Home > Uncategorized > The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians (Part 12 of 155)

The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians (Part 12 of 155)

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Ephesians 1.14: …this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
Our previous verse was about the Holy Spirit, who comes to dwell in us when we believe in Jesus. One thing I didn’t talk about was the use of the word “seal,” which seems to become important here. In this whole sentence (Ephesians 1.13-14), the Holy Spirit is being thought of as a gift who also proves to us the grace and promises of God. To be sealed with something is to be officially marked; here Paul is telling us that to have the Holy Spirit dwell in us is to be marked as a member of God’s people.

He calls it a “pledge of our inheritance toward redemption”; so here we are seeing very concretely the present and future aspects of God’s promises towards us. Here I think “pledge” is to be thought of as being a foretaste, a little (but genuine) bit what is to come, which also gives us assurance and knowledge of the reality that is promised. We experience the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, his ability to renew our hearts and give us hope in Christ, and we then trust that God will see us through to the finish, to the new heavens and the new earth.

This raises an issue for me that I’m sure I’m not alone in. Oftentimes Christians wonder: do I really have the Holy Spirit in me? I don’t feel him. While it’s certainly true that the Holy Spirit worked great wonders in the early Church (prophesies, tongues, and miracles), and still works wonders today, we should never associate his activity solely with a certain sort of feeling, or otherwise tangible experience or emotional state. This sells him way short–remember that this is God we are talking about. Drugs can give us feelings; the Holy Spirit does things on a much more subtle and deep level. This doesn’t mean that he won’t influence our emotions–even powerfully so, at times. But he cannot be marked out by an emotion, and the lack of emotions does not signal that he is not present or that he has left.

I am speaking for myself here. I know there are people for whom the presence of God is so tangible that it fills them with great joy and marks their character constantly with the peace and presence of Christ. I am not denying this reality, and I even think I have met some such people (and, to be honest, I envy them). I only mean to say that this is not the experience of us all, and it does not mean that we are without God. We can learn a lot from such people; one thing we should not learn is the despairing falsehood that we have to have an experience like theirs in order to be faithful to God.

The Holy Spirit may not always be felt but he is always near. He whispers the truth to our consciences and he gives us courage and faith. This is “to the praise of God’s glory.” This may also be puzzling, because often it seems that God is not so glorified in this world. But, I believe that both of these issues–the apparent absence of God in our experience and in the world as a whole–have a common root. What I’d like to suggest is that God is accomplishing a work on such a grand scale, and through such close means, that we almost miss it. I hope I can get across what I mean by this. We often hope and pray that God will bring an end to visible evils such as disease and war; and we should continue to pray such things, because it does, indeed, make all the difference in the world (believe it or not). But the main work God is accomplishing is the collective redemption of individual human hearts.

We have to see his grand scale action–his entire plan, individual and collective–from the proper perspective, knowing that what needs to happen for the ourselves to be truly healed and for the world to truly be healed is, really, beyond our grasp. The Holy Spirit is drawing a people to himself, enabling them to love him, and through him love their neighbors. This is the Kingdom of God, being brought to earth in history, and it does not always look like we expect. We want, for instance, for him to destroy every temptation and inclination to sin in our hearts, but he does not. We still have many failures. Likewise, we want him to come and visibly crush the oppressor now, to put an end to all the visible evil we see. But:

and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. (Isaiah 11.4)

It is the word of Christ, and not his sword, that will put an end to wickedness, at least in this age.

Next time, we will pause to reflect a bit on what we have read so far; it seems a good place to do so.

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