Summary: As God's adopted children, we have an interitance of God's abundant grace--every spiritual blessing. We do not need to wait in order to receive our inheritance. It is ours now.
Ephesians 1:3-14 “Heirs of Grace”
Good news comes in many forms and each of us has specific desires of what we want to hear.
• “Congratulations! You’ve won the Lottery!”
• “You’re cancer free and you are cured. You don’t have to see me again.”
• “We found an exact match of an organ donor for you.”
• “You’ve been selected to compete with the United States Olympic Team.”
• “The Chicago Cubs have won the world series!”
Paul has good news to share with the Ephesians and with us. In many ways, it overshadows the words of good news that we dream of hearing.
In the original Greek, verses 3-14 are one sentence. Paul’s hymn of praise is a skillful use of the Greek language. But, as our grade school English teacher constantly reminded us, run on sentences in English is bad form. They are also difficult to translate.
One characteristic that leaps out at us is the use of the past perfect verb tense—a past, completed action. God has blessed us, in him we have redemption, he has made know the mystery of his will, and we have been destined. This verb tense is vitally important for the Christian. We have all that we need in order to live out our lives as Christians and as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Often we see ourselves as needing something to grow in our relationship with God. We might see our need for more patience, for a deeper sense of joy, for more compassion, or for a stronger hope. Paul argues that we already have patience, joy, compassion and hope. They are not things that we need to receive, but rather they are characteristics that we can claim as ours and live in their reality. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul exhorts them to clothe themselves. He doesn’t tell them to go shopping. The Colossians (and us) have all the clothes we need.
Another important point that is apparent in these verses is that God is active and we are passive. In other words, God gives and we receive, and not the other way around where God expects and we work hard. Martin Luther was on to something when, speaking to a group of his fellow monks in Heidelberg in 1518, he offered the following proposition for debate: "The law says, 'Do this,' and it is never done. Grace says, 'Believe this," and everything is already done."
Paul’s words celebrate the truth that we are adopted. We were destined to be adopted! For Paul this is not the election of individuals but God's election of Christ, and God's choice for all of us, in him. Christ is the one who represents all humanity; thus in choosing Christ, God chooses all of us. God pursues humanity -- all of us -- with relentless love. God’s family is inclusive and not exclusive.
I can’t imagine what it must feel like for a child to hear the news that he or she is being adopted. To know that you will no longer be passed from one foster home to another feeling alone, rejected, and believing that you are endured only because of the money you bring in to the household.
We have been estranged; separated from God and from each other. The cross of Christ, however, enables us to live in a new relationship with God. We are part of God’s family.
"In Christ" every experience is reframed, from our most bracing joys and cherished achievements to our besetting temptations, our most anguished regrets, and our most wounding losses. "In Christ" we are joined to the power and presence of God. "In Christ" we are knit to others who will cry over our dead with us even as they help us sing hymns of resurrection.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
Paul’s words are more than theological babble. They are not mere conjecture. They come with a guarantee.
The guarantee is the Holy Spirit. God gives us the Holy Spirit as a fore taste of what lies ahead when God’s kingdom is fully established—described as a new heaven and a new earth. The gift of the Holy Spirit is a "deposit" - a down payment of the blessings to come. He is also a "seal" - a guarantee of the glory to come.
The Holy Spirit provides the church with its identity and vocation. The church is an agent of the God who is out to reconcile and bless until all "things in heaven and things on earth" (verse 10) harmonize "in Christ," tuned to the glorious music of God's own joy.
In many ways we are like a family living above a huge oil deposit, or one who has an antique treasure in the basement. All that is needed is to discover what is already ours. When we do our lives will be changed.