Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, our ascended Lord and God, we worship you now and ask that you would speak to us through Your Word. Declare to us your will, your orders, your directions for our lives, that we might know and live in the same power that raised you from the dead and seated you in the heavenly places. Hear and answer, for you are our King. And Amen!
Ascension Sunday is the last hurrah of the Easter Season. He was seen for forty days by his apostles before being taken up into heaven (Acts. 1:3), and ascension day commemorates this fact and we celebrate it today. The entire Easter season comes to close with the celebration of Pentecost next week, the celebration of Christ’s Spirit being poured out on to the Church.
Faith and Love
Paul begins Ephesians with an extended doxology of praise (vv. 3-14). And it is following that doxology that he begins his address to the Ephesians, “Therefore…” Paul begins by saying that he has heard of the Ephesians’ faith in the Lord Jesus and their love for the saints (v. 15). It is this combination that Paul does not cease to give thanks to God for. In fact, in his letter to Galatians, Paul connects the two by saying that it does not matter whether one is a Jew or not. The issue is “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). This is Paul’s version of what James describes as faith being perfected by works (Js. 2:22). And given what Paul has “gushed” about in the preceding verses, it is safe to say that Paul is excited because the Ephesians “got it.” They understood just how amazing and spectacular their redemption really was.
Understanding the Gift
But Paul’s thanksgiving is part of his prayers in which he asks that the Ephesians would receive the “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him…” (vv. 17-18). The Ephesians have begun to understand and act on that understanding, but it is only the beginning. Notice that what the Ephesians need to come to understand is what has already been given to them. It is “His inheritance in the saints” and exceeding greatness “toward us who believe” (vv.18-19). Paul wants the Ephesians to recognize the greatness of the glory which is promised to the Ephesians, the hope of their calling. They have not been saved to grin and bear it and go to heaven when they die. That is not the gospel.
The Heavenlies and Rule
Paul says that the same power which is at work in them (the Spirit of wisdom) is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at the right hand of God in the heavenly places (v. 20). Paul has already hinted at this in his opening doxology where he blessed God for blessing us “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (v. 3). What is Christ’s is yours. But we need to recognize that the “heavenlies” have invaded this world (Eph. 2:6, 3:10, 6:12). Yes, we are speaking of a reality that is beyond our reckoning, but we are not talking about something far away or in another dimension. Heaven pervades this world, and it will more and more (Mt. 6:10). So we need to understand what the Spirit has done and is doing in Christ’s resurrection and ascension because Paul says that this is what has been given to us. Christ has authority over every authority (v. 21) and all things have been put beneath Him (v. 22). To what end? For what purpose? For the church which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (v. 23). Paul says that the center of this authority and power and rule is found in the church which Christ is the head of. This is why the church matters.
Conclusion & Applications
Faith and Love: Brothers and sisters, this is nothing more than the two greatest commandments, loving God and neighbor. And the two have to go together. And John says that anyone who says they love God and doesn’t love his brother is a liar (1 Jn. 4:20). This is just what faith does. Love in the little things and in the big things.
Understanding: You don’t get to check your brain at the door here. And neither do you get to check your brain at the door when you leave as though it only matter what you think for an hour and a half one day a week. You are called to grow in knowledge and understand and wisdom (vv. 17-18). The wisdom of God is the Word of God. This means that you are called to be here in the Church where Christ’s fullness fills all in all. And this means that your entire lives should be permeated with his words in song and speech.
The Hope of Our Calling: All of this is based on the ascension of Jesus. That Jesus went into heaven and is seated there, and that in the power of the Holy Spirit we are seated with Him. This means that Jesus rules over all, and we cannot get tired of saying this. Jesus is king. But this means that we are rulers too. Atheists and secularists and materialists are our slaves, our servants. They are ignorant fools, and we let them carry on with their blather. But we are the rulers of this world because Jesus reigns. This is the hope of our calling. This is not our imagination; this not last night’s dinner. Jesus lives and rules, and we fully expect that this whole world will slowly but surely submit or be destroyed. Jesus said that the meek will inherit the earth (Mt. 5:5). We are called to this hope, to the riches of the glory of this inheritance.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Concluding Prayer: Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus, you have seated our Lord Jesus at your right hand, and you have given him authority and power over all things. And in your infinite wisdom and goodness you have granted us a share in this rule and reign. We ask that you would teach us to speak like nobles, to live like rulers or this world, and to believe with firm conviction that you are giving us this world for your glory and for the glory of your saints.