Twelfth Sunday after Trinity – August 30, 2020
Our scripture reading this afternoon is from the book of Ephesians, chapter 1, verses 15-19. Hear the word of the Lord:
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the holy ones, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy ones, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
May the Lord add his blessing to His holy Word. SLIDE 2 -title slide
- I invite you to pull out your sermon outlines and open bibles/apps to Eph 1.18. You’ll notice this week a list of recommended resources at the end of the sermon outlines….
- Last week SLIDE 3 we looked for the second time at this remarkable prayer that Paul prays for the believers in the church at Ephesus, in western Turkey. Craig focused our attention on the first part of v.18 in which Paul prays that God would help thes guys fully understand the hope of their calling.
- Craig gave SLIDE 4 a one paragraph summary that is brilliant:
“We are called to belong to the one people of God (who are also His family), who are reconciled to the Father, joined to Jesus, filled with His Spirit, growing together and revealing God to the world. We have the absolutely certain hope that we will rise from the dead, receive transformed and immortal bodies, live together with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the redeemed and renewed creation (new heavens and earth) and inherit everything God has promised. And this will come about at the sure and certain return of Christ!”
- In v.18-19, SLIDE 5 Paul then proceeds to pray for two additional things. First, he prays that God would help them/us comprehend:
- the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy ones (v.18b). And second, that we would understand
- his incomparably great power for us who believe (v.19). Then, for the next 4 ½ verses, he goes on explain the nature and magnitude of the power God has given us. That concludes chapter 1 of this letter, and we’ll look at it next week.
- Today we are going to look at the first of these two requests: the riches of his (God) glorious inheritance in the saints. So, let’s pray, then look more closely at v.18b in its larger biblical context. PRAYER.
Exposition of 1:18b
the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy ones,
- : “the riches of the glory of his inheritance in his holy ones”
- riches, ploutos, and glory, doxa, are frequently used together in the Greek OT to depict the wealth and honor of a king. A good example is 2 Chron 32:27: “Hezekiah had very great riches and glory, and he made treasuries for his silver and gold.
- So, in the NT, God is applying this idea to his people, whom he has redeemed in Jesus Christ, and it an astonishing claim that we should be God’s riches and glory. What gives God glory? We do! What does He consider to be His riches? We are! He takes such delight in us, that he is content to make us the mainstay of God’s wealth management portfolio.
- Clint Arnold summarizes: “The point here is that Paul wants his readers to know how deeply God values and cherishes them. They are God’s incredibly valuable and glorious inheritance.” We need to let that sink in…
- Now, it is not just us, people redeemed in Christ, who constitute God’s inheritance. The term “holy ones” (hagioi) includes us but also includes another large assortment of spiritual beings, as we’re going to see in a minute.
- To fully appreciate what Paul is referring to, we need to back up to get an overview of God’s creative purposes and how it is that we fit into his overarching plan for the cosmos. So today, I want us to look at some big picture stuff that will help you make sense, not just of this verse, but of the whole narrative trajectory of the bible.
- For some of you, what we talk about today will be brand new and might sound really weird. Others of you have heard me talk about bits and pieces of this over the last few months, so your familiar with at least some of the biblical scholarship that I’ll be making reference to. Basically, we will be looking at a very abbreviated account of God’s plan of redemption the way a first century Jewish believer would understand it, not the way most 21st century American evangelicals have been taught.
