“Purity of Mission”
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 15, 2018
Amos 7: 7-15
Psalm 85: 8-13
Ephesians 1: 7-14
Mark 6: 7-13
Fr. Gary W. Thurman
As a priest, I hear the expressions of many people concerning their role as Christians on how they perceive God. A lot of times I hear people say, “I just don’t really know what God is doing. I don’t understand what God is doing or why does He allow things to happen in my life or in society? I just want to know personally what God’s direction for me is. What does God want from me?” The good news is that it is not a mystery or a secret anymore because God has shown and revealed it to us in His Word, particularly today in St. Paul’s writing to the church at Ephesus.
Looking at it carefully, it is a letter to the entire Church not just in the first century, but for us, right on down two thousand years later. It is written for us today so that we may know the will of God. It is explicitly written in detail here in chapter one. The problem is that when the translators translated this particular portion, they used the old school of translations. In the previous centuries, it was common and popular to use long sentences. Because the sentences are very long, sometimes, you lose track of them. By the time you get to the middle and the end of the sentence, you forget what the first part of the sentence was talking about. It is hard to follow the flow and so easy to lose the thread of what St. Paul is talking about in Ephesians.
In these 8 verses of Ephesians 1:7-14, there are four sentences. I always teach my English students that ten words are plenty for a simple sentence. If you want people to understand what you are writing, keep it simple. For the four sentences here, the first sentence had 25 words which is not bad. For the next sentence, it had 55 words. The third sentence had 44 words, and the fourth sentence had 57 words. No wonder we are wondering what God’s will is for us. It is all mixed with all these commas and semi-colons. In addition to these, in these 8 verses, there are 25 third person personal pronouns – He, Him, and His – and they are talking about three different Persons of the Trinity – God the Father; God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Another thing I teach English students is to make sure not to use too many personal pronouns because people will lose track of what you are talking about. In verse 9, it says, “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purpose in Him.” How could you keep up with who the “He” is? Because of that it is a little difficult to get St. Paul’s message, but once we see what He is talking about, we will get pretty shocked, and we will have no doubt in our minds of what God wants for us and what God is doing in the world today.
With this writing in Ephesians 1:7-14, we want to see what is God’s will and His mission for us. Starting from verse 7, “In Him (referring to Jesus Christ) we (all the people of God, not just the church at Ephesus) have redemption through His (Christ) blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (God the Father’s grace).” Through God’s grace, He preordained that His Son, Jesus Christ, would shed His blood for our redemption, “which He lavished upon us” To lavish is overwhelming provide. God has lavished His grace upon us.
In verse 9, we have five personal pronouns. “He (Christ) made known to us the mystery of His (the Father) will.” This is one of the reasons that Christ came – to show us the Father. “…according to His (the Father) kind intention which He (the Father) purposed in Him (Christ).” Identifying the five personal pronouns, this says that Christ showed us God’s will according to God’s kind intention. God’s intention is kind. So many people assume that God’s intention is to be mean that if we mess up, we are going to be sorry. The Bible says that we should be in the image of God and one of the fruit of the Spirit is kindness. God’s intention to us is kind and His will is birthed from His kind intention which the Father purposed in Christ. God has a purpose, a kind purpose, and He is bringing it about through Christ.
In verse 10, “With a view (the motivation, the reason) to an administration suitable to the fullness of times.” What is administration? It is the governing system. Administration is the group of people who administer a government, a company, a nation, or a family. God’s purpose is to set up an administration of a governing body or an individual suitable to the fullness of times. The fullness of times means eternity. God’s purpose is to set up the right administration, the perfect administrator for eternity. This is God’s kind will for us. When Jesus is on the throne, this is God’s favour to us. Jesus could do better on the throne than anyone else. The perfect administrator for eternity is the “summing up of all things in Christ.”
People say that there are so many truths in every religion. This is true, but in Christianity, all truth, all things are summed up in one: the perfect Administrator is Christ. Christ is the Administrator of truth. He is the embodiment of truth, the One who brings truth to all. He reigns and lives in truth. Christ is the perfect Administrator for all times, and over all things – things in heaven and things upon earth. This is God’s aim and purpose. Everything He does is with the motivation of bringing that place where there is one Administrator, and in Him, everything is summed up for now and eternity. God says in verse 9 that He has made His will be known to us in Christ, the thing that He has been working on all along since even before Genesis 1:1 – summing up all things in Christ as the perfect Administrator for all time.
