10 Jul Merv’s Musings – Ephesians
Posted at 20:44h in Blog
Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey. I had a private tour with a very knowledgeable young tour guide. He was filled with tid-bits of history of Paul and the beginnings of the early church in Ephesus. He spoke of the marble roadway leading down from the huge Temple of Diana. (400 ft long, 250 ft wide, all made in marble). The roadway led down through the market for the rich; down through the market for the poor; down past the fabulous architecture of the library and city hall; ending at the entrance to the large coliseum.
What struck me was the picture he began to formulate of Paul as he faced his accusers in Ephesus and how he quickly departed fearing for his life. The Book of Acts describes the confrontation that occurred.
Paul quickly left by ship traveling to Corinth and Jerusalem, and was probably now sitting in a jail cell in Rome writing to his beloved church in Ephesus. Unlike other letters Paul had written, where he spoke of errors found in the church, this letter to the Ephesians reminds the church of the love God has for them. That they were chosen, adopted, and marked by the promise of the Holy Spirit. This First Chapter is jammed packed with theological implications for the Christian Community. It was a letter that would be passed from Community to Community. Kind of a newsletter to be passed around. It was sent as a reminder to Christian believers of who they are in Christ Jesus. And so too, reminds us today!
1) We are chosen! You’ve been on God’s mind from the beginning. Paul says: (v. 4) “Long ago, even before He made the world, God loved you and chose you!” The message dominating this letter to the church is that God accepted you into the body of Christ not because he had too, but because he wanted to.
You are part of His plan. Right from the beginning, He has wanted you to be a member of his family. If you get nothing else from my musing today, please hear this: God loves you! God cares for you! God takes pleasure in you being part of His family!
2) Paul writes to the church that not only were we chosen, adopted into his family but there is good news that we have been redeemed through the shed blood of Christ.
Max Anders says it this way: “God forgives every one of our sins. Period! Past, Present, Future. All. Not a few, but all. Not some, but all. Not most, but all. … All. ….”
“When God created the world, your sins were in the future. He created the world anyway. When Jesus died on the cross, all your sins were in the future. Jesus died for you anyway. When you were in the womb, all your sins were in the future. God gave you life anyway. There is nothing you have ever done or can ever do that will surprise God. And there is nothing you have ever done or can ever do that will earn your acceptance with God. That acceptance comes only through Christ. There is nothing we can do to enhance it, there is nothing we can do to detract from it, because it depends on Christ, not on us.”
“What an exhilarating truth! We are totally forgiven. Our salvation is absolutely free. We can’t earn it; we can’t lose it! Everything is dependent on Him and we are secure in him.” Paul calls that Grace.
3) Marked by the promised Holy Spirit.
Paul says that we have the seal of the Spirit. Verse 13 says that at the time we asked Jesus into our heart, we were “sealed with the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit has come to live within us.
In ancient times, a seal was a symbol of authority. It was a stamp of a person with great authority. Sometimes the seal was on a signet ring. To seal a scroll, wax would be melted and the seal pressed into the wax.
In the Old Testament, when Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den, King Darius placed his seal on the stone over the entrance to the den. Any person who broke that seal would have to deal with Darius. When the Roman soldiers closed the tomb of Jesus, they put the seal of Rome over the tomb so that anyone who might want to break in and steal the body would know that they were vying against the empire.
In much the same way, when you asked Christ into your life, God put his seal on you and in you. His seal is the Holy Spirit. The seals of the ancient world were external. God’s seal on the life of every believer is internal and eternal!
Marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.
First, the seal is a sign of protection.
It is said that Alexander the Great once sent an emissary bearing his seal to Egypt. The man traveled without weapons or military escort. His only protection was the seal of the great conqueror. When he met the ruler of Egypt, the mighty king stood in his royal splendour with the army of Egypt behind him. The emissary ordered the king, “Cease hostilities against Alexander’s interest.”
Hoping to save face, the king said he would consider this and let him know. Alexander’s man drew a circle in the dirt around the King’s feet and said, “Do not leave this circle without informing me of your response.” The king had an entire army at his back. The emissary was alone and unarmed. Yet, the Egyptian could not touch him because he bore the seal of Alexander. To touch him was to touch Alexander. To anger him was to anger Alexander. Realizing this, he said, “Tell Alexander he has his request.”
He that is in us is greater than he that is in the World.
Second, the seal is a sign of ownership. On cattle ranches, the cows are branded as a mark of ownership. The indwelling presence of the Spirit proves we belong to God. Romans 8 says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his.” At our Baptism the priest places a sign of the cross on the persons forehead and says: “Marked as Christ’s own forever.”
Third, the seal is a sign of a promise fulfilled. In verse 13, He is called “the Holy Spirit of Promise.” Jesus promised that he would never leave us or forsake us but be with us always, that he would send the Holy Spirit, the comforter to come along side of us.
Fourth, the seal is a sign of a completed transaction. When you pay off a home mortgage or a car, you receive a document with a seal that says you owe no more. The seal of the Spirit reminds us that our sin debt is paid in full, we owe no more!
Fifth, the seal is a sign of commitment. God gives us the Spirit to point toward our future. Ephesians 4:30 says we are “sealed for the day of redemption.” This gives us a sense of security.
47 years ago I determined whom I wanted for a wife. I went shopping and bought Susan an engagement ring. I bought as much as I could afford. When I offered her that ring, I was saying, in effect, “I offer you this valuable diamond ring as a symbol of my love for you. It is a guarantee, a tangible pledge of the life I want to offer you as my wife for the rest of our lives. If you accept it, you are receiving a down payment on what I will do for you from now on. I would not give it to you if I did not love you.”
In much the same way, when I asked Jesus to come into my life, into my heart, God sent his Holy Spirit to live in my heart. The Spirit is the Father’s way of saying to me: “I give my Spirit to you as a sign of my promises. I would not send him to you if I did not love you.”
An engagement ring symbolizes a promise of marriage. It does not symbolize marriage. The wedding ring does that. The engagement ring is a promise of a wedding ring to come. The presence and power of the Holy Spirit in my life is not all God will give to me. His indwelling in me is a tangible pledge of the inheritance that will be mine someday. The Holy Spirit is not my inheritance. However, because I am sure of his presence in my life, I am assured of the inheritance to come!
In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation and believed in Him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:14)
Rev. Merv Lanctot
Faith grows in the soil of hope