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1. A church that appears too small, too weak, and too fragile to survive. Paul writes a letter of encouragement to the churches throughout Asia Minor. The church is made up of small groups of Christians spread throughout Asia Minor worshipping in homes. Paul, one of the key leaders, is imprisoned and will soon die. The founder, Jesus Christ, was executed. The whole church appears to be a temporary movement within Judiaism.
2. A culture that appears too large, too confident and too powerful to be threatened. Cult of Diana and Mystery Religions – The temple to Dinah (Artemis in Greek) in Ephesus was considered one of the wonders of the world. It contained an image of Diana that had fallen from the heavens. Diana was depicted as a multibreasted goddess. A body of eunuch priests ran the temple. There were no bloody sacrifices. She was considered the mother of all living things. Large donations flooded her temple and priests every year. Each year the city of Ephesus threw a large festival in her honor. The Ephesian Diana was worshipped more than any other deity and statues of her filled the homes of the people. Acts reveals the magical arts were practiced in relation to her. Mystery religions were popular all through Asia Minor. These cults promised power to their adherents; power of knowing the future as well as insight into secrets. These cults were formed around a series of initiations. To enter the cult one had to be initiated and to advance up through the various levels required a variety of initiations. Mystery religions viewed life as trapped by cosmic forces. Ritual was a means of escaping the bonds of this material prison. Imperial Cult – Minucias Felix (2nd century Christian) writes about the Romans, “their power and authority has occupied the circuit of the whole world: thus it has propagated its empire beyond the paths of the sun, and the bounds of the oceans itself. Rome is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth (Rev 17:18). “The imperial cult was a “natural response on the part of provincials to the tremendous power of the emperor, which was perceived as truly god-like, and to the benefits that the rule of the emperor brought to the provinces. The imperial cult especially focused attention on the emperor as the patron of the world. Since his gifts matched those of the deities, it was deemed only fitting that the expressions of gratitude and loyalty should take on the forms used to communicate with the patron deities themselves.” David DeSilva
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Prior to Caesar Octavious brought peace to a Roman world that had been in constant turmoil. He was a master administrator and leader. He brought an empire racked with division into order. Once he achieved victory, he surrendered his power to the Senate in 27 BC. In 27 B.C., the Roman Senate granted Octavian the name Augustus, meaning "the exalted." They also gave him the legal power to rule Rome's religious, civil and military affairs, with the Senate as an advisory body, effectively making him Emperor. Eventually temples were built in his honor. Although he rejected at first, eventually he realized the power the imperial cult could have for uniting the kingdom. He agreed as long as the deity Roma would also be honored alongside him. The people looked to Augustus as ruling regent of the gods. The imperial cult continued to grow under other emperors up through Constantine. It was particularly powerful and popular in Asia Minor. The Christians in these areas would be surrounded by statues of the emperors. Many of the social events in the cities would revolve around emperor worship and Christians would feel intense pressure to participate. By refusing, Christians limited their opportunity to participate socially, economically or politically. Power The cult of Diana, the mystery religions and the imperial cult all offered various forms of power. Some of it was practical social or economic power. Other parts esoteric power living one to higher states of consciousness. 3. A power that is greater than power, preceding all things and transforming all things in love. Egyptians vs Hebrews (power of pyramids vs power of future) two kinds of power one is fading the other is growing one looks back the other reaches forward one relates through status/rites the other on the basis of personal love one sacrifices others to save itself the other lays down its life to gain it we behold the kingdom rule of christ now and begin to live (embody/enflesh) the reality of that kingdom now Paul writes a song in praise of the God of all power. He weaves prayers and songs throughout the letter to proclaim the glory of God who expresses his power not in world power but in the power of a love that transforms people. The expression of his power is love. In the midst of a world consumed by power, Paul writes a letter to encourage the Christians through Asia Minor. In his letter he reveals the true source of power, Jesus Christ. He explains how this power is revealed on earth through his chosen vessel: the church. This power takes the form of expressed love that unites those divided by race and
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class and causes of to serve and care for one another. This power, though it appears weak and inconsequential, will ultimately overcome all other forms of power.
Ephesians 1:20-2:1 20 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, 21 in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. 22 He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. 23 The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
Christianity enters a world of chaos. The power of the gospel is moving all things from chaos to harmony: glory to glory. Christianity moves toward the future with hope. Jesus brings the kingdom of the future into the present when he raises from the dead. He interrupts time. Living the kingdom, bringing back from the end of time and embodying some of it here and now, is the process by which man, ever since Jesus, consciously participates in his own creation. Center of all things - a person - church (not individuals) - we are working out his kingdom - in the power of his life (spirit) - through relationships of love Notes from Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy “Future means novelty, surprise; it means outgrowing past habits and attainments. When a job, a movement, an institution promises nothing but treadmill repetition of a given routine in thought and action, we say correctly, ‘There is no future in it.’” “So pagan thought almost universally pictures human life as a decline from a golden age in the past toward ultimate destruction in the future.” Christianity…has shown ‘how man can be eternal in the moment, how he can act once for all.’” Christian progress vs worldly progress (technological progress or temporal progress) “Bombs get better all the time. But this improvement does not determine progress.”
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“The great idea of human progress is not guaranteed by 101,000 progresses in special sciences or gadgets since they have led to the quickest and most intensive destruction of a whole civilization in our own time.” Progress is an act of our own creative faith, breaking with the past and embracing the future that God is unveiling in Christ. Christian progress involves embracing the cross (death) to reveal the life of God “It would be a mistake to consider all repetition bad. Life itself rests in a certain balance between recurrent and novel processes; the former are our fixed capital investment, the latter our free range of choice, selection, change, at any given moment. Unless the achievements of the past were continually reproduced along with the fresh creations of the present, there would be mere mutation without cumulative growth of any kind.” “But the natural tendency of life when left to itself is to relax from initiative to routine, and thereby to upset the balance between past and future, recurrence and innovation. That is why the automatic concept of progress is fallacious. Progress is becoming what we are. We are moving from glory to glory. Each step upward is through the death. I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live. This laying down our life, the embracing the cross, this being renewed in the love of God in Christ, renews and glorifies us and works through us to renew all things.
