Wednesday, July 15, 2015

PAUL'S MOST ASTOUNDING SENTENCE (PART 1)

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is how the apostle Paul begins his letter to the church at Ephesus. The letter that the apostle wrote to the church is one of the best representations of the grace and the peace of God to be found anywhere. For any Christian who is going through turmoil in their lives, where they are not experiencing peace, the book of Ephesians can remind us what is truly important.

When everything in life is put into perspective and we see what is ultimately crucial, we also see that the truly essential issues can never be in question for the believer, because these are the very matters where we see most clearly the grace of God.

When we see his grace, we have peace. Alternatively, it is useless trying to know peace without knowing the grace of God, for true peace can only flow from his grace.

After acknowledging the grace and the peace of God, Paul then continues in his letter with what is one of the most beautiful sentences in the Bible. It is a long sentence. The sentence begins with verse three and continues until the end of verse fourteen. If Paul would have had an editor for his writings, he probably would have been asked to break this sentence up into several smaller ones. Indeed, that is what we are going to do in this message and in the couple to follow. We do this because in the sentence, Paul talks about so many riches that are given to the Christian that we cannot take it all in with one breath of air.

Making our way through this sentence, in some ways, is  like climbing a mountain. We know that it is on the summit of the mountain where we have the richest perspective of the countryside around us, but we do not have the stamina to make it up to the top of the mountain in one mad dash. The mountain climber must take it in stages.

The goal, of course, is to reach the summit, but the climber must also make smaller goals; he must occasionally sit down and take a rest. However, at each resting place and even though he has not yet reached the summit, the climber can enjoy a new vista. He can look out over the surrounding countryside and see the beauty that is around him.

So it will be for us as we climb our way through this long sentence. Before we reach the end, there are several beautiful things to see along the way. However, also like climbing a mountain, some of the stages are a little difficult and sometimes we will even question if we can make it through to the next stage. But we do. In order to reach the summit to gain a perspective of the grace and peace of God, we push ourselves to make it through some of the more difficult spots.

So it is, with this little pep talk, that we begin our way through this introductory sentence of Paul’s.

Spiritual Blessings in the Heavenly Places
 
Happily enough, our first steps are not difficult at all. Paul begins, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3 ESV).

This portion of the sentence is like the walk through the meadow at the foot of the mountain. As we stroll through the grasses and the flowers, we see the blessings of God. They are all around us. We see them, of course, in the material blessings that we have. They are in the food that we eat and the roof that is over our heads. We see them in friends and family. If we take the time to look, we see the blessings of God at every step.

It is true that many people do not see this. Many are in such a state of preoccupation in their lives that they miss seeing what is around them, just as many can walk through a mountain meadow and not notice the many flowers blooming around them. Perhaps one of the reasons that these people do not notice the beauty around them is that they are so anxious to reach the top of the mountain, that they feel that they do not have time to enjoy the walk up to the base. 

But important as these everyday blessings are, we should notice that Paul is not really talking about material blessings here. He is talking about “spiritual blessings in the heavenly places.”

What do these words mean? We know what material blessings are, because we can see them and touch them. Indeed, we do every day. But it is a little more difficult for us to understand what Paul means when he talks about spiritual blessings. I do not think that it should worry us that this is difficult for us to comprehend, and I will tell you why...
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(I am going to stop here for a couple of days. This will be quite a long post and I will be breaking it up into several parts to help you make it through a little at a time. These verses of Ephesians deal with such things as predestination and other difficult subjects, so it is perhaps best to take it slowly through the verses.

This post is actually a collection of three, 20 minute sermons that I gave at our church)

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