others cheat a bit and go Revelation at the back of the book to see how it ends.
I am sure that God had a reason to lead me to start reading the Bible at the letter to the Ephesians because from the beginning it thrills you with inspiring truths and with exciting, encouraging truths and then moves into really practical teaching.
So I am very happy that today’s reading in the first chapter of Ephesians is in the Lectionary, especially since it has the wonderful words of this poetic list of blessings God has lavished on us.
While this letter was originally written by the Apostle Paul to the gathering of Christians in Ephesus a couple of thousand years ago we can read it as if it was written to us – it’s a letter to God’s holy people, the saints in Bellingen, the faithful in Christ Jesus.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all the saints are dead. Christ followers, those of us who are faithful in Christ Jesus are called saints. So this letter starts with a greeting to you, saint Viv, saint Ross, saint Hey-Ja, saint Helen, …, saint Carol.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The writer then launches into a wonderful poem of praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And how very praiseworthy he is! He has blessed us so much, and not just with material things but with spiritual blessings. And not just with a few blessings. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ! EVERY spiritual blessing! There is nothing withheld.
These are the blessings we will find we have when we reach heaven. That tells us how wonderful these blessings are. They are good enough for heaven!
But also wonderfully, we read that God HAS blessed us. See that simple word, HAS. Every blessing that heaven can bring has been given to us already. They are yours and mine now, in this life, here.
But because these are spiritual blessings they can be overlooked, missed, even unappreciated. So what are they?
In the following paragraph we can easily see examples of these wonderful blessings. We can’t list them all so I have made a short list of 10 you can see in the next dozen verses.
ONE – CHOSEN.
God had you in mind from the beginning. It’s no accident that you are here this morning. Even before the creation of the world, well before the day you were born, God had it in his plan that you would come to know Christ Jesus as your Saviour and Lord. We can’t answer for other people or what God has in mind for them but we can say, “praise be to God who has chosen to reveal to me the love of God in Christ Jesus!” What a blessing to know God loves me, wants me and, whatever happens in the universe, had in mind to bless me.
TWO – HOLY AND BLAMELESS
God’s plan was that I would be holy and blameless in his sight.
As far as you can see, am I holy and blameless? If you think so, let me put you straight – I’m not.
Of course, God knows I’m not perfect. Jesus knows I’m not perfect. But Jesus died to take the blame, the penalty for my imperfection, my sin. And God knows that Jesus is holy and blameless.
When God looks at us he does not see where we have failed him. What he sees is Jesus who has taken the penalty for us and sees his beauty and perfection. Jesus grants to us a status we could never achieve on our own, standing between us and God’s judgement.
What God sees when he sees you and me is that we are holy and blameless in his sight. Now that is a blessing and at the same time a responsibility to live up to it!
THREE – ADOPTED BY THE FATHR.
In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.
Of course, Jesus is the only begotten son of God – conceived in Mary by God’s Holy Spirit. He is the pre-eminent one, the first-born. He is also the first-born from the dead. The rest of us will take our turn to follow his example when our time for resurrection comes along.
But we are God’s adopted sons and daughters. An adopted child does not get the option to say, “pick me, pick me!” but the adopting parent decides whether to adopt a child. The adoption is done in accordance with the pleasure and will of the adopting parent.
That’s what’s happened to us. It was God’s pleasure and will to adopt us, something made possible because of the wonderful work of Jesus the Christ.
This is not a trivial thing. The adopted child of God is an inheritor of the Father’s kingdom. We are co-heirs with Christ. Everything Christ inherits he shares with us.
Think for a moment – what will Jesus, the Son of God inherit? Because you will share in that inheritance! This is one of the spiritual blessings in the heavenly realms which is to the praise of his glorious grace.
FOUR – REDEEMED.
Before these blessings started to flow, where were you?
Chapter 2 of the letter starts with the words, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins”. That’s where you were. So far from God that you were as good as dead, sold out and lost to God.
The kidnapped person is in no position to get together the price of the ransom demand – he or she is dependent on someone else satisfying the kidnapper’s demands and meeting the cost involved.
To get you back, God had to ransom you from being captive to sin. He regarded you as his child so dear to him that he took the initiative and bought you back, paying off the ransom required to do so.
In Jesus Christ he paid the price of the ransom which was death. Jesus died by crucifixion to buy you back, to redeem you.
Again, we praise God for this amazing blessing. We have redemption through the blood of Jesus.
FIVE – FORGIVEN.