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The Power of God’s Will
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: Ephesians 1:1 Paul, in his typical style, introduces the letter with a greeting we might be tempted to overlook when trying to get to the heart of his argument. But if we do, we miss the starting point. In these few words, we can gain insight into Paul’s identity as well as God’s purposes. Remember, Paul is writing a letter of encouragement to a band of Christians surrounded by structures of earthly power. From the awe-inspiring temple of Diana to the imperial cult, the Ephesians and all of Asia Minor live in a world dominated by manifestations of political and spiritual power. To compete with these heavyweights, one must be impressive. In seed form, Paul introduces this letter with potent words that unfold throughout the letter to reveal the beginning and end of all reality. This grand drama proceeds from the will of the Father, through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul Saul was a Hebrew of Hebrew whose passion for Israel led to the persecution of the church. This holy warrior meets the Lord of Glory and becomes a follower of Jesus. Over time, his ministry becomes focused more and more upon proclaiming the good news outside the Jewish world among the gentiles. Paulus, his Roman name, gradually becomes the name his uses instead of his Hebrew name. Paul opens this letter to the Ephesians using his name. He takes his stand in the name that reveals his calling to the Gentiles. By using this name, Paul accepts his calling and takes a stand in it. This simple act demonstrates to us the power of standing behind our name in all we say and do as people called by God. apostle Paul uses the word apostle in an original manner. His meaning appears to derive from two different cultures and applications. Apostolos – This is a Greek word that originally referred to sending out a fleet on a military expedition. Over time, the meaning became applied more generally to a variety of naval enterprises. Eventually the word extends beyond fighting to exploring and colonizing. Saliah – This is a Hebrew word indicating the legal authority a messenger carries on behalf of a person or a community. Take for example, Abraham’s servant who goes on mission for Isaac. He carries the legal authority to represent Abraham in the marriage negotiation. Ephesians Notes, Doug Floyd, 5
Paul brings the idea of legal authority into the idea of being sent on an expedition. But he develops the expedition into a missionary event. Then he infuses the word with a meaning that suggests the authority of the apostle is located in the truthfulness of the message—not simply in a legal appropriation by the community. Paul is both a herald and a colonizer. He is announcing the gospel (Good News) of the new king who rules over all. He is also establishing colonies of heaven whom he referred to as ekklesia or called out community and we call the church. Paul’s apostleship is not based on a human command but on the will of God. Unlike the Hebrew saliah Paul’s authority comes from the message. The “good news” carries authority and power. And every time the “good news” is faithfully proclaimed it comes in power. Jesus Paul speaks as a herald of Jesus. The name Jesus derives from the name Joshua, which means Yahweh Saves. In the Old Testament Hoshua (meaning salvation) is chosen by God to succeed Moses and lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. But before he can take his position as leader, God changes his name. He simply inserts his name YHWH (or JA) into Hoshua’s name, so that the salvation becomes YHWH Saves. Joshua’s mission will embody the presence of God as the true deliver and savior of the children of Israel. The writer of Hebrews suggests that the work of entering the Promised Land was not complete. Hebrews 4:8-10 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. NKJV Jesus comes as the second and final Joshua. He comes to fulfill the call and mission of Joshua. In his own name, Jesus bears the reality of his prophetic mission. He comes to Israel with a message: YHWH will redeem his people. Jesus himself is the prophetic message for he comes bearing the presence of YHWH in the midst of the people. Jesus literally is “YHWH saves.” Everything about him communicates the redeeming, restoring, active power of YHWH that fulfills the mission he began with his people when he led them out of Egypt. Jesus will save the people from their sins. Jesus will restore the people to their proper position as kings and priests of YHWH. Bearing the light and power and glory of the Creator as they reveal his covenant of love to all people.
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Christ The word Christ is not Jesus’ last name. This is his title. It comes from the Hebrew word Messiah – someone ceremonially anointed for office. In the Old Testament there are two messianic offices (or two offices that derive their authority from of a specific ceremonial anointing: the King and the High Priest. Jesus stands in both offices. He is the High Priest who forever stands at the mercy seat interceding on behalf of the people of God. Yet he is also King. In fact, Jesus is the final Hebrew King. He completes both offices: King and High Priest. As King, he fulfills the line of David kings and restores the people of God to their proper status as Lords of Creation. He does not simply restore the Hebrew nation but opens the doors for all nations to enter into Hebrew history as descendents of Abraham on the basis of faith. Thus he is king of completely new race of people: made up of Jew and Gentile, forming one new man. This new man, this people of God, now become the body through which Jesus reveals his kingdom and glory and power to the cosmos. Will The whole world exists and is governed on the basis and power of God’s will. Everything depends on the will of God, his will sets the world in place, his will keeps the sun shining, his will sustains us each moment of our life—this world is not simply an amalgamation of natural laws is the express will of God: Jesus is the express will of the Father—the Holy Spirit precedes Him and proceeds from Him. His will is his intention and purpose as well as his action in history. From the loving communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God conceived all creation. He created all things from nothing. He spoke the world into existence and upon His word all things remain. In the mystery of his wisdom and purposes, he chose to give man a will that could resist the purposes of God. This ability to resist also contains the possibility of yielding in a way that far exceeds instinct—man had the capacity to respond in love. On the one hand, we might think the story of human history is the story of man’s squandering this precious gift of freedom. This story of man’s sin corrupting the glory of God’s creation but in the end, all things proclaim the glory of God. Thus, whether man is in submission or resistance, God’s will still accomplishes his purposes and in the end his glory will shine so brightly that all living things will recognize his rule and proclaim his glory. Jesus completely yields his will to the will of the Father, thereby expressing the will of the Father in all actions and all words—thus he is the image of the invisible God. His will is also his rule. He has created us free beings—we respond to him freely by the power of his Spirit. It is his Spirit that is transforming us that we might will and do the will of the
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Father: that in the grace and peace proceeding from King Jesus and revealed in the power of the Spirit, we might become express images of the will of God. Power of God’s will; Expression of God’s will in love Saints This comes from the word hagios, which indicates holiness. Holy is an ancient Mesopotamian word that various Semitic tribes used to indicate the nature of their gods. Holy indicates a state of terror. The gods are powerful and terrifying. Also all element and rituals used in service of the gods were considered holy: separate. It did not have a moral component until the ancient Hebrews applied it to YHWH. They suggested that God is not simply powerful but he is all-powerful—there is no god beside him. Plus his terrifying, otherworldly power is completely pure, completely just, completely trustworthy, completely loving. So they equated absolute moral purity with holiness. If YHWH was holy, so they should also be holy. The understanding of holiness develops over time among the ancient Hebrews. Hosea comes to realize that it is the holiness of God which can embrace the un-holiness of man: The opposition of God's holiness to Israel thus works itself out in His love which is quite incomprehensible to human nature. In Hosea, therefore, the concept of holiness takes up into itself as the fullness of deity the thought of love — an insight never again attained in the OT. As Hosea himself in his shattered happiness learned to know love as the indestructible force which could save even his lost wife, so Yahweh's holiness as the sum of His being must contain the creative love which slays but also makes alive again (cf. 6:1 f.). In the older Hebrew concept the divine stands in mortal opposition to the human and especially the sinful. This opposition remains in Hosea's view of God, but it is absorbed into the opposition of holy love to unholy nature. What God in virtue of His holiness may do to love unholy nature, no man may do, and therefore the antithesis between God and man consists in the very love which overcomes it. (from Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Copyright © 1972-1989 By Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. All rights reserved.) If YHWH forms relationship with his people, then they must become holy. His power works to purify them. Otherwise, they cannot stand in his presence (No man can see God and live.) So God in his holiness is God the redeemer. Notice this passage says to the saints: plural. This is to the holy community of believers gathered around Jesus Christ (that is faithful followers of King Jesus). We as a people are being transformed into a state of holiness, but Paul refers to the community in their final state—not in their current expression. He is calling forth their destiny. We are destined to be holy—not simply to be pure but to image God; to reveal the express will of God in our thoughts, actions and desires. We are becoming reflections of His glory—thus we are becoming saints: this is an awe filled and beautiful destiny.
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Faithful We are faithful to one Sovereign (for you cannot serve two masters: God and Mammon). We are faithful subjects of King Jesus. We may be Americans but our ultimate loyalty is bound to King Jesus. All human power structures will pass away: none of them are permanent. But the rule of King Jesus will never end.
