Saturday, June 23, 2018

Reading Through Ephesians #2 (4-6)

witheringtonThis post concludes the quick read through of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians accompanied by The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles, by Ben Witherington III. The second part of Ephesians applies the doctrinal truths of chapter 1-3. The Gospel powerfully binds the church together in a way that displays the image of Christ. The Spirit enables believers to live out a godly lifestyle and experience victory over the evil powers and desires that formerly held them in bondage. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Paul begins the application of the sermon in chapter 4 with a reminder of the basis of their unity: the relationships within the Trinity, and the one Holy Spirit who produces the character of Christ in believers through the gifted people he has provided. Again, unity is seen as the best evidence of the Holy Spirit working within the church (not just local congregations, but also in relationships among congregations in different places). The church has one foundation which is the teachings and life of Christ which is ministered through Spirit-gifted men and women. The Spirit produces life change in believers (Jew and Gentile) so that they become "new people" with new allegiances and motives. Believers live out their new identity in Christ as they toss away the old lifestyle and "put on" the new lifestyle of the image of Christ which the Spirit has placed within them. This allows the foundational unity Christ has already provided become practical unity as believers diligently, patiently and graciously work with each other to grow, individually and corporately, into the image of Christ.

Moral maturity in the image of Christ is, then, the goal of Christian life and the aim of Christian ministry to those already in Christ...Perhaps v. 13 suggests that since all must become mature, arrive at the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son, and measure up to the stature of Christ, then all must, like Christ, be involved in the tasks of ministry, for ministry will mold them all. Growth in Christ comes in part through ministerial service for the cause of Christ. Ephesians 4.1-16, 292

The old way of life was cast off like an old garment. The old person is not who these Christians are anymore. The old lifestyle was self-destructive, full of wicked desires and deceits. V. 22 refers not just to moral corruption but to a moral corruption that leads to bodily corruption—disease, decay, and death. Ephesians 4.17-24, 298

Paul believes that when Christ becomes the believer’s Lord there is not room for other lordships, or for possession in the believer’s life. One cannot become a tool of Satan unless one gives sin place and commits apostasy. Believers have a choice about their course of life in such matters, and certainly more so than unbelievers, who are indeed buffeted about by various forces larger than themselves. Ephesians 4.25-32, 299–300

Chapter 5.1-21 makes the point that, since the mark that differentiates God's people from the rest of the world is no longer ethnic or racial identity, Christians must show their uniqueness through a lifestyle that imitates Christ. The deeds of darkness must be renounced and believers must live life by means of the supernatural enablement of the Holy Spirit. This life is recognized by thankfulness, service and mutual submission to the needs of one another.

The goal was the molding of character as much as it was the reinforcing of good behavior. Here Christ or God in Christ is the pattern that the audience is called to emulate and imitate, and Christ is the one to whom implicit praise is given, while the pagan lifestyle in various of its dimensions is denounced and renounced. The believer is to be light, as Christ is light, and so to act no longer as though they are or they dwell in darkness where no one notices their conduct. Ephesians 5.1-14, 303

Far from being filled with the Spirit leading to dissipation or drunkenness, Paul affirms that it leads to wisdom and to the spirit of a sound mind and to the proper adoration and singing that all of God’s creatures should render back to God. In other words, it is the key to living the Christian life in a manner pleasing to God and edifying to others as well as one’s self. Ephesians 5.15-21, 312

The key place where this mutual submission needs to be seen is in the Christian home. In 5.21-6.9 Paul describes how relationships are transformed by the filling of the Spirit. In each case, the relationship of the "master of the house" to his wife, children and servants is transformed from a dominating, self-serving one to one of mutual submission in recognition that both the powerful and powerless in relationships have one master - Jesus Christ. Power is to be used to serve and help develop others into what Christ would have them to be. Everyone is this accountable to God for how they treat and serve one another. These transformed relationships become one of the greatest arguments for the effectiveness of the gospel.

If anything is the primary purpose of this code, it is to both ameliorate the harsher effects of patriarchy and to guide the head of the household into a new conception of his roles that Christianizes his conduct in various ways and so turns marriage into more of a partnership and household management more into a matter of actualizing biblical principles about love of neighbor and honoring others. Ephesians 5.21-33 323

The slave’s service is ultimately to the Lord, and the master’s supervision is to be done with full cognizance that he is accountable to the Lord for what he says and does. In other words, the slave’s actions cease to be mere servitude to a human master, and the master’s actions cease to be those of one who has absolute authority over another human being. Both parties are called on to be proactive, not reactive to their situations. In both cases their eyes must be on the Lord and on how to please him, not on mundane or merely human considerations and factors. Ephesians 6.1-9, 339

Paul closes the sermon in 6.10-24 by summing up the main points and with an exhortation to "stand firm" using the resources (armor and prayer) that God has provided in Christ. He reminds believers that they are in a spiritual battle with the forces of darkness. These "powers" have been defeated but Christians need to arm themselves with faith, righteousness and the blessings of their salvation. We experience the victory Christ has provided by means of the message of the gospel and prayer. God has provided all that Christians need to be victorious in this battle, but we are responsible to, daily, submit to the Spirit and and stand on those provisions.

The imagery here also suggests that while the evil age lasts there are still powerful forces of evil that can pester and persecute Christians and that Christians must be equipped to fend off. Believers fight from a position of strength since they are standing on the high ground, but they must never underestimate the power of the enemy...Prayer and proclamation of the gospel of peace are the believer’s two great offensive weapons against Satan. Nothing is said about deliverance or exorcism rituals. Ephesians 6.10-20, 352

All must come to the Father through Jesus the Son, and this is so because only the Son has provided the redemption and salvation which can transform both the world of humans and the cosmic realm and forces as well. The worldwide church inclusive of all human groups then becomes the visible image and microcosm of God’s plan. “As the community of the redeemed, both Jews and Gentiles, the church is the masterpiece of God’s grace (2:7). It is a realm of his presence and authority (1:22, 23; 2:22), the instrument through which his wisdom is made known to the spiritual powers in the heavenly realm (3:10).” Ephesians 6.21-24, 361

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