Second Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14
3 Praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He gives us every spiritual blessing from the highest parts of heaven. 4 Even before God created the world, he chose us to stand along side Jesus to be holy and to share in his love. 5 God wanted to adopt us as his sons and daughters, so we could be just like his own Son. 6 Praise God for his very life which had his beloved Jesus shares with us.
7 Jesus freed us from sin with the blood he shed on the cross. 8-9 His rich gift was far more than what we could expect. God gave us the wisdom and insight to see this fact. We now know this was his will for us. 10 But, in the end when the time will be right, everything will return to Christ. So, he can be in charge of all creation. 11 God chose us to be part of this plan. 12 At first, we have hope in Christ. In the end, we will live to praise God in his Kingdom forever.
13 You also heard the truth from God. This was the Good News that God was saving you! And, when you believed, God gave you his Spirit he promised. 14 The Spirit is like a down payment on the inheritance we will soon receive from God. Praise and glory to God!
3 Blessed be God and Father of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, the (One) blessing us in CHRIST with every spiritual blessing in (the realm of) heaven, 4 just as he chose us in HIM before the foundation of the cosmos to be holy and unblemished lowly before him in love, 5 having predestined us for adoption (as sons) through JESUS CHRIST in him, by the (good) intention of his will, 6 for the praise of his glorious grace, by which he graced us in THE (ONE) HAVING BEEN LOVED (by him). 7 In (CHRIST), we have redemption through HIS blood, the forgiveness of trespasses by the richness of his grace 8 by which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and (inner) understanding 9 having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to the blessing which he set forth in HIM 10 for stewardship in the fullness of time, to recapitulate everything in CHRIST, the (things) in the heaven and the (things) on the earth in HIM. 11 Also in (CHRIST), we were chosen, having been preordained according to purpose of the ONE doing all, according to the plan of his will, 12 for us, the ones having hoped first in CHRIST, to live for (God's) glorious praise. 13 In (CHRIST), you also having heard the word of truth, the Good News of your salvation, in (God) having trusted, you were sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit, 14 which is an advance (payment) of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession (of our salvation in the Kingdom), to the praise of his glory
1:3-6 This long, continuous sentence was beginning of the letter's benediction. The subject of the sentence was "he" (i.e. God, found in 1:4). The verb was "chose," with "us" as the object. God chose us. His choice had two results. First, we are to stand before him as a holy people. Second, we are to be his adopted children. How did he achieve his results? Through his will in Jesus Christ (i.e., what Jesus did) and through his favor (i.e., his grace).
1:7, 11, 13 "In (CHRIST)" is actually "In whom." If this phrase is seen as a relative pronoun, verses 7-10, 11-12, and 13-14 actually become relative clauses. And 1:3-14 becomes one long continuous sentence.
1:7-10 The emphasis shifted from what God gave to what we received. As he gave us the status of a holy people, as his sons and daughters, we received redemption, which was synonymous with the forgiveness of sins. Of course, these were gifts from God which he revealed to us. But, in 1:9c-10, the emphasis returned to Christ. Everything would return to him. This is the meaning of "recapitulation," to again show that he was the head of all creation.
1:11-12 The emphasis of these verses lay in results of recapitulation. Why would everything find its home in Christ? So we could praise him forever. That was the reason God chose us and foreordained our place in the community.
1:13 "until the redemption of the possession (of our salvation in the Kingdom)..." The author used a trade analogy. The Spirit was like a down payment God made for our salvation. In the Kingdom, we will "redeem" the full measure of God's gifts. Hence, the meaning of "redemption" referred to our reception of grace, not the "ransom" Jesus paid for our salvation.
1:13-14 The emphasis of 13-14 shifts again to revelation. God showed us his plan. We receive it in faith. With this plan and our faith, we have the Spirit and look forward to the end time when we will live with God.
This long and dense blessing set out the gifts God gave to Christians. While this blessing style can be here and in 1 Peter, and while it seemed to have a liturgical resonance, the author wrote it as an original piece. Language and ideas in the blessing match that of the rest of the letter.
As the notes above infer, the blessing has the following form:
1. Introduction of praise ("Blessed be God...")
2. "God chose us"
a. Means ("... in CHRIST with every spiritual blessing under highest heaven...)
b. Ends ("...to be holy and unblemished before him in love..." and "...(to become) adopted sons (and daughters) through JESUS CHRIST...")
3. What are the spiritual blessings? (In other words: What does Christ do for us?)
a. Redemption/forgiveness is revealed to us; the end view of redemption is the end time, marked by the recapitulation of the universe in Christ.
b. First to believe, then to live in praise of God forever.
c. Gift of the Spirit, along with revelation, that points to the end time.
4. Final Praise.
So, there were three sections: Praise to God, God's choice and work of Christ. Praise of God needs no explanation. But the choice of God does. The benediction actually used several verbs that were almost interchangeable in meaning: choose, elect, and predestine. Without a dark journey into the theological realm of predestination vs. free will for the individual, we can note God intended to establish a people of faith and praise. He willed his Son to die and rise again so his Son's followers could rise up with him. And become like his Son: holy and his children. That was God's choice. That was what God predestined his people to become.
What does God's Son do for us now? Forgiveness, faith, and the gift of the Spirit (in that order). The first step in the journey toward God begins with forgiveness. That happened 2,000 years ago on Calvary. We realize and accept that forgiveness in faith, the second step. Finally, we receive the Spirit and his gifts to use as a way to strengthen our faith, build up the community, and evangelize.
However, each one of those steps have a consequence in God's will. The redemption/forgiveness from the death of Jesus does not stop with believers. The author has a greater vision. Christ died not only for us, but for the entire cosmos. His death reconciles us to the Father. And will reconcile all creation to the Creator. As we are under the headship of Christ in his body, so will all creation be placed under his rule. That is meaning of the phrase "recapitulation."
Next, faith is not just the acceptance of forgiveness. It is the cause of prayer, worship, and praise. We do not only believe we are "right" with God. We have a greater purpose. To praise him forever!
Finally, the Spirit give us a taste of the end time. The work of the Spirit in us will continue into the Kingdom. In the Spirit, we will realize our final destiny before our Maker and King.
What comes from God should return to him. This is story of creation and salvation. Like the author of Ephesians, we should praise God for what he has done, what he is doing now, and what will he will do at the end. For, he is our source. He is our destiny. Praise God!
Reflect on the work of God in your life this week. Where does his work point you? Can you praise him for his activity? Plan for such praise.