Ephesians Study, Part 10: The Holy Spirit in Every Believer

 Review:

Last week as we studied Ephesians chapter 1 verses 10 and 11, Paul told us that we as Christians, when we accepted Jesus as our Savior, had been let in on God's end game; and we had been given the ability to understand and comprehend it.   And he told us that the end game of God's plan for mankind is that all of creation, whether on earth or in Heaven; whether physical or spiritual will be brought into unity under the leadership and authority of Jesus.   And the plan is designed for that ultimate time when the Scripture has been played out and the goal has been reached.

At that time, Paul tells us that everything will be summed up, anakephalaiomai. (Ana-kafala-io-my) under Jesus.   As I thought back over last week's lesson, I was particularly struck by the fact that great thinkers and scholars come to the conclusion that there is no plan -- that life and the destiny of mankind is the result of random acts; but that God gave us the wisdom and understanding (along with salvation) to see what the great thinkers cannot see.   There is a plan, and we play a great role in the plan.

Today's Lesson:

 This week I want to pick up with verse 11 and read through to the end of that long, single Greek sentence that started with verse 3.

Reading from the NIV:

First let's handle verse 11:

  1. We were chosen (before the creation)
  2. We were predestined by God's plan
  3. God's plan executes God's will.

We spent considerable time a few weeks ago on the concept of understanding that we have free will, and that each man makes a decision either to accept Jesus or to say no to the offer -- and how God, because he is not limited by our concept of linear time, knows the choice each of us will make, and therefore, from his perspective, he knows what we will do and so it is foreknown, called predestined here.   And the ones who will say yes to Jesus are considered the elect or the chosen.

And then last week we started to recognize that the mystery of God, God's plan that is explained to us, is just the rollout of his plan from before the beginning of time, his "end game" plan.

All of this is again referenced in verse 11, so we can treat verse 11 as a reinforcement of those ideas which are foundational to Christianity, according to Paul.

Today's Lesson:

But verse 12 opens up some slightly new aspects of the plan.   You need to be sensitive to the pronouns used in verses 12 through 14.   Paul opens with we, then changes to you, and ends with our.

"...in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory."   Who are the we he is talking about?   We that were the first to hope in Christ.

There are two ways to understand what Paul was saying, and I think both have merit.   I lean to one of them as the primary point Paul is making, but the other is also true.   Perhaps here, as is often the case, the writer was saying one thing but the Holy Spirit was also saying other things as well.

Who are the "we"?

Who were first to hope in Christ?

The various literal translations all call this group "the first to hope in Christ".   The King James says the first to trust in Christ.

Remember that Paul was addressing churches with a mix of Jewish and Gentile believers.   As we introduced the Book of Ephesians we focused on that.   Remember that in the salutation, he used both the Jewish and the Gentile greetings of Grace and Peace.   We know that at most locations, Paul started teaching in the synagogues and then went out into the community.

I am convinced that the "first to hope in Christ" were the Jews.   That is true in several ways.   First, the promise of a Messiah was given to the Jews, and they were promised to be the deliverer of the Messiah.   Hebrews tells us that even the Jewish forefathers were saved by their faith in the coming Messiah.

And who were the Disciples?

Jews.

The three years of teaching by Jesus were from a Jewish base.   It was only after he was crucified and resurrected -- at Pentecost, and then with Peter's vision at Joppa in the house of Simon the Tanner, preaching later at the house of Cornelius in Caesarea -- that it became evident that the Gospel was open to the Gentiles as well.

So I think Paul was referring to Jews in general as the first to hope in Christ.

To a lesser extent, this reference could also be to the Disciples and early close followers of Jesus, during his ministry and prior to Pentecost.   However, as we play out this "we-you-our" comparison, I think you will gravitate to the idea that he is comparing the Jews to the other group.

While we are on the we part of this section, let's see what the we are about:

Paul says that the Jews, by their mere existing are a praise to God; that they bring glory to God.   I am convinced that God's goal for man is to bring glory to God; to show that God is great and God is good.   That is a pretty tall order.