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The blessing that sustains God’s people
Ephesians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ESV A. This concise blessing proclaims the complete fulfillment of God’s purpose among His people. A short blessing precedes a longer blessing (3-14). The short blessing contains a potent vision of possibility rooted in the action of a Triune God. The Father blesses through the Son by the power of the Spirit (Spirit is implied). The words “grace” and “peace” are not simply friendly greetings but contain actual power directed toward fulfilling our purpose. B. This blessing is directed to a people and not simply a person. While grace and peace impact the individual, these gifts both convey a blessing upon the community as a whole. Grace (Root meaning – to stoop, to turn as an expressed act of assistance, to be inclined) Grace is a gift of God’s welcoming favor bestowed upon his people. The state of sin is a state of personal isolation. Thus we are saved, redeemed as individuals. God turns toward the repentant sinner and grafts her into his body, his chosen Bride. Thus grace is the action of God whereby the isolated individual is joined to the family of God and welcome to enjoy the benefits of the covenant people. In Ephesians, this favor is exemplified as a welcoming of the Gentiles into the covenant community of God. It is important to note that grace is not simply an antidote for sin. God’s unilateral favor is present before and after sin. His presence, his face, his favor, his grace is the power of his presence realized in the life of believer raising them up to a higher place, lifting them into the glory of his love. Peace (Rooted in the Hebrews idea of Shalom) Yahweh's punishment of enemies, is explained by the fact that it is seen as part of Yahweh's plan to restore his order in the world. Peace is that restored state of well-being for God’s covenant people. Peace indicates wholeness, completion and fulfillment of the ultimate purpose of being. The idea of shalom seems intertwined with the idea of Sabbath. To fully grasp the meaning of peace, we might find it helpful to reflect on the meaning of Sabbath. I’ve read a several Jewish Rabbis to better understand their idea of Sabbath. Abraham Joshua Heschel is my primary source. Sabbath is like a prince who was sent away from His Father. He spends many years away longing for His Father’s presence. One day he receives a message to prepare to return home for he will soon see his father again. The prince is so overcome with joy he wants Ephesians Notes, Doug Floyd, 10
to celebrate with the whole village. He enters the local tavern and orders drink and food for all. This is a day for rejoicing for the prince is returning to His father. The Sabbath reminds us to celebrate for we are going to the Father. Sabbath is not so much a day as an atmosphere of rejoicing. Not a day for fasting and mourning but for feasting, rejoicing, celebrating: a day to rest from work and enjoy the Lord, his provision for us and our family. Sabbath requires a day of preparation. Special foods are prepared for Sabbath. Everyone dresses up in their finest—often wearing clothes only worn on Sabbath. The table is set with the finest china and silver in the house. At sundown. The priest blow three blasts on the trumpet. Sabbath is come! Mother covers table with a white cloth, lights the sabbot candles, encircles the flame with her hands, and welcomes the holiness of the Sabbath. She prays ceremonial and private prayers and often weeps tears of joy. Everyone waits with excitement as the Sabbath arrives like a bride or a queen illustrating God’s passion for His people. There is a toast to bless the Sabbath and then a meal. Two loaves of bread are served to symbolize the double portion of manna given in preparation for the Sabbath in the wilderness. The next day is set aside. No work of any kind. Instead the day is divided between feasting and instruction (feasting on God’s works). Synagogue – Torah is read and men are free to get up and speak. Family and friends spend the day together. At the end of the day, another meal. A candle is lit to separate the sacred and the eternal returning to normal time. For six days, each person toils and sweats, longing for the coming Sabbath. The literally counted their week in relation to Sabbath. One day after Sabbath, two days after Sabbath, three days after Sabbath, three days before Sabbath, two days before Sabbath, the day of preparation, Sabbath. Moses went up to the mountaintop to meet God. The people wanted something to connect them to God, so they built a Golden Calf: an object in space that could focus their prayers and desires toward God. Moses returns from the mountain but does not give them an object of space, he gives them a moment of time: the Sabbath.
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The Sabbath reminds us of a God who is greater than all space. The Sabbath reveals that we cannot own time: it is a gift of relationship. “We are infatuated with the splendor of space, with the grandeur of things of space. Thing is a category that lies heavy on our minds, tyrannizing all our thought. Our imagination tends to mold all concepts in it image. On our daily lives we attend primarily to that which the senses are spelling out for us: to what the eyes perceive, consisting of substances that occupy space; even God is conceived by most of us as a thing.”(Heschel, 5) “Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctifying of time…Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious…The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn…” (Heschel, 8) The seventh day is the climax of creation. It a day of rest. It reveals the whole meaning of creation in shared communion with the Creator. The Sabbath reveals the harmony of all things united in loving embrace of the Creator. “The Sabbath day is a mine where spirit’s precious metal can be founds with which to construct the palace in time, a dimension in which the human is at home with the divine; a dimension in which man aspires to approach the likeness of the divine.” (Heschel, 18) The Jews sometimes refer to Sabbath as a bride and the people of God as a husband. This is to indicate that the Sabbath. “To name it queen, to call it bride is merely to allude to the fact that its spirit is a reality we meet rather than an empty span of time, which we choose to set aside for comfort or recuperation” (Heschel, 59) “A thought has blown the market places away. There is a song in the wind and joy in the trees. The Sabbath arrives in the world, scattering a song in the silence of the night: eternity utters a day. Where are the words that could compete with such might?” (Hechel, 67) The Sabbath has sustained the Jewish people when everything was stripped from them: their homes, their land and even their lives. And yet the great empires of space fall to the ground and pass away. Israel, the tiny empire of time, continues even to this day. “One must be overawed by the marvel of time to be ready to perceive the presence of eternity in a single moment. One must live and act as if the fate of all time would depend on a single moment.” (Heschel, 76) “The “day of the Lord” is more important to the prophets than the “house of the Lord.” (Heschel, 80)
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“Judaism tries to foster a vision of life as a pilgrimage to the seventh day; the longing for the Sabbath all days of the week which is a form of the longing for the eternal Sabbath all the days of our lives.” (Heschel, 90) “Looking out of the window of a swiftly moving railroad car, we have the impression that the landscape is moving while we ourselves are sitting still. Similarly, when gazing at reality while our souls are carried away by spatial things, time appears to be in constant motion. However, when we learnt to understand that it is the spatial things that are constantly running out, we realize that time is that which never expires, that it is the world of space which is rolling through the infinite expanse of time. Thus temporality may be defined as space relating to time. Time, that which is beyond and independent of space, is everlasting; it is the world of space which is perishing. Things perish within time; time itself does not change. We should not speak of the flow or passage of time but of the flow or passage of space through time.” (Heschel, 97) “In the spirit, there is no difference between a second and a century. One good hour may be worth a lifetime; an instant of returning to God may restore what has been lost in years of escaping from Him.” (Heschel, 98) Sabbath Observance Degenerated Over Time Over time, the simple call to rest from labor, remembrance of God’s great acts, and community worship gave way to extensive rules and regulation. During the exile, many rules were added to help protect the Jews from enculturation. In fact, one Syrian ruler realized the power of the Sabbath to keep them separate from the culture and he outlawed it. Jacob Neusner talks about how the rabbis used analogy to extend the prohibitions and expected actions. He says, “The result was a system of law that, in the rabbis’ own description, hung like a mountain from a strand of hair, containing an inordinate number of rules, based on a small biblical foundation.” Jesus Comes and Restores the Glory of the Sabbath At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!" 3 But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? 6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. 7 But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Matthew 12:1-8
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The Sabbath is only an image, a type, a picture of the abundant life that Jesus brings. 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Colossians 2:16-17 The people of God are called to live perpetually in the life of the Spirit, the Sabbath. Through his “called out community,” Shalom will become a living reality. Shalom is the result of the Sabbath. Shalom is the completion of God’s purposes on the earth. God’s transforming power if revealed in the rest of the Spirit—not continuous activity. So the grace and peace of God are gifts of the Father through the Son by the Spirit that teach us to live in the reality of who we really are. We are Sabbath people: not bound by the lusts and desires of a world of space, but consumed with longing for the harmony of Shalom manifest in all our relations. Once we begin to enter into this place of Shalom, we come to realize that space and time allow differing types of movement. But the goal of this movement is always the same: love. All things are being transformed by the love of God.
