Ephesians 1:15-16

Sermon preached on January 29, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

The other day we were watching a home video of when our girls were young. It was taken on Christmas morning and showed them opening various presents. It was interesting to watch them open presents that were clothes. As soon as they saw it was an article of clothing they would, like, throw it over their shoulders and move on to the next thing without missing a beat. They didn't appreciate articles of clothing as gifts—a least when they first opened them. They wanted toys or puzzles and stuff like that—clothes were just not that exciting to them. Fortunately my girls have moved beyond that. They love getting clothes now. I don't think there is anything they appreciate more than clothes. They are really grateful if you get them some really nice and expensive clothes.

But that's a stage that I've never outgrown. For some reason last Father's Day I thought the family was going to get me an iPod Shuffle. That morning they gave me a present that was in a box that was way too big to be an iPod Shuffle. But I thought they might have been playing a trick on me and just put the tiny iPod Shuffle in a big box to fool me. So I opened it up and to my dismay it was a shirt. I remember I kept looking under the shirt and in the shirt and all around the box looking for the iPod Shuffle. But it wasn't there. They hadn't gotten me one. I was so disappointed. But I put the shirt on and wore it to church that Sunday. Just before church Loni said to me,

"Nice shirt, Larry."

I thought Marg or one of the girls had told her about the incident and that she was just rubbing it in. But she was totally unaware of what had happened and was just being nice. But I thought she was being saucy so I glared at her and said,

"Yeah, right."

It's dangerous to give me a compliment about my clothes. Not that I often deserve any. But if you ever think I do—you've got to be careful.

Ingratitude is horrible. Yet it's in all of us to a certain degree. It's bad enough when it's toward our fellow human beings—but it's even worse when its toward God—through whom we receive all blessings.

The text before us is a reminder of how grateful we should be to God, and some of the things for which we should be grateful. Paul wrote,

"For this reason,
ever since I heard about
your faith in the Lord Jesus
and your love for all the saints,
I have not stopped giving thanks for you,
remembering you in my prayers."

The great lesson we learn here is that

you should be giving thanks for other Christians.

Paul was filled with thanksgiving for Christians at Ephesus. He says that he never stopped giving thanks for them. Paul must have heard fantastic reports about them. How pleased he was. The result was that He thanked God for them.

We see this in Paul in other places in Scripture as well. In Colossians 1 Paul wrote almost the exact thing we see here. (verses 3-4)

"We always thank God,
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
when we pray for you,
because we have heard
of your faith in Christ Jesus
and of the love you have for all the saints"

We see this in many of the letters of Paul to the churches. For example, in Romans 1 we read, (verse 8)

"First, I thank my God
through Jesus Christ for all of you,
because your faith
is being reported all over the world."

Now lest we think this is just a mere customary way of opening a letter, we see some important additions in other openings. For example in Philippians 1 Paul adds something very interesting. He writes, (verses 3f)

"I thank my God every time I remember you.
In all my prayers for all of you,
I always pray with joy
because of your partnership in the gospel
from the first day until now…
It is right for me to feel this way
about all of you,
since I have you in my heart;
for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel,
all of you share in God's grace with me."

He said it was right for him to feel that way. If he didn't given thanks to God for the Philippian Christians he would be doing wrong. He thanks God for them and that's the right thing to do. We have something similar in 2 Thessalonians 1:3. Paul wrote,

"We ought always to thank God for you,
brothers, and rightly so,
because your faith is growing more and more,
and the love every one of you
has for each other is increasing."

There he tells us not only that it's right that he give thanks to God for them, but that there's an obligation to do so. "We ought always…"

Why is this so? Well, the point is that God has given gifts and graces to other Christians and He should be thanked.

If you're not thanking God for other Christians, you're robbing God of glory.

Malachi 3 speaks of robbing God by withholding tithes and offerings. But if we do not thank God for the faith and love in other Christians—that is a greater crime. We rob God of glory, honor and praise. In Luke 15:7 Jesus told us that there is great rejoicing in heaven,

"over one sinner who repents"

Why is that? It's because it's one of the greatest miracles that happens. God works a new creation. Ezekiel 36:26 tells us that God gives people a new heart and a new spirit, that he removes their heart of stone and gives them a heart of flesh. It's all because of grace. Jeremiah 13 tells us that sinners can no more change their ways that a leopard can change his spots. So when someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ it's an incredible act of grace.

