“Back To the Holy Fire”
The book of Ephesians, verse by verse
Br. Timothy Spaulding
I enjoy books that have to do with renewal immensely. I also like building and rebuilding. The thing that is most attractive to me about Christianity is the forgiveness factor, the holy heart of Jesus, and the all-inclusive love of God. The book of Ephesians is all about those issues.
Chapter 1 gives us an overview of the eternal plan of God for our wholeness and redemption, and that we are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. It tells us that this plan was decided prior to the creation of the world! God had good intentions way back then. Chapter 2 takes us into the resurrection power, and our place of peace in the heavens. We are told how God has put to rest the old law and reconciled the estranged. Chapter 3 energizes the inner being of the believer, encouraging us to be full with the depths of his power and love. Chapter 4 describes the glorious Bride; the Body of Christ, and how the church is to function until He returns. Chapter 5 tells us about relationships and proper behaviors. Chapter 6 finalizes this letter by giving us spiritual equipment to face the challenges that life can throw our way. This book is a comprehensive book of renewal that will rekindle the flame in any heart, that is, any heart willing to receive.
Ephesians 1:3-6 (NRSV) “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, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
Verse 3 The first wonder I notice is the emphasis on a relationship that is found in this verse. It is not so much that it is father/son, as much as it is a parental relationship, with all the love and protection that comes with a healthy and good family life. This is embedded in creation. Paul is praising God for being that kind of God; the good parent who through the example of love and resurrection power in Christ, adopted us, and blessed us as His children. This thought carries us even further in blessing; we read that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Wow. This is almost too much grace to comprehend already, and we are only three verses into the book! We are blessed. Do you feel down this week? Then let me be a bit evangelical here; repeat aloud and say from your heart, “I am blessed because God planned it that way…” It will begin to sink in and when you and I realize who we really are in Jesus Christ, our faith will grow, and we can endure the trials ahead. By the way, look where the blessing come from – heavenly places. It is a transfer of power by the divine one to the children of His image, to empower them to become the created in fullness and wholeness. All we need to do is believe and receive. (I know, it sounds like, well…)
St. Francis was a true mystic and he knew that to fulfill the will of God, he had to receive according to his faith. Much like Francis, Paul is preparing the Ephesians for life by telling them who they are, who God intended all of us to become before God ever said the first word of creation. We were the first and foremost God’s heart. All of creation is uncertain for the purpose of humanity to come to the knowledge of the love of God in Christ. What a grand and eternal intention. That is why I love the phrase “to live with intention for God.” It is because God has such great intention for his children that we should return that love and compassion through our own.
Verse Four He chose us. So many have made so much dogma out of this passage that has caused not only debated and division, but loss of life. A beautiful book starts out with great intention, and then that epiphany is lost because some return to the life of Pharisees and Sadducees. Listen to the phrase: “just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” The only point here is this: chosen to be holy and blameless when it comes to love. Now Jesus said it this way: “the whole law and prophets are summed up on this; love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself” and Jesus gave us a new amendment in this, “you shall love each other as I have loved you.” It is about love, folks! He chose us for love. He chose us to live in love. He chose us because of love. In His choosing us, He loved us. He loved… For God so loved… For God so loves… The phrase is about love and true holiness and living without pointing the finger – without blame. God says, “I do not want to point my finger at your sin anymore.” And so we should not point the finger either. It is about love.
Verse five and six – It is for God good pleasure that the divine Godhead chose to create us and then dwell within us. It is the desire of the Holy One that we should praise and honor God, brining glory to Christ, not division. We should minister out of Love, and build the church in peace. It is the reality of eternal love, this quality of life that God has intended for us from the beginning. The holy fire ignites with that reality. It spreads when we live it with intent, and then the Lord of Glory receives the praise and honor due His name. It is at this point we begin to understand the word beloved.
Jesus, the beloved one from the foundation of the world (cosmos) the system of people, and nations, and thoughts, and ideas. Jesus made the way possible back to God, from a world system that had fallen so far away from the intent of the Almighty.
You see, free will is part of living with intent, and being created to freely love and praise the one who made us. Some chose another path. Sin entered the system (cosmos) and darkness vale the way. The path to the beloved was obscured. However, God knew all of this, even before it would happen. That is the beauty of it all. God knew that iniquity would dawn, and so the Father planned the love plan, before creation and that “dawn of darkness”. Knowing that once iniquity became reality and then in reality the Beloved met iniquity with power; God freed us in Jesus and from the power of iniquity. It does not have to abound in our lives. Love can abound. All of this was planned before the foundation of the world (cosmos) was in place. God is all knowing, (omniscient), including the future. Verse 6 is clear. All of this was placed on us through the Beloved (Jesus) from the beginning.
I find it quite interesting those years later, another writer, writing to this very church of Ephesus, John, in the third chapter of Revelations tells them “you have left your first love.” This statement comes from the John who was nicknamed”the beloved” of Jesus. You see, John had spent time in Rome with Paul while Paul was under house arrest by Caesar. John later became the Bishop of Ephesus and the mentor of Polycarp, one of our early church historians. This is an important cross reference, the type I referred to in my introduction last week.
The church was about to undergo much persecution, and John was writing to prepare them for that. He reminded them of the first principle of faith to rekindle their strength; love.
However, those letters in Revelation serve us today and Ephesians can serve as the key to repair the brokenness described in the letters to the seven churches. The first foundation laid in the book of Ephesians is the principle of Love. The first church dealt with in the apocalyptic letters is Ephesians, and their dysfunction; they had left their first love. This is the foundation for us today. To rekindle the fire, we must rebuild on Love. It must be the kind of love found in Jesus Christ from the foundation of the world. It is a love with intent.
Back To the Holy Fire 2
“Back To the Holy Fire”