Pentecost, El Greco 1696

Pentecost, El Greco 1696

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ , for the praise and glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth. In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will , so that we might exist for the praise of His glory, we who first hoped in Christ. In him you also, who have heard the word of truth , the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:1-14)

The book of Ephesians opens with one of Paul’s most exuberant songs of praise, seemingly spontaneous but rich with meaning and insight and which might, if we let it, produce a heart of praise in us as well.

The entire hymn seems to well up out of two realizations: 1) ”He chose us in him before the foundation of the world” and 2) “In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ.”  One of Paul’s favorite analogies to describe the relationship with God that we gain through baptism is adoption. It’s a fairly easy analogy for us to understand. We are familiar with what adoption entails- parents freely choosing to fully incorporate into their family a son or daughter, a child that does not naturally have that relationship to them- and we translate that into our understanding of our relationship with God. We are not naturally His children, but he has chosen us and makes us so through the sacrament of Baptism.

What I love about this analogy is what it reveals to us about the type of interaction that God wants to have with us. He does not interact to us as a master to his servants, nor does he relate to us as an aloof king to his subjects. He reacts to us precisely in the way the best father in the world would interact with each of his children: with a unique love for each and every one of us in which he cares about absolutely every aspect of our lives. Nothing is too small or great to take to our daddy.

Paul’s use of the adoption analogy is rooted in the customs of Roman law, according to which a child who was adopted gained all the access of a natural son. That is to say, he became a co-heir with all his father’s natural children. The adopted child, once adopted, was every bit as much the father’s son as they were, and therefore every bit as entitled to his estate as they were.

Now take a minute to imagine what this means. It means that, upon our adoption, we actually become brothers and sisters of the Father’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and as such, true co-heirs with him of all that he receives from the Father. Prior to our baptism, we are all orphans, lost and broken in our sin, separated from the God who created us and loves us. But through our adoption we enter into a true father-child relationship with God. The God of the universe , who created and sustains all things, embraces us as his intimately beloved children and makes us co-heirs of all that is his, which in case you haven’t noticed is everything!

Life itself comes from Him, and when we become His sons and daughters we receive His very life through the gift of His Holy Spirit. His Spirit sanctifies us – that is, it purifies us and makes us increasingly like Him through our willing cooperation – and gives us strength, wisdom, guidance, and comfort for every circumstance in life.

But this is only part of our inheritance, what Paul refers to as the “first installment” of an even greater – infinitely greater – promise that is yet to come. We who have received God’s Spirit as his sons and daughters, have the sure hope of some day fully partaking in the Divine Life in the New Heavens and New Earth, where there will be no more death, or crying, or sorrow, or pain and every tear will be wiped away. (Rev, 2:1-4)

Our inheritance entails all this – His glorious presence and empowerment now, and the fulfillment of His incomparable promises in the future. No wonder Paul explodes in such praise: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens!”

The more we realize what God has done for us, the more we will as well: “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” (II Cor. 9:15)

 

 

(Today’s post is largely adapted from  A Sure Hope by Kathleen Durham, pp. 16-21)