November 18, 2008

Foundations for Holy, Obedient Living

"...that we should be holy and blameless before him" (Eph 1:4) not only expresses God's purposes in electing us to salvation, but I believe it sums up the message of Ephesians and the goal of the Christian life. Ephesians 1:3-23 contains the words of a prayer from Paul indicating several theological truths foundational to the purpose of the rest of the letter.

In the past tense, Paul writes (Eph 1:5) that all believers were predestined for adoption (huiothesia = huio/son, thesia/placed)...planned in eternity to occur at some point in time. Similar to our earthly conception of adoption where a child is placed in the care of another family, to become a permanent member of that family, God has placed us in His family. Paul prays that this is "according to the purpose of His will." Here the word purpose comes from eudokian meaning good pleasure or desire. And certainly, it is God's desire--His requirement--that "we should be holy and blameless before him" (Eph 1:4).

Paul continues in his prayer, which flows logically and flawlessly, declaring in the present tense that "In Him we have redemption" (Eph 1:7). The word redemption is related to apolutrosin which refers to deliverance or a ransom paid. Pointing to the Cross, Paul prays this doctrine of redemption, showing how we are (through the blood, the ransom paid) and how we are becoming "holy and blameless before Him" (Eph 1:4). We assume with Paul that the recipients of this letter are believers, which is why he speaks so affirmatively of having redemption.

Finally, Paul prays about our present tense inheritance, or kleroo ((klay-ro'-o) in the original language (Eph 1:11) that is guaranteed for us "to acquire possession of" at a future point in time (Eph 1:14) as a consequence of the sealing or securing of our salvation by and through Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13).

Each of these theological truths are intended to be understood by the recepients of this letter, including you and I. But why exactly is Paul praying these truths? The answer to that is found in verses 15-23 where he begins "For this reason" (Eph 1:15) and is fleshed out in Eph 1:18-20,
that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he rasied him from the dead...
We can only take joy and comfort in the Lord if he is all powerful and has had our lives in His hands for all eternity. If at any point the opposite were true, then Paul could not speak of our past tense adoption and then there would be no trust in a present tense redemption or present/future tense inheritance. But because of God's sovereign power which has held history history together, His "immeasuarable greatness and power" that saved us and raised Jesus, there is a basis for His purpose "that we should be holy and blameless before Him" (Eph 1:4).

So as Paul brings this prayer to a conclusion, it begins an exciting letter to a group of believers in a decadent society full of sexual immorality, false religion, and self-indulgence. That doesn't sound much different from the landscape of 21st century America. Chapters 2-6 explain further how God has actualized our hagios, our pure and blamess position before the Throne, but also how the members of the Church have been called to responsibility in living out the Christian life. While we have been made holy, we are being made holy. God has accomplished our redemption, and we participate in our sanctification through obedience by the power of the Holy Spirit.

1 comment:

His Study and His Scribe * Karyn Brownlee said...

Interestingly, I just studied and even still have my Bible opened to 2 Cor 6:16-7:1. I found it interesting that one version of verse 1 states we are to "accomplish holiness" while another says we are to "perfect" it. That is, because we have been adopted by the Father, we have a responsibility to cleanse ourselves and pursue holiness of both flesh and spirit. We know that this is only accomplished through the power of His Spirit. But I bet I'm not alone when I share that oftentimes I find myself waiting for God to perfect me like a woman in some sort of spiritual spa waiting for her attendant! Certainly we can't walk in holiness apart from Him, but His Word clearly teaches that we play a significant role in the walking.

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