When you are lost from God because of sin you come to him in repentance, determined to live according to God’s will from now on. You confess your failure and ask for forgiveness which comes as another of these spiritual blessings.
We tend to find forgiveness a difficult thing. When we are hurt, damaged or offended we find it hard to forgive. Indeed, we often find it hard to forgive ourselves when we let ourselves down. That means we find it hard to understand the way God forgives.
When I have been hurt I have been advised to forgive and forget. But as much as I try it still bubbles up. I remember what happened. I find I cannot forgive and forget and I wonder if I forgave at all. This is a worry because un-forgiveness inevitably leads to bitterness and I don’t want that.
Do we ask God to forgive and forget? Surely it is illogical to expect God to forget something when his very nature means he knows everything.
What God does is different. He says, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sin no more.” (Isaiah 43:25)
What a wonderful difference there is between forgetting an offence, which we can’t do anyway, and deliberately deciding not to remember it any more. There is enormous power and control in that blessing. God decides not to remember our offence, not to dig it up, not to revisit it.
As hard as it is to do this we are asked to forgive as God forgives — we pray forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Corrie Ten Boon pointed out Micah 7:19 where it says, “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Her comment was, when God hurls our iniquities into the depths of the sea he puts up a sign saying, “no fishing”.
SIX – WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING.
Of course, the whole gospel story, the reality of Christ’s birth, life, death, resurrection and eventual return would remain a complete mystery to us if God had not made it known to us. He has blessed us with a degree of wisdom and understanding so we can grasp that which remains a mystery to others.
God has let you in on the secret so that you can grasp truths that are a mystery to many. While others just can’t see it God has allowed you and me to see what he has done for us in Jesus.
SEVEN – UNITY.
Those who have been able to grasp these truths are aware we are part of God’s great plan, his will from beginning to end.
The end comes with the fulfilment of the plan when Christ returns. Then all the universe will inevitably acknowledge the kingship of Christ and we will be swept up in the complete unity of all things.
In the meantime there are special, family bonds between the sons and daughters of God which allow us to have a degree of unity not available to those outside the body of Christ. The innumerable company of saints become one as the church, a body with Jesus Christ as its head.
EIGHT – HOLY SPIRIT
From time to time people try to produce counterfeit bank notes so the government has gone to a lot of trouble to make Australian bank notes very difficult to copy. They now make them in plastic not paper which is a good start.
In addition they have clear windows, a bird which seems to fly, holograms and raised text you can feel. These and other features make the note impossible to reproduce.
They are imprinted in the note guaranteeing that the note is worth the value printed on it. They are like seals built in guaranteeing that the Reserve Bank will keep its promise to honour the value of the note.
When you believed, you were marked in Jesus with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.
You don’t necessarily see the security features in our bank notes unless you look closely and it’s a bit like that with the security features God has built into us when we believe in Jesus. Nonetheless, the we have received the Holy Spirit, marking us out, giving us a seal, a guarantee that we belong to Father God and that our inheritance will most certainly be ours.
NINE – POWER
When Paul wrote to Timothy he pointed out to him that the Spirit God gives us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self discipline.
Here he says to the Ephesians that the gift of the Holy Spirit gives us incomparably great power and that that power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Jesus from the dead.
This is an extraordinary truth that takes some wondering about. The Holy Spirit lives in and with you so, within you lives the same mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead.
Discovering how this changes your life is a whole, breathtaking adventure in the Christian’s walk with Jesus.
TEN – GRACE.
All these beautiful things come to us to the praise of God’s glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
That’s how the generous favour God gives us comes. Freely. Totally undeserved and unearned. He just acts favourably towards us without doing anything to take into account whether or not we deserve it, whether we could pay it back or even if we ask for it.
And not in dribs and drabs, either. The riches of God’s grace are lavished on us. I love that word, lavished. When I have scones and jam I don’t want the jam smeared on the scone. I like it lavished with jam. Even more than that, there’s a glorious generosity in the grace God lavishes on us.
Indeed, every spiritual blessing, every spiritual gift, every spiritual fruit comes out of the grace of God. All 10 of these blessings we see in these verses and so many more I haven’t mentioned today.
We have them all now. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ! Out of God’s free, unmerited, empowering grace. Relish them all! Be blessed!
Without the grace of God we would not have any of these blessings. With the grace of God we can embed them in our lives and live our lives in the way these blessings should inspire us to live.
Read Ephesians chapter 1 again a few times and allow it to thrill you, inspire you, encourage you and lead you to thankfulness, wonder and giving praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Bellingen Uniting Church. 11 July 2021