Bethel CRC Lacombe

November 26, 2023 Gather, Grow, Go Ephesians 1:15-23

November 28, 2023 Pastor Jake Boer Season 7 Episode 8
Bethel CRC Lacombe
November 26, 2023 Gather, Grow, Go Ephesians 1:15-23
Show Notes Transcript

Today we will reflect on Ephesians 1:15-23, Gather, Grow, Go. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is one of his most positive and encouraging letters to a church. Paul is writing to help the church know God better; to understand the high goals God has for the church as well as His eternal purpose and grace. In these verses, Paul is expressing his thankfulness for them and how God has chosen them to be His children. He reminds them of their salvation found in Jesus and how God has revealed to them what His will is - which is to unite all things in heaven and earth under Jesus. The amazing thing is that He uses us to bring glory to His name as He uses us to bring the gospel story to the world 

Gather, Grow, Go

Ephesians 1:15-23


Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus, a key port city in the area of Asia Minor, or Turkey today. Ephesus sits on major trade routes connecting Rome with the east and south, something like Vancouver today. It was a busy cosmopolitan city that drew people from all over, as well as their temples and gods. It’s here that a church is planted by Paul and it grows, not only in numbers, but also in reputation. So, Paul writes them a letter. It’s one of his more joyful letters; a letter to help the people know God better and more deeply. It’s a letter to inspire faith and hope. This is a circular letter, written to the community, not to individuals; a letter that likely would have been passed on to other churches in the region as well; especially a letter like this one filled with teaching about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. 

It's Paul’s prayer that they will know and live out the hope we have in Jesus, that their relationship with Jesus will continue to shape them and inspire them to continue their walk in the way of Jesus. these letters were read out to the people as they gathered together each week to worship God, to study the scriptures and teaching of Jesus, and to eat together to grow in their knowledge of God and to grow more deeply together into the body of Jesus as they shared in fellowship. Gathering together to learn and study together helps us to grow together in knowing God and Jesus through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and builds strength into our relationship with God and each other. 

I love how Paul affirms and builds them up with encouragement and blessing; “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” Paul has heard about their how their faith has inspired compassion and generosity to others; he’s thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit in them, leading to a living active faith. This is a letter written in hope and to build hope. 

Paul prays that God will give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. The goal is to know God better, especially those who had not grown up Jewish with the stories of a God who leads out of slavery and oppression, a God who guides and leads his people, a God who provides, sometimes even in miraculous ways, a God who loves his people so much that he even punishes them at times so that they come back to him, a God who is gracious and forgiving, a God who provides justice for those who are taken advantage of or for whom life is difficult and hard. Paul’s hope is that they will go deeper in their faith and trust in Jesus, showing them who Jesus is, calling them into even deeper love of God and neighbour, deeper in love and forgiveness and grace of Jesus, filling them with even greater hope. 

Paul reminds them that they are God’s holy people; that God’s power is for them, and for us today because we are his children. This is not like the power that is so often practiced by the culture of that time, or like the way power is so often used and abused today, this is a power used to raise Jesus from the grace so that God’s people are saved from their sin and given new life and hope, this is a power that is used to bless and renew. God’s power for us calls us to live our lives in his power and for the kingdom of heaven. Professor Sammy Alfaro writes, “The letter to the Ephesians, as well as in other epistles of the Pauline corpus, the Christian life is represented in pneumatological terms as living in the Spirit. In the interim period as we await our redemption, the Spirit guides us to produce fruits of justice and righteousness, which are the marks of a true Christian. It is the Spirit’s work in the believer, which marks them as “God’s own people, to the praise of his glory,” as Paul writes in verse 14.”

This power brings us into a new life shaped by the Spirit out of lives where we were chained in sin and hopelessness, even if in the moment it felt freeing and empowering as it was all about me and my wants. Paul’s prayer is that the eyes of their hearts might be enlightened so that they can see who Jesus really is, the Son of God who is sitting at the right hand of God, a position of power, and freedom looks like be God’s holy people, dedicated to him. 

It's important to recognize that the world that Paul and the church lived in at that time isn’t much different than the world we live in today. The Jews were often persecuted and subject to injustice and violence, it’s no different today. It was a time of political chaos with Caesars like Nero, when you look around the world today, there is much political chaos in so many countries and our own country is not immune to it. Violence was common, and it’s more and more common today, even in our own communities. There are natural disasters such as wildfires, tsunamis, floods, drought, earthquakes that are just as common then as they are now. 

Doug Bratt writes, “Those who proclaim Ephesians 1 might invite our hearers to think about that in relation to all the trouble we naturally see in our world.  If we assume that greed dominates our world, might we be more likely to lose hope?  Might assuming that only sheer luck governs our world make us unlikely to trust that God rules over it? Paul writes… to the Ephesian Christians who also see much chaos all around them.  After all, they live in both the world and in God’s kingdom.  What’s more, Ephesus is the capital of the pagan cult of Artemis. Perhaps that partly explains the apostle’s gratitude that begins Ephesians 1.  In it Paul gives thanks, after all, not only for the Ephesians’ faith, but also for their “love for all the saints” that grows out of it. It stands in sharp contrast to the chaos that surrounds them.While the “eyes of our hearts” is a somewhat mysterious concept, it seems at least to refer to Christians’ minds that God needs to open for us to fully recognize God’s truth. What truth does Paul want his readers to recognize?  He prays that we’ll recognize the “hope to which God has called us.”  The apostle prays that we’ll see more than what we assume is going on around us.”

When we see all the brokenness and hurt around us in the world, we can be tempted to believe that there’s no hope for the world. This can even seep into the church, and you see churches today focus so much on end times because they can only see the evil and wrong in the world. Their only hope is that Jesus is coming back, but they forget about the power of Jesus right now in the Holy Spirit. They forget that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God and is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” They forget that when Paul reminds us that “God placed all things under Jesus’ feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way,” that this is happening right now, Jesus is in charge and working his power over all things right now. 

Doug Bratt goes on in his reflection on these verses,So those whose heart’s eyes God has opened don’t live for the moment, ourselves or even just the people we like.  God’s adopted sons and daughters also live to know, love and serve Jesus Christ and our neighbors, including even our enemies. Paul also prays, however, that Christ’s followers will more fully see what verse 18 calls “the riches of” God’s “glorious inheritance in the saints.” God, after all, promises God’s sons and daughters an unimaginably glorious future. God’s Spirit equips God’s adopted children to do something similar spiritually. We learn to live by watching very carefully for God’s work in our world. Christians learn to look for signs of God’s power, faithfulness and love that aren’t always obvious to the untrained eye.” This doesn’t come naturally, this is why Paul is points them to the Holy Spirit who enlightens our hearts so we can see Jesus at work in our world, even in the brokenness; often using us as his body to be his presence and hope. This past week I was able to talk with Val Van Aken who just came back from Mexico and Fuentes de Vida and she shared how she was impacted by the pastor’s work there; living out the presence of Jesus in the hardness of life there; God working in our world today.

We’re connected to our amazing God through Jesus. Sarah Heinrich writes that, “in these verses we come to the mystery of our connection to God in Christ. Jesus Christ has been made the “head” or kephale of all things “for” the church…. kephale makes more sense as the head in headwaters. It is the source from which flows all that he is, his “body,” the “fullness of him” which fills all in all. Jesus raised to God’s presence is like the headwaters of the Mississippi that now expands to fill, shape, even become his people… Jesus has broken the levees, the dykes, and he has overflowed all things for the life of his church which may live “in praise of his glory.”