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Home » Daily Readings, New Testament Writers

A Waterfall of Graces

Submitted by on Thursday, 16 October 2008No Comment
  • Reading I: Ephesians 1:1-10
  • Resp. Psalm: Psalm 98:1,5-6
  • Gospel Reading: Luke 11:47-54

waterfall

Right at the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul explodes with a blessing, a berakah, to God who, he writes "has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavens in Christ." (v. 3). These spiritual blessings he enumerates throughout this long explosion of grateful joy:1

  • being chosen ("us") to be holy and blameless before Him (v.4)
  • being predestined to be God’s children through Christ (v.5-6a)
  • being graced by God in Christ (His Beloved) in the redemption through His blood (6b-8)
  • having received the revelation of His plan of salvation: to recapitulate all things in Christ (vv.9-10)
  • that the Jews were privileged to be the first to have hoped in Christ (vv. 11-12)
  • that the Gentiles (the Ephesians in particular) have received the Gospel and been sealed by the Holy Spirit (vv. 13-14)

Note that the blessing is Trinitarian in structure, mentioning the Father, the Beloved (Son) and the Holy Spirit. The Jewish berakah is addressed to Adonai, "Blessed be the Lord." Paul has transformed this blessing into a recitation of the "gifts lavished upon us" in the work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Verses 4-5 is has become the basis of doctrines of predestination that even Paul may not even have imagined. Some people would think that these verses mean to convey the image of a God who looks into the future and picks certain men and women to be His children while excluding the rest. The problem with this image is that in God there is no future as there is no past. In Him, there is only the NOW. Hence, the question "Did God choose me? To where am I predestined, heaven or hell?" shouldn’t even be asked. Paul was actually looking at his situation and the situation of all Christians, at how much grace they have received from God and thereby concludes that all these have been decided by God EVEN BEFORE any of them were born or created. The predestination in these verses then is RETROSPECTIVE rather than PROSPECTIVE, from the point of view of the Christian who is conscious of God’s grace, and not from that of a God imagined to be punitive. It is like the love affair of two persons who have been married to one another for seventy-five years: they gaze at each other with awe and ask how it has been possible that they stayed together while they’ve seen other marriages fall apart. One of them might even conclude: "From all eternity, we were made for each other."

From verse 6b-14, Paul enumerates the graces "by which He has graced us in Christ." The structure of these verses is clearly marked out by the words "redemption" (vv. 7.14) and the relative pronoun "in whom" (vv. 7.11.13bis; "whom" refers to "the Beloved" [v.6])."

The grace of the redemption through blood is foremost in Paul’s mind, the sacrifice of Christ by which the forgiveness of sins is effected. Following this is the revelation of God’s plan of salvation. The "mystery" of God’s will is one of the favorite topics of Paul (Romans 11:25,1 Cor. 2:1; 1 Corinthians 15:51, Ephesians 1:9,3:3, 6:19; Colossians 1:26,4:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 Timothy 3:9,3:16). It is the mystery that remained hidden from of old but is now revealed to Christians (Colossians 1:26) through the proclamation of the Gospel (cf. Ephesians 6:19). That mystery is that not only the Jews, but also the Gentiles are included in God’s plan of salvation, to make a new man in Christ by joining both Jews and Gentiles to Him "where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian nor Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ who is all and in all (Colossians 3:11)." Here, Paul underlines the cosmic dimension of this mystery: the recapitulation of all things in heaven and on earth in Christ.

Paul also expresses gratitude that the Jews were privileged to have been the first to hope in Christ. In Romans 9-11, he expresses the hope that the Jews will once more be restored in their place under the headship of Christ. In Paul’s words, to be grafted (Romans 11:23) back to the tree from which they’ve fallen.

Finally, Paul expresses his gratitude for the Ephesians in particular and the Gentiles who have received the word of the Gospel and who "have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promises, the pledge of our inheritance." The gift of the Holy Spirit is mentioned last coinciding with the moment of baptism when the Christian is anointed with the Spirit and sealed for salvation (cf. Ephesians 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22). Interesting is the use of the word "arrabwn", "pledge". The idea is that the Holy Spirit is the downpayment for the Christian’s salvation.

Ephesians 1:1-10
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1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, to all the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.
2Grace be to you, and peace from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ:
4As he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight in charity.
5Who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself: according to the purpose of his will:
6Unto the praise of the glory of his grace, in which he hath graced us in his beloved son.
7In whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins, according to the riches of his grace,
8Which hath superabounded in us in all wisdom and prudence,
9That he might make known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in him,
10In the dispensation of the fulness of times, to re-establish all things in Christ, that are in heaven and on earth, in him.
Psalm 98:1,5-6
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1A psalm for David himself. Sing ye to the Lord anew canticle: because he hath done wonderful things. His right hand hath wrought for him salvation, and his arm is holy.
5Sing praise to the Lord on the harp, on the harp, and with the voice of a psalm:
6With long trumpets, and sound of comet. Make a joyful noise before the Lord our king:
Luke 11:47-54
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47Woe to you who build the monuments of the prophets: and your fathers killed them.
48Truly you bear witness that you consent to the doings of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and you build their sepulchres.
49For this cause also the wisdom of God said: I will send to them prophets and apostles; and some of them they will kill and persecute.
50That the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation,
51From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, who was slain between the alter and the temple: Yea I say to you, It shall be required of this generation.
52Woe to you lawyers, for you have taken away the key of knowledge: you yourselves have not entered in, and those that were entering in, you have hindered.
53And as he was saying these things to them, the Pharisees and the lawyers began violently to urge him, and to oppress his mouth about many things,
54Lying in wait for him, and seeking to catch something from his mouth, that they might accuse him.
Romans 11:25,1
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1I say then: Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
25For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery, (lest you should be wise in your own conceits), that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in.
1 Corinthians 15:51
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51Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: but we shall not all be changed.
Ephesians 1:9,3
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3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ:
9That he might make known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in him,
Colossians 1:26,4
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4Hearing your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love which you have towards all the saints.
26The mystery which hath been hidden from ages and generations, but now is manifested to his saints,
2 Thessalonians 2:7
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7For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way.
1 Timothy 3:9,3
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3Not given to wine, no striker, but modest, not quarrelsome, not covetous, but
9Holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience.
Colossians 1:26
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26The mystery which hath been hidden from ages and generations, but now is manifested to his saints,
Ephesians 6:19
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19And for me, that speech may be given me, that I may open my mouth with confidence, to make known the mystery of the gospel.
Colossians 3:11
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11Where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free. But Christ is all, and in all.
Romans 11:23
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23And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
Ephesians 4:30
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30And grieve not the holy Spirit of God: whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption.
2 Corinthians 1:22
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22Who also hath sealed us, and given the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts.

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  1. This article was originally published at Otium Sanctum []

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