Category Archives: Ephesians

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Light Rules

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

via Ephesians 4-5 – ESVBible.org.

COMMENT:

Paul has already established that those given to immorality, impurity, and or covetousness are enslaved (Eph 2.1-10). So here he encourages the pursuit of a life of freedom that is consistent with the freedom God has granted us in Christ.

Like Solomon (Paul goes on to advocate wisdom in the very next paragraph following the quotation above) Paul knows that the only alternative to slavery is rule or authority. Our freedom is found in our exaltation and enthronement that occurred in the ascension and session of Christ.

So when Paul says that we are light, it is easy to see that this same theme is being reinforced. Lights rule:

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for appointed times, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

Light means rule, dominion. From that point on, stars falling from the heavens, in the Bible, refers to “regime change” (which, by the way, God is in charge of, not man…).

Sidenote: It would be interesting to know if the ancients understood that the light of the moon was reflected from the sun. If so, it would illuminate (!) Paul’s claim that, by being enlightened, one becomes a light.

Paul’s claim that we “expose” darkness refers simply to us being light, not to any special task of revealing the details of what goes on in the darkness–for he goes on to say it is shameful to speak of such things. We “expose” the darkness by simply giving off light.

But what is the reality behind that metaphor? We rule by service.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Like Adam and Eve, if we grasp for power, for exaltation in the heavens as light, we will be darkened. But if we serve and give ourselves up we will be exalted. We are then reflecting the light of the true god revealed in Jesus Christ.

Thus Paul spells out the means of reigning that he boasts about in Romans 5:

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ

It would have been natural to write that after “death reigned,,” now “life reigns.” But Paul breaks the symmetry to make sure tat we know that we reign. And Jesus shows us how.

Like Moses, Paul is putting life and death, rule and slavery, before us. We must either embrace the way of the cross and give up ourselves, or else we will abuse others and sacrifice them to our own needs. There is light and there is darkness; there is no third option.

Adoption gives us election and sonship… but also inheritance

The sermon is only on the first two of these:

audio

The URL for direct download:

http://hornes.org/mark/docs/adoption.mp3

But I now see a third point covered by the concept of adoption. It means we are heirs and thus are moving forward to an inheritance. We are gaining wisdom.

Adoption is a rich word to describe how God has reconciled believers to himself.

By the way, if I haven’t been loud enough about this yet, you can subscribe to my podcast.

Robbery, honest labor, and speech

From Ephesians 4 and the beginning of 5:

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

One of the few things I’ve said from the pulpit that was obviously remembered (the person brought it up to other people months later) was the fact that Paul does not want us speaking all the truth we know to other people. On the contrary, telling the truth can be as much a violation of another person as a falsehood. Paul deliberately introduces the topic by making an analogy with a thief.

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Stop taking and start working and saving so that you can begin giving. Has Paul lost his train of thought? Is he violently changing the subject? Not at all. Having established the principle in one place he now uses it in another:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

So the alternative to “corrupting talk” is only what is good to build up a hearer at that time.

What bothers me about this, and the reason I bring it up now, is that I had to learn if from Ephesians. Because this teaching is repeated over and over again in Proverbs. Not only that, but reading Proverbs forces you to consider the economics as an analogy for speech ethics. Consider how the second book in Proverbs (which begins in chapter 10) so quickly morphs from issues of working v. robbing to speech:

The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a glad father,
but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit,
but righteousness delivers from death.
The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry,
but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
A slack hand causes poverty,
but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot.
The wise of heart will receive commandments,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.
Whoever winks the eye causes trouble,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
Hatred stirs up strife,
but love covers all offenses.
On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found,
but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.
The wise lay up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.
A rich man’s wealth is his strong city;
the poverty of the poor is their ruin.
The wage of the righteous leads to life,
the gain of the wicked to sin.
Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
The one who conceals hatred has lying lips,
and whoever utters slander is a fool.
When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
The lips of the righteous feed many,
but fools die for lack of sense.

