In a Nutshell…
Passing by Paul’s typical greeting (vv. 1-2), what we get is one of the most unique sentences in the bible. What we see in vv. 3-14, though it is translated differently in English for the sake of ease of understanding, is a single rambling, yet magnificently theologically dense statements in the N.T.
Though, at first glance, it may seem a little daunting, it’s actually a pretty straightforward sentence. It’s a declaration of praise to God the Father followed by a series of clauses outlining the reasons for that praise – the blessings that we receive in Christ.
Digging in a little deeper, or from a different angle, following the main clause (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), we see Paul listing a number of specific ways that God has blessed His people. And in every sub-clause, we see that each of our blessings is a result of God’s sovereign action. In other words, all of our blessings result directly and entirely from God’s sovereign grace, and not because of some merit or accomplishment on our part.
People are apt to get side-tracked by Paul’s mentions of predestination here. After all, depending on what theological circle one tends to inhabit, predestination is something of a hot-button topic. However, Paul’s intent here is not to promote or defend a theological concept. Rather, his use of the concept of predestination is entirely pastoral. It reminds us of and reinforces the truth that God’s favor, his blessings towards each of us, is entirely because of His grace. What Paul is getting at, and we are reminded that his use of the term predestination is only one of the ways that he does this, is that it all begins with God – God always has the first word (and, really, the only word) in salvation.
What we see here, in Paul’s wonderfully sprawling hymn of praise, is God’s action which results in our blessings. Paul begins with God and with what God has done. Likewise, we begin, our spiritual formation, our walk towards Christian maturity, begins with God and with what God has done.
So What Now?
As we seek Christian maturity, to grow up in Christ, it is vitally important that we get this. Inasmuch as we see spiritual formation as a human endeavour – as something that we do, something that we strive towards, and something we accomplish – we are prone to get it wrong.
Of course, it is an endeavor in which we are involved, but we are only rightly involved in so far as God invites us to participate. We are only rightly involved in so far as we are responding to what the Holy Spirit is doing. We can not understand it as something that we do which somehow coerces or demands a response from God.
Neither can we, however, ignore what God is doing and expect to grow up. I’m always surprised at how many people I talk to who tell me that God is teaching them the same lessons over and over and over again in their lives. Maybe it’s time we actually listened? If we pay attention, we notice that our own efforts and strategies will eventually fall away as God patiently and persistently reminds us, over and over and over again, of what He wants to do in our lives.
So my encouragement, as we start this journey through Ephesians, is to pay attention. Pay attention to what God is doing. Pay attention to what God has done. Pay attention to a God who is not limited in power, in wisdom, nor in creativity. Pay attention to a God whose desire for you to walk worthily is greater than yours. A God whose intention for you to walk worthily is perfect. Pay attention to God.