Cultivating Thankfulness Part 3
In Ephesians 1 we see how the gospel fuels thanksgiving and how thanksgiving inspires a life of intercessory prayer.
The Reason For Thanksgiving: God’s Sovereign Love In Redemption
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” (Eph. 1:15)
Paul often gives thanks to God for the faith and love of other Christians (see last week’s newsletter). But here the reason is found more broadly in vv. 3-14 and the sovereign love of God in redemption. Gospel grace is the basis of true gratitude. The faith and love of the Ephesian readers is the fruit of the sovereign grace of God who saved them. So Paul points us from the fruit to the root. There would be no fruit without God’s sovereign intervention. “For this reason….I do not cease to give thanks”.
Here we find the ground for gratitude:
He sovereignly chose us in Christ from eternity past
“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” (Eph. 1: 3-4).
The choice is not conditioned on anything we have done, good or bad, because it was made before creation began according to his will.
He sovereignly chose us to be holy
“…that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4b).
Our final condition is fixed and unchanging. What a glorious purpose we have!
His sovereign choice was an act of love
“In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:5).
His choosing love is adopting love, making us children and heirs. It is intimate, fatherly love.
His sovereign love redounds to the glory of his grace in the cross of Christ.
“…to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Eph. 1:6).
The reason the universe exists is to display the glory of God (Ps. 19), and the high point of his glory is the glory of his grace (his glorious grace) in sending Christ to redeem sinners at Calvary. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). All of history flows to the cross and from the cross.
God’s sovereignty in redemption is a prudent, public, purposeful, plan to put his Son on view as a universal gift of grace (Eph. 1: 7-10). So sinners like us are swept up in God’s own plan for his own glory sealed in union with Christ by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1: 11-14).
Therefore, God’s sovereign love in redemption is why we give thanks for each other at Calvary Grace. It is why we thank God when we see love and faith increase in our church members. It is why we thank God when he raises up folks in our midst for ministry. And it is why we give thanks to God when we hear of the progress of the gospel overseas. (Think of the Harfields in the UK and be ready to thank God for good reports of gospel grace).
Let us learn how a constant awareness of this love produces thankful hearts and thanks-filled prayers.
Thanksgiving For Sovereign Love Inspires Intercession For Others
But thanksgiving also fuels intercession. Paul does not stop thanking God (Eph. 1:16) because the God who sovereignly converts sovereignly sanctifies. It is an ongoing act. Because redemption is based on God’s choice in eternity past he cannot fail to bring about his holy purposes in his people. It is guaranteed. So ongoing thanks inspires ongoing intercession for God to accomplish what he promises.
Notice that he doesn’t intercede for better circumstances but for greater knowledge:
Knowledge of God
“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph. 1:17).
Based on revealed sovereign love (vv. 3-14), Paul asks for more knowledge of the sovereign One. We all need greater knowledge of God and should desire it. But we don’t ask this for others or ourselves without confidence. Paul is already intelligently thankful for what God has done. His gratitude is based on deep truths about God’s love already revealed in redemption and in the church and so he can intercede for more with confidence.
He also asks that we might know God better as the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory”. His glory has been revealed in the Son and the blessings for which we are so thankful flow from Christ and him crucified. God sovereignly revealed Christ to us in salvation. So he must sovereignly reveal Christ to us in sanctification. This happens through the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation”. In short, as we read the Word we need to ask God, through the Spirit, to illumine our minds about our identity in Christ.
Knowledge of hope
“…that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you” (Eph. 1:18a)
Paul gets more specific. He wants the readers to grasp the truth of their hope because of Christ. We should focus less on fixes for temporal problems and more on that to which God has called us. Future hope gives faith for today’s trials.
Knowledge of inheritance
“…what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18b)
Paul doesn’t pray for earthly riches but for knowledge of the heavenly riches of a glorious inheritance. We do not take our value from people or things but from God who gives us great value in Christ. We are God’s inheritance. Because of what he has given us in Christ he has made us his inheritance in Christ.
Knowledge of power
“…and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might” (Eph. 1:19).
Paul wants Christians to know God’s power. The Christian life is a supernatural life- a transformed life. We must pray that God gives us knowledge of resurrection power. The power that raised Christ from the dead means we, who are in Christ, have power over sin and death. We need to know and embrace this as we fight sin and pursue holiness.
This power is also exaltation power (Eph. 1:20-21). We have been raised up with Christ in the heavens and over all things. Though we are not physically there yet, this is how God views us in Christ. This is our destination and citizenship.
Finally, this power is Lordship power over everything (Eph.1: 22-23). God’s sovereign power is mediated through Christ and exercised for the good of the church (Eph.1: 22). Nothing is out of his control.
Gratitude for the sovereign love of God in the gospel fuels bold intercessory prayer for things in line with his will. Therefore, may the truths of Resurrection Sunday cause us to cultivate thankfulness.
Note: For an extensive exposition on this prayer in Ephesians 1 see D. A. Carson, A Call To Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers, (IVP, 1992).