In verse 11, “In Him also, we have obtained an inheritance, having predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” Everything that God does is working towards bringing that ultimate administration to pass. The verse says that we have obtained an inheritance. When this letter was written in the first century A.D. the understanding of inheritance was different. Today, when we think of inheritance, it is of a material kind. Biblically, the inheritance is the children’s participation in the work of the parents. If the children have a participation in the work of the parents, the rest will follow. Scriptures says to seek first the kingdom of God and these things will be added. We seek first the participation in the work of God, and all the things come along. Our inheritance is an actual participation in God’s work in bringing about the final and ultimate administration for all times, summed up in Christ.
We have a role in this and verse 11-12 says that we have been predestined to do this. “…having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.” How do we assist in bringing about everything into the summing up to the administration of Christ? It is that in everything we do, it would be to the praise of His glory. Everything that we do manifest the glory of God, and when people see this glory in our lives, they praise Him! Everything that we do is what God has predestined us for, and it elicits praise from all of His creation. It is much like what the centurion said at Calvary where he saw the glory of God in the life of Christ, in the way Christ endured the suffering, “Surely, this was the Son of God.”
How can we bring glory to God? Verse 13-14 says, “In Him (in Christ), you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Pledge is a guarantee. God not only redeemed us, but He gave the Holy Spirit to guarantee that we would be one who gives glory to God and who manifests the glory of God. Our redemption and our infilling of the Holy Spirit is given to us to do what God is telling us to do. God has been faithful to give us the equipping that we need. Out of love for us, God redeemed us and gave the Holy Spirit so that we could be ready to participate with Him in His work, in fulfilling His purpose and plan with a view to Christ above all – all giving glory to God. Philippians 2:10 and Isaiah 45:23 says that every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess to the glory of God the Father that Jesus is Lord. The glory of God is seen in His people.
Verse 14 says, “Who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” God guarantees our inheritance – the participation in the work of God – through the Holy Spirit. Who is God’s own possession? We are for sure, so it is a guarantee with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, but it is not just us. Is there anything that is not God’s possession? Is there anything that somebody owns besides God? Scripture tells us that He owns all, so when it says God’s aim, God’s will and purpose is the redemption of God’s possession, sometimes we get selfish. Everything, every one, everything we see, everything we don’t see, everything in the previous age, this age and in the age to come is all His. God’s will is for all to be redeemed, and it will be done when His plan for the perfect Administrator is fully in place when He fully rules over everything in heaven and everything on earth. This is God’s will and He got special helpers to help Him to it – the Church. God has redeemed us, filled us with the power and the authority of the Holy Spirit. Redeemed by the blood of the Lord, we can no longer say, “I am not worthy.” We may say we do not have any power, but by the Holy Spirit we have all the power and all authority. God gave it to us so that we can truly be to the praise of His glory!
When we ask, “Why did God do this?” We can answer, “He is working out something to the praise of His glory. He is working out all things after the counsel of His will, after the counsel of the perfect Administrator. Whatever happens, it is God working. We might not always understand it, we might now always see how it works, but it works!
Summarizing Ephesians 1:7-14, God has a purpose, a plan and an intention. It is a kind intention. It has been a mystery but Jesus revealed it to us. The plan is an administration perfect for eternity. The administration is Jesus Christ our God, ruling and reigning over all in heaven and on earth, Who is the summary of all where everything summed up under Him, and all God’s possession redeemed. Further, we, the Church, are predestined to have a participation in bringing this will to pass. Prepared by receiving redemption and the Holy Spirit, we take on this mission to the praise of His glory.
Our mission is to bring God glory, and in bringing God glory, it elicits the praise of creation. In simply bringing God glory, we are making a participation in the fulfilment of God’s desire and His plan. There are a lot of administrations out there, and they may be perfect today, but only one administration is perfect for eternity – Christ on the throne ruling and reigning over all. Our part is simply to bring God glory. We should be inspired to know that we have a job to do. It is not just about satisfying ourselves, using our religion to help us along the way because it is way bigger than this. The good news is that God has made us bigger enough to handle it.
What gives glory to God? How can we fulfil Ephesians chapter one? Going to the Scriptures, we can see some things. First, it is when we give ourselves to that predetermined will of God in our lives. God has already predetermined us to follow His will, and when we give ourselves to His will, this brings glory to Him. What doesn’t give God glory is not getting involved like letting the religious men do their part and thinking that going to Church is enough.
