Read Ephesians 3:-14
Writing a check isn’t such a big deal these days. Someone runs the routing and account numbers at the cash register and instantly the money is transferred. The retail merchant does not have to worry about the check bouncing.
But back in the day when checks were deposited and mailed and the routing and transfer of funds was much slower, there arose some interesting check cashing policies.
One of the more humorous ones was that the business would gladly cash your check up to $25 with at $50 cash deposit. Now that’s a pretty good guarantee that the check would go through. Realistically, nobody is going to put up a deposit that’s bigger than the check they were going to write.
But today some banks abide by similar practices. If you go to your own bank to cash a third party check from another bank, they will give you the cash right then so long as you have enough money in your own account to cover the check.
Financial institutions always like their transactions guaranteed in some way. Guaranteed by deposit is among the best.
So we come to this introductory passage in Ephesians and could easily entitle this pericope “In Christ” or “In him.” To do so would be enriching but would not deliver the completeness of these special words.
What exactly is it that is “in him?”
To be holy and blameless in God’s sight for one for one. And not only to have attained this condition but to know that this was God’s intention from the very beginning. Before the creation of all that we know, God knew that we would be special and fully acceptable to him.
To be predestined to adoption as his sons. This adoption comes through Christ—through Jesus his one and only Son. But this destination as God’s children was not an afterthought. It wasn’t plan B or C or some sort of contingency. From the very beginning, God’s plan was to bring us into his holy family.
And this wasn’t something that God begrudged doing. God’s grace—undeserved love and forgiveness and mercy and favor—was freely given.
How many times in the months preceding Christmas did you have this discussion?
· Well, what are we going to get them?
· I don’t know. What do you think?
· I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you.
· I guess we have to get them something.
· Don’t we?
· I guess?
· Well, what?
· I don’t know.
Which brings us to Olive Oil Peppers.
Olive Oil Peppers are something that my father-in-law made every year during the course of his lifetime. When he passed away, someone needed to take up the olive oil pepper mantel, so I did. They are just chopped Serrano peppers, a little salt, and a lot of olive oil. You can put them on about anything. Some people love them. Others don’t.
But if I know that you love them, then you are going to get a fresh jar every time I make them. They will be freely given. In fact, I am not sure that you even have the right of refusal. If I know that you love them, then you are going to get them.
Some people have said, “You need to go into business and sell those.”
But that’s not who I am. I make my olive oil peppers and I given them away freely. If I know you love them, then you are getting some.
And the joy that I have in giving away my few jars of peppers is miniscule to the joy that God has in the grace that he pours out on us.
It is grace and favor that we know through Christ Jesus. In him we have redemption. We are redeemed, purchased if you will, by the blood of Jesus. Our sins are forgiven. That’s what you might call a big ticket item.
To be forgiven by God is huge. This is not just to set aside his wrath but to enjoy the riches of his grace. And we are told that he grants this forgiveness and grace lavishly, richly with wisdom and understanding.
There was probably a time when Adam and Eve enjoyed God’s favor without fully understanding it was God’s favor they were enjoying. Until they knew good and evil, they just lived in God’s favor. God required obedience but this first couple could truly do no wrong if they simply obeyed. They didn’t have to discern if something was good or evil, right or wrong, and probably didn’t even have the word “sin” in their vocabulary.
But we live in an entirely different world. Good and evil, right and wrong, staying the course or transgressing have always been things with which we must contend.
But before God brought order to the chaos and before humankind came into being, God knew that we would enjoy his favor given generously to us and that we would be what he intended us to be—his children. He knew that he would pour out his love on us and we would live in his favor.
But our favored condition would include wisdom, understanding, and insight. We who live in Christ know not only God’s grace but get a glimpse of how great it truly is. Much like the Prodigal Son, we who have departed from the path of godly righteousness and been brought home again know that God’s grace reaches beyond how far we can sin. Our wisdom and understanding give us an insight into a love that others cannot comprehend.
In Christ we receive some revelation of God’s will, his desire, and his heart. And it is more than that none should perish.
It is to bring to completion what was begun at the creation. God brought order to chaos. He brought form out of formlessness.
And in Christ, he completes the order, the form, and his will.
The desire of his heart is not just that we are saved from his wrath, but that we live fully as his children enjoying him as he enjoys us.
In Christ we see all things in heaven and earth brought together under one head. We see all that has been rebellious, or chaotic, or just turned upside down made right.
