Friday, May 17, 2013

A Study in Ephesians: Pt. 7, Ephesians 1:15-19

Ephesians 1:15-16 This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

As is common throughout the letters of the New Testament, there is a continuation phrase here that connects two related thoughts of the author. Recognizing these connecting words or phrases is often critical to understanding the full message that the writer intended to convey. Here, Paul uses the phrase, "This is why".

Without this phrase, the reader would likely conclude that Paul is giving unceasing thanks because of the faith and love of the Ephesians. And while this was no doubt in the mind of Paul as he penned, or perhaps dictated, these words, in light of this connecting phrase, a fuller understanding of why he is giving thanks requires a consideration of his preceding thoughts. As I have already noted, there were several themes packed into verses 3-14, which, incidentally, is just one long sentence in the original Greek. Paul discussed the varying roles of the persons of the Trinity in accomplishing our salvation. He highlighted the centrality of Christ in all things, and he underscored the ultimate purpose of our salvation: to bring glory to God. (See parts 2-6 for a fuller explanation of these themes.)

It is this last theme that I believe Paul had in mind when he said "That is why ... I never stop giving thanks". While the first two themes are descriptions of the beauty and majesty that is both God and the way He works, the third theme is about the outcome of this God working. Paul did not begin his giving thanks for the Ephesians until he heard of the faith of the Ephesians. Prior to this, the triune God was still working in others, and Christ was still central in all things. But in the salvation of the Ephesians, the glory of God was made manifest once again, and it is this demonstration of God's glory for which Paul is ultimately giving thanks. Paul had a passion for the glory of God, so much so that he was willing to endure whatever was necessary to see God reveal His glory through him (Romans 8:18).

I long to be consumed with this level of devotion to God. One of the recent salvation stories in our church was a woman who had been raised in church but had never locked in to the truth of a saving faith in Jesus Christ. She found our church by "accident", attending one Sunday morning thinking she was at the church of a friend who had invited her. After her surrender to Christ, our pastor told her about the rejoicing in heaven over her redemption (Luke 15:7), and she wanted to have a party to celebrate here on earth. We did, and I remember thanking God multiple times for saving her. But not once did I thank God for magnifying His glory through the salvation of her soul.

I can't even fathom what that would look like. What would my life, my faith, look like if the first thought I had for every situation I face, every burden I bear, every salvation I witness, every joy that I experience was "God, thank you for magnifying Your glory in, through, and around me." ? What would it even take to get to that point?

I will be conformed to the image of His Son at some point. If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, so will you (Romans 8:29). In the meantime, "He must increase, but I must decrease."