Second, preach that men should repent. Repent means simply change. In the gospel, the twelve apostles went out and preached everywhere and there message was for men to repent. Jesus’ first message even before He had His disciples was, “Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand.” We have turned repentance into something ugly, scary and something that people wouldn’t want to do. To encourage somebody to repent, it should be said and done emphatically. 2Corinthians 3:18 says that we are all changing from glory to glory. Psalm 84 says that we go from strength to strength. Romans 1 says we go from faith to faith. All of our life is about change. One of the reasons we are here in Church is so that we can grow and change. Repentance is not something that we have to be afraid of; it should be something that we embrace. This is why the apostles could go town to town, village to village, preaching repentance, and this brings glory to God. What doesn’t bring glory to God? It is thinking that it is okay to just live life and have fun and make it to heaven by the grace of God. God loves you, and probably you will make it to heaven, but how many opportunities will you miss to become something more than you are? You don’t grow in heaven because there are no trials there. Scriptures says that there are no tears in heaven, so how can you grow? Part of your life is facing trials to help you grow from glory to glory, from strength to strength, and from faith to faith.
A third thing that we should do to give glory to God is in Ephesians 1:4, “Be holy and blameless in love.” This is what Amos was talking about, “Putting a plumb-line over Israel.” A plumb-line is so simple; it is a weight tied to a piece of string. This is saying to us that God’s love is not complicated. It is not too tough to figure it out. You don’t have to wrack your brain to know what is right and wrong. In fact, Jesus said it is a few words: love God, love your neighbor, which is the plumb-line, and this brings glory to God. What doesn’t give glory to God is when we live life driven by our desires, thinking only about ourselves, coveting that which is not ours. Live the plumb-line of God to bring Him glory – to be holy and blameless in love.
A fourth thing that will bring glory to God is when Jesus told His disciples, “Don’t pact a huge suitcase when you go on your missionary visit.” To bring glory to God, use things for the sake of the gospel; don’t let things use you. When you are driven by materialism, you don’t bring glory to God. When you use things for the sake of the gospel, this brings glory to God.
Fifth thing to bring glory to God is in the gospel: heal the sick; cast out demons. Walk in the ministry that God has given us, His Church. What doesn’t give glory to God is saying, “I can’t do that. I am not prepared.” Ephesians 1 says that you are prepared - you are redeemed and you have been given the Holy Spirit. You have the power and the calling to heal the sick and to cast out demons.
The sixth thing that will bring glory to God is: community. Jesus did not send out His disciples one by one. You could accomplish twice as much, going to twelve places instead of six at one time, but Jesus sent His disciples in pairs because community brings glory to God. Working with one another brings glory to God. Community, not just in pairs, but with one another brings glory to God. We need to get involved with others. When you see someone who is sick, don’t be afraid to ask if they need prayer. When you see someone whom you know is going through struggles, don’t be afraid to ask if they need to talk. Be involved with others. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens.” This is called ministry, and this is what we are called to do, and this brings glory to God. It is not just about social events or being together with one another. Community is there for the purpose of facilitating ministry. We can’t be on our lonesome. We are together in pairs or more because we are empowered to minister. In ministering to others, bearing one another’s burdens, in sharing to one another, this brings glory to God.
The seventh thing that brings glory to God is overcoming. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb. The word of our testimony, being involved in people’s lives, in these things, we overcome. Quitting does not bring glory to God although He still loves you. He has prepared us to overcome.
Loving one another brings glory to God. Jesus said, “All men will know you are My disciples. They will see My glory in you, and they will give praise to the Father when you have love for one another.” When two are three are gathered in His Name, He is there in the midst of them. What doesn’t bring glory to God is debating with one another. When we love one another, when we are agreement with one another, this brings glory to God. Loving our enemies brings glory to God. Fighting and hating our enemies does not bring glory to God. John 15, “By this, you shall glorify Me when you shall bear much fruit.” Eating much fruit doesn’t bring glory to God, but bearing fruit is what gives glory to God. Summing it up, be love-driven because this is God’s image.
God had made this perfect plan not because He needed anything. God doesn’t work out of need, but out of love. He is motivated by love, and we, in His image, should be motivated by love. We don’t do things because we need something from God. As God’s children, we should be driven by love, not need; a love for God; love for each other. When we are love-driven, rather than need-driven or self-driven, how much glory we bring to God.
We shall live to the praise of His glory because we were created by God, predestined to do our part in fulfilling God’s perfect plan and perfect will as Christ is seated on the throne. Let us be a part of what Ephesians 1 is saying to us – revealing what brings praise to the glory of God.