Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Gospel of Your Salvation

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 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, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 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, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, 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 raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (Eph 1)
“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, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Ephesians really is a wonderful book, full of comfort hope and praise. It’s almost hard to believe it was written by the apostle Paul while he sat in prison. He says he heard of their faith. You get the idea that there was something of a revival in Ephesus when Paul writes. Paul had spent two years in Ephesus preaching and teaching. The elders, that is the pastors he trained, were in tears when he left. But now he writes of hearing of their faith. Perhaps it is only now when he is about ready to stand trial in Rome, under guard, that he gets to hear of the fruition of his work. That work that Jesus compares to sowing wheat and how some of it is eaten by the birds, some of it falls on the path, some of it falls on rocky ground. Disappointments all of it. Sometimes we get to see that way sooner than we get to see the fruits of our labor. Disappointments are quick to come in. But the stuff that falls on the good ground? That takes time to establish roots, to grow and bear fruit. So Paul has heard of their faith. The apostle, the one whom Jesus has tasked to be an ambassador of his word, of reconciliation of peace between God and man, writes to confirm them in the faith. He writes a letter from which every Christian can benefit. He talks about what has happened to them.
They heard the word of Truth. They heard about Jesus Christ and him crucified. They heard about his resurrection, the gospel of their salvation they believed.
The gospel of their salvation, the good news of their salvation, that is what they heard. They heard that they had been saved. The gospel of their salvation. And it is good news. Here you have the Ephesians. The temple of Artemis, Goddess of the hunt and something of a patron saint for pregnant women in the Roman world, it’s her home town. When Paul was there the silversmiths rioted against him because he threatened their trade in idols. I sometimes wonder what that would be like. I wonder how empty a life like that might be? How frustrating? All these so called God’s and Daemons that could help at times if they wanted, and at other times were helpless due to inner squabbles on Mt. Olympus. Perhaps indifference, or you weren’t in their domain. And you are constantly offering sacrifices to different gods for different purposes, but they rarely seem to make any difference. And then you hear of a God who has sacrificed himself for you, died that you might live?
Death the universal malady of man. Contrary to popular belief the ancient world didn’t have gods that died. The whole point of being God was to be immortal. It was even hard for Christians to grasp this. Perhaps still is from time to time. Nestorius felt for sure that God was going to visit wrath on the Roman Empire when he returned to Constantinople from the Council of Ephesus to find the cities inhabitants dancing around bonfires chanting “God is dead.” He could not believe in a God that was born of a virgin, and therefore a God capable of dying. To be God is to be immortal. In his mind it was blasphemy to say he died. But to the people it was glorious and good news. They celebrated with bonfires and dancing because it meant that their God had become fully man, and he had joined man in his most common fate. This was the good news for man, it is what broke through hard hearts, it is what breaks through hard hearts today. God cared enough about the plight of man, to join man in it, to make a show of solidarity with man in it. God would die! And a God that cared enough about man to taste the bitter bite of death with man was a God who just would not abandon man. Here was a God that need not be manipulated. A God who died for you is a God who shows concern over every aspect of your life. And the real kicker, that which sealed the deal? He rose from the dead! He rose to give us eternal life.
And this is what these Ephesians heard. They heard the gospel of their salvation that brought meaning to empty lives, and gave them a sense of purpose and self-worth. God, the God of heaven and earth the God above all gods, cared enough about them to secure eternal life for them. The same as he has done for you. They heard and they believed. The same as you have come to believe, because how can you come to believe if you do not hear? But there in hearing the Holy Spirit is at work, and the Holy Spirit being at work he becomes the guarantee of your inheritance.
Your inheritance. I love that. Eternal life, your inheritance. Some people have those, large family trusts, perhaps land or a business, at the very least a life insurance policy. I think the only inheritance I have left to collect is a set of Luther’s Works. The rest of the books my dad gave to me upon me joining the ministry. Funny thing though is that you don’t earn inheritances. They are given. They are given to children when a parent dies. But our inheritance it is given to us through Jesus Christ, His son and our Lord. Our inheritance is eternal life.


Hazel A.. said...

Thank you Bror for posting your Lenten service! I enjoy very much reading your devotionals with my morning coffee too! :)

Bror Erickson said...

You're welcom Hazel!