Friday, June 19, 2015

Reading Through Ephesians

I a51ZzjuWANiL._AA160_m continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. The tenth volume of the series is God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians, also authored by John R. W. Stott. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I post quotes from these commentaries on my Facebook page and periodic summaries of the commentary here on my blog. I welcome discussion on these post on my Facebook page. As always, quotes from the author are in blue font.

Ephesus was visited by Paul on his 2nd missionary journey (Acts 18:18-21) and the church was established during Paul’s 3rd missionary journey (Acts 19:1-20:30). Paul ministered three years in Ephesus and the city became the base for the outreach to the province of Asia. Later, Timothy was one of the pastors of the Ephesian church. It is likely that the letter was a circular letter to all the churches of Asia Minor as in Revelation 2-3. Ephesians was probably written early in his Roman imprisonment, 60-62 AD(Acts 28:30), and the letter, along with Colossians, was probably delivered by Tychicus to the Asian churches. Thus, it is important to read Colossians and Ephesians in parallel to fully understand their messages.

Ephesians Structure Chart colorEphesians was written to deal with false teaching that would break up the God-given unity of the church. It stresses the importance of the love of,and for God and the love of believers for one another as the basis for the unity of the church and to show that the unity of the church is based on a common salvation and a common calling from God. Thus, the message of Ephesians is The Church is a unity, with diverse members, formed by God’s eternal plan, with a shared salvation in Christ and a shared mission to glorify God, in the power of the Spirit, by demonstrating this unity through lifestyle, relationships, and in the battle with the forces of darkness. 

The basis of the unity of the Church is a common salvation in Jesus Christ. (1:1-3:21) Because of God’s grace and peace the church is God’s “holy ones” through faith and salvation is a blessing from God that we can only experience “in Jesus Christ.” (1:3-23) The entire Trinity had a part in giving salvation to the Church: The Father chose us to receive every blessing and to be His children who look like Him; The Son lavished God’s riches on us by redeeming us from sin and bringing us into His kingdom and the Spirit seals us and guarantees our full inheritance in the coming Kingdom. We can have the full experience of all of God’s blessings through the power of Jesus Christ.

How blinkered is our vision in comparison with his, how small is our mind, how narrow are our horizons! Easily and naturally we slip into a preoccupation with our own petty little affairs. But we need to see time in the light of eternity, and our present privileges and obligations in the light of our past election and future perfection. Then, if we shared the apostle’s perspective, we would also share his praise. Ephesians 1.3-14, 45.

Thus, God has revealed his power objectively in Jesus Christ, and now illumines our minds by his Spirit to grasp this revelation. Divine illumination and human thought belong together. All our thinking is unproductive without the Spirit of truth; yet his enlightenment is not intended to save us the trouble of using our minds. It is precisely as we ponder what God has done in Christ that the Spirit will open our eyes to grasp its implications. Ephesians 1.15-23, 67.

Salvation unites people who are diverse and at odds with one another into one unified body. It is the one common means of entry into the church. Because everyone had a common predicament, all were spiritually dead without hope of relationship, Everyone must enter by a common solution: Sharing in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Everyone now is a new creation - a new person to do God’s work. Thus we all have a common basis for peace with God and with each other. We all are included in the promises through the blood of Christ and are reconciled to one another as we are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

(Paul) began this paragraph with a faithful portrayal of man as subject to three terrible powers, namely ‘sin’, ‘death’ and ‘wrath’. Yet he refused also to despair, because he believed in God. True, the only hope for dead people lies in a resurrection. But then the living God is the God of resurrection. He is even more than that: he is the God of creation. Both metaphors indicate the indispensable necessity of divine grace. For resurrection is out of death, and creation is out of nothing. That is the true meaning of ‘salvation’. Ephesians 2.1-10, 85.

Of course there are barriers of language and culture in the world outside, and of course new converts feel more comfortable among their own kind, who speak and dress and eat and drink and behave in the same way that they do and have always done. But deliberately to perpetuate these barriers in the church, and even to tolerate them without taking any active steps to overcome them in order to demonstrate the trans-cultural unity of God’s new society, is to set ourselves against the reconciling work of Christ and even to try to undo it...I am not saying that a church must be perfect before it can preach the gospel, but I am saying that it cannot preach the gospel while acquiescing in its imperfections. Ephesians 2.11-22, 111.

Salvation brings a common purpose to life: To glorify God before all creation. (3:1-21) God’s wisdom is made known through his glorious plans for the church. This mystery was not made known until revealed by the Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel and this will reveal God’s wisdom to all the spiritual beings and bring glory to God and us. Then Paul prays that we might experience everything we have in Jesus Christ; That we together would experience through God’s strength, the love and knowledge of Christ. Paul is certain that God is able to bring about this experience and will do to bring about His glory.

