Study: Hope Church Triad Program
Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s Organic Milk Chocolate with Almonds
Today’s Passage: Ephesians 1:3-14
Real talk: I often come away from Paul’s words here feeling obligated. In my mind, it’s as if Paul is trying to get us to worship God, or to make us feel like praise is the proper normative response to the blessings he describes, and thereby to make us feel compelled to praise. And that’s odd, because the passage is far more about what God has done for us than what we should do for God. Why do I react to it this way? I think we might get something out of this, so let’s sit me down on the couch with this slice of Ephesians 1 and talk about my feelings.
To begin with, even though Paul doesn’t issue any commands or explicitly prescriptive statements, he does suggest: hey, praising God is not a bad thing to do! Specifically, he says, “[God] predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (5-6). Without getting too Inside Koine Greek Baseball here, the idea is that God wants to adopt us, so he decided beforehand that he would. The result of that adoption is the praise of the glory of his grace. Paul doesn’t overtly state that God adopted us in order to get some praise out of it, or that the desire for worship was necessarily a motivator for him. Far and away, Paul says, it’s love, kindness, and generosity that motivated God to adopt us. Praise is just where that that whole adoption process generally ends up.
So the sense that I should come away from this passage praising God is because the passage, after a fashion, in one verse, suggests that I should praise God. But as we saw yesterday, overwhelmingly the passage concerns God’s metric boatload* of gifts that he rains down on us like a bucket of gatorade on a winning coach at a football championship. There’s adoption, redemption, forgiveness, an inheritance, the Holy Spirit, and in conclusion, the list goes on. It’s worth mentioning that in the original Greek, the entire passage from verse three to verse eleven is a single sentence. The translators have broken it up into discrete sentences because in English, you can’t get away with a sentence like that unless you’re James Joyce. Paul is gushing here. I genuinely get the impression that there’s a part of him that doesn’t care what you do after reading his letter; he just wants to talk about God’s gifts.
Given that the majority of the passage is simply descriptive, with no prescriptive element to speak of, where did this sense of a burden come from? I’ll cut to the chase: I think it says more about me than it does about Paul or God. God isn’t trying to squeeze praise out of me like some boa constrictor of generosity, and Paul isn’t trying to weigh me down with guilt for not praising God enough. Jesus Christ died to set us free from guilt, not to pile more of it on.
* The boat was written in Greece, so it’s metric. You might argue that the International system of units hadn’t been invented yet, but neither had the British Imperial System, and the boat certainly isn’t using that, so there.