This summer, on Sundays, the plan is to go through the book of Ephesians and Philippians, with a few other blog posts sprinkled here and there on other types of reflection. But I’m super excited to really dive into more scripture this summer – both on Sundays and the Bible Study I’m doing this summer as well.
Ephesians is a letter from Paul to the church in Ephesus as Paul is writing from a prison cell in Rome. One of the things I noticed when I compared the other letters that Paul wrote to churches was that Ephesians was only one of two letters that Paul writes alone. In 1 Corinthians, he is writing the letter with Sosthenes. In 2 Corinthians, Philippians, and Colossians, it’s with Timothy. In Galatians, it’s with all the brothers with him. And 1 and 2 Thessalonians, he is writing with Timothy and Silas. Only in Romans does he not mention anyone else with him as he writes the letter.
The part of the first chapter that truly struck me was this quote:
In him (meaning Christ), we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, that he lavished on us…
Ephesians 1: 7-8a
That word lavished pricked me as soon as I read it. As I continued through the rest of the chapter, my mind kept going back to that word. Lavish is such a luxurious word. I think of when someone lavishes gifts on someone else. But I wanted to know what Paul said exactly, so, like any nerd, I looked it up in Greek. The word is Perisseuo which means overflow and exceed.
It made me think of the story of the feeding of the 5000 with the 5 loaves and 2 fish. How it fed everyone but still had 12 basketfuls left over. Jesus not only met the need, but he surpassed it.
Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t just pay our debt to sin. It surpasses it. And then I got giddy. Because you know what that means?
I will never be too broken, too sinful, too much for the love and grace of God. The riches of God’s grace not only pay my debt, but it surpasses my debt. His grace is greater than any sin I have ever done, even the ones I think are too big to handle.
Not that we should continue sinning, which Paul talks about in his letter to the Romans (6:1-2). We are freed from sin, and from the guilt and shame of that sin. We didn’t bankrupt God with our sin. But God did purchase us in our sin. In Ephesians 1:13, it says that we are marked in him with a seal, a sign of possession. And that seal is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit working within us is a sign that we are no longer our own, but that we belong to God.
Honestly, I have always thought that the Holy Spirit was a gift I could use, not a gift that used me. You know, I thought that the power of the Holy Spirit was used to perform miracles, answer prayers, make life easier. But this is saying that the Holy Spirit doesn’t work for me, I work for the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit’s purpose is to be “the praise of his glory” (v 14). The Spirit uses us to praise God’s glory, to glorify God.
And that really sticks it to the Devil. No matter what he throws at me – death, depression, isolation, anxiety, the Spirit can use those things to glorify God. In my own weakness, God’s strength prevails, not just barely, but overabundantly with room to spare.
The story is of this powerful creator of universes who has an amount of grace and power that is beyond sufficient for all of the bad done in the world, all the losses, the pain, the hurt, the addictions. We are heirs to that power, that redemption, that reconciliation through Christ (Ephesians 1:18-20), that cannot be separated from us (Romans 8: 28-29).
How cool is that?