Prayer and fasting 21 days – Ephesians 1
The key theme in the letter to the Ephesians is unity in diversity. In the First Century the big issue for the church was that Jews and Gentiles together form the People of God. The potential divides might be different in the 21st Century but unity is still a big issue!
Paul proclaims God’s purpose in creation particularly in Eph 1:9-10 and 3:10. What was a mystery is revealed in Christ: His plan is to unite all things in Christ, bringing heaven and Earth together! God’s wisdom is seen in this plan to draw a response of love from humans to His love shown in the Cross, so we live together in unity with Him and each other, in such a way that even the angels will say “Wow – how did He do that?!”
Lord, open our eyes to see something of Your amazing plan for this world and for all people – touch our hearts so we receive Your power to love those who are different from us, so that we can all glorify You.
This chapter is brim full of inspiration about the Big Picture – God’s plan and the amazing inheritance we have as God’s children. It is not surprising then that Paul starts with praise and worships his way through to a crescendo in the last two verses.
The first major section is verses 3 to 14 – our inheritance
Notice how our inheritance is all “in Christ” or “in Him.” We are included in God’s promises if we are in Christ. We are part of His people (whatever ethnic or social or economic background we come from) if we are in Christ. That means we have a friendship with Him, begun with repentance and baptism “into Christ” (Romans 6:3), and continued as we live through faith by the power of the Spirit, becoming more like Him.
The words “chose” and “predestined” appear several times in this chapter. We are predestined for adoption as sons through Christ. This does not mean that God predetermines some people for salvation and others to be lost. That would make a mockery of the most important thing we know about God’s nature, that He is love (1 John 4:8 &16) and it would undermine something we know He intends, that He wants all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9). But it does mean that when we are in Christ we are entitled to the inheritance that was predestined (intended from the beginning of time). That inheritance is for the Son and all included in the Son of God. We are fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
The revelation of God’s plan is the key to the whole of Ephesians. The words Paul uses are full of meaning and give us some pointers.
“He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and on earth.” (Eph 1:9-10 ESV)
Mystery – a lot of non-Christian or sub-Christian religious writings imply there are mysteries that only special people can know. But the real mystery is one that God loves to reveal to any who are willing to hear and who come to Him “in Christ.” (See Matt 13:1-16 especially verse 9)
Plan – this word ‘oikonomia’ gives our word “economy” and means literally the “rule of law of the household.” It is hard to translate. It can mean plan but it is often translated stewardship or management – there is something active about it because both God and we act together to achieve it.
Fulness of the time(s) – ‘kairos’ is the word for time here, meaning not just passage of time but a special moment, or significant time. The fulness of the times means the time of Christ’s work is “full of fulness!” Language starts to break down when Paul is trying to express how marvellous God’s work is! But it seems Paul is not putting too much emphasis on any one time. Jesus has accomplished all that is necessary in the Cross and resurrection. He will bring all things together in future. But now is also important as a time to respond and work to achieve His purposes “in Christ” and “in the power of the Spirit.”
Unite – the Greek word is unusual and can mean “sum up” – all things are summed up in Christ, included in Christ, brought together in Christ.
The second major section is verses 15 to 22 – Paul’s thanks and prayer.
The essence of his prayer for the Ephesians is for revelation that they might know Jesus and therefore know the hope they have in Him. The chapter reaches another peak in verse 22 when Paul expresses God’s plan (v 10) in a different way. Jesus is Lord and head over all things (all things will be “summed up” in Him as verse 10 says). But somehow Father gives Jesus to the church. His plan always was to share with a people made up of those who willingly serve Him. The church might look weak and inadequate to human eyes but in fact we are together moving towards a time when we will be “the fulness of Him who fills all things!”
No wonder Paul is worshipping and giving thanks as he writes! Let’s do the same.