What’s That Phrase Doing There? by Mark D. Roberts

Posted: October 30, 2012 in The High Calling
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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

As you may recall, I’m in the process of writing a commentary on Ephesians for a series that will be published by Zondervan. When I began reflecting on Ephesians, I invited you to share with me your insights into the text and ways it made a difference in your life. Many of you have done this, for which I thank you.

When I write a commentary, which I’ve done once before, I feel a heavy responsibility to take seriously every word in the book I’m studying. I can’t jump over even apparently insignificant words and phrases because I might discover that they are more important than they seem at first. For example, when I first read Ephesians 1:15, I quickly passed over the introductory phrase, “For this reason.” It seemed to be nothing more than a transition between the praise of 1:3-14 and the prayer of 1:15-16. Yet, as I read more closely, I began to wonder: What’s that phrase doing there?

Paul’s main point in verses 15-16 is that he has not stopped giving thanks for the recipients of his letter. Verse 15 provides an obvious basis for his thanksgiving: “ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks…” But that’s not the whole story, because verse 15 begins with “For this reason,” which is an accurate rendering of the Greek dia touto (literally, “because of this thing”). “For this reason” points back to the previous passage, that 202-word long prayer of praise that focuses on God’s gracious and glorious work of redeeming us and uniting all things in Christ.

So, in effect, Paul offers two different but deeply interconnected reasons for offering thanks for the letter recipients. He is thankful because of their faith and love. Yet, beneath this, he is thankful because God has chosen and redeemed these people in Christ and has set them aside to live for the praise of his glory.

Why is this important for us to note? Because it shows how much our lives are shaped and permeated by the grace and power of God. Our faith and love are not things we generate from our own resources. Rather, they are responses to God’s initiative. They are evidence of God’s work within us through his Spirit. When you and I put our faith in Jesus or reach out to love another person, these are actions worthy of thanks. But they are also actions that reveal the grace and presence of God in our lives.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways do you experience the grace, presence, and power of God in your daily life and work? In what ways would you like to experience his grace, presence, and power more deeply today?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the little phrase “For this reason.” It reminds me that my life is a response to your grand, glorious, and gracious work in the world…and in me. When I have faith, when I love someone, these are responses to your faithfulness and love. They are expressions of your Spirit at work within me. They are reminders that you are present in me.

As I consider this, I am humbled. I am thankful. I am inspired to live this day with the assurance that you are at work in and through me. What a marvelous thought! What a marvelous truth! Amen.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/whats-phrase-doing-there

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