Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ephesians 1: 1-8 Grace and Peace and being ‘in Him”

Ephesians 1

 1.  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,   To the saints in Ephesus,  the faithful  in Christ Jesus:
 2.  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
 3.  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5.  he  predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- 6.  to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8.  that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (NIV)
Ephesians 1: Grace and Peace and being ‘in Him”

One must never underestimate the wisdom of Paul as he opens with what seems to be a rather plain opening. Most might read over or even skip the greetings as it seems nothing is really being taught. However, Paul first establishes that he is indeed more than some self appointed teacher. In fact the first thing Paul establishes is not only is he “an apostle of Jesus Christ” but also “by the will of God” to show that this letter is not written by Paul’s authority, but by the will of God through the authority of Jesus Christ. One should note that a seemingly simple opening statement sets this letter apart in authority than the letters of Ignatius or Polycarp. Paul then continues with whom he is addressing and that being the “the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.” I want to draw your attention the simple but profound phrase, “in Christ Jesus.” This phrase will appear over and over in this letter in different forms mostly being “in Christ”. In my opinion, this is the main thought Paul is addressing as he unfolds many attributes of what being “in Christ” is about. While many focus on some sort of pre-existing plan of God where God chooses some for salvation and other for damnation, I see that instead, the plan was Jesus Christ Himself and all creation to be “in Christ” and returned to its original glory, yet not just that, beyond that Glory, and into an all new glory. We will continue with this thought a bit more as we address other versus to come.

“Grace and peace” states Paul, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” sounds again like a mere and rather inornate greeting, yet here Paul address again that this letter is not coming from just his own self interest, but “from God our Father and Jesus Christ.” Not only is this no mere greeting but Paul states that Jesus “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessings in Christ.” Again, notice that phrase “in Christ”.

Here we come on the idea predestination. While many seem to focus on the idea that “we were chosen” I have seen over the years a lack of the understanding or insight on the phrase “in Him” which is another restatement of “in Christ”. We see in verse 4, that the Father has chosen us “in Him” (Jesus) before creation. I hold out the idea that it was not at that time God chose Tommy to inherit the Kingdom and Bill to burn in hell, rather that the eternal plan of salvation was set in plan before creation. In a sense God knew that humanity might fall and choose his own path apart from God, yet also set in motion the plan to teach and redeem humanity “in Christ.” Meaning; Jesus Christ was THE PLAN before creation for the redemption of creation. Part of this reasoning is based on the idea that we are not mentioned as “sons”; meaning the Elect being already saved before creation because they were already chosen, rather that we were planned to be “adopted as sons”. If we were created to be saved, then there would be no need for adoption. We would only retain what was there all along. However, our own sonship was lost in the Garden and in our own desire to be like God and decide what is good and what is evil without God. Again, to assume one was already saved before creation as some present assumes that one was not truly lost or in need of salvation. The assumption that we were sons apart fro adoption also usurps the singular and important position of Jesus being the Only Begotten Son. My point to be clear is that no one is saved before creation; only the potential for salvation was set in the Person of Jesus before creation. That “in Christ” we are predestined, yet if we are not “in Christ” we will not fulfill our predestination of salvation. For a person to claim they were saved before creation in my opinion seems presumptuous and rather overlooking the importance of being in “the Only Begotten Son”. To begin to grasp “in Christ” helps one regain the perspective that apart from Jesus there is no salvation and that only “in Christ” we have salvation.

Next we see “in Him we have the redemption of through His blood and forgiveness of sins. We see repeatedly Paul speaking of the “glorious grace of God” to emphasize that it is by grace we are saved, not by works, or by even some pre-existing pre-salvation. It is only by the “blood of Jesus” we are saved. This was the eternal plan that was before creation. This salvation as Paul re-emphasized, “has been freely given us in the One He loves.” To rephrase that as the grace of God has been freely given “in Christ” because God loves Jesus Christ His Son. While it is true that God loves you and me, God’s sight is on His Son more than on us. God’s sight is on us only as we are “in Christ.”

On point I would like to draw out is a phrase that if translated one way emphasizes on thing one way and another thing if translated slightly differently. The phrase in verse 7 a phrase is translated as “we have”. This translation emphasized the human side of the equation which is there, yet as I look at alternatives in how this could be translated I see a better rendering might be, “conceived”. The verse in my estimation should read; “In him was conceived redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace…” While we do have redemption, I see that this better brings out the eternal plan as being in Jesus Christ before creation and not about what “we have”. The idea of salvation was “in Christ”. The idea of salvation was conceived “in Christ” and out of that we received salvation by His Blood which brought forgiveness of sins which opens the door to eternal Life by the power of the Resurrected life of Jesus Christ.  The idea being brought forth is that salvation and redemption were present as ideas in the Person of Jesus Christ even before the creation of all things.

To be continued:

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