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Unfolding the Mystery of God’s Blessing
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (ESV, Ephesians 1:3-14) Verses 3-14 form one sentence. The word blessing in the Greek (eulogia) means to “speak well” or “to speak well of someone” and originated in the theater. Paul uses the Greek word but actually infuses it with a Hebrew meaning. The word blessing in Hebrew (barak) captures a whole concept about life. A father can give his son a blessing. The blessing can only be given once and it is irrevocable. The blessing was believed to embody a powerful force affecting everything in the son’s life. The Hebrews come to understand blessing as a power that proceeds from YHWH alone. God’s blessing cannot be thwarted, thus those who live under God’s blessing cannot be cursed. God blesses humans by speaking well of them. His words carry creative power that manifests in a blessed life.
1. A Trinitarian Blessing (Who?)
Throughout this passage, Paul suggests that the blessing of God is a Trinitarian act. We are blessing by the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. In one sense, the passage might be read in a Trinitarian manner: The will of the Father (3-6) The action of the Son (7-12) The sealing of the Spirit (13-14) We know from Galatians that the actual blessing is in fact the promised Holy Spirit. (Galatians 3:14)
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Why is it important to understand the blessing is Trinitarian? The more we meditate and reflect upon the Triune nature of God, the more we come to realize the mystery of our own relation to God, other humans and this world. Jesus is loved by the Father before the creation of the world. This love between Father, Son and Spirit precedes all things. In the creation of the world, we see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit working as one in perfect harmony. Thus the source of all people and all things is the love of Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The origin of all life is a loving relation between Father, Son and Spirit. Within the Godhead, there is a continual fullness of joy. We are created out from a loving relationship, and we all sense this longing for perfect relationship in our hearts. We may compete with others, we may fight, we may grow angry with God and others, but we were not created to be alone. And we cannot live in isolation. We are created to live in love with God and one another.
2. A Covenantal Blessing (What?)
The Hebrew concept for “covenant” comes from a word that means to “bind.” God binds us to himself for His glory. Blessing His People Sin does not presuppose God’s action toward man. His intention was always to pour out blessing upon humans. The blessing mentioned in Ephesians reaches all the way back to the Garden of Eden and God’s covenant with man. (See Genesis 2). In the Garden, man was sinless but not perfect (complete). Testing is part of the process of completion. Man has a priestly, kingly and prophetic function. The tree of life represented his priestly function. According to James Jordan, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents his kingly purpose. Before he could function in his rightful kingly authority, man had to develop his priestly role. Communion with God (life/zoe) would prepare him to rule (take dominion) in the proper way. For then his rule would proceed from and to love. But man interrupts the developmental process and eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This gives on wisdom to rule. But without the properly formed priestly heart, the kingly function of man corrupts man. His rule is not based on love. Throughout history, one of the curses of man is to rule too early. Thus most of our kings and leaders did not establish their rule in love. This is why David is such an important king. He becomes a lover before he is a king. The Ephesians blessing, suggests that God has restored man back to the proper position so that he can serve properly and prophet, priest and king. Each person functions as a part of the people of God in a particular way. (the mystery of particularity and universality)
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Ephesians reveals that man plays a role in the deification of all creation, meaning that all things reach their fullness in Christ as man’s function in his proper rule. We al play a role in proclaiming the glory of God through all things. Spiritual blessing is not an abstract otherworldy blessing but a blessing entering the here and now, the physical realm of humans by the power of the Spirit. It is a blessing that is sustained and made real through the Holy Spirit. Blessing God How can man bless God? It is impossible for man to add anything to God and yet Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” The blessing of God flows into man and as it completes its work in man—God is blessed. God is blessed when his blessing attains its purpose. “To the praise of His glorious grace” (vs 6) “…according to the riches of his grace” (vs 7) “…to the praise of his glory”(vs. 12, 14) “So long and intensively does he shower grace upon them that finally they cannot help but sing paeans to his splendid grace. His joy and pleasure in doing good is only fulfilled when they show themselves utterly please pleased.” (Markus Barth) God creates the Jews as minstrels of God. Not simply by given times of worship but their very existence become a hymn of praise to the creator. In their singing, praying, dancing, crying, longing and struggling, they are emblems of his mercy and grace. They proclaim his glory. Ephesians suggests that the Gentiles have now also been grafted into this special calling.
3. An Effectual Blessing (When?)
The unfolding blessing of God in His people. Past – Before the Foundation of the World (3-6) Future – The Summation of All Things in Christ (7-12) Present – The Seal of the Spirit (13-14)
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Revealing His Glory in the Church
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:15-23
Faith There are two helpful words for thinking about faith. One is trust. Our trust in King Jesus the person—not just trusting a concept. Also, faithfulness. Our trust in Jesus the person results in a life centered in him. Thus both words point to faith as an ongoing relationship. What does it mean to have a personal relationship with Jesus? Love Our faith manifests in love (Galatians 5:6). This is a particular love focused on the saints. Because love is not simply a general concept—once again this is a relational word. I cannot honestly love someone I do not know. My love for others will take a particular form in each relationship. Knowledge and Wisdom We need a new heart, a new mind a capacity to know in a way that is beyond knowledge. This is more than just knowing by memorizing facts—it is a knowing that only comes from relationship. Enlightened He prays for the Father of glory (light) to enlighten. This light directs our path and leads us upward into his Presence. “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day (Proverbs 4:18). Calling Calling and conversion refer to the same action of God. He calls us from non-being into being; unloved to loved; far off brought near. We are grafted into the chosen people. Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggested, “When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Our calling is our destiny. Our sacrifice; our laying down our life to find it.
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Inheritance The riches of glory in store for God’s beloved. If we could but grasp the glory of his calling and kingdom, we like Paul, would consider everything else dung in relation to pursuing Christ. Power King Jesus reveals power beyond all power. As the Church Fathers say, “he is always greater than.” King Jesus rules over every power structure: nature; history; heredity; culture; government; relationships; universe; science; knowledge; Fullness The Church as the body of Christ functions as a servant to all of creation. Rule of love brings fullness, perfection, completion to all things.
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God’s Glorious Masterpiece
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV In today’s passage, Paul introduces two ages of man. These two ages are actually two worlds that overlap. One is the old creation—fallen under weight of Adam’s sin, and the other is the new creation—revealed in the resurrection of the second Adam. All of us are born under the old age, but by God’s grace can leave the old age (which is passing away) and enter into the new age which never fades: world without end. 1. The age of sin. This old world is characterized by sin and trespasses (falling short of the glory of God). The sons of disobedience live in this world following the passions of their body and mind. This is the path of division between all peoples (Cain and Abel; Jews and the Gentiles). Notice the “you,” “we” divisions in verses 1 – 3. The way of sin This is this path where the ungodly walk. There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12) (See also Psalm 1; Proverbs) The ruler of this age and air (aion and aeros). Paul talks about a power that leads the unbelievers in their path of wickedness. This power might be referred to as World Age and it also might be referred to as satan. Notice how the word age (aion) is translated throughout Scripture. It is often translated as world. We may think of a physical planet but the text is referring to an age or an epoch that is passing away. Matthew 13:39-40 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world (age); and the reapers are the angels.
