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. 

The Theory of Everything & Ephesians 1:10

 Albert Einstein looked in his later life for what he called a unified field theory.  The search is still ongoing for a “Theory of Everything.”  What can unite our knowledge of the universe under a single theory or principle?  To encourage the concept, the fields of electricity and magnetism, once thought to be separate are now seen as “electromagnetism.”  Apparently the difficulty is in combining general relativity with quantum mechanics.  String theory has been advanced, with others as new candidates to become the Theory of Everything.

Leaving theoretical physics aside, the biblical text has a unified theory of everything.  One such instance is in Ephesians 1:9,10

Ephesians 1:9-10 ESV
    making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ [10] as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

   The word for “unite” is in Greek, anakephalaioo.  This word has the idea of gathering together, or summing up.  A speaker might end a long address with a summing up of the main idea.  An accountant would add up the numbers in a column, and in Ancient Greece, put the sum at the top of the column.

So the unified theory of life is that “everything in heaven and earth will be summed up in Christ.”   A similar usage of the word is found in Romans 13:9 where all the Law is “summed up” or “united” in the command to love:

Romans 13:9
    The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up (anakephalaioo) in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

   What does this mean that all things are or will be summed up in Christ?  Well here are a few scribbles on that

  • The universe is ultimately personal – it is Christ, not a formula that unites and explains all things.
  • Jesus is not merely my buddy or personal assistant.
  • There is a unifying wisdom or principle to all things, even if theoretical physicists can not come up with one in their field.
  • Only God can create this unity, it would appear our attempts will fall short of the mark.

We will be thinking about this for a while, and would value your thoughts.

Telescope and Compass – Ephesians 1:8

Ephesians 1:8 speaks of  wisdom and insight.  When we look within the book of Ephesians we find two passages that also refer to wisdom.

  • Ephesians 1:15-22.  “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ…may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation…”  This section goes on to develop a big picture of Christ’s accomplishment.
  • Ephesians 5:15-21.  “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise…”  This goes on the give some advice for daily living in Christ.

So wisdom has a big picture – that we realize all that is in store for us “in the heavenlies” to use a phrase repeated in Ephesians.

It has a small picture — that we make use of wisdom in choosing a daily path.

Hence, telescope

and compass.

Redemption – Ephesians 1:7

Redemption means to gain freedom or liberty for a captive.  It was used historically to apply to war hostages who were bought back from the enemy, or for slaves who were bought from slavery. 

This description makes it clear that there are two circles of meaning.  One circle is “Freedom” and the other  is “Payment.”  These two circles overlap.

Scholars dispute whether in Ephesians 1:7 we are to think of freedom only or also to the price of freedom.

The verse reads like this: 

Ephesians 1:7  ESV
    In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

The context draws these circles together for if redemption only meant “freedom” or “restoration” the following clause says that this was accomplished “through his blood.”  The most likely understanding of that is that it refers to the sacrificial death of Christ. 

 A similar verse is found in Colossians 1:14, wich also associates redemption with the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians does not answer how sins are forgiven, but Ephesians adds “through his blood.”