Remember that earlier in the first chapter, Paul also raised this concept.

Paul tells us that Christians are a praise to God.   And in verse 12 he says that the Jewish believers are a praise to God.   Believers are the trophies that evidence God's grace and his glory.   That's pretty awesome.   That is also pretty humbling.   He has a lot of work to do to polish this one for the mantel.

Who are the "you"?

Then he switches from the we to the you:

If the we referred to the Jews, the first to hope in Jesus, who are the you?

The Gentile believers.

Paul says to the Gentiles in those churches that when they heard and believed, they too were included in Jesus, and at that time they received the Holy Spirit as a seal.

So he addressed the Jews as "we" and then the Gentiles as "you".

Now if the we were also the preceding Jewish followers of Jesus, who were the you? I would say that the you would then be the second generation of followers; those who came after the Disciples; those who came to accept Jesus as a result of the teaching and preaching of Paul and Peter and Silas and Barnabas and the other early missionaries.   This you can be said to have heard, believed and been sealed.

This concept of "heard, believed and sealed" raises several questions: Were they included when they heard the Gospel, and that resulted in their belief and then the coming of the Holy Spirit; or did all of these pieces come together at the same time?

The English, as is often the case, cannot carry all of the significance of the Greek.   The English words leave open the possibility that these occurrences of "heard, believed and were sealed" might be chronological.   They are not and cannot be in the Greek.   The Greek tense is the aorist.   They are known as genitive absolutes.   I am sure that helped you as much as it helped me, but this means that they are in the same tense as the main verb, aorist, which indicated that the events were simultaneous and the tense indicates that they were done once and for all, completed; a done deal.

This should perhaps read more like: "You, upon hearing and therefore believing were sealed by the Holy Spirit."   A simultaneous result, not a sequence.   If you have heard the Word of God and you believed it, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit.   We will talk more about the sealing.

So Paul tells us that the late adopters, the Gentiles, having heard the Gospel, and having accepted Jesus, were marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit; were sealed.

Sealed = Finished:

There are many facets to the concept of being sealed by the Holy Spirit.

One concept is that of the transaction being completed, finished.   This is the concept that the receipt of the Holy Spirit is the proof that it is a done deal; the salvation is complete; there is nothing more to do.   This is the concept of a seal found in Jeremiah 32:9-10.

In John, Jesus said his work was finished:

The same concept is in Tetelestai, which we studied and defined as completed, paid in full.

So being marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, or being sealed with the Holy Spirit indicated a completed irreversible transaction, finished, signed sealed and delivered.

Sealed = Owned:

Another aspect of this being sealed is one of ownership.   The Holy Spirit is evidence of God's ownership of us.

So the seal of the Holy Spirit is a sign that says "Property of Jesus".

Sealed = Protected:

A third aspect of being sealed is that of security, being protected.

There was a similar use in Daniel:

The seal of the Holy Spirit carries the protection of God.

Sealed = Authentic:

The seal is also evidence of authenticity.

The New Testament mentions at least three different times that each of us as believers are sealed.   This sealing is said to guarantee our preservation; that is what it means.

We have God's Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, [as did Jesus on earth]:

We were guaranteed a future with God:

Who are the "our"?

We have looked at the we, the Jews -- and the you, the Gentiles, now let's look at the our.

Paul makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is evidence and proof that God's promise to us as believers will be delivered.   Various literal translations call this a pledge of our inheritance or an earnest deposit of our inheritance.   The meaning is clear.   We are not at risk.   Just like a down payment guarantees that a buyer will follow through with the purchase, or a pledge to marry, is a promise to follow through.   The difference is that God is God, and trustworthy; man is not, so God's pledge or deposit or earnest is a perfect promise.

Paul ends this introductory sentence with the crowning promise of God and the evidence of his promise, the Holy Spirit in every believer.

__________

Next Week:

We will pick up with Verse 15 and I want to go back and discover the Trinity in this marathon sentence. I also want to go back and see how awesome this long sentence from verse 3 through 14 really is.