I was blessed to be able to participate in the Stephen Olford Center for Biblical Preaching in the summer of 1998. The high regard for expository preaching held by the late Dr. Olford was a strong shaping influence on my view of preaching. Among so many helpful things I learned that summer, one stands out to me more than any other. Dr. Olford taught that students of the Bible should search for three key elements in every passage of Scripture. (Of course his teaching was presented in an alliterated outline - as were the 1000's of sermons he preached prior to his death). He taught that the three key elements one should look for are:
1. The Dominating Theme (Hence, the title of this post)
2. The Integrating Thoughts (Which support the dominate theme)
3. The Motivating Thrusts (Which are usually applications of the dominate theme)
If you were to use this study approach for Ephesians 1:3-14, what would be the dominating theme?
There are so many themes repeated in this chapter it may be difficult to discern the dominating theme. Moreover, it is likely that there are several equal dominate themes in this text.
My evaluation of the dominating theme of this text would be linked to the ground (or, foundation) for why God has shown us mercy in Christ AND to the goal (or, reason) for which God has shown mercy to us in Christ.
For the purposes of this meditation, let's consider the ground, and in our next meditation, the goal.
What is the fountain out of which all of the blessings of our salvation flow? According to Paul in Ephesians one, the answer is:
* "The kind intention of God's will" (v. 4)
* "The riches of God's grace" (v. 7)
* "God's kind intention" (v. 9)
* "The purpose of God" (v. 11)
Again, there are so many lofty themes presented in chapter one, but these thoughts seem to be the reason everything else in the text happens. Even being chosen (v. 4), and predestined (v. 5, 11), and redemption (v. 7), and forgiveness (v. 7), all flow out of the four themes mentioned above (Which I would argue, are really ONE theme).
The theme of Ephesians 1:3-14 (remember, this is one sentence in Greek), is the amazingly free exercise of GOD to predestine, choose, redeem, and forgive His own because of His own "grace," "purpose," and "kind intention" (the KJV renders "kind intention" as, "good pleasure," which I really like better).
It is difficult to refrain from writing the 10th meditation now, which will deal with the goal of God's free agency to act in such a sinner-saving way! Stay tuned...