This reflection is a riff on Ephesians 1:1-14, and is the first post in a series of blog posts whose introduction can be found here
Ephesians shows us what has been revealed about God’s will. Paul is an apostle within this will of God. God’s will is that we are in Jesus Christ, joined with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The nature of these relationships is part of the revelation of God’s will. Ephesians conceives of these relations through the analogy of the household.
God is addressed as our Father in the opening verses of Ephesians, yet this “fatherhood” isn’t generic nor due to our being created by God (God as creator at this moment isn’t in view) Rather the Father is father due to the Father’s relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father (our Father) is father of the Lord Jesus Christ. it is through our relationship to Jesus Christ the Son, that God the Father is our father.
The relation that is “natural” in God, between Father and Son with the Holy Spirit is in terms of the Father’s relationship to humanity is God’s choice and desire for us. This is God’s will that we are joined with the Son and thus are, by the Father’s choice, adopted Sons. Sons here means both those united with and in Jesus Christ, and heirs of the household of God. We as adopted have an inheritance through the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of this relationship we have in and through the Son, Jesus Christ.
We may find this masculine language troubling. We may find ourselves reifying the masculinity of this language and even attributing such reification to the author of Ephesians. Yet , “Paul” makes use of the household, which in the culture of the time, was always a household of a father whose heir would be the son of the father. However, we should see (and I think are intended to see) that this household and paternity of God are strange and peculiar.
The peculiarity is that we don’t have only one son. Adoption for the sake of gaining an heir would have been somewhat commonplace for the time and culture, but the Father’s household doesn’t have only one heir. All in the household are heirs, sons. We are brought into this peculiar household of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit as sons, being joined to and with the Son. We are guaranteed this position as sons through and in the Holy Spirit, which seals the inheritance and is through whom we have as the guarantee that we are heirs who will inherit.
But this peculiarity doesn’t end in this multiplicity of heirs and sons (whether male or female, Jew or Greek, bond or free, to remember for a moment Galatians). It continues as it up ends ‘natural” process of inheritance. IN the household of God the Father, inheritance comes through the actions of a living father, not a dead father. And also the adoption comes through the Son (anticipating what is about to be said later on in Ephesians), specifically through the death of the Son and his coming to life again. It is the passion of Christ is the means of our adoption as sons.
We are brought into the Household of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, by God’s willing our identification with Christ which is our adoption as Sons through receiving the Holy Spirit who seals us as wills, and is who is given to us as the guarantee of our inheritance as adopted sons. This all may seem to masculine, do women become men in this view? (some in the history of Christianity have come to this conclusion?) We shouldn’t cling to tightly to this identity as sons, for we will find that gender and roles that are played can be a bit fluid in this household.
For the moment, we should see here that the Household of God is about an economy of relationships, that in part can be spoken of in terms of the Relationship of God the Father with God the Son, and we speak of God as our Father because through the Holy Spirit we are joined to Jesus Christ the Son and in that union with Christ we are adopted and made sons, that is heirs. Yet we inherit, not through the death of the Father but but the Fathers being ever living and our life. And even more peculiar our adoption is made possible by the death and subsequent exaltation of the Son. Oddly enough in the household of God we inherit only through the ongoing life of the Father, yet we are adopted as sons through the death of the Son.
The plan or economy of the household of God, is a peculiar economy, and it is the economy of a relation that is God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, into which we are joined through faith in Jesus Christ. As we follow “Paul’s” reflection on this household, the peculiarity and strangeness of this economy (plan) and relationship will only grow and multiply.