Summary: With privilege always comes responsibility. God has reconciled us to himself, our responsibility now is to live as God’s children.
If you haven’t been here for the full six weeks of sermons on Ephesians, you missed out on a lot, But we don’t want you to miss out so let me fill you in on the story so far. We’ve been discovering the amazing secrets of God’s plan, prepared before the beginning of time, brought to fulfilment through Jesus Christ and now awaiting its conclusion. This plan was that God would restore humanity to the way we were meant to be. He’d restore our human nature, restore our human relationships, bringing us to unity under Christ, as part of his body. What’s more he’d do that by creating a people for himself, a family in fact, that draws its identity from God himself. He’d do that by adopting us as his sons and daughters, joint heirs with Christ to the kingdom of God.
We discovered that God has done this by sending Jesus Christ to take on human flesh and in that human form to die and rise again; that God has raised Christ to sit at his right hand in the heavenlies. What’s more he’s also raised us from death and incorporated us into Christ. So we too have been raised with him and have also been seated with him in the heavenlies.
But that lays on us an enormous responsibility doesn’t it? With privilege always comes responsibility. The heir to the throne may want to kick up his or her heels and just have fun, but in fact they need to prepare for the time when they’ll take over as king or queen. In our case we already have a position of great responsibility. We’re ambassadors for the king, that is, ambassadors for our father. In the previous chapter we saw how the Church is meant to show forth to the world, and to the spiritual forces in the heavenlies, the wisdom of God. And how will we do that? As we saw last week we’ll do it by demonstrating the unity that comes from being the children of the one true God; from being a family united in Christ. We’ll do it as we grow to maturity, as each member does their part in building up the whole. And today we discover more of how we can show God’s wisdom and glory to the world. How? By imitating God, as beloved children; by living in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
We all know how children love to imitate their parents. They walk like them, they talk like them, they sit like them. They want to be like them. For a while at least. And hopefully the patterns, the habits and attitudes they pick up are good ones. So too, we need to imitate God our Father in the way we act towards others.
Notice though, that what God wants us to do is quite counter-cultural. In fact even in Paul’s day it was counter-cultural. He says you’re not to live the way the Gentiles do; not to live the way the world around you lives. Look at how he describes those among whom the Ephesians are living. They’re darkened in their understanding and alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart.
These are very religious people, mind you. They regularly go to one of the many temples in Ephesus to offer sacrifices. Remember when Paul was there he caused a riot because the silversmiths were worried that their trade was being undermined by this new religion. People had stopped buying the silver shrines that they used to give offerings to Artemis. But this religious observance of theirs arose from ignorance, from their understanding being darkened. As a result they were alienated from the life of the true God.
I wonder did you see the article the week before last about Francis McNab, the minister at St Michael’s Collins St. He’s decided to set up his own religion. He’s decided we don’t need a God like you or I might worship. He says, "Until 1900, people believed in heaven above, earth, and hell below. We have given up that idea. He’s no longer the God up there, an interventionist God. We can all feel a presence beyond ourselves and are trying to get in touch with the presence better than ourselves. It’s trying to bring a more humanitarian understanding." He goes on to say "Abraham is probably a concoction, Moses was a mass murderer and Jesus Christ just a Jewish peasant who certainly was not God. In fact, there is no God, in the usual sense of an interventionist deity - what we strive for is a presence both within and beyond us."
I know it sounds judgmental but I’d say that sounds like a man who’s darkened in his understanding, and alienated from the life of God because of his ignorance and hardness of heart. And sadly he’s just one of many, though it’s most sad because he claims to be a minister in the Christian Church.