Ephesians 2:1-10 – Whose Biography is that?

The flow of Ephesians 1 was Praise followed by Prayer.  Chapter 2 turns to biography.

You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy….  (NRSV)

That does not sound like me.  I was more a church raised kid who did not get into a lot of rabble rousing or immerse myself in the pleasueres of the flesh.  But then I found this comment in the ESV Literary Study Bible, “The first half of the chapter (vv. 1-10) is a corporate spiritual biography that tells the story of Gentile salvation.”

So if we read the Bible as a personal note to ourselves, we will meet these issues:  “That does not sound like me!”  However, if we read it as a book written directly to others but of indirect value to us, it makes more sense.  This is the story of the gospel coming to those who had been excluded from the Lord’s work with Israel.  It is not so much “my story” as “our story.”

What were my ancestors up to in the year 50 AD?  Were they even in the land we call Sweden at that time?  Were they planting, harvesting, brewing, and dancing to the sunrise and solstice?  Were they whacking one another with clubs?  I have no idea.  But the transformation of the Scandinavian people from the religion of Thor to that of the Lord can be seen in their art – from Dragons to Christ.  Often the “Stavkirke” or Stave Churches show outside art with dragons, with inside art with Christian symbols.  The door to the church marks the transition from the old to the new.

Check out this Stavkirke – especially the dragons!

Ephesians – Write on Me!

We will be studying by manuscript method the book of Ephesians in the Sunday Evening Study.  The Manuscript method means that the text will be printed out on plain paper (I have left the chapter and verse marks in and the paragraphs of the ESV).  We will read, take notes, mark repetitions, themes, patterns and look up words as we look carefully at the text.  We will hold off on commentaries and pre digested discussions so we can look for ourselves, at least for a while.

Attached  is a worksheet involving outlines from 3 popular level commentaries.  click – Outlines

1st Person Plural – Ephesians 1:13,14

Several unrelated comments came together this week.

Members of Bethany Church expressing the importance of this community of believers in their lives and in that of their families over many years.

A comment by a mission strategist saying that new believers who do not connect with a church often show no signs of continuing in the faith, suggesting that the Great Commission requires the planting of churches.

Noticing all the 3rd Person Plurals in the New Testament.

Years ago, with a copy of Ephesian and a few colored pencils, we noticed that there is a lot of Church and a lot of “we” in that letter.  That lead to noticing all the talk of church, community and “we” throughout the Epistles.

WE as Americans tend to think in terms of “me”.  For example, is the Sealing and Guaranteeing of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 1:13,14 something that I can know and experience?  What is it that lets “me” know that I am signed, sealed and to be delivered to eternal glory?

Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV
    In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [14] who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  

(all red words are plurals, some 2nd some 3rd person, as are the verbs thourghout)

   Maybe part of the awareness of our “signed, sealed and to be delivered” status is from living in community with believers.  Not just having some Face Book Friends, or a Twitter Church, or by listening to Pod-cast church.  It is a living, breathing, sinning, forgiving, struggling, caring  group of people who are climbing the hill together.

Just a thought.

Weighing the options – Ephesians 1:11

Sometimes we find passages where the translations and the commentators can not agree.  In Ephesians 1:11 we find the aorist passive 1st person plural form of klēroō. 

This verb is used only once in the New Testament, thus it is a hapax legomena – a word used only once in the written record.  This makes the translation difficult.

It means literally “our lot was cast.”  In comparison to its cognates, the word has to do with lots, destiny, being chosen and inheritance.  Two Old Testament usages are cited.  Israel is sometimes  called God’s possession –

Deut. 32:9
    But the Lord’s portion is his people,
        Jacob his allotted heritage.

   Yet it can also refer to the portions of land that were given to the tribes if Israel after the conquest.  This is commanded in

Numbers 26:55-56
    But the land shall be divided by lot. According to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit. [56] Their inheritance shall be divided according to lot between the larger and the smaller.”

   And the process of this division by lot is described in Joshua 14 – 19.  Each tribe received title to a portion of land that was theirs to enter in and take possession. 

So the commentators and translations split – those opting for the translation that we are God’s portion cite the grammar, while those choosing that we receive an inheritance cite the context – especially verse 14.

One translation (RSV) seems to skip the whole thing!

In seminary the joke was that if you put all the commentaries who chose position A on one side of a scale and those choosing position B on the other, you could pick the “heaviest” choice.

We prefer to go with the context. In reading this section, Ephesians 1:3-14, it seems that words like choosing and electing are tied with benefits to us. 

v.  4 – Chosen – to be holy and blameless

v. 5 – Predestined – for adoption

v. 11 – Predestined – for an inheritance

v. 13,14 – Holy Spirit – guarantee of our inheritance

V. 14 has the noun form of the verb (klēronomia) and is translated as “inheritance” or “salvation”.

In general, we prefer to go with the context over the dictionary alone – as words have a range of meaning (semantic field) that is made specific by how it is used.

So we have received an inheritance according to God’s eternal plan (v. 11) which is sealed or guaranteed by the Holy Spirit to the believer (v. 14).

For the content of this inhertiance…well, the sermon is yet to be preached, drop by Bethany EFC  in Madison, WI and see what one FRESH READ might be.

Otherwise, ponder this:

Psalm 16:6  ESV
    The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
        indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.