"To God Be the Glory"          Ephesians 1:3-14    July 12, 2009
 
 “Has anyone ever told you that you look like … [insert celebrity comparison here]?”
Question: Do you have a celebrity look-alike?
 
(Celeb Look Alike Web Site) As so many things can now be researched using the Internet, the Web has a site that searches for celebrity look-alike comparisons. As one creates a profile,(scan photo)  the self-portrait or the photo of anyone else they submit is saved in a database. People can be matched to celebrities. Aren't you impressed?!?
 
However, who cares who our celebrity look-alike is? The question is: Are there sufficient character recognition points in our life to match us (not with a celebrity) but with Christ?

Next question: Are you a Christ look-alike?
When physical comparisons are made, physical features are a part of the standard. But when spiritual comparisons are made, what is the standard?

 
To know how godly one is, one must know who God intends us to be. What are the marks of spirituality that God destined us to embody? To what or to whom would we compare ourselves in a spiritual look-alike contest?
 
The letter to the Ephesians is filled with some of the most awe-inspiring language in the New Testament. This is particularly evident in the first section of the letter as the author / (possibly, but not certainly, Paul) / engages in a “eulogy,” a blessing (tribute) of God.
 
This blessing (vv.3-14) is only one sentence in Greek composed of many
different subordinate clauses and participles. Paul presents his audience with all the acts God has done for “us” throughout time.
 
By emphasizing the atemporal (nonchronilogical) nature of God’s activity, Paul exhorts his audience to believe in the God who has been working on their behalf before the world existed (v.4), and who will continue through the “fullness of time” (v.10).
 
In this doxology, God’s works done for “us,” the community, are described essentially in three different ways: God the Father’s work from the beginning, the redemption and consummation in Christand the down payment or the pledge of our final inheritance, the promised Holy Spirit, who works in “you” today.

Concerning the richness of this text in Ephesians 1: (Ray Stedman, for years,) a pastor (of Peninsula Bible Church) in California, tells the story of an old Navajo Indian who had become rich because oil had been found on his property.
 
He took all the money and put it in a bank. His banker became familiar with the habits of this old gentleman. Every once in a while the Indian would show up at the bank and say to the banker, “Grass all gone, sheep all sick, water holes dry.”

The banker wouldn’t say a word — he knew what needed to be done. He’d bring the old man inside and seat him in the vault. Then he’d bring out several bags of silver dollars and say, “These are yours.”

The old man would spend about an hour in there looking at his money, stacking up the dollars and counting them. Then he’d come out and say, “Grass all green, sheep all well, water holes all full.”

He was simply reviewing his resources, that’s all. That is where encouragement is found — when you look at the resources which are yours, the riches, the facts which undergird your faith.
 
This is what today’s passage helps us to do. The reading can clearly be divided into three almost distinct sections. S-1: Vs. 3-6, God the Father; S-2:  vs. 7-10, Jesus, and S-3: vs. 11-13, Holy Spirit.
 
1) The first section (vv.3-6) begins with an exhortation to bless God, which is common in Jewish prayers.[i] God is then identified in two ways, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and as the one who blesses us with every spiritual blessing (v.3).
God’s choosing us took place before God created the world, and it was a choice for “us” to be holy and unblemished (v.4).
 
2) The second section (1:7-10) describes “our” state in Christ and Christ’s work. Verse 7 begins with the characteristic “in him,” which is the key emphasis for the rest of the passage.
The message is clear: God’s purposes for us (holiness and blamelessness, 1:4) have been accomplished in Christ, specifically, through his blood (1:7). In Christ’s blood we find redemption and forgiveness.
 
By implication, the state of humanity without Christ is one of transgression.
God set forth these gifts of salvation in Christ (1:10). This mystery of God’s will has now been revealed through Christ’s work, and will culminate when everything is gathered up into Christ (cf. Hebrew 2:8-9). Thus, God’s choices and plans for the world extend from the beginning into eternity, transcending all of time.
 
