Ephesians 1-5

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Monday, August 25, Chapter 1

Did Paul send this letter to Ephesus?  Early manuscripts do not include a city name.  That suggests that it was intended for more than one church.  It is likely that Paul sent instructions for the letter to be copied and sent on to church a, b, c, etc.  Since Ephesus was on the coast, they probably first received the letter.  Once they made their copy, including their name, they sent it on.  Laodicea, Colossae and Antioch are likely stopping places.  As it happens, the only copies with a name attached are from Ephesus.  Paul spent 3 years there, so it is reasonable that they would have kept several copies of their favorite Apostle.  We do know that many of the letters and other writings circulated among the churches, each making their own copies, but most have been destroyed through the centuries of persecution and warfare.

Here is an outline by Dr. Thomas L. Constable on Lumina.Bible.org

I. Salutation 1:1-2

II. The Christian’s calling 1:3—3:21

A. Individual calling 1:3—2:10

1. The purpose: glory 1:3-14

2. The means: knowledge 1:15-23

3. The motive: grace 2:1-10

B. Corporate calling 2:11-3:19

1. Present unity 2:11-22

2. Past ignorance 3:1-13

3. Future comprehension 3:14-19

C. Doxology 3:20-21

III. The Christian’s conduct 4:1—6:20

A. Spiritual walk 4:1—6:9

1. Walking in unity 4:1-16

2. Walking in holiness 4:17-32

3. Walking in love 5:1-6

4. Walking in light 5:7-14

5. Walking in wisdom 5:15—6:9

B. Spiritual warfare 6:10-20

IV. Conclusion 6:21-24

 

In the Greek one sentence makes up verses 3-14.  William Barclay calls this a prayer.  Archibald Hunter wrote, Into the splendid opening doxology Paul sweeps the various stages in God’s great purpose to sum up all things in Christ:  his election of us in eternity, his saving act through Christ in time, the inclusion of Jew and Gentile in the new divine Society our sealing with the Holy Spirit, and the full fruition of salvation.  Notice in verses 6, 12, and 14 Paul praises God.

Verse 4 is a powerful statement; we who sin will be presented to God by the Messiah as free of sin.

With verse 17 Paul begins a prayer that runs through 2:10.  It is interesting to read the difference in style between this letter and the preceding letters to Corinth and Galatia.  He was writing to churches that had no huge problems for him to fix.  He could write good theology for Christians everywhere and in every time.

First Century Asia Minor
First Century Asia Minor

Tuesday, August 26, Chapter 2

There is a rapidly growing Buddhist group that teaches its followers to meditate until they are able to do anything, become successful and rich, even be the only one to walk away from a plane crash.  Buddhist have always taught the importance of meditation to achieve a perfect state with the world.

We Christians oppose that idea completely.  There is nothing we can do to change our sinful state.  Yet, we agree that humans can do amazing things.  Bob Beamon stunned the track world in the Mexico Olympics of 1968 when he jumped more than a foot beyond the existing world record.  His 29-2½ was broken in 1991 by both Carl Lewis and then Mike Powel who still holds the new record of 29-4¼.

However, a high school freshman could beat the record.  What, you say?  All he has to do is to trick the brain into ignoring the danger of pushing the body that hard.  In an unconscious state, or a trance state, or even a deep meditation state such things are possible.  Athletes today spend almost as much time training their minds as their bodies.  We now know that the brain has a speed limit.  When we run up to that limit, our muscles, tendons, lungs, all tell our brain it is time to quit.  The world dead lift is more than a thousand pounds, yet watch a mother lift a burning car to save her baby.  We humans can do amazing things.

But we cannot meditate our way out of the consequences of sin.  We may not always pay our taxes, but we will sin and we will die.

Verse 15:  His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace. NIV  The old dividing walls were torn down and gentile and Jew became one.  We all sin, so there are no divisions in that.  Jesus brings us all together to live in peace.  That peace can only come by being in the body of Christ.

