10-8-2021 Ephesians 1:7-17
Here we have Paul declaring that our only means of salvation, of our forgiveness, is through the blood of Jesus. He alludes not only to the Eucharist, but also to our baptism as being absolutely necessary for that redemption. And this redemption refers to the freedom from the bondage of a slave. Likewise, when we have achieved these actions, this freedom, we are freed from our bondage to sin. See, it’s this whole idea that when we give into the desires of the flesh, we constantly herald that in so doing, we are celebrating our own freedom. In reality, however, when we do so, we are actually making ourselves slaves to our own body, slaves to sin. Think how hard it is for the alcoholic or drug addict to turn away from their ways. Likewise, think about the man who is constantly looking for a fight, for something to anger him. We become slaves to the very things that we felt would bring us into the throes of freedom. Does freedom from this bondage, however, guarantee a sinless life? By no means, but they are necessary steps in a life in Christ, who calls us to be as His imitators. And this is all in the steps towards true redemption. And the price of this redemption is blood, and that blood was given by Jesus Himself for the sake of those who would follow Him, trust in Him, have faith in Him.
He goes on to speak of the “mystery of His will.” This “mystery” is this very plan of redemption about which He spoke. It is, in fact, the Gospel, the Church, and, ultimately, the Kingdom of God. The Gospel itself tells the story of the life of Jesus and explains what He expects from those who would follow Him. The Kingdom is the reward, the eternity promised to those who believe and obey His commands. The Church is the house of God. It is in the Church where we gather to peacefully share our lives as the family of God. We join together in communion with God and with one another, free from worldly cares and concerns, free from political dissonance, free from any personal issues with one another. We come together to truly worship, to confess our many faults, to receive communion, to celebrate the blessings that each of us have been given as well as to find comfort for the many trials we have encountered. We, as the family of God, must stray away from any difference in opinion, in politics, in anything which would seperate us from the love of God and one another.
hhis is something that I personally have grown to understand more and more. It is not supposed to be five minutes of singing, an hour plus lecture, and then five more minutes of singing. It’s an hour of rejoicing, of joining in with the saints and the angels in worship and praise of the all holy Trinity. Even, nay especially, in times of turmoil, with we feel overwhelmed by the world and it’s faults, the communion of the Church family is necessary to make it through, to stand together, with love and compassion for one another, no matter what. Regardless of background, or social status, or economic status, none of those things matter in the body of God. We are each one of us made in the image of God, so however we treat one another is how we treat God, especially in His house.
Paul goes on to note that this Gospel is for all. We see him say that “we who first trusted in the gospel.” We have to remember that Paul was first a Jew, thus this inclusion of “we” includes the Jewish people, and yet “we” are joined with the Gentiles, “you who also trusted,” and to what end were they all joined? “That He might gather together all things” (verse 10). See, Paul here is stating that the Gospel isn’t exclusive of any, but rather all are offered this same Gospel, this same chance at redemption. All come together as one, sealed with the Holy Spirit. All human beings have this same opportunity, this same offer at redemption, this same calling to “sacrifice” our slavery to human vice and sin and to live a Christ-filled life. And to what end? That we would all be inheritors of the Kingdom. God will punish those who don’t answer this calling, but to any and all who heed it, He offers eternal paradise in the Kingdom. And he says that this bringing together of all who believe is sealed together with the Holy Spirit, who is the “guarantee of our inheritance.”
He concludes this by stating that after he heard of their love of Jesus and all the saints that he has not ceased to give thanks to God for their continuing faith and love. It is worth noting here that he specifically says God and all the saints. Not merely God alone. Whilst it is God alone whom we worship, let us not forget the continuing prayers of the saints on our behalf. This is why in our prayers, we never pray to St John to save us, but we do ask that he would pray on our behalf, much as we would our brother in Church on Sunday. If we are true in the faith, we believe that the saints have gone on to life eternal through the grace of the Lord, thus seeking that they pray for us as well is only fitting. It’s also worth noting that St Paul himself says that he will not cease praying for them, for the church in Ephesus. This is the very approach that each of us should have as well. We should imitate him as he prays for his brothers and sisters, likewise she should each pray for those in the Church.
See, in our world, especially on social media, it’s so easy for us to get caught up in political topics that we forget what it means to be a Christian. I personally struggle with this daily. But, we have to remember, Jesus never called us to be a Republican or a Democrat, or to wage war on one another. In fact, when we do such things, that is the enemy manifest in us. That is the enemy, the “lord of this world,” causing us to be divided against one another, rather than united against him. Jesus, on the other hand, commands us to love one another. And that’s not just those in the Church or those we see eye to eye with on political topics. Jesus calls us to love our enemies. Wishing ill on someone, even someone we don’t agree with, doesn’t spread the message of Christ. If I, as a Christian, argue politics with someone, or allow their opinions to shape how I treat them, then I’ve not only failed to change their minds which have been shaped by the world, but I’ve likely destroyed any chance of the coming to know Christ. Should I accept these worldly means? By no means. But, I must be careful to correct them out of love and compassion, not closed-minded arrogance or anger. Oftentimes the best correction is merely to explain the love of God to them and then let the Holy Spirit instead do the work of converting them, if they be willing, always remembering that God has given us free will, but He has also given us the outcome of those decisions. And yes, we may truly love someone who has fallen, but many times the best we can do for them is offer to bring them to church and if they refuse vehemently let the issue go, but still always be there for them.
Being a Christian means that we never stop praying for people: our friends; our family; our enemies; our neighbors; even when we don’t agree with them. Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of the very ones who sentenced Him to death while they were crucifying Him, what does that translate to when we look at our own lives? Was He outspoken? Yes! Did He deny the faith? Of course not. And baring that in mind, He warns us that we will be hated for His name’s sake. Yes, keep the commandments, yes, spread the gospel by all means. But we must remember that there are those who will choose not to hear those things. And always remember this, the “gospel” literally translates to “good news.” It is not the side of the argument that makes people stop commenting because they are so sick of the topic. When our goal is to win an argument, then our goal is no longer to represent Christ, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy. Our goal must be to represent Christ and all He stood for, out of love, not pride. I love God, and I will do anything that I can to preach His word; but there are many things beyond my control that only the Holy Spirit can do, and humility is recognizing that fact and instead of trying to convince people with words, I try to convince them by leading a life that makes them wonder how I’m able to do so. And I think that’s the most important thing. I can argue with the most devout atheist and not make a dent, or I can live a life that makes him see the difference my faith makes in my life, and possibly lead him to Christ.
Christ is in our midst.