June 15, 2011

Prisoner For Christ VI: A Body Made of Mature People

Constructing a letter to the Church body on how to construct a church body.

Let us view Ephesians from a different angle. The unified whole. Ephesians (the letter) is indeed a letter that builds ideas, one upon another to construct a spiritual edifice for a communal body of believers. The letter is like God's plan for unification of the body of both Jew and Gentile which is the Mystery of His will in verse 9. The summing up of all things in Christ (v.10). The letter of  Ephesians is constructed in like manner but instead of a mystery, the facts are made clear and laid out plainly. They are constructed like a house...brick by brick for the entire world to see. The bricks that the Church is constructed of are you and I, one upon another in perfect harmony and in like mindedness of Jesus Christ being both there underlying cornerstone and overall archetype of us as new creations. Humble and meek...serving one another. Without these virtues it just doesn't work. We are all gears that make the wheels of the Church go 'round and Christ is the Head.

Berakah  בְּרָכָה (Eph. 1:3-14)

We see Paul bust out into praise of God directly often in his letters, this is especially true in the intro/greetings and Ephesians is no exception. What I found is that there is an Old Testament pattern for this and it even has a name: Berakah בְּרָכָה (benediction). Within this prayer we see Paul elucidating the wonder of God and His work. Specifically, we see Paul speak of God’s purpose and plan. The fact that God, “…chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” and that He lavished us with grace. That He also, “made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” He was going to work out everything in conformity to the purpose of His will and He included us in this plan (Gentiles)…and the thing is...He didn’t have too. It is called mercy and grace.
Fulfillment of God’s Plan:  The Transition From Death to Life

Surprisingly, most do not realize they are dead in their sins or deny it. If there were any doubts this piece of Ephesians (and this commentary) torpedo that presumption. We are clearly objects of wrath in God’s eyes. We are sinful and God is holy and that creates a chasm between Him and us. Until we become new creations in Christ we were living in and of the world. We were under the sway of Satan. We sinned and stored up wrath for ourselves. But, BUT! God’s love for us was so great that He extended His mercy and grace. It is through grace by faith that we are saved. This adds an early emphasis or exclamation point (!) onto the idea that we are not worthy but should live in manner worthy of the calling that we are called to (as mentioned later in Eph. 4:1-6). Again, here, we see mercy and grace...unmerited.

Fulfillment of God’s Plan: Unity of the Church (Eph. 4:1-6)

This breakdown of chapter 4’s introduction stands out in a striking manner to me. We are often drawn to the latter portion of Ephesians (5-6) that speak to individuals operating within a corporate group/community (i.e.: families, slaves, armor) and often speed right past this portion in chapter 4 that is the precursor and lead into those chapters that speak to the importance of the individual (4:7) in the unified communal body. For me, this is a startling contrast but yet it is cohesive. One body and one Spirit…meaning a unified whole made up of “individuals” of a unified mind (of Christ). The use of wordage is impact and pronounced theologically: “worthy of…”. These are not just filler words. Paul is urging in an emphatic manner for people to step forward and live deliberate holy and sanctified lives when he says live worthy of the calling. Although none of us are truly worthy, Christ does instill us with a sense of value because He first loved us and died for us. If we are called to announce this we indeed must step out of our sinful nature to do so…and we are to do it in unity. So often we try to do it on our own and this method is destined for failure. Only in Christ with the aid of others of like mind can we do this is a world in rebellion against God and acting as our adversary. The realm of Satan, (Eph 6:12) "for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

Radical Change in Human Relationships (Ephesians 5:22-6:9)

hypakouo). Jesus also acts as the foundational support from underneath or the cornerstone mentioned in Ephesians 2:20. As with any building or structure there is the idea of finishing the construction…there is an intent of completing it or the idea that we are to work towards completion…in Christ. To work towards our glorification in Christ Jesus.

Ironically, unlike a building we cannot gauge the completion of a body by its vertical and horizontal limits like we can the building or an unconscious edifice. For a body we need to gauge its completion individually or corporately...by its maturity. When a body reaches maturity it is complete. We reach completion in Christ when we reach maturity in Christ or come to maturity in Christ. The full measure of maturity is when all the aspects of the plan or system come together at the same time. The Kingdom in its optimum condition is a mature Body of mature believers. Mature believers are spiritually attuned believers, educated believers, discerning believers. God glorifying believers.

Conversely, if we have immature believers in the church and we do nothing to help educate them and bring them to maturity in the Body if we are able to do so, then we ourselves are also immature. We are immature because we have not seen the divine purpose in the unity of believers in Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10) which is in accordance with God's will.

Lastly, I want to mention a dramatic aside from Paul by jumping back to Chapter 5:3-14. Nestled in this pericope, right in the middle of what appears to be a grocery list of sinful things that need to be replaced with righteous things in a Christian’s life, we see something radical (at least in comparison to the surrounding text of peace and harmony in a unified body of believers). Specifically we see it in v.5-6 Paul's menacing exhortation that we can be sure of:

"…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.

We then see the result of sexual immorality

“...for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

Something ominous but expected from a just God that must judge sin. Many pastors and preachers take great pains to skip over this like a stone on water. Instead of rebuking the behavior and addressing the eternal implications of these verses, they often stay mute or sugar coat it. Instead, preachers should move beyond the niceties and speak the plain truth of this passage regardless of how painful it is for people to hear. Stop tickling their ears.

This is the approach Paul speaks of here.  It is the end result of the wrath stored up against an immoral sinner that doesn’t seek repentance. It is the threat of unending separation from God or “to whom is apportioned/ reserved the  blackness of the darkness forever” [οις ο ζοφος του σκοτους εις αιωνα τετηρηται] of Jude 13.  That is scary stuff to ponder. Eternal blackness of darkness seperated from light, from truth, from glory...for eternity. Sometimes you just need to scare the living daylights out of people or literally scare them out of their sin. There is a price to be paid for immorality that the culture not only excepts but it encourages.

Who cares what man thinks? Man cannot exact eternal punishment and destroy the soul as God can. This is a rather startling aside and exhortation for radical change. Change that shows true maturity in the faith.

You'd be well advised to try and make it happen.

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