Purpose

(From In Christ—The Church at Ephesus, forthcoming.)

Next Paul provided the purpose for all of this: “that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you” (Eph. 1: 18). Having some sense of generic hope is not enough. Even Satan has hope. So, Paul calls Christians to know the object of their hope. Apart from the acknowledgment of Christ’s role in the world, and also in one’s own life, life is hopeless. There is no hope without Christ because Christ is synonymous with truth, and without truth there can be no real, substantial hope.

And so, with the acknowledgment of Christ comes wisdom, knowledge, revelation, vision and enlightenment. Of course, these things do not and cannot exist apart from their source, Jesus Christ. But in Christ they do exist and they exist abundantly. Therefore, all who are in Christ will eventually be overwhelmed by these things. And this (being overwhelmed by wisdom, knowledge, revelation, vision and enlightenment) is the hope of which Paul spoke. Into this hope God has called His people. And apart from Christ, this hope does not exist.

Paul goes on to describe this hope as “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (v. 18). What riches? Whose inheritance? And who are the saints?

The Greek word (πλοῦτος) does mean riches or money. But because Paul has been speaking analogously we must not think that he literally means money or wealth. Rather, in the context of hope Paul means the assurance of one’s own personal well-being that accompanies those who have sufficient wealth to care for them in the future. That kind of well-being and satisfaction relieves people of their fear of the unknown, or the fear of not having a secure future. In the modern world we call this kind of fear anxiety or angst. Knowledge of this hope provides a cure for anxiety.

The riches that Paul spoke of are not earned, rather they are inherited. They are received as a gift, but not a random gift. Rather, they are received because of who we are. They belong to the family, not to the individual. That’s what the word inheritance means. And who receives this inheritance? The Greek word here (αὐτός) suggests a kind of self-reference. The word can be transliterated into English as auto, which is used as a prefix for many words, i. e., automatic, autobiography, autonomic, etc. It suggests a kind of self-inclusion that might be better translated here as one’s, as in “the riches of one’s glorious inheritance in the saints” (v. 18).

To suggest that this inheritance exists in the saints makes it seem like the inheritance is a thing or object rather than a quality. The Greek word ἐν denotes a position, instrumentality or relation. So, a better translation here might be among, as in “the riches of one’s glorious inheritance among the saints” (v. 18). The inheritance is the sense of and commitment to contentment in God that exists among believers.

The next purpose of all of this is that we may also know “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (v. 19). This is not a different purpose, but is an aspect of the same purpose previously mentioned, with a different emphasis. The two Greek words ὑπερβάλλον μέγεθος literally mean hyperbolic magnitude, or greatness beyond both measure and comprehension. Greatness of what? Of power (δύναμις). Paul was speaking of God’s power inherent in Christ, and by this he meant God’s strength power and ability to bring about change—and not just random change, but change for the better according to God’s intent and purpose.

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