Welcome to Brooklands Digital Church. As always, the service is also available via our YouTube channel.
Our Pastor Rev. Karl Stanfield brings us the message today.
The Bible readings are taken from Psalm 100 and Ephesians 1:15-23.
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When I started my studies at NTC back in 1981 – ‘British Isles Nazarene College’ (BINC) as it was then – I visited Brooklands a couple of times. But the first time I preached here was 31 years ago in 1989. And this was in, or about, November, and this Ephesian’s letter was the passage I preached from on that occasion so many years ago. I had come to preach with a view to being your pastor – this passage proved fruitful! This same passage is also the one for this Sunday this year in the Revised Common Lectionary that I have often used, and it seemed like a good passage to preach from again.
On that occasion, I remember saying that Paul uses a literary feature called a chiasm in verse 15. A chiasmus is a grammatical device in which a sequence of ideas is presented and then repeated in reverse order. A simple example is the word ABBA (an Aramaic word meaning ‘Father’, used as an affectionate name like ‘Daddy’).
Often, a chiasm includes another idea in the middle of the repetition where they intersect: and this is an easy way to remember it: ‘AB(X)BA’ from a Christian point of view – with the ‘X’ marking the cross-cross point.
An example from Mark’s gospel is where he records Jesus as saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” There are lots of these in everyday life too: For example: “It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.” Such chiasms often carry wisdom. Or what about this one from Churchill, referring to the debating chamber in the House of Commons: “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”
Paul has one very important Christocentric example in our reading: “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,” (Ephesians 1:15) Paul is crisscrossing these ideas to form the letter ‘Chi’, a Greek letter, and the first letter of the word Christ (‘Christos’), i.e. Our Faith and Love is found in Jesus Christ!
We see this ‘faith in the Lord Jesus and love for all the saints’ displayed in the following ways in these verses. Firstly in…
1. His Promise
Jesus Promised Hope for those who have this special Faith and Love. When someone’s promise is good, there is engendered within you – an expectation! And that is what Paul is writing about here in this amazing letter to the Ephesian Church.
In chapter two Paul writes about us being made alive in Christ! He says we are as One in Jesus. In chapter three he explains why he believes God sent him to the Gentile world – the city of Ephesus is included in this command; this ‘faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints’ is for everyone!
Paul concludes chapter three on his knees with a prayer, and it is a poignant one for everyone listening – it is a prayer for a great church. It was that the church might ‘grasp’ the dimensions of this love of Christ; ‘know’ how it surpasses all and every kind of knowledge! (In a world like ours where so much knowledge is just a few clicks away on a computer, this incredible love surpasses it all!)
Then he writes to the church – that they would take the Lord up on His Promise to fill them to the measure of the fulness of God! How can it be? It is about believing the Lord for the impossible. This phrase is filled with Promise – I tell you it is true – there is nothing greater or more meaningful in any church than ‘Faith and Love’ – ‘faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints’! It is filled with Promise for all who live by it. It also includes…
2. His Providence
Jesus will provide for all who trust in him with everything that is needed at just the right time. Going back to our passage in Eph 1: 15ff, Paul writes, ‘I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know… ‘the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…’ (Eph 1: 18)
Usually, when we think of ‘riches’ and ‘inheritance’, we tend to think about material wealth; but that is precisely not what Paul has in mind here. Paul is thinking about the Lord providing different things than we think we need, at different times than we expect, and in different ways to how we may presume.
In other words, we had better watch out because we serve an Almighty God who is not limited to our lesser modes of thinking. When our manner of life is governed by this Christian founding principle – ‘Faith in Christ, and Love for all our brothers and sisters’ – the Lord will, as Psalm 121 says, ‘look after our coming and going both now and forever more’.
Now as Paul writes to these Christians in Ephesus, he confirms that he had already heard about their faith and love. Then he indicates his expectation about the God he knows. The Lord will look after you. What happens then, if we stop or become limp in our ‘faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’, and we don’t ‘love the saints’ as much as we used to do?
I do not know the answer to that, but I do know that the point of what Paul is writing is not our strength, but His. It is God’s uncanny ability to provide for the needs of his people. And I have to say, the Lord provides for people who don’t even acknowledge him – or at least acknowledge him yet. Then finally, ‘faith in the Lord Jesus and love for all the saints’ is crucially linked to…
3. His Power
When you give thanks for the Lord’s Promises and his endless examples of daily provisions, you are invited to consider his power in all circumstances.
And I think this is a very sobering point to consider. For Paul, the greatest display of power the world had ever seen, ‘was exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.’ (Eph 1: 20-21)
I must add that this expression of awesome power was preempted when Jesus died for us on the Cross at Calvary.
I wanted to tell you this morning that when God displayed his greatest expression of ‘Power’, he did so before a small group of people at Golgotha, and then on Easter Sunday before no one – while it was yet dark. Does that not strike you as a different kind of Promise, a different kind of Providence, and a different kind of Power to what we usually expect from world governments, where human beings sit in seats of man-made authority.
I have to say, though, there is coming a day… and what a Day that will be – it will be a Day like no other. But that will be then, and this is now – the time for our faith in the Lord to blossom and shine. As Paul writes in his final chapter,
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Eph 6:10–11)
These final words from Paul’s letter drive home the heart of his message, and the heart of my message this morning.
His final words in this heavenly Epistle are these: ‘Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.’ (Eph 6: 23-24)
We find Christ where Faith and Love meet. Amen.