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40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world (age). Matthew 28:20 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (age). Amen. Luke 18:30 30 Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world (age) to come life everlasting. John 6:51 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever (age or age after age): and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. John 14:16 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever (age or age after age); Romans 12:2 2 And be not conformed to this world (age): but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4 4 In whom the god of this world (age) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. Galatians 1:4-5 4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world (age), according to the will of God and our Father: 5 To whom be glory for ever and ever (age or age after age) . Amen. Ephesians 1:21 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world (age), but also in that which is to come: Ephesians 3:21 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end . Amen. The Old Creation is ruled by satan through fallen man. The Scripture does not give us a comprehensive explanation of evil like it does of God. This should help us realize that we do not focus all our energy upon explaining or
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discussing it. And yet, evil is present in the world of Adam, the first creation, the first age. Adam gave up his rightful dominion to the evil one and now evil works through the hearts and actions of the sons of disobedience. Paul suggests that both Gentiles and Jews walk in this path. Their actions set up institutions and societies and cultures—as evil works in and through them, so evil is at work in the realms they create. How is evil defeated? 2. The age of grace. Rich in mercy. This is the Father heart of God: rich in mercy. He will not let his creation waste away. He acts “because of the great love with which he loved us.” The Father showers his love upon his creation. In this shower of love, he comes to heal the breach between man and God and man and man. Resurrection power. Jesus’ resurrection changes everything. When he dies, the old world dies. And when he rises the new world rises. This present evil age has already died and passed away. The age (the new heaven and earth) is here. The two ages overlap temporarily. One is fading: one is growing brighter and brighter. He raises up divided man (Jew and Gentile together). Resurrection is not for individuals but for one new man. The people of God united as one in Christ. What is resurrection? Raised up to heavenly places. He has raised us up to demonstrate his loving-kindness in and through us. We are the firstfruits of the new heaven and hew earth. James 1:18 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Romans 8:19-23 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 3. We are God’s workmanship. Raised up together as the people of God, we are empowered (not through our own strength) to show forth the works of God in all our actions. We are God’s masterpiece, displaying the excellent power of his grace to bring love and healing to a world wrecked by sin and division. What is our duty?
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Old Things Have Passed Away, All Things Become New
One New People
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh — who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands — 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:11-13 (NKJV) The Gentiles are told to remember their past separation from the covenant people. This is one of the only times in Scriptures people are told to remember something about their sinful past. Normally when sins are remembered this means judgment. If God remembers our iniquities, he is getting ready to pour out his wrath. But in this instance, the Ephesians are told to remember how they were outside the covenant of God and now they are inside. Things to remember: Uncircumcision – ceremonial exclusion Without Christ – social, political, sociological, psychological Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel – social, political, sociological, psychological Strangers to the covenants of promise – social, political, sociological, psychological No Hope - theological Without God - theological This list is interesting because the Ephesians prior to conversion would have most likely been in the cult of Diana or the Imperial cult. In other words, they would have had access to social, economic, and political power. But they gave that up when they entered into the community of faith. Yet Paul points out that they were on the outside (because the only real, lasting power in this world is in the covenant family of God). Therefore, even though they may have enjoyed certain temporary benefits, they were ultimately without hope and without God. Two interesting side notes: When Paul uses the phrase “made in the flesh by hands” this is in direct contrast with the work of God which is not made with hands. 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. NKJV Now those who were far off have been brought near. This is a reference to Is. 57:19: Ephesians Notes, Doug Floyd, 23
Isaiah 57:19 19 "I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near," Says the LORD, "And I will heal him." NKJV And yet, the Isaiah passage is referring to Jew and Jew. Those who are in exile and those are not. They will be restored. Eventually the rabbis thought this might apply to Gentiles as well. Isaiah 49:5-6 5 "And now the LORD says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, So that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, And My God shall be My strength), 6 Indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'" (NKJV)
One New Man
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:14-18 (NKJV) Jesus removes the separation between man and man as well as man and God. 1. The two people (Jews and Gentiles) have become one. One culture did not trump another culture. Instead both cultures become one new culture in Christ. 2. Wall of Separation a. Israel and the Nations (wall at temple) b. The Law c. Enmity between Jews and Gentiles d. Enmity between Jews and Gentiles and God
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3. Jesus offers his life as an intercession to break this wall of hostility: flesh, veil (think John 17 – extends beyond simply Jews and Gentiles) Theology of the Cross binds people together (not multiple Christian bodies—one new man) 4. Jesus offers the pattern of sacrifice for all to follow. We sacrifice for those in front of us. 5. Old creation ends with the creation of man. New creation starts with one new man. 6. This one new man is a community of persons: mutuality, exchange, diversity, individualism, distinct cultures and histories (distinct stories), yet woven into the fabric of one new man—spanning all divisions: age, race, epoch, calling; freedom to love one another. Salvation is dependent upon our relation to one another. God doesn’t save individuals. He redeems one new man. Matthew 5:23-25 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. NKJV Worship is connected to our relation between one another. Perfect love. Prodigal son. Different ages: medieval man and modern man. Teacher and Soldier. Pastor/teacher, prophet, apostle and evangelist. Four directions. Peace – Shalom – Fulfillment of Potential. Enemies and friends.
One New Temple
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 (NKJV) Think of Hebrew idea of temple (place where heaven meets earth). Temple not made by hands. Temple of the Lord built out of God’s people spanning across space and time. Celtic idea of communion. Apostle and prophet.
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The Power of Revelation
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles — 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. Ephesians 3:1-13/ESV In chapters 1 through 3 of Ephesians, Paul seeks to make sure the believers grasp the stunning glory of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. In 3:14-21, he will offer the great climax to this proclamation in an act of prayer and worship. Right before he does, Paul once again reiterates the revelation that has been entrusted to him, the call to proclaim that revelation and the cost of that calling. 1. The Revelation Given to Paul Paul beholds Jesus Christ as Lord and it transforms his life. In verse 3, he mentions how “the mystery was made known to me by revelation.” There are two key words: revelation and mystery (secret). A. Revelation (apocalypse) – unveiling, appearing, manifestation: a continuous and unceasing flow of information and power. From revelation to revelation (The Bible is apocalyptic in that it moves from revelation to revelation.) 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 12 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech — 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. NKJV Ephesians Notes, Doug Floyd, 26
Ephesians 1:17-23 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. NKJV B. Mystery - “To close” – something kept hidden but now is revealed in the preaching of the gospel. This mystery or secret is Jesus Christ. In him, dwells all the fullness of God. In him, is our redemption. “In Christ” all through Ephesians. God’s secret is not some heavenly mystery that only the initiated learn. It is God’s action in human history in Christ. God reveals himself, his power, his redemption, his glory in and through Jesus Christ. This mystery is now unveiled. While this mystery was not fully unveiled in previous ages, it now is revealed in the act of proclamation (verses 5 and 9). The mystery hidden for ages – aeons. For ages and ages it was hidden in God. The depths of God’s love would only fully be unfolded after he created man. For man has been chosen by God to be the recipient of the revelation of his unending depths of love. This mystery grafts the Gentiles into the chosen people. When Jesus is proclaimed, eyes of faith open to the mystery. Thus “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word.” As Jesus Christ is proclaimed, the Gentiles realize that they are grafted into the people of God by Jesus (verses 6 and 8). When the message is proclaimed and we believe, we join the covenant community of God’s elect people, formerly limited only to the children of Israel. Now we enter into their history by the culmination of their history in Jesus Christ. This mystery is unsearchable, unfathomable – beyond searching out (verse 8). God does not open himself to man’s inquiry. God can not be studied in the lab or the classroom. Rather, God reveals himself to man but man will never penetrate the depths of God’s wonder and glory. So every time God reveals a glimpse of his person, we are overwhelmed in worship and wonder. This knowledge does not puff up or make us superior but like Paul is humbles us revealing our low estate and God’s incomparable mercy and grace. So instead of making us spiritual snobs, it makes us people of prayer and worship. In the Eastern Orthodox Church theology is a discipline of prayer. You cannot be a theologian if you are not living a life of prayer.
