- Last week we continued our series on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
- We titled it “Christmas in January” because the letter highlights the gift that Jesus is in January and every day of the year.
- A true Christian knows that Christmas is actually every day.
- The subtitle is “Gift Unwrapping Secrets from A Prison Inmate” because Paul is in prison while he writes the letter.
- In one of the most undesirable places imaginable, Paul helps us “unwrap” the supernatural gift we have in Christ.
- However, what is clear early in the letter is that the wrapping paper is not around the gift, but around our eyes.
- Accessing the gift that Jesus is requires that our spiritual eyes be opened.
Roman Family Law
- To help the Ephesians see clearly, He uses language that would have already been familiar to them from Roman family law.
- We learned that Roman family law and culture was centered around the oldest male in a household.
- This oldest male, often a father or grandfather, would have been called a paterfamilias.
- The paterfamilias had legal ownership of everything and everyone in his household.
- A household did not just include what we today call a nuclear family, but all persons who were supported by the resources of the paterfamilias.
- This meant that besides his slaves, he owned his wife, his children, his in-laws, and other blood relatives.
- All persons in his household and their possessions were his property and inheritance.
- To secure the legacy of his inheritance, the paterfamilias had to choose an heir.
- There were various kinds of ways to divide up an inheritance legally.
- However, to maximize the longevity of one’s legacy, it was best to give the inheritance to a single heir, always a son.
- This would be the favored son.
- This favor was not biological or emotional, but legal.
- If the paterfamilias did not have a son, he would adopt a son—often a nephew.
- Adoption was not a sign of disgrace, but an elevation of status.
- Adoptees generally weren’t orphans.
- They had families of their own and were required to sever legal and cultural ties with their old families to embrace the new ones.
- Adoptees generally weren’t chosen because their adoptive fathers were charitable.
- Adoptees were often chosen because the extension of the family legacy would be to the glory and honor of the paterfamilias.
- Hence, the motivation for adoption was often self-centered, not loving.
Our Heavenly Paterfamilias
- By way of analogy, Paul presents God as our heavenly paterfamilias.
- God did not need to adopt an heir because He already had one eternally in Jesus.
- God has glory without us.
- The very fact that the Father adopted us is proof that His motivation was love.
- His love is so great for us that he chose us even before He created the world.
- He chose us even with the knowledge of the crimes we would eventually commit against Him.
- He gave us the status of His favored Son, Jesus.
- We are both the objects of His love and expressions of His glory.
Let’s Read Ephesians 1
- We are. . . .
- Ephesians 1:3 – 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,
“Every spiritual blessing”
- All the privileges of being a child of God are to us—every single one!
- God gave us every good thing He could possibly give us.
- We are treated like the prodigal son when he returned to his father (Luke 15:19-24)
- No expense is spared in how God us.
- Ephesians 1:4-6 – 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
“He chose us”
- He chose us. We did not choose Him.
- We were chosen for a , but without conditions.
“He predestined us”
- Predestination is not about the absence of human will, but about the of God’s will (Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 19:21)
- While we have the capacity to make choices that create consequences and benefits, the only reason anyone ever comes to God is because He first draws them to Himself. (John 6:44)
- No one is intelligent or spiritually discerning enough to choose God .
- What we think is a simple rationalization to follow Jesus is really a decision we made because of the backgroundof the Holy Spirit.
- God is like a shrewd marketing company that carefully manipulates product placement and branding sometimes years in advance to a buyer.
- While our decisions are not controlled by God, they are affected by His influence.
“for adoption to himself as sons”
- “The Greek word for adoption to sonship is a legal term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture” (NIV footnote)
- In Christ, even women receive Sonship.
- This does not mean that they receive Christ’s human gender or deity, but rather His status as the favored son (Galatians 3:26-29)
“with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
- He accepted us into the circle of fellowship and love He has with the Son.
- Ephesians 1:7-8 – 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.
