Thanksgiving and prayer. 1:15-23
Paul begins by giving thanks for his readers' faith and love and then goes on to pray for an increase in their knowledge: that they may know Christ better and that they may know the hope that is before them, the riches of their inheritance and the power operative in them, 1:15-19. Paul then expands on this mighty strength that is theirs in Christ, a strength which has already shown itself in the raising of Christ, 1:20-23.
v15-16. Paul begins by assuring his readers that he knows of their faith and love and is constantly thanking God for the evidence of these gifts in their lives. There is some dispute whether "love" is part of the original text, so Paul may just be thanking God for their "faith". Of course, faith, in the sense of dependence on Christ, is the only necessary requirement for salvation.
v17. Paul now outlines his prayer. The prayer is directed to God who is described as both the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and the glorious one. The title "Father" defines God's substantial relationship with Jesus. "Glorious one", is a common Old Testament description, cf. Ps.29:3. The prayer consists of a request for spiritual understanding. Paul prays that his readers may receive, from the Holy Spirit, spiritual wisdom and truth.
v18 -19. Along with the gift of revelation, Paul prays for the gift of spiritual insight. He asks that his readers be illuminated by God, that God's dealings and intentions be understood in the areas of hope, the inheritance of the saints and of the workings of God's power.
v20. The idea of the greatness of God's power leads Paul to speak about its operation in the life, death, resurrection and ascended rule of Christ, and by implication, its operation in the present life and future enthronement of the church.
v21. This power of God is operative in Christ's reign over all things. It is a rule which is over our universe, but it is also over the heavenly realm, over powers both good and evil.
v22. Paul now explains the purpose of this rule; the rule of God operates on behalf of the church, the fellowship of believers. Christ exercises dominion over the cosmos on behalf of those who failed to exercise dominion over the creation.
v23. In the first part of this verse, Paul makes the point that the church is a community of believers in union with a transcendent Lord. He then goes on to define the church as "the fullness of him who in every way is being filled." Christ is the one in whom the fullness of deity resides, and that fullness of deity resides within the community of believers through the indwelling Spirit who is present in the assembly of believers.
A people gathered to hear
There are two cities, Babel and Zion. There is the secular city and the spiritual city. There is the world and there is the church. The church finds itself constantly drawn toward the secular city, drawn toward its glory and power. Like the family of Abraham drawn toward Sodom. Similar also to the temptation of Jesus where Satan showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, and said "All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me."
Rightly Paul the apostle warns us "do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
The temptation we face as a church is that we follow Lot - we choose the green valley and inevitably find ourselves part of the secular city. Paul, in our passage for study, tells us something about the church and its function of mind renewal.
When Paul prays for his Ephesian readers, he asks that God reveal his wisdom to them (v17a) and that they be given the spiritual insight to understand that revelation (v18a). This then is the central business of church, hearing and understanding the transcendent God.
In Paul's prayer for the Ephesians he gives us an insight into the content of the mind of Christ. He outlines some of the secret wisdom that belongs to those with spiritual insight.
First, hope - the hope of glory (v18b). "Eternity", a mystery scribbled in chalk upon a busy city pavement. Everything about us is crying out "this is all there is." Even our body denies our immortality. Yet, we sense something beyond, and in the gathering of believers and in the hearing of Christ, we affirm eternity. We know we possess life.
Second, inheritance - the inheritance of the saints (18b). Community, fraternity, equality...... heaven.
Third, power - the greatness of God's power (v19-20). The power that raised Christ on the third day is the power which gives life to us - life to live for God, and life on the day of resurrection. This "mighty strength" in Christ enables him to exercise authority over "all" (v21). And this authority and power, possessed by Christ, becomes our possession in Christ (v22). God's wandering and destitute people end up ruling the "principalities and powers in heavenly places."
So, we children of Zion gather to meet our transcendent Lord, and in meeting him, we hear him, and in hearing him, we know him. As we gather Sunday by Sunday we glimpse the mystery of eternity - our place in it all: our hope, inheritance and authority. The green valley beckons us, the "cities of the plain" lure us, but we look to another land, a promised inheritance.
The trend in preaching today is toward "theological" preaching where a Biblical doctrine is expounded from scripture. In "expository" preaching, a Biblical passage is expounded and applied. What are the advantages and disadvantages of both?
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