“That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ.”
Meditating on Scripture reminds me of looking at an object through the lens of a camera. At first, the image is hazy, but after a moment, the camera focuses and we are able to see clearly what was in front of us all along. At first glance, Ephesians 1:12 may seem hazy; like a ‘filler’ verse made up of words that don’t mean much to us. However, as we meet with the Lord Jesus, share this verse with Him, repeat it over and over, and listen to His voice, He is able to open up to us the wealth that is found in these few words.
One of the first words that sharpened into a fascinating image as I meditated on this verse was the pronoun, ‘we’. Such a small word, but so filled with meaning! When meditating on Scripture, it can be helpful to think of the opposite of what the word or phrase describes in order to understand the emphasis that is being made and to expose lies that we may not even be aware we are believing. In this case, the opposite of ‘we’ could be ‘I.’ Ephesians 1:12 does not say, “That I alone should be to the praise of His glory. . .” Instead, the pronoun ‘we’ indicates that my identity is that of belonging to a group (In this case it appears Paul is speaking of a group who had trusted in Christ). Throughout Ephesians the point is made that we have become part of a family; the family of God. We have become His children in and because of Jesus Christ. And Jesus’ body are those who are in Him as children of God.
Perhaps, like me, you have heard the phrase ‘the body of Christ’, but have not grasped its significance. You have heard the word, but it sounds mysterious and abstract. Why is it important to know that we are a part of ‘we’ – what is the significance of being a member of Christ’s body? In essence, unless I come to realize that I am not an ‘only child’ in God’s family, I will not walk in agreement with God’s purpose.
The word that came even before ‘we’ in this verse is the word ‘that’, or as another translation puts it, ‘in order that’. Throughout Ephesians we have been hearing about God’s eternal plan – the goals that He has had in mind for His Son, and for His children, since before time began. Now, in our verse today, it sounds as if a part of God’s eternal purpose is that men and women be to the praise of His glory who trust in Christ. Now we are beginning to see why it is important to live as a member of God’s family; to act like ‘we’ instead of like an ‘I’. Because ‘we’ is a context in which His glory is praised. Do we view every situation that arises in our lives through the lens of what I am going to get out of it, what God is going to do for me, etc., or do we look on the interests of those who are truly Christ’s body, and our fellow members?
Understanding and receiving the reality that you and I are a part of ‘we’ means that the way we view life must shift from being all about ‘me’, to being focused on Christ Who is our Life and living in unity, subjection, and righteousness with one another in Him.
The next word that comes into sharp focus is another pronoun. This time the pronoun is the word, “His.” What personal pronoun do we not see? As before, there is no “I’ to be found! Again, looking at the opposite of word ‘His’ gives a fuller understanding of why this verse is significant. An opposite of ‘His’ glory could be ‘my’ glory. This is very sobering because it tells us that God’s glory being praised in our lives means that we are not the ones being praised, HE is! And whether or not He gets the glory, the glory that He is worthy of receiving, is affected by the second part of the verse; “that we should be to the praise of His glory who first trusted in Christ.” [emphasis added]
Whose life brought praise to God’s glory? Those who trusted in Christ. In looking at the definition of this word translated, “having first trusted’, it sounds as if the idea of this word is the concept of putting our hope in something. Who do I hope in? Do I live by what I can see and do, or is my expectation in Christ and do I patiently wait on Him? Again, what’s missing? Me is what’s missing! Are you beginning to suspect, as I am, that we are dead and that our life is hid with Christ in God? How else can the absence of “I” be accounted for? At times I have stubbornly, and proudly, resisted hoping in Christ and have trusted in myself. Why? Not only because I arrogantly thought I could handle a situation,or responsibility on my own, but because in the event things turned out well, I wanted to be the one everyone praised.
So I endeavoured to handle things on my own; to obey God on my own, love others on my own, and be His diligent disciple. . . on my own. I was certainly thinking in terms of “I”, instead of in terms of Christ, focused on ‘me’, not on ‘we’, and, perhaps most deeply rooted of all, was the focus on “my” glory instead of His. Instead of the majesty of God being praised, I merely accomplished outward goals. I did things that may seemed to have brought praise to His glory, but, interestingly, Paul does not speak of those who ‘did’ to the praise of God’s glory, but of those whose very being brought praise to His majesty. But it wasn’t just anyone whose being was to His praise; it was those who trusted, or we could say, hoped in Christ. Not in a philosophy, not in self, not in feelings, not in people, but in the living Lord Jesus Christ.
God has an eternal purpose in mind; and part of our role in that purpose is to trust in Christ, not in ourselves, to no longer live independently, but as members of the body of Christ Who trust Him to do and be everything in us. Let’s ask the Lord to give us the desire to see His purposes brought about, not ours, His glory praised, not our measly efforts and paltry so called successes at being good. May we be to the praise of His glory as we trust in Christ.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.”