The first part of verse 15 contains a difficult Greek word to put into English.  It comes close to the idea of making null and void, but that is too strong.  Phillips seems to have come closest with By his sacrifice he removed the hostility of the Law, with all its commandments and rules.

I have made a number of trips to Haiti and have Christian friends there, yet there is a cultural divide we as humans can never fully overcome.  Our peaceful fellowship comes out of our love within Christ.  When we allow our culture to overpower that love we get into trouble.

That happened in the US in the 1980’s when there was a great political upheaval in Haiti combined with the AIDS scare.  Many American Christians chose to shut themselves off from all Haitians rather than risk either the mass executions or AIDS infections.  Jesus’ first concern was never for his own safety or comfort.  We must always compare our social, political, and economic positions on issues with Jesus.

Wednesday, August 27, Chapter 3

Paul’s opening words are filled with the theology of Christianity, It is in this great cause that I, Paul, have become Christ’s prisoner for you Gentiles. Phillips  In other places Paul calls himself a slave of Jesus.  He means the same thing here, even though he is actually under arrest while writing this letter.

In the Greek a single sentence makes up verses 1-7 and the whole thought is not completed until verse 17 with the verb not appearing until verse 14.  Paul spoke the word, gentiles, and became sidetracked, again.  But the phrase You have surely heard, NJB gives us in important clue about the letter.  If Paul had written only to the Ephesians he would not have had to make such a statement.  After three years they knew very well of the work God in his grace has given me to do for your benefit. CJB

In verse 4 Paul speaks of his special insight into the mystery of Christ.  Those two words come closest to the Greek.  Several translations have chosen the word secret in place of mystery.  That is not a word Paul would want to use in this context because the Gnostics were firm believers in performing the rituals to expose the secrets of Christ.  Paul and the other Apostles preached that Mercy is free and open.  There is no decoder ring or secret handshake.

So why does Paul speak of the mystery of Christ?  This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. NIV  It is a mystery to those who are not filled with the Holy Spirit because only the Spirit can unravel the mystery.  It is a simple mystery, every person in the world is eligible to be grafted to the Vine of Israel.

It is a bit like the 3-D prints that were popular in the 90’s.  You hold the print of garbled ink blotches and let your eyes un-focus to see the stunning 3-D picture.

In verse 7 Paul does something that could have gotten a ruler across the knuckles in some English classes.  The NIV reads, Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people.  A more literal translation might be the leaster of all the saints.  He deliberately butchered the grammar to make a point.

Paul says that Jesus gave him two tasks, to preach to the gentiles and to reveal the once secret plan of God to save all humans.  Why the secrecy?  Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Micah, all had a glimpse at the plan without understanding it.  Only when Jesus rose from the grave did the bits and pieces fit together.

It was like Operation Overlord, the invasion of France in 1944.  For a year there were only a few dozen people who knew what the plan involved.  Hundreds, even thousands knew bits and pieces, but none knew enough to put it together.  Indeed, even the Germans knew bits and pieces.  After June 6 it all made sense.

In the fourteen and a half billion years of the universe every detail, every action, every star born and every star that died, revealed the coming Messiah.  God did not make a world of random chaos, but, as Genesis 1:2 reads, Now the earth was formless and empty, and verse 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. NIV  It was good because it prepared for the salvation of sinners.

Paul in verse 14 is not using a figure of speech, he went to his knees as he dictated the prayer.  Kneeling was not common for prayer in the First Century, but it was done.  We have record of Jesus doing just that.

Also, there is a word play in the Greek that adds meaning to the verse.  I quote Archibald Hunter:  the word translated “family” is etymologically derived from the word translated “Father.”  “Is named” means “derives its name and nature.”  God, Paul says, is the Author of all imaginable fatherhood.  So far from being a mere metaphor, his Fatherhood is the reality of which the human relationship is only a reflection; and whatever is meant by family relationships, on earth or in heaven, gains all the richness of its meaning from his Fatherhood.  Jesus always advised us to look to our Father as Jesus did himself.

