Summary: The Christian faith focuses on what God did long ago and will do in the future. But an experience of the Holy Spirit is a taste of what God means to us here and now, deep in our hearts.
Today we’ll finish up with the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Because of holidays and our communion schedule we haven’t done the chapter in order. Some weeks ago we started looking at the trinitarian opening of the letter, with Paul’s introduction of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All of life flows from this incredible God. We talked about two of the three last month and then went other directions for Easter and such. Today we’ll back up and finish that.
In the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he overflows with praise for God the Father, telling us what he did long ago, choosing us before the foundation of the world to receive good, holy lives; destining us to be his children, weaving into the very nature of creation goodness and love. That all happened long ago, but understanding it can change the way we see everything today.
He overflows with praise for God the Son, for what he did on the cross, winning our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. He opened the door to heaven for all who trust in him. That’s an incredible act of love, a gift that none of us would have anticipated. But heaven is somewhere off in the future for us. What about now? Don’t we all need help here and now?
We all battle to see God in our lives in a world that is very happy to ignore God completely. Sure, we intend to put God first, but how many times do we look back on a week and realize that we haven’t even talked to God much, we have done things that make him sad, that there have been days when it would be hard to tell whether our Christian faith has made any difference in the way we lived.
The things that God did centuries ago and has prepared for us in the future are wonderful. But what about here and now?
Today we come to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. And Paul’s language changes. Instead of saying what he, God the Father did or what Jesus, God the Son, did, long ago or far in the future, when he comes to God, the Holy Spirit, he talks about how the Ephesians have been touched personally.
I feel profoundly inadequate to explain our God, truly one God, truly functioning as three persons. He’s too big for my little brain. There are many things I don’t understand. But Paul tells us some things that are clear in our passage today. We need to know that it is the Holy Spirit who brings the life of God very close to us, marking us with himself, giving us a taste of heaven. And when we receive this gift it makes all the difference.
Would you please stand for the reading of God’s word? This is our fourth Sunday looking at Ephesians 1:3-14. Bob will read the whole passage, but our focus will be on the last two verses.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory.
Look at verses 13 and 14 with me. They make up one sentence, but its just filled with added phrases, he is so eager to give us the whole picture. It makes me think Paul is fired up here. This means a lot to him. But it’s hard for us to sort out today.