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This mystery reveals the manifold wisdom of God. Manifold is like intricate embroidery or the varying ways that light is reflected through a diamond. In God’s church, the impact of the revelation of Jesus Christ transforms each member to reflect God’s love in a particular way. Then the whole body, joined together in Christ, reflects the manifold wisdom of God. 2. The Call to Proclaim this Revelation Paul is commissioned to proclaim this revelation to the Gentiles. Paul’s authority is not in himself but in the revelation of the secret – Jesus Christ (“Mystery of Christ”). A. Stewardship - “stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you” – stewardship – oikonomia – oikos (household) nomia (administration) administration of a household affairs. This is the origin for our word economy: a management of resources. This is translated in the KJV as dispensation (one place where dispensationalists find their argument). In this sense, dispensation would be a method or system of government suited to the needs of a particular nation or time (OED). Paul has been given resources (grace) for the Gentiles. It is his responsibility to manage these resources or pour out these resources on behalf of the people. One theme which repeats itself throughout this passage—grace is not given for one person to enjoy or store up but rather to be poured out on behalf of God’s elect. B. Grace. Verse 7 like verse 2 emphasizes that the grace has been given to Paul to serve the body. This grace has made Paul a minister. The actual word minister is diakonos (deacon) or servant, a waiter (to serve at table). The revelation of Jesus Christ has called Paul to serve and given him the resources (grace) necessary to wait upon God’s people— the Gentiles. The Cost of the Call The revelation of Jesus Christ transforms Paul into an expression of revelation. Conversion and calling are one movement that flows from the salvation realized in the revelation. Like Paul, we are to become lights in the universe The calling makes Paul into a prisoner, steward and servant of this revelation. Prisoner for Jesus Christ on behalf of the Gentiles – Bringing liberty to the Gentiles cost Paul his freedom. Proclaiming life led to his death. The calling humbles Paul (verse 8). Instead of making Paul feel superior, he realizes his lowly estate. It is only God’s call that animates him. In Christ, the eternal purposes of God are revealed and this produces boldness and faith in Paul.
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Do not lose heart over my suffering. The call of the gospel will cost us. It cost Paul everything: his freedom, his respect, his life. And it was worth it. Peter gives us an example of the calling. At first Jesus tells Peter, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” He calls Peter to be one of the twelve apostles. He calls Peter to come to Him, walking on the water. He calls Peter (and the others) to follow him by taking up the cross and dying. He calls him to stay awake in the garden. Finally, he calls Peter to let go of everything, even his own power of life. “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish." The calling in the end was no different from the calling in the beginning. Bonhoeffer said that “When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die.” The call is a call to conversion, to submission, to worship, to confession, to Jesus Christ. It is a call to eternal life that comes through death. It is a call to let go of everything, even our very life, and yield to the love revealed in and through Jesus Christ alone. In the beginning the call simply comes as an invitation to “Follow Me.” This path, this quest, this journey will reveal more wonder and glory than we thought possible on this earth, but at the same time, it will ultimately make us of prisoners, servants, and stewards of the call. So that eventually our lives will be but a dim reflection of the shining glory emanating ever forth from Jesus Christ.
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Knowing Love Beyond Knowledge
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21 This prayer is one of the towering peaks of Scriptures. Doxology (prayer and worship) takes a us to a place far above the heights of intellect. After behold the goodness and blessing of God’s life poured upon his people, all generations can only respond by shouting, “Glory!” The family God creates fills heaven and earth. A. Paul “kneels in prayer.” Kneeling in prayer is not a Jewish tradition. Standing in prayer is a Jewish tradition. Other cultures surrounding Israel kneeled in worship. So why does Paul begin by mentioning that he is kneeling to the Father? He is writing to Gentiles about their inclusion in the family of God. Thus kneeling would be familiar to them in worship. He, a Jew, has so identified with the Gentiles to whom he has been sent, that he has adopted their worship habits. B. The Father has named his whole family in heaven and earth. God has created this family that is not limited to time and space as we know, but extends in all directions. Naming is suggests covenant and authority. Jesus names the twelve apostles, giving them authority of office; so his names all members of his family. Each one carries authority to reveal his glory in a particular way, creating a stunning harmony when all voices rejoice as one. The dwelling created and strengthened by the Spirit. The heart of man must be transformed, renewed, recreated by the Holy Spirit to becoming a holy dwelling for the Jesus. By heart do we mean an organ inside the body? Yes and no. Actually the heart normally refers to the whole person but this is not some kind of mystical, bodiless dwelling. God entered human history in the physical body of Jesus Christ. And through Christ, he continues to incarnate his presence in this world today. So our whole person include the body, the emotions, the will, and all the words we may use to understand what refers to our whole person. We are growing toward Jesus, into Jesus, through Jesus. Our relationship with him (mediated by the power of the Spirit) is literally changing us from the inside out. Think about how two people that are married may begin to look alike or act alike. They are changed into one another through relationship. This is what is happening with Jesus only in a much deeper way. Ephesians Notes, Doug Floyd, 30
The vine that God sustains through love. Paul moves from a building metaphor (dwelling) to an organic metaphor (rooted and grounded). Much like John 15, we are the branches sustained by God’s love alone. We have no fruit, no life, no joy or peace, outside his love. How does a branch draw nourishment from the vine? It remains. It abides. This is not about activity, but about dependency. We hunger, we thirst, we rest, and we trust in his unceasing flow of love to sustain us. The dimensions of love that we can never fully exhaust. Ephesians begins with a vision of how Christ is the center point all the cosmos. Now Paul flips that images and looks to the farthest reaches of the cosmos: width and length and depth and height (much like the four corners of the earth). Go as far as you can, in any direction, and you cannot escape the love of God in Christ. This reminds us of Romans:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:
“ For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”[c] Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-38
The knowledge of love that surpasses knowledge. How can knowledge of love surpass knowledge? There are at least two ways of knowing: intellectually and relationally. We can amass information, memorize facts, and quote maxims, yet still not know something. Relational love is not about collecting data but rather about encountering Presence. We turn and face one another. We behold. We are change and are changed. Once again think of a man and a woman. When they say, “I love you.” What does that mean? Does it mean something different for the twentysomethings passionately in love and something different for the fortysomethings raising a family and building a life together and still something different for the seventysomethings as their health declines and they care for one another? Love is particularized in every relationship. This is a beginning to consider what it means to know love that surpasses knowledge. Filled to the fullness of God. This speaks of perfection, completion. God’s love completes us. Only in his love can we become what we were created to become. And what He is doing and will do is even greater than anything we could ever grasp or imagine. All we can do is rejoice!
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One People Called by One God
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Ephesians 4:1-6 After introducing the blessings of covenant in chapter 1 through 3, Paul turns his focus to the expectations of the covenant. These come second because obedience must never be confused with merit. Obedience is in response to God’s action. Merit is an attempt to get God to act. But God has already acted. He has blessed us exceeding above all we could ask or imagine. We respond in worshipful obedience as children of the covenant. The Calling – Walking in the Spirit and direction of the covenant Paul’s exhortation to walk worthy of the calling indicates the idea of walking toward a specific destination. This is not aimless wondering but walking toward the Promised Land. Like the children of Israel, we journey toward the full realization of God’s covenant in our lives. We journey as free people, as nobility. We are called to walk as Knights of God. We embrace traits as noble citizens of heaven: humility, gentlessness, love unity and peace. This is one of many lists Paul uses to describe how the church behaves toward one another. We work our calling in particular contexts. These words are not pointing toward some general disposition of life but rather, specific relationships. We cannot love people in general. We love persons with whom we enter into relationship. It requires a specific context and as a result, it means we will literally bear one another’s burdens. In verse 1-16, Paul is beginning to show how we can live as the family of God without sacrificing our personalities or the unity of faith. The Confession – Following the one in three God The heart of our faith is Trinity. One is mentioned seven times during verses 4 through 6. It is also divided into three sets that turn focus onto the Spirit, Son and Father: bodySpirit-hope; Lord-faith-baptism; Father-of all-above all-through all-in all.