When God gives someone
faith in Jesus Christ, they are translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son. As Peter put it in 1 Peter 2:9,

"But you are a chosen people,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people belonging to God,
that you may declare the praises
of him who called you out of darkness
into his wonderful light."

They have had their whole existence redefined. They have left their meaningless, self-centered and hopeless existence and have been brought into fellowship with God's Son. They have become new creatures. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17,

if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation;
the old has gone,
the new has come!"

They are able to start living for God's glory. Indeed, in 1 Peter 1:7 Peter tells us that our faith, is,

"of greater worth than gold"

and will result in

"praise, glory and honor
when Jesus Christ is revealed."

Can you picture it? When Jesus comes He is going to come with such majesty—and He is going to receive adulation, honor and praise—because He has saved sinners. Imagine it. Everyone is going to honor Him. How glorious it will be.

What this means for you, right now, is that you can be involved in a 'preview' of that. Right now you should be praising God for the faith that He has given Christians—you should be thanking God for them.

This also means that you should be praying for a great revival.

The fact that most people in our communities don't have faith in Jesus Christ is a great tragedy. They are not honoring Him with their lives. They are not living for His glory. They do not have salvation in Him.

This should fill us with grief. Jesus should be known. There is not one like Him. How He loves sinners and they are ignoring Him, going their way to destruction. What a tragedy—not just that they're perishing, but the fact is that Jesus is worthy. He is so good to people. He has given them all the good that they have. Yet they refuse to acknowledge Him. If only they would come to their senses. Jesus should be praised and honored. In
Revelation 5:13f we read how the angels sang,

"Worthy is the Lamb,
who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom
and strength and honor and glory and praise!"

Then John wrote,

"Then I heard every creature in heaven
and on earth and under the earth and on the sea,
and all that is in them, singing:
'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!'
The four living creatures said,
and the elders fell down and worshiped."

How you should be longing for a great outpouring of God's Spirit to bring many sinners to Jesus Christ.

Secondly, we see that

Paul thanked God for the love that they had toward all the saints.

Christian love. The fact that Christians love one another. We sometimes take that for granted. Perhaps this is because God's common grace is so great. But we should realize what a great blessing this is—Jesus saves sinners and turns them into people who love each other. Rather than putting themselves first, Christians esteem others better than themselves, see to serve them and help them, pray for them and seek to be a blessing to them. What wondrous grace!

We see it in the apostle Paul here. Paul writes Ephesians from prison. . In
3:1, 4:1 and 6:20 he refers to himself as a prisoner. The traditional notion is that Paul was a prisoner in Rome at this time.

But what is Paul doing in writing the letter to the Ephesians? He is seeking to be a blessing to them. He's not thinking about himself, how they can help him, how they could intercede on his behalf, how they could make his imprisonment more comfortable. No. No. There's none of that. Paul doesn't ask them for anything like that. In
6:19-20 we see that he only asks them to pray for him. He wrote,

"Pray also for me,
that whenever I open my mouth,
words may be given me
so that I will fearlessly make known
the mystery of the gospel,
for which I am an ambassador in chains.
Pray that I may declare it fearlessly,
as I should.

Rather than focus on himself, on his needs, Paul was focused on helping the Ephesians with their needs.

Now this shows us the essence of Christian service.

In Matthew 20:28 Jesus said,

"the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Your focus is not to be on yourself—but on serving others. Indeed, the way to be first in the Kingdom of God is to follow what Jesus said in Mark 9:35. He said to His disciples,

"If anyone wants to be first,
he must be the very last,
and the servant of all.

Or consider why spiritual gifts were given to you? They weren't given for you to serve yourself, for your own benefit, for your own glory—but for you to serve others. In 1 Corinthians 12:7 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for the common good.

And in 1 Peter 4:10 Peter wrote,

"Each one should use whatever gift
he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God's grace
in its various forms.

One of your main roles in the church is to serve others. This is what we see Paul doing here in Ephesians 1. He is thinking about them, praying for them, writing to them in order to be a blessing to them.

What a blessing Paul was to other Christians. How the love of other Christians is a blessing to you. How you should thank God for other Christians who love all the saints.

There's another important lesson for us here. The Ephesian Christians loved '
all' the saints.

You are to love all the saints, not just some of them.

