Last week we finished the study of that longest sentence in Greek literature; Ephesians 1:3-14. Paul ends it with the observation that both the Jewish believer and the Gentile believer have a common inheritance.
He ended with the concept sealed by the Holy Spirit which we found included the concept of being owned by God; that it evidences the completed nature of salvation; and the evidence of the future delivery on the promise of God to believers.
Before we go on from verses 3-14, I want to go back and answer the question about what it means to "hear" as Paul used it in verse 13.
In the NIV verse 13 is translated as:
The NAS translates it as:
The Greek word variously translated as listening or hearing is akouo, which means "to hear". The implication is that this act is passive, that it is the receipt of the message. The word also has a minor implication of not only receiving the sounds, but also understanding what you hear. When you put that together with Paul's Greek statement that the hearing, believing and receiving of the Holy Spirit were simultaneous, it can be assumed that the hearing included the understanding, if it was believed when it was heard.
I think Paul is clearly talking about the physical event of the believers to whom he was addressing this message, physically heard as someone explained the Gospel to them, and then they responded by believing and therefore they received the Holy Spirit.
Today's Lesson: The Trinity in Paul's Preamble to Ephesians
So with that follow up from last week, I want to look back and observe one other teaching Paul gives us, although he does it indirectly.
In this long sentence, Paul validates the concept of the Trinity. He does not call it the "Trinity"; to him it is just how it is.
From verse 1 of Chapter 1, Paul praises and attributes blessings as being from God the Father.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God ... Grace to you
and peace from God our Father. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ... --Ephesians 1:1-3
From verse 1 on, Paul makes apparent the person of Jesus, as the Son of God.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us
with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ... --Ephesians
In verse 13 he acknowledges the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit.
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation - having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory. --Ephesians 1:13-14
As we go on into the Book of Ephesians, the work of all three parts of the Trinity are all over the message that Paul is sending. He is clearly comfortable with the Trinity in total and as the separate parts.
As we go on, that is another aspect to keep an eye out for.
If you will take the time this next week to go back and reread verses 3 through 14, you will find that this sentence sweeps all of eternity: past, present and future. It deals with God's plan from the beginning, through the contemporary times of Paul with the hearing, believing and receipt of the Holy Spirit by his audience of believers, to the end of time, with God's End Game Plan. These thoughts that Paul gives us here are as awe-inspiring as the mind of man can fathom. This is pretty deep stuff. This is why some call Ephesians the mountaintop of Christian teaching.
Many scholars consider Paul a philosopher on par with Socrates and Plato, that his writings are that deep and complex and complete. This one sentence helps support that position. Books can be written expounding on just this one sentence from Paul; or should I say from God.
Seeds of the Church:
One other aspect I want to alert you to: Verse 14 that we dealt with a lot last week, where Paul merges the "we" (the Jewish believers) with the "you" (the Gentile believers) into the "we" or the "our" having a common inheritance. I want to suggest that he is planting the seed of the concept of the Church, which he will develop more fully in chapters 2 & 3 -- that the combination of the "we" and the "you" creates a new entity, a new organism. And of course by the Church, I do not mean the building or an individual congregation, but the body of followers of Jesus, the body of believers who have accepted Jesus as their Savior.
Three times in this passage, Paul reminds us of why God did all of this; why all of this is going on. It is so God may be glorified and magnified -- that God may be praised.
So let's summarize what we have learned so far:
Now let's drive forward into the first of two prayers that Paul has in this book. It starts in verse 15. More than a recited prayer, Paul is telling them of his continuing prayer for them.
Lets start with verse 15.
Note that in the case of some of the believers to whom he addressed this letter, he did not have first hand knowledge of their faith, but he had been told by others. He had heard of their faith.
This is just another piece of evidence that this was an encyclical letter, a letter meant to be circulated to all the new churches in Asia Minor, some of which he had probably never visited.
Also note what attributes he is praising them for:
If I were to make a critical analysis of most Christian congregations and groups and Bible Study classes, I would have to say that most of us fail this test. I challenge each of you to make an evaluation of yourself. Do you love the believers around you, even in this class? We focus on the differences that we dislike. We find reasons to dislike people instead of finding things to love them for. Paul is going to make the case that the love of fellow believers is evidence of our love for Jesus. By the way, Jesus did too At the Last Supper, Jesus said:
The NIV says:
This is a teaching throughout the New Testament:
I think you could find fifty verses to reinforce this directive from Jesus and from the New Testament writers.
I offer to you and to me this challenge: Every time you think of any fellow Christian, judge yourself. Do you see them from the perspective of their human failure and therefore see them as unlovable or do you see every one of your fellow Christians as a work of God to be loved?
One way to escape this personal challenge is to make the assumption that the ones you do not care for are not true believers. Of course that is a cop-out. It is not your or my assignment to cull out the goats from the sheep; Jesus does that. If someone proclaims to be a believer, your job is to love them.
Perhaps even harder is the admonition by Jesus to love the sinner as well; that may be the key to their seeing and accepting Jesus.
But back to Paul's point; Paul considers love of your fellow believer as evidence of being a believer, and a trait to be praised. His audience was exhibiting just that behavior.
...we will pick up with Verse 15 & 16 and we will see some other universal attributes of a believer, and again, we'll have to challenge ourselves about how we measure up to the expectations.
Just so you do not fall into the trap of seeing love of fellow believers as a work, as something you are required to do, something on the "must do" list; that is not the case. Instead it is the opposite of that. It is a natural fruit, a natural result of having accepted Jesus. It just is the natural thing to do, unless you intentionally suppress it, which is not the model that Jesus gave us.