Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Jesus, God’s Magnificent Son: a Study of Ephesians 1

               Why is Jesus your hero? Which of His words and deeds continue to amaze you, to bless you, and to challenge you? Think of one parable, one miracle, and one personal encounter in His ministry. What does each reveal about His supreme majesty?  

            In Christ, and in no one else, every good thing worth having is ours. He gave us grace, so we give Him glory. We pray to comprehend more clearly the hope, riches, and power which are ours because God raised Him from death and seated Him at His side.
            Paul’s presentation in Ephesians 1 of Jesus Christ as God’s magnificent Son sets the stage for everything that follows. Only because He raised Christ could God also bring us to life, though we were dead in sin, and seat us with Him (Ephesians 2:1-10). Only because His blood was shed could Jews and Gentiles, both trusting in that blood, be reconciled to God and to each other in one body, the church (Ephesians 2:11-22).
Paul’s ministry, as a steward of God’s grace, reflected God’s eternal purpose in Christ Jesus for the church (Ephesians 3:1-13). Paul asked in prayer that all might know that which surpasses knowledge, the immeasurable, infinite love of Christ (Ephesians 3:14-21). The seven elements of unity and God’s plan for church growth all result from, and point to, what He has accomplished through His magnificent Son (Ephesians 4:1-16).
            Every practical, ethical, or doctrinal thought in the rest of Ephesians is based on this same premise. We are different from the world. Renewed in mind, we “put off” the traits of the old nature and “put on” the qualities of the exalted Savior. Marriages are transformed. Family and work relationships are re-oriented. Wearing the armor of God we overpower sin, self, and Satan, only because Jesus Christ is risen and exalted.
            REASONS TO PRAISE (Ephesians 1:1-14). Though Paul is in prison he writes to encourage faithful saints to look above. Only the Lord can provide grace and peace, which circumstances cannot destroy (Ephesians 1:1-2). Paul proclaims God as blessed who has first blessed us. As Psalm 103:1-6 indicates, recounting His gifts leads us to gratitude and worship. All God’s gifts now are found only in Christ, God’s magnificent Son.
            What a list! In Christ we are blessed, not with a few small tokens of God’s favor, but with the entire contents of His spiritual warehouse. The things of this world decay, decompose, and die, but God has given us all that pertains to the heavenly realm. He has not been stingy; rather He has lavished upon us in abundance “the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:8-9).We are chosen, selected as God’s people before history began, through our choice to exercise obedient faith. This identity gives us honor and propels us to live out the holiness and blamelessness which that choice implies. We are predestined, because God has designed the ultimate end of those who live in Christ. No threat can take that away if we by faith remain in Christ (Romans 8:31-39).
God has adopted us, giving us all the rights and privileges of natural-born children. His protection, His name, and His inheritance are ours. We are redeemed, bought from slavery off the auction block by the precious blood which Jesus shed. We are forgiven, because He ransomed us, paying the debt for our trespasses. We are sealed in Christ, marked as His own, with the Holy Spirit. For all these reasons, we express “the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).
REASONS TO PRAY (Ephesians 1:15-23). Oh that we might know, fully know, “the hope of His calling,” “the riches of the glory of His inheritance,” and “the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe!” That is the aim of Paul’s prayer and of ours. God has granted us His Spirit, that the eyes of our heart might grasp what is otherwise incomprehensible. He has raised His magnificent Son from death. He has given Him supremacy over every competing power. His headship over the church, His body, demonstrates His headship over all. Nothing can defeat Him. No one can unseat Him. No power can undo Him. He is, in fact, God’s magnificent Son.
            What peace there is in knowing that every gift of value is already ours in Christ! That fact sets us free from the rat-race maze of selfish ambition, which has people running in all the wrong directions to obtain and keep what will not last. Christ, who satisfied God’s wrath by His sacrifice, also satisfies our yearning for fulfillment and grants us the abundant life. May we recognize and reject whatever temptations threaten our contentment and learn to treasure more than ever what we have in Him.
            “Count your blessings; name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” There is a strong human tendency to accentuate negative factors, though they may comprise only a tiny percentage of one’s life experience. From prison Paul wrote, “Blessed be God!” One who blesses God rather than blaming God will find peace even in adversity.
