3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4insofar as He chose us in him from the creation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5He chose us beforehand for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of His will, 6to the praise of His glorious grace which He bestowed freely on us in the Beloved. 7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of wrongdoing according to the riches of His grace, 8which He lavished on us in all wisdom and insight, 9making known the mystery of His will, according to His purpose put forth in Him, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, uniting [summing up] all things in Christ—things in heaven and things on the earth. 11In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been chosen beforehand according to the purpose of Him Who has accomplished all things according to the counsel of His will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. 13In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Hm, were sealed by the promised Holy Spirit, 14Who is the down payment of our inheritance until He redeems His possession, to the promise of His glory.
This passage, at first glance, seems quite dense. There is a ton of theology in here that informs our practice, but the bigger issue is the syntax. If Paul were in my English or Composition class, he would get a failing grade for his absurd sentence construction. This appears to be one sentence, modified by tons of clauses. However, we must also remember that Paul didn’t speak English, didn’t write this in English, and didn’t intend it for an English audience per se. Instead, the early Church HEARD the text being read to them verbally, and first-century rhetorical tradition had indicators in the Greek text that showed readers where to pause and breathe. So in its original form, being read to the congregation, this would sound like nine sentences, not one. Maybe I’m being a bit unfair to Paul as an English writer.
The central focus of this passage is on the God Who is both the Author and Hero of this story. The passage has a Trinitarian focus on God the Father, the Spirit (through the adjective “spiritual”) and the incarnate Son. The Incarnate Son is the center of God’s redemptive activity in history. The opening lines are a blessing, just like the Old Testament blessings of old. However, in this context, “blessed be the LORD God of Israel” has become “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” which intimates Someone more international and universal. This blessing is an opening worship to the God of the universe, not just one people. And in Christ, this God is demonstrating His love for all nations and ethnicities—for all mankind. This is not a denial of Christ’s divinity but an emphasis on His humanity. The adjective “blameless” is a freedom from guilt incurred by transgression, and this is telling. Ephesian Christians would have understood purity. Artemis Ephesia was portrayed in antiquity as a virgin huntress born to Leto and Zeus, and one had to be pure to enter her temple (Baugh). God is even more pure—He is the living God (“I am who I am”) who chose his people before the foundation of the world. Here is the Author of the story sending the Hero, Christ, to buy back His beloved human beings from the bondage of sin and death. In Christ, all of creation is “summed up” (10, ἀναχεφαλαιωσασθαι). Through this action, God has been at work on our behalf since the beginning of time, writing the story, executing the story, choosing, buying, saving, redeeming. He adopts us as coheirs with His natural firstborn Son, in Whom the whole creation is “summarized” (10)….we are to co-rule over all things with Him in the heavenlies. Not only are we purchased and adopted and purified—we are sealed. In the first century, people marked their possessions with seals. God has sealed us for Himself, and that seal is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is also the down payment of the glory and hope that God Himself has designed for us; we have a bit of it now, and will have the full amount later.
At the core of this passage is the astounding conclusion that we must reach: God REALLY, REALLY loves us. This is why He’s done all of this. This is why He’s paid the terrible price He’s paid. This is why He brings us along in hope and faith, day by day, moving inexorably toward our ultimate destiny of victory and hope. I know how hard it is to love someone consistently over time; God makes it look easy, and has completely defeated the enemy on our behalf with His superb authorial actions. The down payment of the Spirit that I’ve received is a down payment of my ultimate salvation: my healing from both disease and sin. He has purchased it, and it is sure.
That fires me up. No wonder Paul begins the pericope with a word of praise! He’s praising God the Father for sending the Son and sealing us with the Spirit—for these actions have marked us as His permanent possessions, children, and beloved. When you think about this, doesn’t this change the way you go about your day? Doesn’t this help you begin the day with worship? With thanksgiving? With confidence? He has already acted on our behalf, and He continues to act. How can we lose?