It begins! I have the pleasure of kicking off our series, "The New Normal" this Sunday, although some of you have already been discussing Ephesians 1:1-14 in your Fellowship Groups. This might be one of the most beloved Epistles simply because of how accessible it is. Unlike some of Paul's other letters to the churches, it seems like it's written directly to our church, doesn't it? There's a reason for that. . . because it was. Directly to you.
Most of the time I tell people that when you read an Epistle from Paul to a church, you have to remember that you're reading mail that was sent from the Apostle Paul to a specific local church. When you read, there are specific things said to address specific situations at that church, at that time. In addition, individuals are mentioned by name. So we work to extract the timeless principles God is teaching and then apply those principles to our specific situations and individuals. Ephesians is a little different.
The letter written to the Ephesians, according to a scholar named F.F. Bruce, might have actually been intended as a general circulation letter to more than just the church in Ephesus. I think that might be true. However, on Sunday we'll take a brief look at the New Testament Ephesus so we have a better idea of the first audience of this letter.
We'll also look at the first 14 verses. There might be more in your Bible, but in the Greek, there are only 3 sentences here. The first sentence is Ephesians 1:1. It's 18 words in the Greek. The second sentence is Ephesians 1:2 and it's made up of 12 Greek words. The next 202 Greek words (Ephesians 1:3-14) comprise the last sentence and that's where we'll focus most of our inquiry this Sunday.
I'm undecided if I agree with most English translators who have tried to break this sentence up for easier reading in the English. I certainly appreciate the smoother reading, but keeping it as one long run-on sentence does two things:
First, it helps us see that Peter was right when he said, "There are things in [Paul's letters] that are hard to understand" (2 Peter 3:16). A sentence with more than a dozen supporting clauses is hard to keep suspended in your mind while you try to sort it all out.
Second, keeping Ephesians 1:3-14 as one long sentence as it was written helps us see Paul's praise and excitement as he tries to tell us about magnitude of the Gospel of the Holy Trinity. This isn't a 140-character thought for social media! Paul is trying to express why we worship the Triune God and he can't contain it in a small, easy to read box.
Imagine that it's more like Paul having a conversation. Look at Ephesians 1:3-14. It starts "Blessed be. . ."
Blessed be whom?
Well, God the Father of course. See, he's the father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He's the same Father who blessed us with every spiritual gift by placing us in Christ. One of those spiritual blessings is that the Father chose us before the foundation of the world. What a blessing! And it is not just that he chose to just to save us, but also that he wants us to be holy and blameless in his sight.
But we are sinners, how are we going to be holy and blameless before God?
That's also amazing! And a blessing. The Father predestined us to be adopted into his own family, if you can believe that. And he sent his Son, Jesus Christ to make that possible.
Why would he do such a thing?
That's a great question. The Father did so because, first, it was his will. He did it because he wanted to... and because he could. But he also did it to show us his glory through his grace. It's one of the reasons we praise and bless this amazing God. And the Father accomplished this through his beloved Son, Jesus.
Well, we are in Christ (remember how I told you about that just a second ago?). We are in Christ because of Jesus' blood. God did it all through Jesus' blood.
Through the blood?
Yes. Because Jesus's blood was shed, we are redeemed.
That sounds good for us, but I'm not sure I entirely understand what being redeemed means?
We are forgiven of our trespasses, that is, our sins. He did this according to the riches of his grace, which he has a lot of. In fact, he really poured it on and gave it to us in great abundance. In part, that means that we get to see a glimpse of who God is. We get wisdom and insight, which helps us understand the the mystery of God's will.
Which is what exactly? What is God's will here?
First, God's will is that which he wants to achieve; and, incidentally he will achieve through Jesus.
What is Jesus going to do?
Jesus is going to fulfill God's plan, which is to unite all things back to himself.
All things, both in heaven and earth.
When we are united back to God, we get an inheritance. That was what God predestined in the beginning. (I told you about that already, remember?) This is God's will and what he set out to do all along, and it gets done through Jesus. So now you can probably see why those of us who hope in Jesus are already praising him and his glory. He's amazing!
I am a Christian. Is this true for me too?
Yes! It is if you heard the word of truth, which is the good news of your salvation, and if you believe in him. If you did, than you were sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is involved in this too?
Sure. Having the Holy Spirit guarantees our inheritance until we actually have it.
Yes it is. And that is why we praise our amazing God.
Somehow, Paul packed all of that conversation into one long sentence. It's a sentence oozing with the good new of the Gospel. It's crammed full of the Holy Trinity. And it's a sentence that should compel us to praise our amazing God.
This is the Gospel. We worship God for who he is and what he has done. If we don't have that right, everything else is pointless.
Paul's long sentence is the first step in our new identity. The gospel is Day 1 of the New Normal. Do you believe that God (The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, who Paul used 202 Greek words, inspired by the Spirit) is who he says it is?
This is our focus on Sunday. Will you join us?
We meet at 11am at the Northwest Community Center (1300 West 300 North, SLC, UT 84116).
See you there!
P.S> Here's a video update for this week too.