3) The final section of this passage again emphasizes our identity “in him” (the NRSV translates “in Christ”). As the ones who were predestined from the beginning to receive adoption as God’s children, we have obtained an inheritance.
 
This section continues to emphasize God’s cosmic purposes and work (“the purpose of him who accomplishes all things,” v.11) within God’s singular will.
 
In this section Paul finally defines the “we” of this blessing. “We” are the “first to set our hope on Christ,” and we exist for the purpose of praising his glory (1:12). As soon as he has identified the “we,” Paul brings the audience into the Blessing.
 
They have “also” heard “the word of truth,” they possess salvation and have believed, and finally, they have been “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit” (1:13).
 
Paul proceeds to discuss the Holy Spirit, now depicted as the “down payment” of the inheritance of both the author and the audience (“our inheritance,” 1:14).
In a literal sense, this “down payment” (NRSV: pledge, Greek: ) is an economic term describing something like a first installment which functions as a legal claim to the object transacted.
 
Here, Paul uses it figuratively, encouraging his audience to trust God’s character, as he has been claiming throughout the whole tribute.
 
Now let’s return to our first question of celebrity lookalikes. ( X look alikes)
To know how godly one is, one must know who God intends us to be. What are the marks of spirituality that God destined us to embody? To what or to whom would we compare ourselves in a spiritual look-alike contest?

Today’s text helps us to see a picture of what God himself wants his followers to look like. In short, we are to be people whose lives reflect our God.

First, we are a blessed people, for God has "blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." We reflect a God who blesses his people.
Another spiritual recognition point is that God intends us to be holy people, “blameless before him in love” We reflect a God who has holy standards for his beloved children.

But from our Christian experience, a holy and blameless standard would be ludicrous if
Paul didn’t also remind us that we are grace-gifted people (vv. 7-8). Grace means getting what we don’t deserve, and giving us what we don’t deserve is something God does really well.
 
While Christians should be marked by godly lifestyle, their lives should also be stories of the grace of God. We can’t legalistically achieve holiness by stacking up good works that minimize the need for grace. God’s grace is our only way of getting in the door, and God’s grace is the only way we’ll be staying in the room.
 
We reflect grace and not perfection. God is a God who loves and not one who burdens. How can our thoughts and words and actions all stem from this lavished grace? How might we lavish grace on others — our families, friends, neighbors and coworkers — as it has been first lavished upon us? Living the answer makes us good spiritual look-alikes of Christ. (self-no; Christ-yes)

 
But if we were to sum up all of the spiritual look-alike qualities in this passage that God has destined for us to embody, we might do so with verse 12: We are to “live for the praise of his glory.” (Notice what it doesn’t say. We don’t live for the praise of our good decisions. We don’t live for the praise of our values. We don’t live for the praise of our discipline.)

A
Christ look-alike will quickly deflect personal accolades. He, or she, will be humbly content to defer to a God of grace. We might ask ourselves simply, “Does how I live reveal more of Christ or more of me?” (All week been challenged . . . )
 
Blaise Pascal’s prayer says it all: “I ask you neither for health nor for sickness, for life nor for death; but that you may dispose of (arrange) my health and my sickness, my life and my death, for your glory.”

Let us be people whose whole lives are ordered for the glory of our God.
You are blessed, you are holy, you are grace-gifted, and you live to the “praise of his glory.”

If that’s what you look like, you’re looking good.
Really good! Amen.

Rev. Rosemary Stelz

 
 
 
 
 
 
Sources:

Bridges,
Jerry. Transforming Grace. Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 1991.

Celebrity Look-Alike Site: myheritage.com.

Celebrity Chef Match: quiz.ivillage.co.uk.

 


[i] (e.g., Exodus 18:10; 1 Samuel 25:39; Psalm 41:13; 68:35; 89:52; 106:48; 119:12; for more information see Ernest Best, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Ephesians [ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998]).
 
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