Of course by this I'm not talking about saints in the Roman Catholic sense. All of you Christians are saints and you are to love all the saints- not just some of them. Churches by nature are a diverse group—in age, in gifts, in intellect, in maturity, in temperament. There's nothing wrong with the college students gathering together after the service and spending most of their time with their fellow students. There's nothing wrong with young couples with small children spending most of their time with other young couples who have small children. There's nothing wrong with older couples seeking each other out and spending time with each other. But there is a danger there. There is a danger that you will focus exclusively on your own particular group and neglect others. This happened in the early church. In Acts 6:1 we read,

"In those days
when the number of disciples was increasing,
the Grecian Jews among them
complained against the Hebraic Jews
because their widows
were being overlooked
in the daily distribution of food.

Oftentimes a chief cause in church troubles and splits is that Christians don't love all the Christians in their midst. They love the Christians who are just like them, or the Christians who are related to them or something like that. You are to love all the saints. You are to thank God for all the saints.

This means that

you are to be looking at other Christians and seeing what you can be thanking God about in them.

The Christians around you have their faults. There is no doubt about that. And part of your responsibility toward them is to help them turn from their sins. We see this in Colossians 3:16 where Paul wrote,

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly
as you teach and admonish one another
with all wisdom,
and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Even though you have an obligation to help other Christians with their faults—it needs to be in proportion. You'll remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7:3f,

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust
in your brother's eye
and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
'Let me take the speck out of your eye,'
when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
You hypocrite,
first take the plank out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly
to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

We are to spend most of our criticism on ourselves. If you want to get angry and frustrated about sin—the place to start is with yourself. Don't be blind to your own sin. You are far from perfect. Jesus tells you that you need to focus on your sin, and that it's only after you get the plank out of your own eye that you are qualified to help your brother with his sin. Jesus' words are hard hitting because they go against the old nature. It's so easy to overlook your faults and concentrate on the faults of others. But what Holy Spirit tells you here is to give thanks for other Christians.

This implies that you should be seeing good things in them.

There are many things in other Christians to be thankful for. Your attitude is not to be one of censorious fault-finding, but one of looking at the good that God is doing in others.

Now don't misunderstand me.
I'm not suggesting that you lose touch with reality.

When Natalia was in third grade I was asked to chaperone her class on an overnight trip to a 4-H camp. I remember watching as one of the instructors was trying to teach a lesson and some of the kids were misbehaving. He would try to get their attention and when he did he made a point of emphasizing to them that they were really good kids. But as he went on they misbehaved more and more. The more they misbehaved the more he tried to get their attention and tell them how wonderful and good they were. He was trying to get them to behave. But it didn't work. And after awhile there was such a discrepancy between what he was saying they were like and what they were like that it was like watching a comedy skit. It was like he had lost touch with reality. He was telling them how good they were and they were acting like brats.

So I'm not suggesting that you lose touch with reality. But the fact is that you don't have to. We have a wonderful congregation here. You can find much good to be thankful for in each and every Christian. You should be looking at the good in other Christians, seeing it and praising God for the grace that He has given to them. There is much to thank God for in the people of this congregation.

My last point for Christians is that

you should be living so that others will give a good report about you.

Now Paul wasn't living among the Ephesian Christians. How did he come to know about them? It was through letters or through visitors. Through them Paul received a good report about the Ephesians. The report about them wasn't at all like the reports he heard about the Galatians, some of whom were departing from the faith, or about the Corinthians, some of whom were causing divisions in the church. No, he heard good reports about the Ephesians.

This means that you are to be living so that others will give a good report about you.
Live so as others will be prompted to give thanks for you and give a good report about you.

Now I'm not suggesting that you do your righteous deeds so that everyone will see them. You're not to be like the Pharisees whom Jesus criticized for praying where everyone would see them. Nevertheless, if you live correctly, if you love other Christians and serve them, your deeds will not be able to be completely hidden. In
1 Timothy 5:25 Paul wrote,

"In the same way,
good deeds are obvious,
and even those that are not cannot be hidden.

Live so that others will thank God for you.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians. What would Paul be able to say to God about you if he were to see you now? He would not be able to thank God for your faith, for the fact that you have eternal life and that you're going to praise God for all eternity. He would not be able to thank God that you love all the saints. No. The main thing the apostle Paul would do is to ask God to save you and then he would do everything he could to tell you about Jesus and His love. He's not here to do that—but I am. Unless you go to Jesus there's really not much to give thanks for in your life. Your whole life is basically wasted. The most valuable thing you have—your life—is being wasted. Don't let your life be in vain. Go to Jesus. Repent of your sins and ask Him to save you. Find life—life to the full—in Him.