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DAY 1 – Praising God
Last week, we looked at the first two verses of chapter 1 and got a big picture overview of the book of Ephesians and why we need it. This week, we’ll dive into the rest of chapter 1.
Paul opens this section by praising God. In the original Greek, this first section is just one long sentence. It is like Paul is just exhaling this great statement of praise. One writer compared it to a snowball rolling down a hill, picking up speed and snow as it goes along. Verse three begins by telling us that God has blessed us with “every spiritual blessing.” While God does often bless us with physical, tangible things, Paul is going to focus on the spiritual blessings that we are given in Christ. (In the rest of the days of this week’s devotional, we’ll unpack what those spiritual blessings are.)
How often do you praise God? Is it just on Sunday mornings during the time that we worship through song? Or, like Paul, are you often moved to outbursts of praise? Read Psalm 63:3-8. The psalmist reminds us that God has done wonderful things for us, and we are moved to praise. In our Ephesians passage, Paul will unpack just a few of the many spiritual gifts we are given through Jesus that should move us to praise him.
Take time to pray to God a prayer of praise like the one we read in Ephesians 1:3. What are your blessings? What can you thank God for?
DAY 2 – Spiritual Blessings
Yesterday, we noted that Paul is moved to praise God because he gives us spiritual gifts. In today’s verses, he begins to unpack those gifts. Verse 4 says that “he chose us in him” and verse five says that we are “adopted.” Adoption is a beautiful way to describe our what Jesus has done for us.
In adoption, one is chosen to become part of a family that they weren’t originally born into. In his book Adopted for Life, Russell Moore writes, “The New Testament continually points to our adoption in Christ in order to show us that we’re really, really wanted here in the Father’s house. The Spirit is continually telling the people of Christ that they, we, are ‘blessed’ in Christ through adoption.”
How does it make you feel to know that God really, really wants you as part of his family? Like Paul, are you moved to praise? These verses describe that, before the creation of the world, God chose us. This ragtag bunch of sinning, failing, messed up people was chosen by God to be holy and blameless in his sight. Jesus’ love has brought us into this new family.
Some adoptive families describe the day they brought their children home as their “gotcha day.” Each year, they remember when their child became part of their family.
How can you celebrate your “gotcha day” into God ’s family? When were you adopted in? How does it make you feel to know that God chose you before the creation of the world to be his beloved child?
DAY 3 – Abundantly Free
Not only are we moved to praise God because he chose us in love, but there are also other spiritual gifts that we receive through Christ. Of course, Jesus’ death brings us redemption. We don’t get forgiveness of our sins because of something spectacular that we have done. As verse 7 reminds us, this is all grace. It is because we have been adopted and chosen that God freely gives us redemption and forgiveness of sins. As John Stott puts it, “God’s children enjoy a free access to their Heavenly Father, and their confidence before him is due to the knowledge that they have been redeemed and forgiven.”
In The Message paraphrase of the Bible, these verses say, “Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!”
Paul describes God’s grace as “riches” that he has “lavished on us.” Our good, good Father holds nothing back from us. His freely bestows his gifts on us. Paul goes on to clarify that while God’s will in Christ was previously unknown (“a mystery” as verse 9 says), he has now made it known that God’s plan in Christ is to “sum everything up” in Jesus. Through Jesus, everything is being made right. People are being reconciled to both God and one another. God is creating a new family, a new order, a new society, a new everything, under Christ.
How often do you praise God for the gift of your salvation? Do you ever take it for granted? How can you praise him today?
DAY 4 – The Counsel of His Will
Yesterday, we took a look at how Paul describes all of those spiritual blessings that we receive from Christ. In the two verses you read for today, Paul once again returns to the language of being “chosen” and predestined. When God chooses us, he is claiming us as his people. We find this sort of language in the Old Testament a lot. Deuteronomy 32 says, “For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.” Now that we have Jesus, we believers are God’s people and he claims us as his own, as his portion, as his special heritage. It is like when someone is adopted into a family and receives an inheritance that they would not have otherwise received.
Verse 11 also reminds us that God works everything out according to his will. The Message says that God “had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” God’s will can feel really mysterious sometimes.
His plans and purposes aren’t always clear to us, especially when we are going through something painful. However, these verses remind us that God loves us and chose us and he works out our stories so that we might be for the praise of his glory. We live to praise God. Our lives and our stories are all a part of that purpose of praising him.
Russell Moore writes, “If you know Christ, though, meditate on the providence of God in your personal story. You belong because you are exactly where God intended you to be, in order to become the person you are. Nothing happens to you by accident. All things are part of a secret drama in which everything works together ‘according to the counsel of his will.’”
How has God shaped your personal story? Can you look back on times of hardship and see how God was shaping you into the person you are today? Say a prayer of thanks to God for how he has shaped your story.
DAY 5 – God’s Possession
God’s people belong to God. We are his possession. And everyone is included! Paul’s language in these verses shifts from talking about “we” in 11 and 12 to “you” in verses 13 and 14. What does he mean here? He is making a point that “we” Jewish Christians belong just as much as “you” Gentile Christians. Later in Ephesians, Paul will go deeper into this issue, but for now, he is emphasizing that everyone who believes in Christ is included.
When we believe in Christ, we are marked with a “seal” of the Holy Spirit. In biblical times, seals would have been used to mark documents, but there were also brands or seals that were placed on slaves to show ownership, to identify who they belonged to. That is the sort of language that Paul is using here. We have the ultimate helper in the Holy Spirit. He is our comforter, our helper as we live our lives here on earth.
In John 14 Jesus describes the Holy Spirit to his followers: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” The Holy Spirit gives us wisdom and help in our times of need.
But not only is he for us, he also is a marker of identity. It shows that we belong to God when we have the Holy Spirit. We are God’s possession. Again, Paul emphasizes that the purpose of this is “the praise of his glory.”
How does it make you feel to be described as “God’s possession”? Do you often feel that way? Why or why not?
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