July 11, 2009

Ephesians 1:7-8; A Devotional

Both last week and this week I made the mistake of trying to handle Paul's whole sentence from 7 to 10. However, the content is just too full, and there are too many things to consider. So consider this kind of like a two parter.

[It is in the Beloved]1 that we have redemption2 through His blood: the excusing2 of sins according to the abundance of His grace which He teemed into us in all wisdom and understanding3...

The most important element of the atonement is that it was completely accomplished by Christ's sacrifice. We do not add to it, nor can we subtract from it. It is from that graceful act of death that our sins are cast away from us. We do not have redemption through our works, nor through our heritage (which is probably more Paul's point in this letter). Redemption is strictly a divine activity.

Sometimes, in Christianity, we forget how fantastic this is. Paul says here that they have been filled by God's grace to the point of overflowing. It is not the everyday blessings that Paul is talking about, but the specific act of redemption which is so undeserved and yet so important that the provision of it alone is a tremendous act of grace beyond what we should expect. Indeed, I think this is how we forget about it: we learn to expect it.

Have you ever stopped to consider the ingratitude that children display when it comes to food? The parents work to afford the food, then work to prepare the food, and then gather the children together to eat. Yet often, children will complain about it. This is normal, but think about it for the moment. The child's full responsibility here is simply to eat the food that the parent provided, and often a child will fail even at that because the child sees the provision of food as the parents responsibility. It's just common place. They don't consider how much their life is depending on it.

Often we are like this with the graces of God. Our full responsibility is simply to partake of the graces that He has provided for us. Yet we take God's grace for granted, knowing that He is abounding in kindness and mercy. Often we'll hear Christians say, "Just believe", but we forget what an act of grace that is!

I mean, we are talking about redemption here! The pardoning of sins, the renewing of life, the deliverance from death! This is not just the provision of a ham dinner, or the buying of some new clothes or school supplies. This is redemption, and God has granted it to us simply through faith! Do we really stop and realize what this means? How grand this is? How graceful this is?

Surely we are teeming with the grace of God if we have redemption through His blood. If you have never been overwhelmed by the thought of God's grace, then you have never truly experienced the fullness of it. Or you have never appreciated how little you deserve it.

This week, let us ponder the graces of God. Let us consider the word to its fullest, so that we can devote ourselves to God in gratitude (and gratitude alone).

Translation notes

1The actual Greek reads "In whom". I added the rest of the text simply for the sake of context. This is why I added the brackets.

Apolutrosin (redemption) and aphesin (excusing) are synonyms in Greek basicly meaning 'release'. However, there are slight differences. Apolutrosin specifically refers to payment, or release by payment. Hence redemption being the best word. Aphesin refers to pardoning, forgiving, excusing, or simply releasing from imprisonment. One focuses on means; the other on results.

3 The KJV and the NKJV render pronesis as 'prudence'. Prudence refers to the proper care of resources and responsibilities. However, this is not really what pronesis means. It refers instead to one's mentality/worldview/way of thinking. 'Insight' or 'understanding' are far better renderings.


Anonymous said...

There are those who take the "it's all been done" idea so far that any effort on our part becomes superflous.

However, if the Atonement's purpose was reconciliation with God and forgiveness of sins then surely we are active participants. We repent and believe in Jesus and Atonement is of no benefit to those who do not repent.

I find the whole concept of "we can't add a thing to what's been done" potentially misleading.

Jc_Freak: said...

Yes, potentially misleading, though techniquely accurate. We don't add to the atonement itself, but we are called to live the atonement out. It's one of those paradoxes.

Marc said...

Just reading this again I have to raise a question. How sure are you that, when Paul says "works" he means the same as you seem to mean?

We do not have redemption through our works...

You are right to point out that Paul was actually arguing about salvation apart from heritage (being Jewish in the sense of obeying Torah). The BIG question is whether Luther and the reformers drew a wide general conclusion where Paul only had a specific point in mind.

This is the New Perspective on Paul I'm sure you'll know.

Jc_Freak: said...

Well Marc, Paul doesn't use the word 'works' in this text at all, so it isn't really an issue of how Paul uses the term. Thus, my use of the term was meant to reflect Paul's.

But I do agree with NPP that Paul didn't use the term the same way that Luther understood it, especially within the book of Romans. It wasn't referring to the earning of an eschatological destiny, but rather a working out/maintenance of the covenant that the Jewish people already enjoyed with God. However, I would also say that Luther's use the word is still accurate in that we do not earn favor from God by doing the right things.