The phrases “in Christ” and “in Him” (Ephesians 1:3, 4, 7, 10, 13) remind us that one comes “into Christ” at the point of baptism. Romans 6:1-4 and Galatians 3:26-27 note that we are baptized into Christ, into His death and resurrection. We all know people who have not yet taken this essential step and who are therefore outside of Christ, “having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Because we genuinely value what God has given us in Christ, we seek to teach and influence others to be baptized. Then they too may be blessed, chosen, adopted, redeemed, and so forth.
Because we were chosen “that we should be holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4),” we seek to carry out that purpose. Each must continually ask, “How can I be more consecrated, set apart for God’s use, and unpolluted by the world?” “For what might I be blamed when I stand before God’s throne?” A repentant, confessing, obedient heart will produce a Christ-like life and example.
“To the praise of His glory” helps us see that we now exist to exalt the Lord because of His majesty. Whatever we do in word or deed, we do it in Jesus’ name, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Colossians 3:17). From the greatest to the least among us, no matter our occupation or situation, we share this thrilling purpose. God’s grace motivates, inspires, and even compels us to promote His honor every day and in every way. Do others see His awesome, wondrous majesty when they observe us?
In addition to emphasizing Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Bible also stresses His ascension and inauguration. Yes, God raised Him, but He also seated Him in the highest position of all, at His own right hand (Ephesians 1:20-21). For that reason He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is superior to Satan and his demons. He is invincible, invulnerable, and immovable. In this age of terrorism, threats, and temptations, why should we fear? Because we are sure about the position Christ holds today, we are secure in our position in His hand.
The church is precious and sacred, because it is the body of which Jesus is the head. God’s magnificent Son has made the church magnificent (Ephesians 5:25-27). We ourselves are not perfect, but He removes our wrinkles and blemishes. It is through our submission as the church that we glorify Christ as Lord.
            The biblical teaching of predestination (Ephesians 1:5, 11) gives us confidence that God is in control and that He will lead us to our heavenly home. Human choice is still essential, for we must be willing to listen to the message of truth and believe it (Ephesians 1:13). Predestination is based on God’s foreknowledge of our faith (Romans 8:28-30). It does not force us to act against our will. However, knowing the destiny He has planned for us encourages us to act according to His will.
            From Old Testament times the Israelites considered themselves to be God’s chosen people. In Exodus 19:4-6 God reminded them of His gracious, mighty salvation through the Exodus. Then He called upon them to obey His voice and keep His covenant. As a result they would be His own possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Peter echoed these words and applied them to the church in 1 Peter 2:9-10.
            In Scripture the term “saints” (Ephesians 1:1, 15, 18) does not refer just to those who have died, or to those designated by the church because of their worthy deeds and miraculous accomplishments. Instead it describes all those who are sanctified, separated from the world and consecrated to the worship and service of God. Our goal then is to live up to this high, holy calling which God has given to all Christians.
            Jesus Christ is God’s magnificent Son!  During this week, thumb through one of the four Gospels and list the traits of Christ in it that you find impressive. As you pray thank God for these qualities and ask Him to help you develop them in your own life. Share one or more of these with your family, your fellow Christians, and someone who still needs to be baptized into Christ.
Questions for Further Reflection:
1.      What privileges do we enjoy as God’s chosen people? What responsibilities? For what purpose(s) has God chosen us?
2.      Why do some people, even after having biological children, choose to adopt one or more others? What does it cost them, besides money? How does it benefit the child?
3.      If God has predestined us, how is it that we still have free choice and responsibility for our actions?
4.      Because of Christ we live “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” How can we honor the Lord more effectively in marriage? In work? In ministry?
5.      We have been sealed or marked by the Holy Spirit. What does the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit mean in your life?
6.      Hope is a solid, confident expectation of things not yet experienced. What does your hope in Christ mean to you? On what is it based? What makes it grow?
7.      The church is the body; Christ is the head. What does that mean? How do we express that relationship? How does it affect our lives as the people of God?

To comment and/or to receive notices of future blog posts, please email[AT]gmail[.com]. God bless.

Cory Collins

No comments: