daily biblical sermons


God has planned since before the creation of the world that we should live for the praise of his glory
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Thursday, 28th Week of the Year, October 15, 2020
Ephesians 1:1-10, Psalm 97, Luke 11:47-54


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version

unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he is set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:1-10).

 

 

Today’s reading is St. Paul’s great hymn of praise to God for the redemption that he has worked among us in Jesus Christ. It was God’s plan that he decided upon before he even created the world that there would be a people who would be holy and blameless before him, praising him for his blessings. We who believe in his Son are that people. Therefore, this hymn is about what God has done to us. So, St. Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). The phrase “heavenly places” is the English translation of the Greek which simply says heavenlies (epouraniois), meaning heavenly matters or spiritual and holy things. In other words, God has in Christ, who is our Lord and Messiah, blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly matters.

 

 

“He [God] has chosen us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). God chose us even before we were born. Even before the world was created, he knew that we his Christian people would someday come into being and he wished us to be a holy and blameless people before him. This is God’s plan for us. It is important to know his plan in order to know how God wants us to live so that we might live up to this great ideal for which God has created us.

 

 

This is our calling. This is our vocation. We may still need to do a lot of work to actually be in reality what he has called us to be. St. Paul actually says that God has predestined (proorisas) us for sonship through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will (Ephesians 1:5). Jesus is God’s only Son by nature, but when we put our faith in him, we become adopted sons of God in him. So, in this way God has predestined us for sonship through Jesus Christ according to the good pleasure of his will.

 

 

We Christians are now living out this plan for which God has predestined us. Therefore, what is the purpose of our life according to this plan? It is that we live “to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). We should live for the praise of his glory. That is our vocation as Christians.

 

 

Then we come to this key verse, “In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). The key word here is redemption which means buying back as a father of a kidnapped child will pay a ransom to buy back his child from the kidnapper. This is the image that St. Paul uses here for what God did to us through Christ, in whom we have redemption through his blood. Jesus shed his blood for us on the cross as the means whereby we have been redeemed from our alienated state caused by our sins.

 

 

The result of this redemption, of this price being paid by Jesus in his own blood on the cross is the forgiveness of our sins. But redemption and forgiveness of sins are not the same thing. Christ made satisfaction for our sins by his death on the cross, where he shed his blood as a ransom price to redeem us from our state of sin and alienation from God. As a result, since our price has been paid, God declares us righteous and forgives our sins.

 

 

In other words, we had a price to pay, a sentence to serve in punishment for our sins, namely eternal death in hell. Christ was sent by God to pay that price for us by suffering our death sentence on the cross for us. When we put our trusting faith in him, God considers his suffering and death as paying our debt of suffering and death that we have with God for our sins. And since our sins have therefore been justly paid for and the death sentence for them has been duly served for us by Christ on the cross, God forgives our sins and declares us righteous.

 

 

This, of course, comes as a free gift, a free act of God through the shedding of the blood of his Son, when we put our faith in him. This redemption, forgiveness of sins, and justification of us is not something that we earn or merit for ourselves by our good works. It comes rather through our faith in Jesus Christ; that is, our accepting of him as our Redeemer, and our accepting of his blood shed on the cross as the means or instrument whereby he redeemed us, for his blood is the ransom price that ransomed or redeemed us from our sinful state. And all of this was the result of “the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:8).

 

 

The gospel is the record of this mysterious act of salvation that God has accomplished in the world. It is also the proclamation of the good news of God’s salvation now available in Jesus Christ, because of his death on the cross, for all that put their faith in him. The gospel reveals the saving mystery of God’s love as it is worked out in us through his Son. “For he [God] has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ” (Ephesians 1:9).

 

 

And what is the ultimate purpose of this mystery of salvation which is proclaimed to us in the gospel? It is “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). The word unite (anakephalaiosasthai) here in Greek is a powerful word which can be literally translated as recapitulation. Some people have falsely tried to interpret this word in this verse as meaning that all people will one day be saved. But, as you can see by reading the text, this is reading into this text what you want it to say; but the text itself does not say this.

 

 

Rather Christ is God’s plan for unity so that all that believe in him will be united to God and to each other by being justified through their faith in Christ, because of his atoning death on the cross in reparation for their sins. This is the one means of unity of people on earth. Every other attempt to unite people to one another will not really unite them.

 

 

Some have suggested that the way to unite the world is through religion, but there are many religions in the world, and most people are not Christians, even though they may be very religious in their own religion. The problem with this type of the theory is that when you get together to dialogue with people of various religions, it doesn’t take long to discover that these religions are often mutually contradictory. They don’t believe the same things, and so religion becomes something that separates people from one another rather than uniting them.

 

 

The only true union of human beings will come from the one means of union that God himself gave us, namely his own Son Jesus Christ who died on the cross to make reparation and atone for all the sins of the world so that all that put their faith in him and trust in him for their salvation will be declared and thereby made righteous by God and be united with God and with one another.

 

 

So, what can human beings do to create unity in the world? We can preach the gospel to those who haven’t heard it. This has been the answer throughout the entire Tradition of the Church, and it is the answer of the New Testament. It should also be our answer, and so we should promote Christian mission, the preaching of the gospel throughout the world, especially making it available and understandable to people that have never seriously heard it in a comprehensible way.

 

 

This will bring true recapitulation. Unfortunately, not everyone will accept the gospel and not everyone will be saved. But our preaching of the gospel will save as many as accept God’s good news of salvation in his Son and so will unite as many as believe in it. Our part is to preach the gospel.

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