In Christ we see God’s divine heart and his perfect will.
We could just shout, “Amen!” We could leave this wonderful scripture at in Christ we realize God’s will and begin to understand the depth of his love and enjoy his favor.
And within the hour we would experience the world once again and say, “Where’s the order? Where’s the form? There is still so much chaos and rebellion all around me. I am living in Christ—in Him—but I am engulfed by this rebellious world.”
To understand the fullness of this scripture, we must first understand the perichorisis of the trinity. It is this harmonic dance in which each part of the trinity has its own role yet is in perfect harmony with the other two.
The Father has the plan. We might call it his will. We might say it is the desire of the divine heart.
Jesus is the agent of that plan. God’s love and favor and forgiveness is realized in him. Which brings me to one of the few Latin phrases that I remember from college.
In modern language this means: “He who acts through another acts himself.” We realize God’s plan, his will, and the desire of his heart through the person of Jesus. He is God with us and God’s will for us realized in him.
That brings us to the Spirit. This is the same Spirit that hovered above a formless earth long ago. This is the same Spirit that overwhelmed the disciples like wind and fire at Pentecost. This is the same Spirit that has been given to you and me when we received God’s grace through Jesus Christ.
This is God’s own Spirit.
This is the Spirit that Jesus told his followers would come when he had departed.
This is the Spirit that seals us with the Father’s love much as a king would seal an edict or letter.
This is the Spirit that truly baptizes us as followers of Jesus.
When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
We live in Christ now, but we have yet to know the fullness of his glory.
We live in God’s Kingdom now, but know there is more and better to come.
We follow Jesus now and endure trials, overcome temptation, consider what it is to be covered in God’s grace and rejoice in that overwhelming love; but we know there is more and better to come.
In Christ—in him—we have an inheritance.
In him we are holy and blameless before God.
In him we are adopted sons and daughters—now brothers and sisters in Christ.
In him we know redemption and forgiveness.
In him we know that God has lavishly poured out his favor upon us.
In him we know grace.
In him we know that the work God began will come to fruition with Christ at the head of all things in heaven and on earth.
But we also know that we live smack dab in the middle of this rebellious and God-rejecting world, and maybe we need some encouragement to hang in there one more day living in the fullness of God’s grace but still waiting for the complete realization of all of his promises.
Maybe we need a Comforter from time to time.
Maybe we could use a Counselor to walk with us step for step as we navigate this world.
Maybe we need a Spirit of Truth.
Maybe we need a divine Helper in the here and now.
We are following Jesus and experience many blessings for being his faithful disciple, but we also experience some suffering and loss and are called to practice much more patience than most of us want to put into practice.
Sometimes we are so full of God’s love for us that nothing can discourage us, but sometimes it seems that even the small things seem insurmountable.
We believe in Jesus but know that he is seated at the right hand of the Father. We want him there to intercede for us, but we also need someone walking also side us.
We need someone reminding us that God’s promises will come to pass.
We need someone to assure us that our inheritance is intact.
We need someone here with us to remind and assure us that Jesus is coming back to claim all of God’s children.
And we have been given eyes to see and ears to hear the wisdom of the trinity at work. We see the heart of the Father, the work of the Son, and the Spirit who is the deposit that’s been made guaranteeing that the desires of God’s heart will be realized for his people.
The Spirit walks with us not only as a helper, and counselor, and comforter; but as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance, insuring the fulfillment of God’s promises, reminding us of our redemption that we know in the blood of Jesus.
When will all of this come to pass?
Paul reminds these saints in Ephesus that it will come in the fullness of time, at just the right time, or when the times reach their fulfillment depending upon which translation you prefer.
We have received every spiritual blessing from God but we are still moving to the culmination of all time and history and prophecy.
The blessings that we who are called Christians know originated in God’s divine heart, were brought into this world and poured out for us in the blood of Christ Jesus, and are guaranteed by deposit of God’s own Spirit.
No deposit would have been necessary if God had elected to culminate all history in that first century, but that time had become full for another masterful part of God’s plan—the birth, ministry, and atoning sacrifice of Jesus. The time was full for the proclamation of the good news.
But there is more and better to come.
God has left his own Spirit with us so that we might know that his plan is underway and the destination of us living in his kingdom and his glory will be fully realized.
Read Ephesians 1:3-14 in other translations.