In class yesterday, we ambled through Ephesians 1:1-14. I wanted to go slow through the text, in order to notice what Paul was doing: repeating words and phrases, confirming God’s work on behalf of people, setting up readers for what would follow. I’ve done this before–more than once–but it never fails to make me pause and reflect.
In Christ (or in Him) shows up several times–a seemingly ordinary phrase that hardly attracts attention, except for its repetition by Paul. Why so often? To remind readers of the new ‘place’ they have entered as followers of Jesus. And what comes of being in this place–of being connected to the Lord like this? The ‘spiritual blessings’ Paul mentions and then lists.
It’s a long list, too, full of language about God’s awareness and intentionality. It impresses readers with the notion that being ‘in Christ’ is not accidental or automatic or without effect. Paul’s interest in blessings also takes us back to Jesus’ sermon on the mount (in Matthew 5-7), which begins with Jesus’ mention of blessings that accrue to those who live in God’s light. It’s another link suggesting that so much of what Paul writes follows on what Jesus said and did.
We looked more closely at those blessings Paul enumerates. The preacher in me couldn’t help but alliterate: the connection (being ‘in Christ’) leads to confidence and contentment. Confidence, because Jesus followers can know they have been sought out and drawn in by the Lord–which means they don’t have to be pushed around by fear or anxiety. Contentment, because God’s grace keeps pouring out, providing what is needed, and offering a sense of purpose in moving through life (this latter point springs from Paul’s remark in v. 12, where be can be understood as exist).
So it’s there–all this great teaching, all these fine ideas. And, as usual, Paul’s writing sparks the question: will these notions take hold in our hearts–my heart–and make a difference?