Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19 (January 3, 2016)

Part One

“Blessed be the God and Father OF our Lord Jesus Christ …”

Paul praises God, not as a supreme deity or a philosophical abstraction but, as the “Father OF our Lord Jesus Christ.” Everything that he says after this is premised on this, that the divinity to which he refers is the Father of the Son, that is, the Father of our Lord, the man Jesus who is the Anointed One—the coming prophet, priest and king promised in the scriptures of the Jews. This refers, then, to the divine as a Person who is in relation to the Son, and in particular, the One to whom Jesus of Nazareth directed his entire being. Though it is possible to consider the divine in abstraction, as something impersonal, here we are considering the divine as a Person in relation to a Person, albeit a special instance of “person,” not an anthropomorphism or personification of something abstract, and not a supreme being as an individual instance of its own class. A Person only exists as a member of a relation, though in the case of the divine this relation exceeds all possibility of classes and categories and defies any separations or divisions: the Persons co-inhere in their relation, and indeed, can be distinguished and “defined” only by the relation of Each to the Other.

“who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies,”

The operative word here is the preposition “in” in the phrase “in Christ.” The Father of Christ has (already and presently) blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. The blessings come to us in our spirit rather than in our soul or in the world around us; and in our spirit the blessings are in the heavenlies, the unperceived reality that lies hidden in and beyond the perceived reality accessible to our senses. Forget the silly notion of “heaven” as where people go in the afterlife. Heaven is here and now, the invisible aspect of the visible. There are things going on that we cannot perceive, but are no less real for all that. This unseen aspect lies on the side of creation “closer” to the divine—in terms of clarity (perspicaciousness), not proximity)—and thus it is through the heavens that the divine communicates via its “messengers” (the angelic realm). Heaven is not a place where anyone can go, you are already there, in your spirit. The pertinent question, then, has to do with our spirit: is it awake and responsive or dull, dormant and asleep?

The word “Father” does not denote gender but one who engenders (who begets or gives birth) and who is in the relation to a child that a parent is—that is, as father or mother, mother and father. The Father is also the Mother. In a patriarchal society the mater does not have the place that the pater has; but God, even as a Mother, has that place, and much more—but does do by taking the lowest place.

“In Christ” is a location. We are “in Christ” and it is in Christ that we are blessed. The kind of relationship that we have to Christ puts us in the same relation to the Father in which he is. However the Father is to Christ, that is how the Father is to us. This is possible for us because for us the Lord Jesus is the Christ, implying that as the Anointed One he has fulfilled the role of revealer, mediator, and victor.

By our relationship to Christ (a relationship of fidelity), the Spirit has put us “in” him, in the relational place where he is, so that the Father regards us in the same way and with the same measure that the Father regards the Son.

To be blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ is to be awakened to God in our spirit, to be made sensitive to what is heavenly, and to be awakened and made responsive to the fullness and richness that is there. The heavenly is not something separate from earth but rather the secret reality of what is earthy.

Blessed be this One who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing … In each instance Paul is using a form of the same word.

“just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him.”

God has blessed us just as he chose us–and again that phrase is used–“in Christ,” not according to any of our circumstances or conditions but before all these exists, indeed, before time itself became time, unfolded out of eternity. God chose us, then, not individually but, in Christ–because it was Christ who was chosen by God before the foundation of the world. We were chosen not for our own ends but to be “holy and blameless before him,” to in fact reflect his own being, his own holiness and rightness.

“In love he destined us for sonship through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will,”

In love God chose us for this by destining us, not for “adoption as his children” but, for sonship. Sonship refers to what happens when the male child comes into his majority and, as an adult, becomes his father’s heir. Sonship does not speak of someone becoming someone’s child but of the child one has becoming an adult. To be the Son of God does not merely mean that Jesus is God’s child but that he is the image and likeness of the Father, that he embodies the Father, that he is exactly what the Father is without being the Father, and that all that the Father has is his, that he is the Father’s heir. This is what the Father has destined us for through Jesus Christ.

“to the praise of the glory of his grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

The phrase could be translated, “the the praise of his glorious grace,” but literally it is “to the praise of the glory of his grace”–grace which he has freely bestowed on us in the One whom he loves. In love he destined us … the grace he has bestowed on us in the One whom he loves. The grace is bestowed on us because it is bestowed on the Son. The Father loves us because the Father loves the Son and we are in him.

Glory originally speaks of brightness, as in something shining forth. Thus it can mean something being praiseworthy because it is so highly honored. But it also means something becoming manifest. The glory of God is God shining forth, God manifesting the divine presence. The glory of God’s grace is that grace becoming revealed, becoming manifest. It becomes manifest in us when we enter into the divine sonship, when we become spiritually mature. It is manifest to the degree that we become like Christ.

Part Two

“I have heard of your faithfulness in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,”

The word pistis does not only mean faith as in creedal assent. Faith in the Lord Jesus means having trust in who you believe he is. The word also means faithfulness, fidelity, allegiance, commitment, fealty, loyalty, etc. It is more existential. Literally Paul says that he has heard of their faithfulness or fidelity to God, or to the Gospel, “in the Lord Jesus,” that is, in their relationship to Jesus their Lord. “Your” refer to the churches of the Aegean apostolate, the circle of churches seeded by Paul’s apostolic labors—the center of which was Ephesus—in which many of the people involved he might never have met (the epistle was intended to be circular, to be circulated among them). Paul has heard of their faithfulness (to God, to others?) in the Lord Jesus, in the way of Jesus.

This faithfulness is coupled with their love–their love for all the believers, whom Paul sometimes refers to as “the saints,” the holy ones. The only time “saint” is not a collective term, as in “the saints,” is when it refers to Jesus as “the holy one,” or the Saint. However, we all collectively are “the saints,” the sanctified: those set aside exclusively for God (by baptism).

These two are coupled, the second amplifying the first: faithfulness necessarily leads to the love of the siblings. The word “and” can even mean “even.”

“and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.”

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,”

Notice that the Father is the Father of glory. The end of our salvation is glorification, that is, for us to divinized to participate in the divine nature. It is for the glory of God (the manifestation of God) to be manifested in us.

“may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,”

His prayer is that the Father of glory, who is the Father of glory because the Father is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would reveal God to our spirit, that is, our spirit awakens to God. Our spirit comes alive to itself, for it exists from the breath of God.

“so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know …”

When the spirit is awakened, then what is revealed to it enlightens—sheds light upon—the heart, the center of our being, our existential center.

“what is the hope to which he has called you,”

What is revealed is the hope to which God has called us, which is our glorification. God calls us to this hope by the Gospel.

“what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in/among the saints,”

I would prefer, not the riches of his glorious inheritance but, the glory of his inheritance. God “inherits” us as we are glorified. The prayer is that we would see the richness of that glory.

“and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power into us who believe …”

Paul’s prayer is that we would also know the greatness of God’s power thus working into us to become what Christ is: as Christ is God incarnate in human nature, we will become glorified with the divine nature. As in Jesus God participates completely in human nature (without becoming less divine), so we will participate completely in the divine nature (without becoming any less a creature of God).

The translation “for us” instead of “into us” obscures the interior operation of this power. That which appears to be outside and objective to us (Jesus) works this glory into us by the Holy Spirit.

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