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The Procession of God’s People into God’s Presence
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men." 9(Now this, "He ascended" — what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a Perfect Man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:7-16/NKJV Paul alludes to the enthronement Psalm 68 as he introduces the idea of Jesus’ triumphant ascent into heaven. This psalm celebrates the Ark of the Covenant being restored to Israel and being put atop Mount Zion by picturing God as a conquering warrior that leads his people from captivity to becoming a great nation (to which all nation flock). With this image in mind, Paul discuss the descent of Jesus to earth and his ascent into the heavens. He is leading His people out from slavery and into the freedom of God’s family of priests and kinds who move ever upward into His glory and who express the reality of His love. 1. Jesus comes to earth to rise us up to heaven. “God became man so that man might become god.” Vs 7-10. Jesus comes to us because we cannot go to him. This descent was a sign of God’s willingness to enter into loving relationship with His people. 2. Jesus gives servants to his ministers (priests and kings). Vs. 11-12 3. Jesus is raising up a body of priestly lovers who flow by Word (Son) and Power (Spirit) of God. Vs. 13 - 16
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Stripping Off the Old Man, Putting on the New Man
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another. 26 "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:17-32/NKJV Clothing can communicate status, job description, personality, spiritual power, and transformation. Paul uses the metaphor of clothing to discuss the change that comes both as a result of Christ’s finished work as well as through our choice to live in the reality of that finished work. I. Stripping Off the Old Man This is an image of shame and humiliation. When a ruler was publicly humiliated or in mourning, they would tear their clothes off and cover themselves in dust and ashes. Paul encourages the Gentiles to realize the horrid stench of their former clothes (the Old Man) and strip clean. Who is the Old Man? While there are several different possibilities, the consistent parallel image Paul uses between old and new is Adam and Jesus. The Old Man is living subject to the sins of Adam. The clothes are representative of the whole person. Paul demonstrates that everything about life under the rule of Adam is futile and doomed: thoughts, understanding, feelings, vision, words and action. The whole person is dominated by rebellion against God and his truth. All the sins Paul mentions are ultimately forms of idolatry. We think of sins like fornication as moral sins, but Paul sees them as idolatry.
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This submission to Adam corrupts the human person created in the image of God. The corruption is incurable. The image cannot be restored, but must be cast aside and we must clothe ourselves with a New Man. II. Putting on the New Man Jesus is the New Man. His gift of grace frees me from the power of sin and death and assures me that by the power of His Spirit, I will be fully clothed in Christ on the Day of Judgment and stand blameless before the throne. While this is a future realization, the provision has already been made in the past. I choose to clothe myself in the reality of the Jesus Christ. Paul explains that we have attended the school of Jesus. At this university we discover “truth in Jesus.” Jesus is the complete expression of truth. There is no more revelation I need. God has provided everything in Jesus. He incarnates truth in his words and action.
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Living As Light in the Darkness
1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says: “ Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” 15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. Ephesians 5:1-21 (NKJV) Paul moves from the image of clothing (putting off the old man Adam and putting on the new man Jesus) to the image of light. He alludes to Greek culture to reveal the contrast between life in Jesus and life outside of Jesus. I. Imitate God (vs 1-2) This language of imitating God or the gods is all through Greek thought. Greek philosophy and culture sees the physical as an imitation or lesser expression of the spiritual. Art, great ideas, human character all reflect or seek to imitate the gods. Paul taps into their ideas to point the Jesus. In so doing, he reinterprets what it means to be an imitator of God. We imitate God by looking to Jesus who walked in the way of love and presented himself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-12). This sacrifice is a sacrifice of love: his life poured out on behalf of the people of God. This points to another aspect of imitation: imitating the Triune life. The life of the Father, the Son and the Spirit is based on self-giving love.
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II. Do Not Imitate Those Living in Darkness (vs 3-7) Darkness and Light do not mix. We cannot live in both worlds at once. We cannot serve two masters. Thus all these acts describe by Paul are categorized as idolatry: idol worship. As long as we insist upon worship idols, we cannot partake of the kingdom. In other words, we cannot enter the temple with our idols. They have to be smashed and discarded. This is the process of repentance, acknowledging on our reliance and bondage to powers other than the one true God. By His grace, we turn away from the darkness and toward the light. III. Living as Light (vs 8-14) The people living in darkness have seen a great light. In the darkness, we are formless and void (for darkness has no true form). The Spirit of God hovers over us and says, “Let the be Light.” Remember the blessing from chapter one? “Be blessed.” His blessing, His light overcome the darkness. His light illuminates. His light beautifies. His light particularizes. His light resurrects. His light penetrates every dark corner of the heart, transforming stone to flesh. His light makes us real human, or images or imitators of God. IV. Rejoicing in His Will The natural response to God’s action is not gloom, but joy. His yoke is light and His burden is easy. We literally bubble over with living water. Our words, our actions, our minds, our whole person reveals the glory and wonder of His love. The natural outworking of this life manifests in love for one another.
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Submitting to One Another in the Fear of God
17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. A. Husbands and Wives 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. B. Children and Parents 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” 4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. C. Slaves and Masters 5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. 9 And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
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Paul lived in a pluralistic world where many different ideas about human relationships existed together. While the ancient world is often remembered for its tendency to subjugate women, children and slaves, there were other forces at work. Paul is addressing Ephesus, a place where the temple of Diana is a key social force. It is possible there forces struggling for women to receive fairer treatment. In this matrix, all societal relationships were potentially up for question. Put all this in the context of the church (where all relationships are equalized in the sacrament of baptism) and there could be questions about how people should relate to one another. Rather than lay down rigid guidelines, Paul gives us a framework for understanding how relationships should work. His comments are as relevant today as the day when he wrote them. I. Submitting to One Another in the Fear of God Paul provides a list of ways people in the body should relate to one another (17-21) at the end of the list he says “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” This is the basis of all relationships within the covenant community. Mutual subordination rooted in the fear of God. This fear is not a terror of judgment but a fear rooted in love. The love of God overwhelms us and we shrink back from acting in ways that offend that love (or grieve the Spirit). Our treatment of one another is rooted in the love that God pours out upon us. We act in the reality of that love which he has and continues to demonstrate. Thus the defining foundation for all relationships within the covenant community is fear of treating God’s love with contempt. Paul proceeds to develop three sets of relationships within the covenant community where we might see the pattern of submitting to one another in the fear of God. II. Husbands and Wives The first and primary foundation for other relationships is that between a husband and a wife. This fundamental relationship is in some sense a building block for community as well as society. It is where children learn their pattern for relationships; it is the ultimate place of stability. The focal point of the marriage passage is upon the Messiah and his love for the church. By looking to Jesus, we begin to see what true covenant love looks like. As a result, we begin to pattern our lives after this covenantal love. The key in understanding this passage is the responsibility and directive given to the man. In some sense, the wife is simply responding to the husband’s action: the husband is called (must) to be head (source), savior, sanctifier, groomsmen, servant, and lover. The wife responds to his action and should submit and respect. This is a submission based on her response to the Lord and the church’s response to the Lord. The Lord Jesus does not eliminate the particular personalities of people in the church but He brings all of them to fullness. Submission is not the abandonment of identity or vision or purpose but allowing the husband to serve and help her receive the glory due her. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also (because) Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
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25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular (MUST) so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. III. Children, Parents, Slaves and Masters Paul completes his example of submission in the fear of God with two other relational examples. In both cases, he does something revolutionary. He directly addresses children and salves (two non-entities). In the culture, they have no choice but to submit to the rule of the man. But Paul addresses them specifically and requests that their submission is based on their particular will. In other words, they are not non-entities, but they are persons who are welcomed into the covenant community. While the society fails their status as persons, in the community of Jesus, they have a place at the table and in the final eschaton they will all be acknowledged as equal members of the community.
