BIBLE READING: Ephesians 3:14-21
This passage of Paul's leave us with some problems.
The first problem is not so much with the passage we have just read, as with the whole book. Paul wrote Ephesians as a circular letter to a number of different churches. It was not written for a particular person or church, or to combat a particular problem. So the content of this letter, the nature of the new life we have in Christ is relevant to all Christians, everywhere.
It would be so much easier, if this letter had been written to a stable and mature individual, or perhaps to a group of respected leaders. Then, when young Christians come up and ask about 'Spiritual Warfare' and the Christian's armour in Ephesians 6, they could be told not to worry about it: come back in ten or fifteen years, and you might be ready for such things.
Or when a young convert reads the list of ministries in chapter 4 - the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher - and decides that God is calling him to be an apostle, the elders of the church would have a straightforward answer. You're not ready for that yet.
And wouldn't it be convenient to be able to hold out the promise in chapter 1, verse 3, to encourage the congregation to persevere in their faith? "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." Wouldn't it inspire people to live every day for Christ, if as a result, they could obtain every spiritual blessing in Christ? But astonishingly, this is not the end of our spiritual journey, but the starting point.
Paul is telling us, amongst other things, that we start the Christian life with everything. From the very first moment we become Christians, we have everything we are ever going to need. God does not withhold any good thing from His children. It is all of His grace.
The church is very good at offering grace to people before they are saved, and then, once we have them in the church, we explain all the things they have to do to be a good Christian. Christians are are so often saved by grace, then go on to live by works. Paul is telling us that the Christian life, like salvation, is all of grace.
Of course, having all the blessings is not the same as knowing what to do with them. You can have something and not know you have it, which is why we need teaching. You can have something and not know how to use it. And you can have something and only learn how to use it by using it - like a piano. The moment you have a piano, you can play it: simply put your fingers down on the keys, and you make a sound. But if you want to make a good sound, you need to work at it.
We have in the heavenly realms every spiritual blessing in Christ - it is up to us what we do with them.
One problem that hits us between the eyes is in the doxology at the end. "Now to him who is able to do immeasurable more than we ask or think..." raises an obvious problem. If God can do "more than we ask or think," why doesn't He? If God can, why doesn't God answer our prayers, solve our problems, meet our needs?
This is a temptation we all share – the for desire power. We want to be able to make things happen.
We want to be able to achieve our goals - to accomplish the things we set out
We see God's power at work in many ways. But, if we believe that God has been finally and fully revealed in the person of Jesus, then the clearest demonstration of the nature of God's power can be seen in Jesus. And in Jesus, we discover...
the power to give up what is rightfully yours;
the power to forgive, whatever wrong is done to you; and
the power to endure suffering, whatever people do to you.
Notice it is not our own power at work within us, but His power. And His power can do immeasurably more than we imagine. No matter what wrong is done to you, in Christ you have the power to forgive. No matter what suffering you may face, in Christ you have the power to endure it.
The final problem is the climax of Paul's teaching, the goal to which he has been moving through the first three chapters. It is so unexpected.
We all have goals, however clearly we articulate them, and however consistently we work towards them. I don't know what your goals may be. I'm guessing – if you are a Christian, it's probably not fame or fortune.
Perhaps your goal is to remain faithful unto death, or lead someone God will use in amazing ways to faith, or maybe to make sure that worship goes smoothly at church, or maybe just to be positive about life every day.
Whatever your goals, whatever you are aiming for in your life, in this passage, Paul is giving us our true goal. 'For this reason,' he says - in the light of all that has been said in the first three chapters, this is where we find ourselves.
The reason why we have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ, the reason why we were made alive in Christ when we were dead in our sins, the reason why we were united with all God's people, and the reason for all the rest of the wonderful truth about the new life we have in Christ - it all comes together for this purpose: "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" and that you may know "the love of Christ".
Our highest goal in life is not to achieve great things in God's name, not to lead others to Christ, not to preach inspirational sermons. Our true goal as Christians is: union with Christ, and to know His love. It is that simple, and that profound.
And the wonder is that through the power of God working within us, we can be confident that He will accomplish immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, to bring into full and complete reality His goal for our lives, and the lives of those we care for. Isn't He wonderful?
Acknowledgement: Paul Hazelden