There are three main requests in the prayer, he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; NIV and that you being rooted and grounded in love. RSV  Only with that grounding will we have the moral stability to withstand the assaults of the Father of Lies.

Thursday, August 28, Chapter 4

 In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. MSG  The Greek word kleseoz means calling.  The NJB translates it vocation which I think carries the sense of Paul’s message.

Actually, Paul’s first sixteen verses are better read from Paul’s letter.  I cannot say it any better.

We should note verse 8:

When he ascended on high,
    he took many captives
    and gave gifts to his people. NIV

The quotation is of Psalm 68:18 which actually reads:

When you ascended on high,
you took many captives;
you received gifts from people,
even from the rebellious—
that you, Lord God, might dwell there
. NIV

Notice how Paul makes the Psalm about Jesus instead of God.  This is normal for rabbis of the day.  The verse had already been revamped to have Moses giving gifts to the people.

Paul encourages each Christian to work well with others so that the Church of Jesus may grow and expand to include the whole of humanity.  We need to consider the words seriously because we live in an age of a fragmented Church.  In Haiti, there are thousands of individual churches thrashing around on their own instead of uniting for the common good.  Worse, every denomination in the US has representatives or missionaries living there who are little better.  The Christians will not talk to the Baptist and the Baptist will not talk to the Methodist.  We operate like Walgreens and CVS.  You build a store on a corner, we will build across the street.  Why not build where people need to know God?

Chrysostom (400 AD):  Paul’s words contain a great mystery.  “For,” he says in effect, “God took a chance in forgiving you.  He placed his own Son in jeopardy.  To forgive you he even sacrificed his Son.  But you have received forgiveness time after time, at no risk or expense, yet you do not forgive.”

Jerome (410 AD):  Paul wants us to be gentle, approachable people, people who have left anger, bitterness, wrath and slander behind.  If we are merciful and serene, taking the initiative in reaching out to others, our very approachability will overcome the shyness and fear of those for whom we reach out.

Friday, August 29, Chapter 5

Jerome (410 AD):  When he wrote to the Corinthians, indeed, he said be imitators of me…for though they could not instantaneously become imitators of Christ, it was still a great thing for them if they could be imitators of the imitator.  But of the Ephesians, since they are those to whom he has revealed such great mysteries, he neither says “be imitators of me” nor “imitators of Christ” but be imitators of God.   This does not imply that it is less to be an imitator of Christ than of God, for Christ is God….Admittedly much that God has done we humans can hardly be said to imitate.  But in the way that he is merciful to all and rains on good and bad, so we may pour out mercy upon all we meet.  When we do this, we shall be beloved children.  We shall be imitating either Paul or, as I rather think, God himself.

If we imitate Paul, or Jesus, or God, then we find the actions and words in verses 3-7 offensive.  You might also notice that the list covers at least half of all TV programing.

Verse 8:   For you were once darkness, but now you are light.  Not in darkness, but I was once a source of darkness.  I caused darkness.  Paul has Jesus’ claim to be the Light in mind here.  Jesus shines in the world of darkness and we are expected to let our own light shine so that others may see their way through the darkness.

The classic book by Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness, pictures a man who believes himself to be a god to the natives.  That is the true darkness of the story, not the trip up the Congo River.  Any time we try to be the source of light we fail.  Only when we are in touch with God can our own light shine.

On verse 22, Jerome (410 AD):  The union of Christ and the church is holy.  So is the proper union of husband and wife holy.  Just as a congregation of heretics, however, cannot rightly be called the church of Christ and cannot have Christ as its head, so cannot be truly called holy if there is a disregard for the way of life taught by Christ.

Verse 25:  But, remember, this means that the husband must give his wife the same sort of love that Christ gave to the Church, when he sacrificed himself for herPhillips

Reading through the whole section we see that Paul said nothing that would suggest women are inferior in some way.  He is trying to relate human marriage to the all-important concept of Jesus marrying the Church.

Verse 32:  The marriage relationship is doubtless a great mystery, but I am speaking of something deeper still—the marriage of Christ and his Church. Phillips

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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