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Be Strong in the Lord and the Power of His Might
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[c] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:10-20 (NKJV) I. Finally Written to a fragile band of Christians meeting in homes throughout Ephesus, Paul writes Ephesians to encourage this family of God that they are more powerful than they realize. While addressed to the Ephesians, we receive his letter as an inspired word to us today. The first half of the letter emphasizes the unfathomable blessings the church community enjoys in Christ as the Father’s dearly beloved. Paul shows how God has taken two groups of people, the Jews and the Gentiles, and forged one new man in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ is not simply another god among gods, he is the Lord Supreme over all powers and principalities, and the church is his ruling body on the earth. Thus God has chosen to reveal his glory in the church and display her as a masterpiece before all. The family of God is immersed into His fathomless love and it is transforming us into His glory. Once the people of God begin to grasp the depths of God’s blessings, we can live from the position of blessing in Christ. Our words and actions all serve to strengthen the bonds of love between the body. Instead of being seducing by the old dead-end lifestyle that worships a false power (Diana and the Imperial Cult) and leads to corrupting behavior, we embrace our high calling and submit ourselves to one another to serve in the love. In so doing, we are transformed and the world around us is transformed. With this glorious vision in mind, Paul now exhorts the community to find their power in the Lord as they face attacks ultimately coming from the forces of darkness designed to break the bond of love within the community. II. The Power of His Might There is only one strength that can withstand the attack against the evil forces, which seek to divide the church, and that is the Lord Himself. All through the letter, Paul emphasizes that we are blessed “in Christ Jesus.” He is our blessing and he is our Ephesians Notes, Doug Floyd, 41
covering. Christ alone is the armor that protects. This passage will draw heavily from Old Testament imagery, and without that imagery, we might miss some of Paul’s allusions. The Old Testament consistently pictures the Lord as a mighty warrior. 13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” 14 So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” 15 Then the Commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:13-15 The Lord is not in our army. He is the Commander. We don’t send Him on mission, we bow before His holiness. All throughout the Old Testament, He comes as the warrior that truly leads the charge on behalf of His people. The battle is not in the strength of the horse or the rider, the battle belongs to the Lord. This is the only way we can begin to talk about or understand spiritual warfare. He comes to a people who are oppressed by evil attackers and He defends his people and ultimately vindicates them. III. We wrestle not against flesh and blood… Paul uses language that indicates a hand-to-hand combat. But we must be careful not to over emphasize his metaphor and vie the Christian life primarily in terms of warfare and battle. There are battles. There are days when we are attacked and we must find protection in the Lord. War is not the father of all things, and life is not a struggle between two gods: one good and one evil. There is one Creator and Lord of all things. The bible acknowledges the presence of evil in this world and recognizes its destructive forces, but it never suggests evil has any equal standing with God and it really does not spend much time focusing on the origin of evil. Rather, the Bible focus on what God does about evil. We will be attacked. That is the nature of life here. Until the victory of Jesus is fully unveiled, we will face attacks that seek to move us out of love and into struggle with other believers. Our refuge for these attacks is the power that evil cannot resist: Jesus Christ. We find our hope and refuge in Him alone. IV. Putting on the Splendid Armor The word “panoplia” is usually translated “whole armor.” Yet the Old Testament mentions other armor in the Lord’s arsenal than what Paul lists. According to Barth and other commentators, the armor listed focuses on God’s covenantal relationship with His people. God will vindicate His people and publicly reveal His glory in them. Isaiah describes the dramatic appearance of the Lord to overcome evil and restore His people. 1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
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The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. 3 His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; 4 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist. 6 “ The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11:1-9 With this in mind, we might speak of the splendid or glorious armor instead of the whole armor. This armor is a splendid public display of God’s favor, revealing beauty, honor, radiance, and terror upon our enemies. A. Girdle of Truth – There were at least three different types of girdles used by the military when Paul was writing. a. One leather apron design to protect the lower abdomen. b. A belt used to hold a sword and dagger. c. A belt designating a high official or officer in the army. The Isaiah passage above references a belt: “Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.” This belt is the distinctive sign of the Messiah. If Paul is alluding to this passage, he might especially be referencing the third type of belt: we wear the belt of truth (Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.) He has called us and appointed us as kings and priests to reveal his glory and rule and reign with Him. B. Breastplate of Righteousness – Once again there were a variety of types of breastplates, but the nobleman wore a scale or chain mail that covered the chest and hips. It is the finest protection available. To be clothed in righteousness indicates noble power that can act in the city gates on behalf of the poor: this is to
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be a righteous judge. Jesus is the righteous judge who protects the oppressed and stands up for the downtrodden. By clothing ourselves in His protection, we emulate his rule and demonstrate his nobility in our actions toward the weak among us. C. Feet Shod with the Gospel of Peace When Jesus walks, he is sure footed. He does not stumble but stands his ground against the evil one (think temptation in wilderness). The wicked do not know what makes him stumble but the righteous walks forward into the light. In Christ, our feet stand sure footed against the chaos the seeks to envelope this world resulting from sin and rebellion from the evil one. In Christ, we stand our ground and bring harmony, shalom to all things. D. Shield of Faith All through the Old Testament we can find references to God as a shield. Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” He is the one who takes the fiery darts of the enemy. All we do is rest in His faithfulness. E. Helmet of Salvation Isaiah 57:17 For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, And was clad with zeal as a cloak. God’s helmet of salvation is a sign that He is the victories ruler. Much like a crown, it indicates his glory and authority. This helmet of victory is God’s victory handed to us so that we are “more than conquorers. F. Sword of the Spirit The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword.
Ephesians Notes, Doug Floyd, 44
The Grace-Filled Community of Lovers
But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; 22 whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts. 23 Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen. Ephesians 6:21-24 Concluding thoughts to a blessed community who lives and moves in and through the power of God’s blessing revealed in the cross. A. Though Paul is in chains, his concern is for their welfare. He sends Tychicus that he might • Make all things known to them • Reveal Paul’s affairs to them • Comfort their hearts In spite of his own discomforts, Paul’s focus is on building up the community of Christ in their most holy faith. B. Deviating from his normal “Grace and Peace” benediction, Paul mentions “Peace” and then “Grace.” C. He blesses the community (brethren) with peace and love with faith. This peace is the power fo the cross that separates the dividing wall and brings Jew and Gentile together. In this cross life, the two become one new man, thus they live in love and faith with one another. In this verse, the love and faith most likely refer to the riches of relationship shared between the believers. D. He blesses the community with grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace is the power of God that sustains the community, that causes brotherly love, that builds up this community into Christ Jesus. So everything is dependent upon God’s action and God’s power and God’s favor and God’s blessing. This overwhelming goodness of God stirs the heart to overflow with love. This love cannot be compared with the redeeming love that God demonstrates toward us, but rather it is a love that is in fact an overflow of praise, reverence, delight, and desire for the Lord. E. He ends with a word which can mean “in sincerity,” “in eternity” or “incorruptible.” This grace the flows out in love toward God and peace and love and faith among the brethren is not fleeting but sustains us now and forever.
Ephesians Notes, Doug Floyd, 45
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