RePost from 2003: A Chiasm on Jew, Gentile, and Gospel in Ephesians 1

I was once trying to get a sermon out of Ephesians 1.12-14 and it seemed obvious that I should look for two parallel statements both ending with the phrase, “to the praise of his glory.” Paul here begins talking about two groups of people (“you” and “we”), and he later reveals that these two groups are (from his perspective) we Jews and you Gentiles. The text read in the New American Standard:

to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

After wrestling with this and coming up with nothing. I glanced at the Greek. I realized the first verse had been altered in form. It was not, “to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” but rather “to the end that we should be to the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ” as the old original American Standard Bible translated correctly.

This meant my quest for two parrallel statements, each ending with “to the praise of his glory” was not going to meet with success. Once properly translated, there was less in common between verse 12 and 14 than I had originally thought.

But then I noticed that we had an AB-BA pattern between the two verses:

to the end that we should be to the praise of his glory,

we who had before hoped in Christ…you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance,

to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.

This seemed interesting. Paul spoke of the Jews who had hoped in Christ first and then of the Gentiles who had become heirs of the promise. Both seemed like future-oriented ways to describe conversion to Christianity. But it seemed awfully uncertain that Paul was intentionally writing to make that specific point.

But then I noticed something else. Paul had chosen to repeat the same thing in two different ways, describing the Christian message as “the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation.”

I went through two iterations before everything suddenly fell into place. Here’s the structure of Ephesians 1.12-14 with some Greek words transliterated in brackets:

A. to [eis] the end that we should be to [eis] the praise of his glory,

B. we who had before hoped in Christ:

C. in whom you also [en ho kai], having heard

D. the word of the truth,D’. the gospel of your salvation,

C’.in whom you also [en ho kai], having believed,

B’. you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance,

A’. to [eis] the redemption of God’s own possession, to [eis] the praise of his glory.

This pattern is called a “chiasm” by Bible scholars, from the Greek letter chi which looks like our “X” (thus the lame title for this column). It means the passage has an inverse parallelism to teach the careful reader something. In this case, the centrality of the Gospel is literally demonstrated (D.D’) and the future nature of Christian salvation is brought out as we see that we are trusting Christ because we are hoping for a future glory and we have a basis for such hope because we have been made heirs (B.B’).

Furthermore, this analysis brings out more clearly what Paul seems to be saying by speaking of “the Gospel of your salvation.” He will later write that the Gospel-mystery, for which he is an ambassador in chains (6.19, 20) that was especially made known to him by revelation is that “the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3.6). The Gospel message can be narrowed down to the declaration of the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, but Paul sees Christ’s resurrection as the reconciliation both of man to God and man to man:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (2.13-22).

Though Paul undoubtedly believes that the Gospel is also good news for Israelites, in Ephesians he is stressing its reference to the Gentiles. By calling it “the Gospel of your salvation” in a context which implies that “we” seems to mean “us Jews” and “you” refers to “you Gentiles,” Paul is already hinting at where he is going in the letter.

See also: What is Paul’s Gospel? All nations are in!

Repost: Called by the Gospel to Unity

A sermon on Ephesians 4.1-7

I may have told you all before about a friend of mine who was a ruling elder in a Presbyterian Church. They received as new members a mother and adult son who had recently come to affirm the Reformed Faith as the proper expression of the Gospel according to the Scriptures.

It turned out that the young man had actually had the opportunity to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. He was a student in a Bible college and he started to listen to a radio program on Reformed Theology. As he became convinced of what he was hearing, his brothers in Christ who taught and ran the college expelled him from school and refused to give him his transcripts. His years of studying and the money he paid to do so were all stolen from him, all in the name of Jesus.

So like Paul, this young man had suffered for the Gospel.

But all did not go well with this young man and his mother as time went by at their new Presbyterian Church. My friend noticed that they hadn’t been in Church for a while. After some visitation, the elders discovered that the young man had decided that this Church was too compromised for him to attend. What made him think so? Well, real Gospel preaching means that the pastor always presents sermons that first present the Law and its requirements. Then, after showing how the Law condemns and we can never be good enough, the preacher presents the Gospel of how Jesus died in our place.

