What has God done for you this week? I remember getting asked this question before Bible studies when I was in college. The purpose was to give opportunity for people to praise the Lord for things that occurred and impacted our lives during the week. It was a way to develop fellowship and worship around the real events of life. While these practices are well meaning and intended to be an encouragement to growth, they also lacked the understanding of how much we have been given, even if God never did anything else for us. It is a good practice to recognize His daily work in our lives, however, what He has done today began with what He did in eternity past when He selected us for His sovereign care.
In Ephesians Paul challenges the believers in Ephesus to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. This challenge occurs in Chapter 4, however, he begins the book with 14 verses of description of what God has done for us. The description is not meant as a stand alone, the first verses lead us to the chapter four command. The topics cover all of redemption history. The commands in chapter four flow out of three chapters of teachings and declarations about God and His work. Paul wants us to understand that a worthy walk cannot be developed without knowledge of what He has done in our salvation from the very beginning of salvation history.
This book can be viewed as pure theology and doctrine. However, there are things in it that go beyond simply understanding theological concepts. Concepts inform our lives and how we view our faith. These first 14 verses are all foundationally about what God has done for us in Christ. These things are introduced through the lens of God's sovereignty. This passage gives us a perspective of God's "kind intention." He has done much for us out of His kindness toward us. His acts in history are driven by His holiness, justice, love, and kindness. Holiness and justice are easy to see, but His kindness can be elusive for some to understand. So, Paul begins with the foundational precepts for understanding the kindness of God.
So in the interest of honoring God, lets look at the first four ideas in the book. Paul starts verse three with a call to praise God. The word "blessed" when used of God, means we are speaking well of God. As we understand His workings in our lives and the world around us. We worship Him as we understand what He has given us in Christ. Paul describes what has been done for us in broad terms, then he drills down to specifics.
The reason for blessing God is that He has given us (blessed us) "every spiritual blessing in heavenly places." There is not a time you can say, "I need..." and it has not already been provided. He has already given what we need before we need it. When we realize a need, it has already been met. How does He do this? He gives us His Spirit as a Helper. He also orchestrated our lives to bring about His purposes, so He puts in place those things we need to become what He has determined us to be (holy and blameless). The Spirit empowers us to live our new life as part of the family. Not merely connected to the family, but actually have the family resemblance.
This resemblance begins to take shape in the next verse, we are "chosen." The purpose of our being chosen is to be "holy and blameless" before Him. Before the Father and the Judge of all the universe we are made to be saints. The word contains the idea of a holy place and clean area set apart for worship. Also we are blameless, without blemish and above reproach. We are guilt free before the Him. The only way we can be considered guilt free before God is by His forgiveness in Christ.
Paul also tells us that we are brought into God's family by adoption. We are adopted into His family at salvation and the effects last through eternity. There are three reasons for our adoption listed in these verses: 1) love, 2) grace, and 3) kind intention. Paul is showing us that God's gracious care for us is magnificent.
Follow this line of thought, God is the Father of Jesus (2) and we are adopted by God (5). This makes us a brother to Christ and a child of God. We are members of the family. We are joint heirs with Jesus.
The doctrine here is that salvation is by God's loving gracious choice and the accomplished work through Jesus. Paul puts that three different ways in the first six verse. Through Christ all that is needed for securing salvation has been accomplished.
So what should we gain from this passage? Several things should bring us to our knees as we consider our position in Christ. First, we are already seen by God as holy and blameless. We have been clothed in Christ. Several ways Paul talks about our being "in Christ," "through Christ," and "in the Beloved." Each of these prepositional phrases emphasize that what God sees is Christ. So we are made "holy and blameless" because of what He did for us.
Second, we are also adopted into God's family. we are "sons," with the position of the first born. We are considered, not just heirs, but the primary heir with Christ before God. This cannot be over emphasized. We are part of the family, we will not be cast away. Our position is secure, because (need I write it again) we are in Christ.
A third take away is that all these things should impact our worship. When we are asked, what has God done for us this week, it is the same things He has done for us each week, He adopted, chose, and predestined us. We are part of His family. We can live life in freedom and hope because of God's love for us.
How do these thing impact us in real life? What are the artistic works here (to borrow from Lloyd-Jones)?
1. Saying the understood (vs 3) -Paul is stating the obvious from his perspective. He is telling the Ephesians things that should already be understood by believers, that we have "every spiritual blessing." However, it is important for, even the simple truths, to be reminded, rehearsed, and reread. When we struggle with sin or with the troubles of life, we should bless God, remembering His character and purpose in our lives; bringing us to "the praise of His glory." We are a forgetful people who need to take every opportunity to remind ourselves of His greatness and the blessings He gives us.
2. God chose us to be holy and blameless (vs 4) -God will complete this work in us. When we seek forgiveness it is our part in acknowledging and accepting what He has already completed in us. We need not punish ourselves for sins committed, of which, we have repented. Because of Christ, we are "holy and blameless." We still seek to live holy before the Lord, but He is working in us each day to bring this about in His time. When we fail. When we raise our voice, when we allow ourselves to become angry, when we wish ill will on the driver that cut us off, we should repent of the sin that has so easily entangled us. When we have sought forgiveness in Christ, we are forgiven. We should remind ourselves of this truth when we are tempted to act as though we must be punished further or when we carry shame for these actions. Forgiveness clothes us in the righteousness of Christ.
3. We are His children (vs 5) -He looks for ways to build and bless us before we know that we need Him to act in our lives. When we are tempted to think of ourselves or others as second class Christians, we must remind ourselves that we are children of the King. We have a family status in the Kingdom of God. Others may have a more public call to service, but we are heard by the same King/Father in the same loving manner. All of His children have a place in the family, at the table. There are no second class Christians. There is not a different table in the kingdom for those who do not measure up to perfection. We all sit at The feast shoulder to shoulder as those who have been made righteous, with those who have been made righteous in Christ.
4. Our worship is a reflection of our understanding of God's gracious gifts to us (vs 6). It is a reflection of our knowledge of His character. We are responding to what He has done for us and in us each day and for eternity. We should worship often and personally. We should seek God for all our needs and praise Him for who He is and what He is doing in through Christ.
Meditate on this passage. Let the Holy Spirit bring to mind that you are part of the family of God in an irrevocable way. He has already provided all you need to be all He created you for His glory. These facts are the painting of God's kindness in the Ephesians gallery.