Tuesday, January 31, 2012

You're Richer Than You Think

Part 2 of a series through the book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.



Richer Than You Think? 

Scotiabank’s slogan is “You’re richer than you think.” (Scotiabank’s net income in 2011 was $5.27 billion. Perhaps their slogan should be “We’re richer than you think.”) However, according to the Canadian Payroll Association, almost 60% of Canadians are living from paycheque to paycheque. Many Canadians are poorer than they think.

Sometimes I check coats at my home for lost money. (I think I found a $5 bill once. Usually, though, I only find pennies.) Searching under couch cushions is probably a better way to find money.

A poor rancher in West Texas named Ira Yates became a millionaire when a giant oil field was discovered on his property. The Yates Oil Field has produced more than one billion barrels of oil. Before the oil was discovered, Yates was having trouble paying the mortgage and taxes on his ranch. He was richer than he thought!

We’d all like to believe that we are richer financially than we think. If you are a Christian, you’re richer spiritually than you think.


Rich Because of God 

In Paul’s letters he usually begins by thanking his readers. But in this letter Paul starts by praising God (1:3-14). In the original Greek 1:3-14 is a one long sentence of 202 words. Scholars refer to this sentence of praise as a eulogy. (A eulogy is a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing.) Paul’s eulogy praises all three persons of the Trinity: Father (vv. 4-6), Son (vv. 7-12), and Holy Spirit (vv. 13-14). Verse 3 is a summary of the whole eulogy. In this verse “bless” appears three times (eulogetos, “blessed”; eulogeo, “blessed”; eulogia, “blessings”).

1. God is to be blessed. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:3a).

“Blessed” means “praised.” “The concept of blessing with reference to God is not expressing a wish, ‘blessed be God,’ but rather a declaration, ‘blessed is God’” (Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, p. 162). Two other NT eulogies begin the same way (2 Cor. 1:3; 2 Peter 1:3). In the NT eulogetos (“blessed”) is used eight times, and it is never of humans but only of God (Mark 14:61; Luke 1:68; Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 2 Cor. 1:3; 11:31; Eph. 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3).

Why should God be blessed? 

 2. God has blessed us in Christ. 

Who has blessed us in Christ (1:3b).

“Us” refers not only to Paul and his original readers, but to all of God’s people. The blessings Paul is talking about were not given to us because of who we are or what we have done. We have been blessed by God because we are “in Christ.”

By birth, we are in Adam (the head of the human race). “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). By grace through faith, we are in Christ (the head of the church). “If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17). Those who are in Adam are cursed, but those who are in Christ are blessed. “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).

How has God blessed us in Christ? 

3. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. 

With every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (1:3b).

God has blessed us with “spiritual” blessings. “Spiritual” could mean that these blessings are not material. However, “spiritual” probably indicates that these blessings are from the Holy Spirit. God has not merely given us some spiritual blessings. He was given us “every” spiritual blessing. These blessings are products of God’s grace. They include election (v. 4), adoption (vv. 5-6), redemption (v. 7a), forgiveness (v. 7b), revelation (vv. 9-10), an inheritance (vv. 11-12), and sealing (vv. 13-14). Notice that three times in this eulogy, Paul emphasizes that God deserves to be glorified because of these blessings: “to the praise of his glorious grace” (v. 6); “to the praise of his glory” (v. 12); “to the praise of his glory” (v. 14).

These spiritual blessings are “in the heavenly places.” This phrase is used five times in Ephesians (1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). “[God] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (1:20). And God “raised us up with [Christ] and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (2:6). Christ is “in the heavenly places” and we are “in Christ Jesus.” This world is not the only reality. There is an unseen realm. In this realm Christ is already exalted as Lord. In this realm we are blessed. The world might not see us as blessed, but “in the heavenly places” it is evident that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing.

In Ephesus there was widespread worship of the goddess Artemis. (The temple of Artemis in Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.) The first temple of Artemis contained a sacred stone that had fallen from the sky (cf. Acts 19:35), probably a meteorite. Perhaps Paul is contrasting the worship of Artemis with the worship of Jesus. The believers in Ephesus have something better than a rock that fell from the heavens. They have “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”


Richer Than You Think! 

Compared to most people on earth, we are richer financially than we think. According to Global Rich List (globalrichlist.com), if your annual income is $20,000, you are in the top 11.6% richest people in the world! If your annual income is $35,000, you are in the top 6.36% richest people in the world! If your annual income is $50,000, you are in the top 1.78% richest people in the world!

Of course, financial riches are temporary. (Steve Jobs had a lot of money, but he didn’t take any of it with him when he died.) But spiritual riches are eternal. If you are “in Christ,” you are richer than you think. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” All of these blessings have been given to us by God’s grace. Our lives should bless God each day because of all of the blessings from him.