Now, I know the pastor did in fact preach the Bible and did preach the Gospel. But because he did not follow that precise pattern in every sermon, this young man viewed the Church as unworthy of his attendance, and he simply stopped going on Sunday orany other day. Not only did he cease attending that particular church, but also in the name of faithfulness to the Gospel, he stopped worshiping at any church because one couldn’t be found that was faithful enough for him.

That’s one story. Here is another.

I’m at a conference for people from Reformed and Presbyterian Churches. I meet a man who lives in the same state that I do. He tells me he’d like to get me to visit his and a few other families to lead in some sort of worship. They have been praying for some help in planting a Reformed Church in their area.

Oh, I’m sorry that there’s not one there yet, I say. Where do you go to Church now?

Well, it turns out, they don’t go to Church at all. They are not members of any church in the area because there are no Reformed or Presbyterian Churches. That is this man’s application of the Gospel as he understands it–that he and his wife and children “worship” in their home without being members of a local congregation or gathering every Lord’s Day to worship at one.

So the practical result of these families allegiance to the Gospel in all its purity is a refusal to attend public worship in Church.

It was only a few months later that our congregation was visited by a family I had never met before. They introduced themselves as Christians and ones who embraced the doctrines of the Reformation. I discovered later that they had visited many times but also dropped out of sight for months or years at a time.

Where did they go to Church, I asked? Well, normally they don’t. They just worship in their living room with Daddy giving a message to his wife and children.

So again we have a man refusing to associate and lead his family in membership of another church. We have a man refusing to worship with the Church in the name of a correct understanding of the Gospel.

You and I were called by the Gospel. In Baptism, in our hearing of the Gospel preached by one another and by representatives, in our regular participation in public worship, in our regular partaking of the Lord’s Supper, we are being drawn by the good news, the Gospel, that Jesus is Lord.

And the Gospel does not entail the kind of behavior that is often perpertrated in the name of the Gospel. In fact, the Gospel is often opposed to the kind of behavior that is displayed in the name of the Gospel.

The Gospel is our calling with which we have been called. It is the voice of the Lord. And it calls us to one hope, as Paul says in verse 4. What is that hope? Paul stated it early on in his letter to the Ephesians, back in chapter 1 he wrote that God made “known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” That’s the purpose, that’s the plan, and that’s our hope. And the fact that God is accomplishing this plan in what Jesus has done–that’s the Gospel.

So when Paul talks about what Jesus has done in coming among us incarnate as a Human and suffering and dying and rising again and ascending into heaven, he continues to present us with the fact that God has brought us together in unity. Ephesians 2.13 and following:

now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

And so with that description of what Christ has done for us and in us by the Spirit inhabiting us as one dwelling place, Paul then speaks of the Gospel that he has been called to proclaim to the nations. Ephesians 3.6-10:

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. 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. 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, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

That’s the Gospel that calls us. Paul says he’s been given the mystery and he says that he has been given the Gospel. Plainly the mystery is the Gospel. The Gospel calls us to reconciliation in Christ by the Spirit. Thus, to walk in a manner worthy of that call–to live the way the Gospel deserves–entails that we walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”

Last week I pointed out that to be delivered from sin is to be graciously placed on a new path, a new walk. Paul has begun here to list the specific route we must take. He told us earlier, back in chapter 2 about this walk in vague terms.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Well, good works can mean anything. And depending on our circumstances, we need to be open-minded about what those good works might entail. But Paul has some more specific ideas in mind, ideas based on the content of his Gospel.

The Gospel entails reconciliation between God and man and between man in man and the end to the divisions that were put in place in the Law of Moses. Before Christ came, only the Israelites could take part in Passover, only the Levites could approach the furnishing of the Tabernacle, only the priests could bring offerings to the alter and enter the Holy Place, and only the high priest could go beyond the holy place to enter the Holy of Holies. There were barriers between God and man that were simultaneously also divisions between different groups of people.

But now the dividing wall has been broken down. When Christ died on the cross the veil in the Temple was ripped in two from top to bottom. Reconciliation was declared. And that reconciliation, that bond of Peace, which is Jesus through the Spirit, demands specific sorts of good works.

