Home > Uncategorized > The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians (Part 13 of 155)

The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians (Part 13 of 155)

I’ve decided to start this series back up. Let’s see how far I get!

When we left off, Paul had just finished his opening paragraph (Ephesians 1.1-14), which is an amazing summary of the work of God in the world, through Jesus Christ. What is particularly amazing is the grand scale of his work that is described, and yet the ultimately personal nature of the plan. We are reminded that God had us in mind when he created the universe, when we were chosen “before the foundation of the world” to be his children, to be redeemed by his Son. His desire is to gather up all things in himself, to wrap the world in his love, and we are the centerpiece of that plan. At the end of the paragraph, the focus turns to the individual, who has God’s Holy Spirit in himself, dwelling in him, making him new and reminding him of God’s promise to see him through to the end, to receive the fullness of the love that God has lavished on us.

Here is our next verse–actually we will do the next two verses:

15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

Paul has turned his attention more explicitly to the congregation of the Ephesians that his letter is addressing. Hearing of their faith, and the love it induces, brings Paul joy and encourages him to give thanks to God, continually. This is a valuable and important thing, to be thankful for the faith of others; I confess that this is a somewhat rare thing for me to rejoice in. Paul is absolutely confident in the love of God towards these people, and his saving grace in their lives, and so has the joy that we know is from heaven:

Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15.10)

In my experience with the faith of others, I find that I tend to be cynical about it. Instead of looking for the mustard seed of faith in the heart of a sinner–which is all that counts in the end–I am ashamed to admit that I find the faith of others questionable, and often expect that people will fall away, often look for the thing that tells me whether someone is “truly a Christian.” I think there is an awful spirit at work here in this type of thinking, which has the power to bring animosity between Christians and to divide the church. What we should do is trust absolutely that God is at work in the hearts of others, and thank God for the faith we do see, and pray that God would nurture it, knowing as we do that he himself is faithful.

Yet we should, I think, be concerned about the faith of others. There is someone in my bible study who always sits in front at church and says he watches each person in our congregation as they go up for communion, and wonders about what is going on in their heart, and prays for them. He knows that God is doing a great work in our church, and he also knows that something precious is at stake in this life. I admire this a great deal, this deep and ultimate concern.

We know from other places that Paul does display anxiety about the faith of others; assuming that the inspiration of scripture implies that this is a “righteous worry,” how do we account for this? There is, I think, a place for a certain sort of anxiety, or at least sorrow. But it must be humble and it must stem from a genuine desire that people would know the precious love of God and what it costs. We can be burdened for others with a genuine concern for their souls–but this burden must always acknowledge that it is God himself who is burdened more, and who in fact bore the ultimate burden.


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