Ephesians 1:7-10 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (8) which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight (9) making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (10) as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
We Christians are very aware of forgiveness by his grace. We sing about it and even argue about the nuances of how it works out. Unfortunately, we sometimes fail to follow through with the implications of this gracious redemption. There is a plan. The plan is driven by the mysterious will of God. However, in Christ, the mysterious is made manifest. What are told is that the plan is to unite everything in heaven and earth. Instead of dissonance, there will be harmony. Christ, the promised Jewish Messiah King, is the one who is the head of this unification. Christ-ians, people who declare loyalty (faith) in him are adopted into his family and part of his work of uniting all in heaven and earth.
Ephesians 1:15-19 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, (16) I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, (17) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, (18) having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, (19) and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…
Because of this great uniting of heaven and earth, Paul prays for those who have faith in the Lord who unites, and love for those who have been united. What he then asks in prayer for is them to get a clear vision of the hope that is good and real. The hope is good (true riches) and it is real (great power to bring it about, the same power exerted when the Lord Jesus was raised to life over death).
What unfolds in the letter is a back and forth of living in the murkiness of the world contrasted with living an informed life of productive purpose. What Paul explains is the superiority of God in all of this, the reality of the spiritual realm of rebellion (demonic) and very practically, the explanation of why we live in a world that can be mean and weird. The more those united in Christ understand what the hope is, the more they can participate in living it out. So what is the hope?
Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, (5) even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– (6) and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (7) so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (8) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (9) not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
We lived in the murkiness of a world without purpose and fell into the selfish, consumerist trap of indulging our minds and bodies in anything that was temporarily pleasing. We were resigned to the kingdom of death (eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!). BUT GOD, mercifully loved us and gave us life in spite of us. His grace, which we received by faith, was part of the plan to allow us to display the glory of God by living like we were created to live. We were created to live under God’s leadership as loving leaders over creation. When our fellowship with God was lost through rebellion, our hope was lost. Now we do not have to live for short term gratification. We have been miraculously brought back into the plan of God to have heaven and earth united in purpose and fellowship so that life is as it ought to be.
How do we get there? In chapter 3 Paul explains why he is involved, and in chapter 4 he shows that the pattern is that God uses people to help people.
Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (15) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (16) from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The imagery is of the adopted child growing up to be like the Father who has given the child his surname. Though the natural way of the world we live in is to be tossed about in confusion and foolishness, the hope in Christ is genuine and appropriate love, to God as father and to others as family is the future.
Since the HOPE is mature and healthy love, why wait? We are urged to stop acting like drunken buffoons indulging in vain and foolish things. We are urged to have every aspect of our being invaded and ruled by the spirit of God. The way that looks is someone who is genuinely joyful and grateful, one who looks to serve rather than using others, one who has healthy relationships with their husband or wife, with their children, parents, bosses and employees. Essentially, it is a hope of what will one day be everywhere.
The problem is that we are establishing the future Kingdom of love and light in a world of selfishness and darkness. That is why Paul urges those pursuing the hope of a world under the loving and powerful wisdom of Christ to stand against the rulers of the world of chaos and cruelty:
Ephesians 6:10-12 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. (11) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
So what is the hope? It is what comes from faith that Jesus is, in fact, Lord of heaven and earth and that there is a growing community defined by genuine love. It is a sense of confidence in what the future will in fact be and a purposeful pursuit to invest in it now by living wisely in the power and love of God, right here, right now.