And all this being so, having heard of this faith of yours in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love you extend to all those thus consecrated, I do not cease from continually giving thanks for you, making continual remembrance of you in my praying that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all exalted standing, may give to you the breath of wisdom and revelation in your knowledge of Him, with the eyes of your heart illuminated so that you grasp what is the hope of His calling, and what are the riches [to be found] in the consecrated ones that will come to them from what He has inherited, and what is the multiplied and multiplying greatness of His power to us, the ones who already believe due to what He had wrought in us by the sheer might of His power, which He has already demonstrated by the raising of Christ from the grave and seating Him at His heavenly right hand - far above all rule, authority, power and lordship and each and every name, not only in this era but in the one coming, having subjected all things under His feet, and bequeathing Him to the church, which is His body, as head over all things, this being its complete fulfilment along with everything else [filled to the brim and overflowing]. - Ephesians 1:15-23/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne

Church service

The church - evidence of God's work. PICTURE: John Price/Unsplash

 

"God’s work with His specially chosen and set apart people has, as its purpose, the open and public display of His glory, His righteousness, His purposes; these are the evidence of His work and are given for all to see."

The phrase “the hope of His calling” - that is, the calling forth of a people to serve Him - may also refer to the calling forth of Israel in Isaiah 41:11-13 in which such obedience contrasts with the skilled craftmanship of those making idols.

I am assuming that this letter is written with the events of Acts 19 still in the vivid memory of the correspondent and his readers. This passage from the prophet goes to the heart of God's revelation of Himself making humankind in His image because it is all about the suffering servant and His role in the context of a way of life that has become a rebellious idolatry.

The making of idols can only rightly be understood as involvement in a basic religious perversion of this creational reality. In the calling forth of Bezalel and Oholiab (Exodus 31:1-12; 35:30-36:7), the Lord not only proclaims the restoration of His image-bearers, but gives a firm mandate to artwork as inherent in our human task of subduing the earth and bringing it all to the praise and honour of the Lord.

The foreshadowed blessings of obedience (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) as they have now been fulfilled in Christ Jesus, have now been distributed upon the Ephesian EKKLESIA. Their life henceforth involves their reception to the Lord's distribution of His gifts (see Ephesians 4:8). This has now fulfilled the prophetic word in a new way raising the distinct possibility that God’s holy people, those crafted by the Lord Himself for obedient service, shall indeed startle those who live by the making of idols - “the peoples shall be afraid” (Deuteronomy 28:10).

God’s work with His specially chosen and set apart people has, as its purpose, the open and public display of His glory, His righteousness, His purposes; these are the evidence of His work and are given for all to see.

Sometimes, as with the preaching of the Good News at Ephesus, this has the effect of drawing a violent public reaction. That means His people are being prepared to face the possibility that a sense of dread will emerge in those caught up in commerce based upon idolatry when they hear of the mercies of the Lord. The Good News may put those who are buying and selling in such a market-place on notice, but it does so by proclaiming the riches of Him who created all things including the possibility of trade. And when people start giving up their pagan practises (Acts 19:19), trade in idols and related artefacts will surely be put at risk.

Paul’s letter is called forth to serve the church at Ephesus and elsewhere, places in which the Good News has taken root. Over a two year period all the residents of Asia had heard this proclaimed Gospel and a profound spiritual change had taken place across the region. This was before the orchestration of a riot when the silversmith’s guild complained that their busniess was in peril.

Paul writes in the knowledge that the life of that EKKLESIA under God’s blessing could, in time, bring forth a harvest that was quite beyond his own imagining, with consequences far beyond any human ability to control. He is the one who sows the seed. Others do the watering. Still others are called upon to harvest the first fruits. But, in this context, Paul’s task is to write an encouraging letter, and it seems quite likely that he developed this letter-writing project from prison!