Commentary on Ephesians 1:3-14
The art of celebration and giving thanks for God’s creation has been lost in the 21st-century world. The human family is caught up in an us-versus-them dichotomy, but in this letter, the author summons believers of all nations, tribes, ethnicities, and genders into a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to God, our Creator. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-21 signaled God’s reversal of the story of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9), where God is shown to confuse human language in a way that would not allow them to build a tower toward the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 1:3-14 is a celebration of God, who from the beginning of times wrote the script and melody of human life, as well as the natural order of things. Creation’s music and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ reveals something of the attributes of God’s mystery. The mystery summons people to live together as siblings because Christ’s death and resurrection formed humanity into a new creation. More importantly, God’s mystery signals to all believers that God is not as impulsive as humans are, but that the divine nature of the creator is deeply intentional.
In Ephesians 1:3-14, the writer invites Christian believers to sing a spiritual hymn, one that centers all souls on the orderliness of the creator. Three words captivate the mind, soul and heart of the reader: “chosen, redeemed, and sealed” (Ephesians 1:3–10). Humanity and every individual human being is not an accident, but we are all enshrined in the blanket of the divine. The opening outburst of verses 3-5 is a joyful celebration of what God, in and through Jesus Christ, did in bringing believers into an “already but not yet” world of salvation. Believers’ lives are embedded in the life of the resurrected one, not just for now, but for all eternity. In any event, Ephesians 1:3-14 does not claim that Christians are in any way out of the world, but as resurrected and Pentecost people, their daily lives must be Christ-like. Having been repositioned in Christ, redeemed, chosen, and sealed, Christians are to live into this new realized eschatology, that is a space where God’s Kingdom is already manifested. In other words, Christians are to embody God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit in all what they do, say and perceive.
The orderliness of night and day, changing of seasons, and physical and biological rhythms reveal God’s mysterious and encompassing saving purposes. In the same way, Resurrection is no different from Creation, in that the God whom the author praises in these verses is the same God who manifested divine love in and around the events of the cross. It is this mystery that believing human beings are called to inhabit. Yet, humanity has not yet learned to celebrate God’s mystery, instead, we choose some parts of the Trinity, as well as some parts of resurrection, and leave out sections we don’t like. It would indeed be a celebration if worship, every form of our gathering, was a delightful time of honoring God’s gift of diversity. Indeed, it’s not enough to just attend church services on Sunday, but people must remember that celebration is a form of prayer, and God ushers in blessings when people are able to celebrate each other’s presence and gifts.
Pentecost or no Pentecost, believers are cautioned to remember that our presence on earth depends on God’s intention and not ours, and so our failure to join the author of Ephesians in this spiritual hymn of God’s creation, might result in our missing out on the spiritual blessings (verse 3). In lifting these blessings or riches that believers “In Christ,” now enjoy, the author redefines the nature and quality of the church, as a place or space where God intends to manifest salvation and presence, as a way of God’s ongoing creation. In a way, Ephesians reminds believers that God’s creation is not a one-time event, but rather it is an everyday process.
Hence, the church in Ephesus, and the church of the 21st century, are not just about buildings, but rather God’s domain where a new humanity is being created. This new creation called the church is called to be hospitable to all nations, races, ethnic groups, rich and poor, people of all genders and persuasions. In a world so polarized, Ephesians 1:3-14 reminds believers that the Church is to be the heart of all humanity. Everyone must feel welcomed into the church, because it is a place where God molds, forms, and shapes us into Christ-like image.
Pastors, lay people, and religious leaders must look at Ephesians 1:3-14, and use it as a launching pad for the building of a multicultural and cross-cultural church where all people are recognized as God’s children. In the church, and more poignantly, in what God did through Jesus Christ on the cross, the Church becomes a sacred place where racism, sexism, tribalism, prejudice, and many other human sicknesses have no place.
The church of the 21st century and beyond faces a challenge because humanity is not willing to live together in peace and harmony. Polarization of all kinds threatens the message of Ephesians, and that message is unity in diversity. But one has to wonder whether unity in diversity is possible? Regardless of what God in Jesus Christ did on the cross, one has to wonder whether unity, love, peace and reconciliation can be achieved. The message of Ephesians 1:3-14 is that God predestined the world for love and this love is for all humanity. In a subtle but poignant manner, creation and resurrection are all part of the same plan of God. While God created the world, nature, and humanity, Jesus Christ on the cross brought forth the plan of God, making it possible for believers to enjoy the blessings and riches of God’s Kingdom.
In any case, believers have a misinterpretation of “predestination,” if they see it as if God made a choice to save some and leave out others. Instead, predestination points to intentionality on the part of God’s all-encompassing love of all humanity. God’s love does not exclude but embraces all creation, including the human family. Secondly, God’s love makes it possible for humanity to experience the grace and faithful relationship of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit (1:5). Therefore, our response to God’s love, grace, and presence with all believing humanity evokes praise, honor and worship. Because God does not exclude, humanity should also learn to include others in ways that usher in peace, unity and love.