The good news of the unsearchable riches of Christ which Paul preached is that he died and rose again not only to save sinners like me (though he did), but also to create a single new humanity; not only to redeem us from sin but also to adopt us into God’s family; not only to reconcile us to God but also to reconcile us to one another. Thus the church is an integral part of the gospel. The gospel is good news of a new society as well as of a new life. Ephesians 3.1-13, 128–129

It is the power of the resurrection, the power which raised Christ from the dead, enthroned him in the heavenlies, and then raised and enthroned us there with him. That is the power which is at work within the Christian and the church. Ephesians 3.14-21, 140

The Church must be unified because all its members share a common calling, power and mission. (4:1-6:24) All Believers have a common responsibility: Preserve the unity of the Church. This unity is based on the Unity in the Trinity, common hope and common calling. The church is made up of diverse members who work together with a unified mission as Christ apportions diverse gifts to the subjects of His kingdom. The common purpose of these diverse gifts and offices is that the church might become like Christ.

There is room for differences of conviction among us as to the precise form or forms in which God wants Christian unity to be expressed. But we should all be eager for some visible expression of Christian unity, provided always that we do not sacrifice fundamental Christian truth in order to achieve it...Authentic Christian ‘unity’ in truth, life and love is far more important than ‘union’ schemes of a structural kind, although ideally the latter should be a visible expression of the former. Ephesians 4.1-16, 154–155

Believers should have a common lifestyle goal: to live like Jesus. (4:17-5:2) We must live as a new creation by putting on the new man and putting off the old. Practically, we must renounce the deeds of the old way to live the way Jesus would. We must be careful to live a lifestyle that accurately reflects Christ and pleases the Lord.

To ‘learn Christ’ is to grasp the new creation which he has made possible, and the entirely new life which results from it. It is nothing less than putting off our old humanity like a rotten garment and putting on like clean clothing the new humanity recreated in God’s image. Ephesians 4.22-24, 180

We are God’s new society, a people who have put off the old life and put on the new; that is what he has made us. So we need to recall this by the daily renewal of our minds, remembering how we ‘learned Christ … as the truth is in Jesus’, and thinking Christianly about ourselves and our new status. Then we must actively cultivate a Christian life. For holiness is not a condition into which we drift. We are not passive spectators of a sanctification God works in us. On the contrary, we have purposefully to ‘put away’ from us all conduct that is incompatible with our new life in Christ, and to ‘put on’ a lifestyle compatible with it. Ephesians 5.3-4, 193

We have a common power to live like Christ: The indwelling Holy Spirit (5:15-6:9) Control by the Spirit provides power to live thankfully and submissively as Jesus lived. Spirit control is measured and most clearly seen seen in Christ-like relationships that overturn the effects of sin. Spirit control produces husbands who love like Christ and wives that respect their husbands Spirit control produces obedient children and parents who raise children well.  Spirit control produces conscientious workers and masters who treat their workers as brothers and sisters.

Now to lose oneself that the other may find his or her self—that is the essence of the gospel of Christ. It is also the essence of the marriage relationship, for as the husband loves his wife and the wife submits to her husband, each is seeking to enable the other to become more fully himself and herself, within the harmonious complementarity of the sexes. Ephesians 5.25-33, 236

Almost nothing causes a child’s personality to blossom and gifts to develop like the positive encouragement of loving, understanding parents. Indeed, just as a husband’s love for his wife is expressed in helping her develop her full potential, so parents’ love for their children is expressed in helping them develop theirs. Ephesians 6.1-4, 246.

All believers are in a common battle against spiritual darkness and spiritual attack. (6:10-20) We must be ready for battle by actively using what Christ has provided and the main offensive weapon in the spiritual battle is prayer. Paul closes the letter by reminding us that unity brings fellowship, peace and grace (6:21-24). Tychicus and Paul typify the encouragement and fellowship that a unified church provides. Peace and grace are the results of the love of Christ to the faithful lived out in community and taken out to the world.

Clarity and courage remain two of the most crucial characteristics of authentic Christian preaching. For they relate to the content of the message preached and to the style of its presentation. Some preachers have the gift of lucid teaching, but their sermons lack solid content; their substance has become diluted by fear. Others are bold as lions. They fear nobody, and omit nothing. But what they say is confused and confusing. Clarity without courage is like sunshine in the desert: plenty of light but nothing worth looking at. Courage without clarity is like a beautiful landscape at night time: plenty to see, but no light by which to enjoy it. What is needed in the pulpits of the world today is a combination of clarity and courage, or of ‘utterance’ and ‘boldness’.  Ephesians 6.13-20, 286.

Hence Paul’s wishing of peace to ‘the brethren’ (verse 23), who belong to each other as brothers and sisters in the family of God, and of grace to ‘all’ those who love Christ, without discrimination, whatever their race, rank, age or sex. It is a wish, a prayer, that the members of God’s new society may live in harmony as brothers and sisters in his family, at peace and in love with him and with each other, together with a recognition that only by his grace can this dream come true.  Ephesians 6.21-24, 291.

1 comment:

Permai Lindal said...

Interesting story