Give Thanks for the Church
In a few short weeks many of us will gather around a table loaded with food to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. For many it will be a day of feasting and family fun. For others, they may be too sick to eat, too filled with grief to laugh, or too busy to slow down and enjoy the day. Regardless, all of us should take the time to tell God thank you for our spiritual and physical blessings. And at the top of our list should be giving thanks for the church, an example Paul sets for us in the book of Ephesians.
Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer for the saints in Ephesus is grounded in their “faith in the Lord Jesus” and their “love toward all the saints” (Eph. 1:15). Such faith and love was a gift of God’s grace, “he chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world…In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (1:4-5). What a beautiful reminder that as we hear of our brothers’ and sisters’ faith and love, we should give thanks for them and engage in heart-felt prayer for them.
Paul asks “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Eph. 1:17) to give the Ephesian believers a deep, rich, thorough knowledge of Him. He wants them to experience a beautiful relationship with the triune God. Through the Holy Spirit believers can have a “spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (1:17). Paul prays that the believers in Ephesus will better understand three main things.
The Hope To Which He Has Called You
First, he wants them to better understand “the hope to which [the Father] has called you” (Eph. 1:18). Our hope is rooted in the past when God called us to be His child. It is presently active as we enjoy the benefits of justification, adoption, and sanctification. And it is fixed on the future as we hope for the day we will be like Him and reign with Him forever (see Rom. 8:28-30). As believers, we have every reason to be filled with hope.
The Riches Of His Glorious Inheritance
Second, Paul wants the saints to have a deeper understanding of “the riches of [God’s] glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18). How beautiful that believers are God’s rich and glorious inheritance! God chose us to be His treasured possession (Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:9-10). This should make our heart swell with thanksgiving! God’s people are His treasure. Our satisfaction, security and significance are found in Him.
The Immeasurable Greatness Of His Power
Third, Paul prays believers will know “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:19). God’s power is so great that it cannot be measured! Remarkably, the same power that God has mightily “worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (1:20) is available to believers. This power is everything we need to live a godly life. It is the power available to us when sin threatens to undo us, suffering knocks down our door, or our service for God is so far beyond our capacity we’re tempted to quit.
Thanks be to God that Christ is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Eph. 1:21). Significantly, after speaking of God’s power and Christ’s lordship over all creation, Paul immediately moves to speaking of the church. God the Father has “put all things under [Christ’s] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).
The church is the means through which the Father is going to showcase His power to a watching world in order that He might be glorified, the gospel proclaimed, and people’s lives transformed. This means that all of our work done in the name of our beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for His glory is in accordance with His eternal purposes. Recognizing this truth will transform our thinking as we engage in ministry. By God’s grace we will eagerly serve, understanding we are doing work of eternal significance.
Perhaps you’re hosting the Thanksgiving meal this year and your thoughts are on your shopping list, menu, and cleaning your home. Or maybe you’re traveling to be with loved ones and you’re thinking of what you need to take. You may be excited about the day and eagerly anticipating seeing family and friends. Or maybe you’re dreading another holiday without your loved one. Regardless of whether you are rejoicing or weeping this Thanksgiving, take time to stop and thank God for the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance, and the immeasurable greatness of His power. Thank Him for Christ and His church, the only community that will last forever.
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.