“In him we have redemption through his blood,”
- Levitical Laws of Redemption
- Leviticus 25:25-28
- Leviticus 25:23-24
- Levitical Laws of Redemption
- The Redemption Story of Ruth
- A Jewish family from the city of Bethlehem left their home and moved to Moab because of a famine in Israel (Ruth 1:2)
- The family consisted of a husband and wife (Elimelech and Naomi) and their sons (Mahlon and Chilion). (Ruth 1:2)
- When they moved to Moab, each son married a Moabite woman (Orpah and Ruth) (Ruth 1:4)
- All the men in the family died, the father (Elimelech) and the sons (Mahlon and Chilion). (Ruth 1:3-5)
- Naomi finds out that the famine is over in Israel and decides to return to her homeland and put her property up for sale to start a new life. (Ruth 1:6)
- She has nothing personally to offer her daughters-in-law, so she encourages them to go back to their families to start new lives as well. (Ruth 1:8-9)
- Orpah follows Naomi’s advice while Ruth is determined to stay with Naomi. (Ruth 1:10-18)
- When Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem, they run into Boaz, a distinguished relative of Naomi’s late husband, Elimelech. (Ruth 2:1)
- Boaz admires Ruth because of her commitment to Naomi. (Ruth 2:11-12)
- Boaz decides to become Ruth (and Naomi’s) redeemer (Ruth 4:8-22)
- He buys the property, placing it back in the family name
- He marries Ruth, making her an heir
- He carries on the lineage of Elimelech and Naomi when he and Ruth have children.
- Boaz and Ruth become two of the ancestors of Jesus
- Jesus, our Redeemer
- Jesus is betrothed to the church, restoring our inheritance.
- The Three-Part Wedding Custom in the Time of Christ [Quotes from https://www.gotquestions.org/marriage-supper-Lamb.html]
- “First, a marriage contract was signed by the parents of the bride and the , and the parents of the bridegroom or the bridegroom himself would pay a dowry to the bride or her parents. This began what was called the betrothal period—what we would today call the engagement. This period was the one Joseph and Mary were in when she was found to be with child (; ).
- “The second step in the process usually occurred a year later, when the bridegroom, accompanied by his male friends, went to the house of the bride at midnight, creating a torchlight parade through the streets. The bride would know in advance this was going to take place, and so she would be ready with her maidens, and they would all join the parade and end up at the bridegroom’s home. This custom is the basis of the parable of the ten virgins in .
- “The third phase was the marriage supper itself, which might go on for days, as illustrated by the wedding at Cana in .”
- Revelation 19:6-9
- “What John’s vision in Revelation pictures is the wedding feast of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) and His bride (the Church) in its third phase. The implication is that the first two phases have already taken place. The first phase was completed on earth when each individual believer placed his or her faith in Christ as Savior. The dowry paid to the bridegroom’s parent (God the Father) would be the blood of Christ shed on the Bride’s behalf. The Church on earth today, then, is “betrothed” to Christ, and, like the wise virgins in the parable, all believers should be watching and waiting for the appearance of the Bridegroom (the ). The second phase symbolizes the rapture of the Church, when Christ comes to claim His bride and take her to the Father’s house. The marriage supper then follows as the third and final step.”
- The Redemption Story of Ruth
“the forgiveness of our trespasses”
- A trespass is an unauthorized crossing of a boundary, intentional or non-intentional.
- People trespass against God because they are callous about their relationship with Him.
- To understand our trespasses, we must look at them within the context of the analogy.
- When we sin, God experiences it as adultery.
- God asks Hosea to marry a prostitute.
- This helps Hosea understand how God sees His relationship with His people.
- Jesus became to a whore.
- His love for us is so great that he paid the price for our with the knowledge of our infidelity. (Jeremiah 3:6-14)
“according to the riches of his grace”
- God’s grace is true wealth.
- We have a lavish supply of grace
- John 1:16
- “grace upon grace” literally means “grace in place of grace”
- This means, in a manner of speaking, that as one grace is exhausted, another grace takes its place.
- The opposite phrase is “sorrow upon sorrow”
- Philippians 2:27
- Job 1:13-19
- Grace abounds more than sin and sorrow (Romans 5:20)
“in all wisdom and insight”
- God’s wisdom is so advanced that it is counterintuitive. (Isaiah 55:9-9)
- God’s wisdom is so that is seems low.
- God’s wisdom is so that it seems wrong.(I Corinthians 1:21; I Corinthians 1:25; I Corinthians 1:27-29)
© Joshua D. Smith, Ph.D., 2021