When I was a young disciple, maybe a few weeks old, I found a book on prayer in the town library that encouraged me to memorize this Scripture:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6.3
So I did. I would recite it over and over and over. Then, with my trusty King James Bible still in hand — the only version I knew of at the time — I decided to memorize the first Psalm. Beautiful. Encouraging. Serious. This small act of devotion brought so much joy to my life, I decided to memorize the book of James. Then Ephesians. I walked around reciting these books over and over, in my mind and with my mouth. I was the Town Mumbler. Ephesians in particular brought me a heightened sense of wonder. Although I was still less than a year old as a Christian, my understanding of Ephesians increased exponentially. The book became alive — on fire. I went from thinking these were just simple words that were dutifully dictated by Paul, to thinking that Ephesians was a masterpiece of inspired literature. I went from thinking Paul wrote the book by rote or quasi-mechanically, to seeing the text as a thoughtful, intelligent and masterful expression of the grace and glory of God. Every word became pregnant with meaning. Every word seemed to be the precise word needed for Paul to make his point. Every word was set in a perfect sequence to complete this divine portrait, this divine puzzle, this matrix of inter-locking ideas.
I saw a host of recurring patterns and themes and words: fullness, grace, riches, glory, in Christ, unity, and praise.
I saw the bodily postures Paul evoked: “seated” in chapter 2; “walk” in chapter 4; “stand” in chapter 6.
I saw the church as a “building” in chapter 2; a “body” in chapter 4; and a “bride” in chapter 5.
I saw that Paul referred to himself as a prisoner of Christ and not of Caesar.
I saw the entire plan of God unfold in Ephesians 1.3-14. Paul writes of our being chosen by God before creation, and then he shifts to the present moment and then to the future. The emphasis is first on the Father, then on the Son, then on the Spirit. And each segment ends with the call to praise the glorious grace of God, etc.
I saw how precious unity is to God. Unity between us and God. Unity of Jew and Gentile. Unity of individual believers. Unity of the Spirit. Unity of all things in heaven and on earth.
I saw how all these blessings are found in Christ alone. And that in Christ we possess “all the fullness of God.”
I saw all this as a very young Christian, with no help from sermons, teachers or commentaries. Just from carrying the word of God in my heart and mind.
Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to hear J. I. Packer give an excellent, two-hour exposition on Ephesians 6.10-18. The topic was “the whole armor of God.” After thirty-five years of thinking and hearing, I heard him share new insights, as if the passage was brand new to me. Amazing.
This past Friday I printed up Ephesians 1.3-14 on a sheet of paper and handed it out to our discussion group. In the original Greek this passage is one long, uninterrupted sentence. It’s as if Paul couldn’t stop himself from declaring the grace and goodness of God. His words are like a waterfall of wisdom and praise that simply must gush forth. He’s like a happy puppy on a leash that won’t stop charging forward, even when the leash is strained. Paul was overwhelmed by God’s grace and wisdom, and chose, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to convey that sense of wonder to us.
We spent Friday evening enjoying – no — revelling in the grace and goodness of God. The gratitude expressed to God by those present made this one of the most wonderful discussions I’ve ever been a part of. We stayed on the phrase “every spiritual blessing” for a long time. What more can God do for us besides “every”? What does the word “every” mean, if not every? Paul was very familiar with this breath-taking idea: We possess “all things” Romans 8; “everything” 1 Corinthians 3; “the whole estate” Galatians 4. God can do no more for us than he already has or plans to. Wrap your mind around that. Whatever good thing he can conceive on our behalf, that he has done and will do!
How should we then live? Why should we ever be discouraged? Why should we ever be discontent? Why should we ever grumble or complain about anything? So many good insights, new insights, were shared on Friday night. After all these years, more treasure is still being revealed to me, through the Spirit and through the minds and mouths of other saints. God’s word is beautiful. God’s promises are precious .Pure and simple.
“To the praise of his glorious grace which he has freely given us in the One He loves.”