- For all of you, my hope is that what we discuss will give you a greatly enhanced appreciation for the mystery and wonder of God’s cosmic plans, and His sheer genius in working out our salvation in Christ despite the many ways humans and angels have royally messed up. The result will be an answer to Paul’s prayer here in v.18: that we would know “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”
- Okay, The drama of salvation in six acts: SLIDE 6
The drama of redemption in six acts
Act 1. Eternity Past. Before creation SLIDE 7
- The vibrant love and life within the Holy Trinity…life, joy… SLIDE 8
- The creation of the heavenly family: the elohim, sons of God, holy ones (Took place before the creation of the material cosmos: Job 38:4-7) Before God created our world, He created a large variety of spiritual (non-material) beings for different purposes and having different levels of authority and responsibility. SLIDE 9 Here is a list of some of the names or ranks assigned to these beings are: angels, seraphim, cherubim, sons of God, watchers or “holy ones, rulers, authorities, powers, dominions, cosmic powers, thrones, and members of God’s divine council. These are known collectively as elohim (that is, heavenly beings or “gods”) or the “host of heaven”. They were created to rule the heavenly realm on God’s behalf. SLIDE 10
- The decision to create an earthly family that would extend the reign of God in heaven to the earth (Psalm 8:3-6). With this background we can put in context Paul’s statement in Eph 1:3-4 SLIDE 11
- Eph 1:3-4: “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him.” SLIDE 12
Act 2. The creation and fall of Adam and Eve SLIDE 13
- The creation of humanity in God’s image (Gen 1:26-28: essence, resemblance) SLIDE 14
- The command to “rule” the earth (Gen 1:26-28). In ANE, given only to kings SLIDE 15
- The rebellion of nacash (serpent, Satan) and humanity (Gen 3:1-7). SLIDE 16 Not just a snake….throne guardian: Egyptian renderings, throne. The Fall was catastrophic, alienating humanity from God. SLIDE 17
- The preservation of some human goodness. Gen 4:26: “Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of Yahweh.” There was a second rebellion during this second act: SLIDE 18
- The rebellion of some elohim and humans, creation of Nephilim (Gen 6:1-4). Probably the strangest account in the bible. SLIDE 19
- Gen 6:1-2, 4: “When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2the sons of God (beney elohim) saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose…The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”
- What’s going on? You have certain spiritual beings leaving their assigned roles in the heavenly realm and shacking up with female humans. For the offense of crossing the spiritual/material boundary line through Illicit, trans-species sex, God judged these angels, can read about in 2 Ptr 2:4-10; Jude 6-7. (In Torah, general principal: don’t join together things that don’t belong together; donkey and ox in plow).
- Offspring of this illicit intercourse are the nephilim (clans of hybrids with gigantic features) populate portions of the Levant, becoming idolatrous and immoral snares to the future Israelites; whom Joshua would later be commanded to eliminate. (Interesting: Recovered a letter, skeleton)
- Where? Jewish tradition at time of Jesus said Mt Hermon; here you can see it on the map. Here SLIDE 20 is what it looks like from a distance. SLIDE 21 At the base of the mountain, massive rock; became the center of Baal worship in the OT, Pan worship under the Greeks and Romans. According to Matt 16, This is where Jesus took his guys, Caesarea Philippi, v.16: “On this rock…gates of hell….”.
- Act 3… SLIDE 22
Act 3. The choosing of Noah and his family. God did hard reset on the human race. SLIDE 23
- The rescue of one extended family from the flood (Gen 6:8-10) SLIDE 24
- After the flood, God commanded the descendents of Noah to “fill” the earth (Gen 9:1, 7). Essentially the same command given to Adam and Eve: go, spread out, and take the knowledge of Yahweh to the ends of the earth. Instead, they disobey God and gather together to make a name for themselves SLIDE 25
- The rebellion of humans and the building of the Ziggurat at Babylon (Gen 11:1-9: we call the Tower of Babel). SLIDE 26 Bible says this was in the plain of Shinar, present day Iraq, where the ruins of Babylon still exist. SLIDE 27 The tower they build was a special religious edifice called a Ziggurat and would have looked like this. Ziggurats were part of temple complexes and were a stairway connecting heaven and earth. Their remains are found all throughout ancient Mesopotamia. They were a means of controlling and manipulating the gods to do what you wanted done: diametrically opposed to the way we are to worship the one true God. SLIDE 28 So, in judgment, God confuses the language of the people and forces them to scatter.
- The dispersal of the people and disinheritance of the nations (Gen 11:8-9). This was a big deal. Doesn’t seem like it. But if you were a jew living in Jesus’ time, this would have shaped the way you understood why the world was the way it was. God disperses the people and let’s them go their own way (Acts 14:16); “gave them over” to their own desires (Rom 1). So, God temporarily disinherits all these nations. Essentially, God said: “Fine, if you don’t want to live in relationship to me, I’ll put you under the care of the members of my divine council; they will rule over you for a time.” SLIDE 29
- Deut 32:8 says: “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind (Ziggurat of Babylon-Gen 11), he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.” Sons of God = spiritual beings who were members of God’s divine council. By tradition, Yahweh had 70 members of his council. If you look at the table of nations in Genesis 10 there are 70 nations listed. One nation for each spiritual being, each with distinct geographical jurisdictions. Several of these elohim later became corrupt, demanding worship of themselves rather than the one true god, and you have the proliferation of the various false gods, not just in the ANE, but later among the Greeks, Romans, Celts, Norse, American Indians and everywhere else in the world.
