|Series Theme: Meditations in Ephesians|
Meditation No. 1
Meditation Title: By the Will of God
Eph 1:1,2 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sometimes Scripture seems almost too simple and so we gloss over it, yet the truth is more likely to be that it is so profound we miss it. By the heading of this meditation you can clearly see our focus, but in one sense it is the focus of the whole of this very profound letter or little book. Within this letter we find some amazing revelations of what the church is, and it is all about the will of God.
Perhaps because it is such a simple phrase and one so familiar to Christians, we ought to look at it for a bit before we apply it to Paul's situation. It seems fairly obvious, doesn't it, this ‘will of God'. It is what God wants, His desires, the things on His heart. Paul spoke to the Romans about God's will as “his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom 12:2). Because God IS good and perfect, whatever He desires is similarly good and perfect, and because He has made us in His image (Gen 1:26,27), we are able to relate to Him and appreciate Him, and when we do we realise that His will is pleasing.
Does God force His will on us? I believe the answer is ‘yes' and ‘no'. In that God knows everything, including how we will act in any situation, and including how things will happen in the future, it is fairly easy to see that God plans and purposes in such a way that what comes about is what He has seen will come about and what He has contributed to, to come about, so in that sense all that happens is God's will and nothing happens that is not His will. Now that is not to say that He is happy about everything that happens. He is not happy about sin or sickness or evil – but He permits it, and in that sense it becomes part of His will and He works around it and weaves it into His work of redemption.
The classic expression of this is in Peter's Spirit-anointed message on the Day of Pentecost: “This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23). It was God's plan that Jesus should be arrested and crucified to become “the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29 ) but it was the free-will sin of man that did it, not God. He simply gave them the space and opportunity to do what they did.
Does God force His will on us? No! He gives us free will and allows us to do what we choose, yet, even as we've seen above, He weaves that into His purposes to achieve the outcome He is aiming for. So this is ‘ the will of God' . It is good, pleasing and perfect (even if we are unable to see it like that sometimes from our limited viewpoint), it allows us free will, but it weaves all our deeds, good and bad, into an ultimate goal of redemption.
Do you notice one very obvious thing about it? When you are a Christian you can look back on your life and see the hand of God upon it and realise that He is drawing you into His will. That's why Paul was able to describe himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” He was a ‘sent one' a ‘sent messenger of God' because that was what God had planned and purposed for Paul. He had chosen Paul and called him on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9), taught him and directed him. Paul could have refused this calling but God knew his heart and knew, even in persecuting Christians, Paul was ‘for God' and so when he is given the revelation of Jesus, he gladly submits to it, and the end result is the apostle we know who wrote so many of the New Testament letters.
This strong element, of the sovereign will of God combined with the submitted will of man, is going to be a key part to this letter, we will see as we work our way through it. It contains some of the most sublime and profound teaching about the church found anywhere in the New Testament and the church is all about the people of God expressing the will of God in His world.
If you are a Christian, can you look back and see God's hand upon your life? Can you see how He called you, drew you, convicted you, and brought you to a place of surrender, after which He placed His Spirit in you and you were ‘born again' (Jn 3:3,5)? Can you see His hand upon things that have happened to you since you became a Christian? Are you aware of the times He spoke to you, guided and directed you? Are you aware that you have arrived at the place where you are because of the working of God in your life? If you cannot answer positively to these questions, perhaps you might like to think and pray about these things as we go through this amazing little book together.