Bethel CRC Lacombe

January 7, 2024 Spiritual Blessings Ephesians 1:1-14

January 17, 2024 Bethel CRC Season 1 Episode 1
Bethel CRC Lacombe
January 7, 2024 Spiritual Blessings Ephesians 1:1-14
Show Notes Transcript

Today we begin a new series on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. We will reflect on Ephesians 1:1-14, Spiritual Blessings. Paul is reconnecting with the church in Ephesus, a church it seems that he has a special love for. Unlike many of Paul’s letters, he doesn’t have any errors or heresies that he’s addressing. This is a letter that reflects a lot on what the church is and how the church lives together. He begins by offering them a blessing and reminding them of who they are, where they find their identity.

Spiritual Blessings

Ephesians 1:1-14


I love this letter of Paul to the church in the city of Ephesus; it’s a letter filled with theology, enough for a seminary education, all rooted in the 2-word phrase “in Christ.” Scott Hoezee identifies these theological gems introduced in these first 14 verse of Ephesians, “The Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Divine election.  Redemption through Jesus’ blood.  The baptismal seal of the Holy Spirit.  Salvation by grace alone.  The doctrines of creation and providence.  Eschatology.  Faith.  Sanctification.  The proclamation of the gospel.  It’s all here.  Yet at its heart, Paul’s letter reminds us that our faith is rooted in Jesus, it’s all about God, and, as two great Jacob’s, Eppinga and Prins, keep reminding me, “it’s all about grace!” throughout this entire letter, we will be reminded over and over gain that our salvation is completely begun and carried out by Jesus, we’re unable to contribute to our salvation in any way, yet the grace in this completely changes us for the better.

Ephesus is the most important city in the area; a commercial, cultural, and religious hub that drew people from every part of the known world, and even from parts unknown, making it a fascinating mix of cultures, languages, and faith beliefs. Paul spent two to three years in Ephesus building the church. Because of its location on major trade routes and its multi-cultural population, Ephesus was a strategic place to build a church that could spread the gospel news far and wide. 

It was customary when you wrote letters in Paul’s time to open with greetings and blessings and then introduce the various things that writer is going to talk about in the main part of the letter. Our verses this morning is the greeting and introduction part to what Paul is going to go more in-depth about and what we will be reflecting on over the next few weeks as we journey through Ephesians. 

Paul begins by reminding his readers that he is an apostle of Christ Jesus. The Greek word for “apostle” literally means “one who is sent” and can refer to a representative or anyone sent on a mission. An apostle is given the authority of the one who sent him while a disciple is still a student, someone who is learning. All of the apostles were disciples, they were among the many believers in Jesus, but only a small group of disciples were chosen as the Twelve Apostles as we read in Matthew 10:1–4 when Jesus sent them out in pairs to share the gospel news of Jesus and gave them power to even cast out demons, and in Acts 26:14–18 where Paul is telling King Agrippa about his call to go share the gospel news of Jesus. This included the original twelve disciples and Matthias after Judas betrayed Jesus, and then Paul. Paul received his call a little differently on the Damascus Road, but he was definitely chosen by Jesus and given the call to go make disciples. Later others were also given the title apostle.

Paul goes on and reminds then that they are a holy people; people set apart by God as his; people chosen to be his children for himself and to carry out his purposes. This is then followed by a blessing, offering them grace and peace from God. A blessing is all about speaking God’s presence into someone’s life. Then comes something really special, Paul begins praising God and how he’s blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. At this point I’m going “wow,” what a picture of God’s incredibly generous nature! This is no stingy God, but a God who pours out every spiritual blessing to us, his people; not because we deserve them, but because this is who God is. 

What are these spiritual blessings? We’re chosen to be holy, to be set apart for God and made blameless, forgiven because we’re chosen in Jesus. God sees us through what Jesus has accomplished for us on the cross where he took our sin on himself, where he died and was buried for our sin, and then was raised from the dead and now sits with God preparing to return and claim everything under him again. We’re chosen to be children of God to bring him praise for his glorious grace. What a call on who we’re called to be as his children; that our confession of faith in Jesus, that in how we live as his children God is given all the praise. It’s all about God and Jesus; our lives are always to point to them. If you know grammar, this intensifies the awesomeness of what Paul is saying here. All the verbs used by Paul here in the original Greek are in the past perfect tense. You might say so what, well this means that everything Paul is saying here about what God is doing is settled, completed, accomplished once and for all; there’s no turning back, no changing what God has done in these blessings given to us! God does it all, we simply receive the blessings, hopefully with lots of thanksgiving and praise!

Why does Paul focus so strongly on these things? We need to remember what the world was like then. For the most part, things were good. The economy wasn’t horrible, there was mostly peace in the empire. As long as you acknowledged Caesar, you could believe whatever you liked and religion was mostly tolerated. Yet as you dig into the philosophies, into the faiths of the day, as you take a closer look at the empire, you see that signs of corruption were creeping in, cracks were starting to form in society. When people looked to the various faiths and philosophies, they mostly told the people that they needed to earn their ways into a better life or into paradise. Philosophers were moving the idea that the gods were created in our images, or that the gods weren’t interested or engaged in this world except for their own pleasure and could be manipulated but not trusted. Many taught that we’re all imperfect and need to work towards becoming perfect, and when this mixed with some of the eastern religions, karma and reincarnation became popular. 

In this atmosphere, two different approaches to life grew: stoicism where happiness came when you worked hard to live a virtuous life where pleasure and pain didn’t have any meaning and epicureanism where happiness came from living a life filled with pleasure. Things are much different today, where meaning, purpose, and a good life are defined by us and up to us to achieve, and if we don’t, it’s our own fault for not being good enough or not working heard enough. Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus, bringing meaning to the people’s lives by pointing them to God who has created them for a reason and gives them a purpose for their lives. Paul shows them a God who values and loves them, giving them a place where they belonged and were accepted, filling them with hope; things the other faiths and philosophies didn’t offer. Paul tells them that God loves us, honours us; sharing with us “the mystery of his will… to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ… in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the paise of his glory.” We’re reminded that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves, that we play a part in the grand plan of God for all creation.

This fascinates me, that we are part of God’s plan to accomplish this; God is going to do this through us when we put our hope in Jesus, when we commit our lives to be for the praise of his glory, showing the world who Jesus is and the difference he brings, sharing what he’s done for us by becoming one of us, living life with us. All it takes to belong is to believe the message of truth, the good news of our salvation. As a sign and mark of reassurance, we’re given the Holy Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing our inheritance as children of God. 

Biblical scholar N. T. Wright shares with us what the gift of the Holy Spirit looks like, “Those who follow Jesus, those who find themselves believing that he is the world’s true Lord, that he rose from the dead—these people are given the Spirit as a foretaste of what that new world will be like. If anyone is ‘in the Messiah,’ what they have and are is—new creation.… The Spirit is the strange, personal presence of the living God himself, leading, guiding, warning, rebuking, grieving over our failings and celebrating our small steps toward the true inheritance.” A time-honored Christian confession of faith, the sixteenth-century Heidelberg Catechism, declares the same truth: “By the Spirit’s power we make the goal of our lives not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand” (Q&A 49).

In a few weeks on Cadet Sunday, we will dig deeper into the Holy Spirit, here’s a glimpse of what we’ll be looking at in Ephesians 3:16-19 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”