- 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.
Review of the Cultural Context
- God is our heavenly paterfamilias.
- In Rome the paterfamilias was the oldest male in the family—often the father or grandfather.
- He had ownership of everyone and everything in the household.
- A household did not just include what we today call a family, but all persons who were supported by the resources of the paterfamilias.
- If you were married to a paterfamilias, you were related to your husband in three ways:
- You were a (virtual) . (Legally, you had the same status as your children)
- You were his wife.
- You were a virtual slave. (Legally, your husband owned you).
- God is related to us in the same three ways:
- God is our father.
- God is our . (We are married to him, not individually, but collectively)
- God is our master.
- As the popular song says God is a good, good father.
- He’s also a good, good husband and master.
- From before the beginning, He planned to for us to share in the blessings of His .
- As one expression of His goodness, God gave us over the earth, making us legal stewards over His creation.
- We lost all of this after Satan deceived us, seducing us to sin.
- By default, our inheritance fell to Satan.
- Satan became a squatter.
- As a squatter, Satan not only assumed of the world, but also became our illegitimate spiritual father, husband, and master.
- Squatters have rights.
- Even though they may possess a property illegitimately, there is a legal process required to evict them.
- Biblically, the process of restoring lost property is called .
- The Father, through Jesus restored everything that Satan stole.
What is True About Us Because of What God Did for Us
- We are. . . .
A word on “chosen” and “predestination”:
- There are two key schools of thought on how people think of these concepts, one emerging of the tradition of John Calvin (Calvinism) and the other out of the tradition of Jacobus Arminius (Arminianism).
Quotes from John Piper (https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/watershed-differences-between-calvinists-and-arminians):
- “The key difference is how we get saved, how we move from a condition of spiritual unbelief to a condition of heartfelt belief in Christ.”
- “Calvinists believe that God must produce in us the decisive desire for Christ.”
- This means that God made the choice that led to our salvation. Our will had nothing to do with it”
- “Arminians believe that we must produce the decisive desire for Christ”
- This means that God chose who He knew in advance would choose Him.
Theology of the House:
- God’s power, my choices
- Predestination and human free will both exist.
- The logistics of their coexistence is a mystery we accept by faith.
- Similarly, we accept that God is both one God and three distinct persons.
- The physics of this truth are a mystery that we accept by faith.
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”
- Jesus is our
- He and His father already owned the earth and everything in it (Psalm 24:1)
- However, Jesus went through the legal process of securing his back—not just as God, but as a human.
- As a human, Jesus was next of kin to us.
- Hence, He had the legal right to redeem our inheritance.
- Like Boaz, Jesus was not only kin, but He also committed to marry us.
- In biblical times, when you committed to someone, it was called a betrothal.
- A betrothal is similar to our contemporary understanding of engagement.
- The main difference between a betrothal and a contemporary engagement is that a betrothal has legal weight.
- 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 bridegroom.
- A dowry (bride price) is paid.
- Betrothal period begins.
- This was the status of Mary and Jesus when Mary became pregnant.
- Contemporary Application: “The first phase was completed on earth when
- “each individual believer placed his or her faith in Christ as Savior”
- “the dowry [was] paid to the bridegroom’s parent (God the Father). . .the blood of Christ shed on the Bride’s behalf.”
- “The second step in the process [was]. . . a torchlight parade through the streets.”
- “Usually a year later”
- “Bridegroom accompanied by his male friends”
- “went to the house of the bride at midnight”
- “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 .”
- Contemporary Application: “The Church on earth today, then, is “betrothed” to Christ”
- “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 – 6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, ; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—. 9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: ” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
- “First, a marriage contract was signed by the parents of the bride and the bridegroom.
“the forgiveness of our trespasses”
- A trespass is an unauthorized crossing of a , intentional or non-intentional.
- People trespass against God because they are indifferent about their relationship with Him.
- To understand our trespasses, we must look at them within the context of the analogy.
- Sin is an extension of idolatry, so 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”
- Instead of wrath, God has poured out grace.
- God’s grace is true .
- The allusion to riches is also a reference to the culture of the city of Ephesus
- “Ephesus [was] the leading city of the richest region of the Roman empire” (32)
- It had a “thriving economy” (32).
- This was partly because of the religious cult worship of the goodness Diana.
- “The temple [dedicated to her] was [also] the major banking center for the city [and] her image” was engraved on the coins (33).
- “A month of the year was named after her, Olympic-style games were held in her honor. . .and shew as trusted as the guardian and protector of the city” (33)
- Paul is making an implicit comparison between God [“Big G”] Jehovah with (god) [“little g”] Diana
- God has more wealth
- God’s wealth is in His people—upon whom He has not only placed his image, but through whom He builds His temple.
- His people are literally the building materials for His temple.
- 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 – “ While he was yet speaking”
- 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 1:25)
Ephesians 1:9-10 – 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
“making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ”
- “Today [the word] ‘mystery’ refers to. . .the unknown, or that which only a. . .Sherlock-Holmes type mind can master. . . .But in the New Testament Greek the word ‘mystery’ (musterion) means something almost the opposite: ‘a former secret now disclosed or opened’”
- The mystery of His will means the secret of His will
- This secret is revealed in Christ.
- Christ is our connection to reality in its purest form.
“as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth”
- The closer we draw to , the more life makes sense.
- Jesus connects all the dots.
- is the only one who ties everything together.
- God chose and predestined us from a different physical dimension than the one we are in now.
- From the perspective of God’s dimension, everything has already been done.
- From the perspective of our dimension, everything is still being fulfilled and is being influenced by human choices.
- Jesus, who is both God and human, sits in both.
- At the end of this age, Jesus will have brought both dimensions (heaven and earth) into one eternal reality (Revelation 21:1-4)
Ephesians 1:11 – 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
“In him we have obtained an inheritance”
- We receive the inheritance of the favored Son.
“having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will”
- The beginning and end are fixed, but the middle is flexible and “uncertain.”
- The middle sits in a different dimension than the predetermined beginning and end.
- “Chosen” and “predestined” are past tense; “works is present tense”
- Why would God need to “work” something that’s fixed?
- God “works” because He’s responding to secondary causes that result from our choices.
- Secondary causes are manipulated to work in harmony with God’s will (Proverbs 21:30-31)
Ephesians 1:12-14 – 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
“so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory”
- This refers to the Jewish community.
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him,”
- This refers to the gentile community.
“were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
- The Holy Spirit is a
- Like an envelope sealed with wax and the insignia or face of the owner
- A way of saying, “That’s my boy, That’s my girl!”
- Guarantee (down payment)
- We are still waiting for the redemption of our bodies and the total redemption of the earth (Romans 8:19-23)
- Our new bodies and new earth are on their way, but in the meantime, we have the Holy Spirit.
© Joshua D. Smith, Ph.D., 2021