Jesus Christ has made us one so we must adopt a manner of living that allows us to live as one. Look at verse 2. Living as one with sinners means we’re going to have to be humble. Living as one with sinners means we need to learn to be gentle. Living as one with sinners entails a need for patience. Living as one with sinners demands that we be willing to bear other’s weaknesses out of love.

The Call of the Gospel demands that we eagerly pursue these things—that we are eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.

Why should we pursue these things? Notice that the idea is not that we’re trying to attain to a unity and bond of peace but that we already have them and we want to grow in them rather than try to weaken in them. Because we are one we need to live as one. That’s called going from the indicative to the imperative—from statements about who you are and what you have to statements about what you now must do and how you now must live.

We have this bond of unity we have because we are all under one Lord—as Paul states in verse 5—which makes us one kingdom united by his rule and under his protection. Paul has stressed the Lordship of Christ already. For example, in chapter 1, verse 20 and following, he states that God not only raised him from the dead but also enthroned him at his right hand in heaven and put all things under his feet. In chapter 2, he states that all of us who believe—irrespective of where we’re from, or what color we are, or anything else—are enthroned with Christ. Our exaltation is through faith and nothing else.

Now, if we remember that Christ is a title designating Jesus as God’s promised King in the line of David, it makes sense that the rule of Jesus entails the unity of his people no matter what nation or culture they are from. Thus, Paul writes the Romans in Chapter 10, verse 12: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call upon Him.”

The one faith we share is trust and allegiance to one king. We have more in common with Iraqi Christians than we have with our own nonchristian family members. That’s what Paul is saying here. If Jesus is God’s king, then all other dominions and rulers and other sources of identity must take, at most, second place.

That’s one reason why Paul speaks of baptism as something that breaks you off from your old identity in your nation and family and culture of your birth and puts you in a new family—the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. First Corinthians 12.12-13:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks—slaves or free.

And Galatians 3.27-29:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Now that sounds real mysterious but it can at least partially be understood in a commonsense way: Baptism is a ritual that officially entrusts us to the governance and royal protection of King Jesus. It enrolls us in his entourage. It therefore at least relativizes all our other relationships. Our primary loyalty must be to our King Jesus and our identity must be found in our relationship to him.

We belong to Jesus. Let nothing else obscure that most basic fact. We are a congregation that belongs to God through Christ Jesus. We are his. He is ours. God loves us. God saved us. God sent his son to die and live for us. God’s son now reigns in the heavens and we are his royal court.

We belong to King Jesus. That is the Gospel. That’s a dangerous thing to teach and proclaim. Paul has again reminded the Ephesians that he is a prisoner of the Lord. Both Caesar and the synagogue rulers have a problem with Paul’s declaration that Jesus is Lord and Christ and that nothing else can matter. They want Caesar-worship or circumcision to matter more.

And we face that trial in ways that are just as important, even if the consequences we suffer are rather trivial in comparison to what Paul faced in his day.

I think of our school children. If you compare the time they spend gathered corporately with the body of Christ in worship or discipleship to the time they spend through out the week as members of classes and teams I think it must be very easy to forget that their identity comes first from Christ and not from their peers and teachers. It is very easy to make Christianity simply a support for another group identity, whether that of the member of the class of some year, or a band member, or a member of the football team, or anything else. Paul reminds us to zealously pursue a corporate identity as a church—a unity that requires love and suffering on behalf of one another.

We face that trial in other ways. It is very easy to forget about the members of one’s congregation and allow one’s relatives to be the only people you spend time with. You’re not doing anything spiteful by doing so. It comes naturally to all of us. But you know there may be people in town or in this church who are new and have little family around and Paul is telling you that you need to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit. If you’re not proactive in hospitality and in befriending new people, that unity will be weakened rather than maintained.

Zeal for the Gospel should not result in schism and infighting and holier-than-thou attitudes, nor should it result in apathy for others in the congregation while you get most of your affirmation from other relationships. We need to pray for strength to eagerly work toward maintaining the unity of the Spirit in Christ.

We all serve one Master. For his sake let us love one another.

