Ephesians 1:1-14. We're Part of a Glorious Plan
Last month we looked at Ecclesiastes 3 and the confused and confusing nature of the world in which we live – a world which makes us cry out "What's it all about?" Then, a couple of weeks ago, John was preaching from Ephesians 1:1-14. Almost on the same day, this same passage formed my morning Bible reading and through both of these circumstances there were phrases that seemed just to jump out of the page at me – in part, answering that question, "What's it all about?" And so I wanted to share something of that with you this morning for our encouragement.
God has a Plan
The first thing that jumped out of these verses for me was the emphasis upon God doing everything in accordance with his own will. Look at the end of verse 5 where Paul says that what God has done is "...in accordance with the pleasure of his will". Even more striking are Paul's words at the end of verse 11, "... according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will." In other words, God has a plan and everything he does is in accordance with his plan and is designed to accomplish what he has purposed.
But what is it that God is planning? Paul tells us that God's plan is not secret; he has shared it with us. In verses 9-10 he writes, "And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ."
· God's plan has Jesus Christ at the very centre. It could only be accomplished through Jesus.
· God's plan involves everything – all things in heaven and earth. It's no small plan!
· God's plan is to bring all things under the dominion or reign of Christ.
Why is God doing all of this?
· He is doing it out of love (end of verse 4, also end v 6.)
· He is doing it in grace (vv 6,7, also 2) – not under compulsion, nor because we deserved it.
· He is doing it because it gives him pleasure (verses 5 & 9)
· He is doing it for the praise of his own glory (vv 6, 12, 14) – another phrase that jumped out at me. This is an aspect of the self-centredness of God.
God's plan, then, is to bring everything under the headship or lordship of Jesus Christ for the praise of his own glory.
We are Part of God's Plan
Paul's life formed part of God's plan (verse 1). God had revealed his plan to Paul and the other apostles (vv 9-10), and had chosen and sent Paul to be an agent in its accomplishment. As Jesus had been sent by the Father, so now Paul had been sent by Jesus to continue the same mission (see John 20:21). It's a mission to change the world!
The Christians Paul is writing to were also part of that plan – look at the logic of verses 11-14.
And all of us who have come to believe in Jesus are part of that plan:
· Chosen – God has set his hand on us and made us part of his great project
· Redeemed – rescued and forgiven through Jesus' death
· Predestined – he has a clear goal for us in view, that we should be made like his Son (vv.4-5), to the praise of his glory (vv 11, 13). That, ultimately, is what it means to be brought under the headship or lordship of Jesus Christ.
Have you come to be part of God's plan? Have you come to trust in Christ (v.13)?
Chosen for Action (for Mission)
Paul's language about Christians being 'chosen' reflects the language used of Israel in the Old Testament. God chose Abraham and his descendants the Israelites in order that they might bring blessing to all nations on earth. They were to be God's agents in accomplishing his purposes – a purpose that centred in Christ.
Paul makes it clear that that is why God chose him (verse 1). And that all those who have come to believe in Jesus have been enrolled in the same great project. God has chosen us to be fellow-labourers with him in his great project of "bring[ing] all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ" (v. 10b).
God has enlisted us in his great Campaign. He has given us our marching orders and called us to action. There is a serious battle to be fought, but he has supplied us with his power to enable us to do the work to which he has called us (vv 13-14, cf. vv 19-23).
We are called to "bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ."
A Survey of the Battlefronts
We need to fight the battle of "bring[ing] all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ" on a number of different fronts:
1. The battle of the inner life. This must be the first sphere of the battle – seeking to bring every thought and attitude of our hearts into captivity to Christ. It is the primary battlefront for the attacks of Satan. If we are not standing up to him here, we will not be fit to fight on any other front.
Abraham Kuyper, a great Dutch Christian of the 19th Century campaigned to bring the whole of his society under the lordship of Christ. He even became Prime Minister of the Netherlands. But he recognised that the first sphere of battle is always one's own heart, demanding the disciplines of prayer and sanctifying self-control.
It is all too easy to be ready to do battle with the world on behalf of Christ while neglecting our own hearts. Look at Philippians 2:1-18; Colossians 3:1-17 etc. Do not neglect prayer, reading and meditating on God's word and wise use of devotional reading.
2. In our relationships with fellow believers. We need to encourage one another in the battle and so grow together in likeness to Christ. Together we need to model the life of the new creation to which we have been called (Ephesians 3:10).
Our relationships with one another must be expressive of our common submission to Jesus Christ.
3. In relationship with those who do not yet know Christ. Seeking to bring them to know him – to the "obedience of faith". We need to be doing this together and to strengthen one another in this task of winning the world for Christ. The mission of God is our mission also.
4. In relationship to human society as a whole. Naming the evils of our society such as; greed; selfish ambition and pride; lust; the thirst for power and control; injustice; consumerism; the entertainment culture... We need to be unapologetic about calling society back to what is good and right and wholesome and good. In particular, calling for a society marked by a servant spirit – the preeminent concern for 'the other'.
5. In relation to the created world. Stewardship of creation in the name of God and for the sake of Christ its head. Caring for and nurturing God's world.
God has a plan. It is to "bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ". That is why Jesus came. It was for that that he gave himself over to death on the cross. That is why Jesus sent out his apostles as the Father had sent him.
We also have been made part of God's plan. How's the task progressing?