Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ephesians 1:1d (continuation)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the holy ones who are (in Ephesus), faithful in Christ Jesus: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:1-2

It’s easy to glide past the phrase, “holy ones” in this verse (translated saints – with a small "s" – in many bible versions). But if we do, we miss an important principle and an equally important application to our lives in Christ.

The term holy ones in this verse is inseparably linked with “faithful in Christ Jesus,” for it is their faithfulness that makes them holy ones, and not the other way around. So, let’s spend a few moments looking first at what it means to be faithful.

The Greek word πιστός (pistos) carries with it also the idea of trustworthiness. Thus, it is not wrong to translate the verse, “to the holy ones who are trustworthy in Christ Jesus.” (For other examples of the word in the New Testament, see here, here, and here).

God could trust the Ephesian believers to do what was right. They were not ones who played church, who attended for show. They did not show up in the pew to please others, or gain a political or social advantage. They attended because they wanted to please God and grow in their love and knowledge of Him. Yes, God could count on them to behave in a manner worthy of representatives of Christ. He could trust them, even if they fell temporarily into sin, to repent, make penance, and move forward in their faith journey.

Their faith journey was the subject also of St. Paul’s prayer for them later in this chapter (and would be a valuable prayer for us to pray as well).

Because the Ephesian believers were faithful to God to walk side by side with Jesus, God called them “holy ones” – not because of any intrinsic holiness in themselves, but because of the intrinsic holiness of His Son who lives in each believer, as St. Paul reminds us here, here and here.

It is all about Christ’s holiness – not our own. And it is about our permitting Him to live His life through us that leads God to impute to us the phrase holy ones.

Are you a believer? Are you baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Do you believe the faith taught in the Nicene Creed? Do you participate in the Sacraments with a pure heart, cleansed from sin in the confessional? If so, then God also calls you a holy one -- and God is faithful (trustworthy) to fulfill His promise to you of eternal life.

Thanks be to God.

Questions for Reflection:

1. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that he disciplines himself for the sake of the Gospel. What steps can you take to place your fleshly desires more faithfully under the control of the Holy Spirit? If you are not sure, why not ask Him in prayer?

2. Do you consider yourself trustworthy to God? If yes, why? If not, ask him how you might change to please Him.

3. How does the list of holy ones in Hebrews 11 illustrate today’s lesson? What do their lives teach us about living faithfully (trustworthily) for Christ?

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