Enthroned, we rule: Ephesians 1.1-2 finished

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1.1-2).

and are faithful in Christ Jesus

Paul knows that Christians sin.  Nevertheless, he also knows that God considers those who follow Jesus by trusting in him and relying on him for the forgiveness of their sins and all other blessings to be faithful.  What is odd about this statement is not that Paul calls them “faithful,” but that he says they exhibit this behavior “in Christ Jesus.”

In the time before Jesus came, Israelites were to be faithful in the land of Israel.  When David became king of Israel, the people saw themselves as connected to him in a way that they described as if he himself were there land.  When an argument broke out among the twelve tribes of Israel over who should be King David’s escort, the ten northern tribes said to the tribe of Judah, “We have ten shares in the king, and in David also we have more than you” (2 Samuel 19.43).  Soon afterward, many in those then tribes were led to try to revolt against David by a rebel leader who called for independence this way: “We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!” (2 Samuel 20.1). Normally, one would speak of having a portion, share, or inheritance in the land of Israel. That is the place in which one was faithful. Because they see themselves as in some way connected to their king (or disconnected from him), these Israelites spoke of David as if he was a place in which they lived and had a home. He represented and incorporated the people in his kingdom.

Now the blessings of God are going out in a new way to all the earth. Rather than describing Christians as faithful in Israel or in Ephesus, Paul describes them as living their lives “in Christ.”  They are faithful to God in a new home that is provided by their new king, Jesus.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

When Aaron and his sons were established as a priesthood for Israel, they were given blessing to say at the close of worship:

Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, “Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,

The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6.23-27).

Paul regularly begins his letters with the essence of this blessing.  The second two lines describe how God is to bless and protect (“keep”) his people—by being gracious to them and thus giving them peace.  “Grace” describes God’s attitude and posture of favor on us.  “Peace” describes the gift we receive as the result of God’s grace.  In keeping with the message of the Gospel, God’s name here has changed from “Lord”—or YHWH in the Hebrew. God is now defined as the Father and Jesus.  Paul sometimes also explicitly mentions the Holy Spirit but here he is mentioned implicitly as the bond of peace (see Ephesians 4.1-5).

God is now “our Father.” When God saved Israel from Egypt he identified them as his firstborn son (Exodus 4.22).  Now that God has brought deliverance and glory to the human race through Jesus his son, all who entrust themselves to the Lord Jesus are given a share in his status as children of God and are adopted by him.

With God, Paul invokes “the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul often quotes passages which translates the Hebrew name for the God of Israel as “Lord” in Greek and applies them to Jesus.  So the title “Lord” does include an implication that Jesus is God incarnate—God become man.  However, it is clear from the Paul’s preaching and writing that Jesus also acquired the title “Lord” by virtue of being raised from the dead.  In Jesus, God joined with humanity and suffered the worst of the curse on sin, passing through death to new life.  He is now Lord not simply as God but as the glorified and transfigured man who has been exalted by the Father to rule the cosmos with Him.

Enthroned, we rule: Ephesians 1.1-2 continued

CONTINUING FROM HERE

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1.1-2).

by the will of God

Obeying God is obviously important to Paul.  He will later exhort some of his readers, or those listening to his letter read out loud, that they do “the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6.6).  So it would be natural, in reading this phrase, to think that Paul is simply pointing out that his commission as King Jesus’ ambassador is backed by divine authority.

However, Paul seems to be saying something more here.  Consider what Paul says in the next few sentences,

he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.  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, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory (1.5- 12; emphasis added).

So when Paul announces his Apostleship “through the will of God,” he is saying that God appointed him to the office in order to fulfill His plan to save the world.  Jesus’ accomplishments alone are not enough.  It was and is essential to God’s purpose that the message of Jesus be announced to the entire world.  As he later states, Paul views Jesus himself to be traveling, working, and speaking through his servants (Ephesians 2.17).

to the saints

who are in Ephesus,

The phrase “who are in Ephesus,” is missing from some manuscripts.  This was probably a circular letter that went to several different destinations.  But whether in Ephesus or in any other Gentile location, all Christians are in God’s presence.  There is no longer an exclusive Holy Land with an exclusive central sanctuary.

TO BE CONTINUED