- Act four: SLIDE 30
Act 4. God hits the reset button again with the choosing of Abraham and his family (which would grow over time into national Israel) SLIDE 31
- The calling of Abraham and Sarah (Gen 12:1-3). From city of Ur in southern Iraq, a well known center of moon worship. From this elderly, infertile couple, God decides to start over and build a nation of people who will know Him and preserve the true way of relating to God. After them, you have SLIDE 32
- The choosing of Isaac (Gen 26:23-24) and later Jacob (Gen 28:13-15) SLIDE 33
- And still later, The covenant with Israel, after God redeems the nation from their enslaved status as refugees in Egypt. God tells SLIDE 34 the nation in Deut 7:6: “For you are a people holy to Yahweh your God. Yahweh your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” (Here again we have the language of inheritance, just as in Eph 1:18)
- Act 5: SLIDE 35
Act 5. The choosing of the Church: God’s holy ones from all nations SLIDE 36
- The re-inheriting of the nations in Christ (Matt 28:19-20). In the fullness of times, God sent His Son to begin the process of reclaiming the nations. Jesus establishes a bridgehead in Israel, and before his ascension, tells his apostles that they are going to take the good news to the ends of the earth and make disciples of the nations who had been formerly disinherited. Now they are going to be regathered into the church, the people of God, consisting of both Jews and Gentiles (another name for members of the disinherited nations) SLIDE 37
- The re-gathering of the nations at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-12). The Jewish feast of Pentecost was a time when Jews from all over the then known world would gather together in Jerusalem (just as the ancient peoples had one day gathered in Babylon on the plain of Shinar to build a Ziggurat and make a name for themselves). At that time, in judgment, God made one people many nations. At Pentecost, when He sends his Holy Spirit and enables them to understand one another’s languages, He reverses the judgment and make of many nations one people, the Church. You see? Pentecost was a symbolic reversal of the disinheriting of the nations. Paul calls this the mystery of Christ SLIDE 38
- In Eph 3:4-6 he writes: “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”
- Act 6: SLIDE 39
Act 6. Eternity future: The families reunited forever. Fast forward to end of our current age, known as the last days. SLIDE 40 We will experience
- The rejoining of a renewed heaven and earth as in Eden (Rev 21:1-22:5). There will again be this shared space, this intersection of material and spiritual planes and, with that: SLIDE 41
- The reunion of God’s heavenly and earthly families (Heb 12:22-24; Rev 7:9-12). We will no longer be separated by an unbridgeable gulf. There will be a bringing together of all the elohim in the spiritual realm and all redeemed humans in the material realm. The book of revelation gives us little peeks into what this will be like where you have millions of angels and other spiritual beings gathered with countless numbers of human beings all joining their voices and worshipping together the Father and the Son in the Spirit. SLIDE 42 Look at how Rev 21 describes this merging of the two realms:
- Rev 21:1-4: “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” SLIDE 43
- Friends, from eternity past God’s purpose was to create a lasting place where His celestial and terrestrial families would live together in mutual love, fellowship and joyful vocation. This was his desire for himself. This was His inheritance.
- In the world to come, the “sons of God” in heaven and earth—human and divine—will serve side by side together on a reconstituted and expanded divine council, ruling the “new heavens and earth”. The heavenly imagers and human imagers will thus become “one” under Christ. As Christians, we will reign with Jesus forever, reflecting His perfect nature, acting on his behalf and communing with Him and His Father in the Spirit.
- So, when Paul prays that the Ephesians would understand “the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy ones”, this is what he was talking about: God’s uncontained joy and delight in the harmonious bringing together of his heavenly and earthly families under Christ.
- This is what we get to look forward to. And it is what gives our lives meaning now. Because what defines us is not our jobs our money our toys or our achievements. What defines us is our high and holy calling to be God’s inheritance, His treasured possession, for the rest of eternity. As we embrace that calling, we’ll begin to experience the rest, the power, the boldness and the confident assurance that accompanies the knowledge that we were made for something much bigger than ourselves and bigger than the American Dream. We were made to rule over a renewed earth with Christ as the Father’s precious inheritance.
- Let’s pray.