God and the human family (Ephesians 3:14-19)

How do we respond to the news that God unites us as his family?

The gospel is the good news that God has restored peace to all the peoples of the earth through his anointed ruler (Ephesians 2). So what’s our response to this good news?

What people often do with the gospel today doesn’t match the response in Ephesians 3.

  • Evangelicals try to convince individuals they’re sinners and get them saved.
  • Justice warriors name and shame the regimes for their sins (systemic oppression).

But Paul doesn’t stand up to condemn individuals or regimes: Continue reading “God and the human family (Ephesians 3:14-19)”

In honour and shame (Ephesians 3:13)

Is Chapter 3 interrupting the main message of Ephesians? Lynn Cohick calls it “a digression from his argument in 2:22 which he then picks up again in 3:14” (Ephesians, NCCS, Cascade, 2010, 81). Markus Barth calls it “an excursus on the commission given to Paul by God” (Ephesians 1–3, AYB, Yale, 2008, 350).

As indicated by the dash at the end, verse 1 is an incomplete sentence:

Ephesians 3 1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you. (NIV)

It sounds like Paul starts a thought, and breaks off. But there may be a better way to understand these verses than to treat them as a mere tangent where the writer got distracted from his gospel message.

Continue reading “In honour and shame (Ephesians 3:13)”

Who are the rulers of Ephesians 3:10?

To whom did God reveal his multifaceted wisdom, according to Ephesians 3:10?

a) to rulers and authorities, both of whom exist in the heavenlies, OR
b) to rulers (kings/governors on earth), and to authorities in the heavenlies?

Either interpretation is possible, but there are grammatical and contextual reasons to consider the second option. Continue reading “Who are the rulers of Ephesians 3:10?”

Revealing the reign (Ephesians 3:10)

What does God intend the church to be and do? That question matters more than all the goals and KPIs we set for ourselves.

So how does this sound?

Ephesians 3 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. (NIV)

Say, what? Does the church exist so God can show off to rulers and spiritual beings?

With the wrong assumptions, this picture is a dark puzzle. But it makes brilliant sense when illuminated by the story about God’s kingship (the kingdom of God), revealed in his Messiah. Continue reading “Revealing the reign (Ephesians 3:10)”

The apocalyptic framework of Ephesians 3

Same apocalyptic problem (mystery); unexpectedly awesome answer (reveal)

After Babylon invaded Jerusalem and terminated the Davidic kingship, Israel was ruled by other nations. Floating adrift among the nations, they clung to their ancient stories of how God had delivered them from Pharaoh’s tyranny, committing himself to be the sovereign of their nation (covenant), giving them his wise law (Torah), and living among them to lead them (tabernacle).

But generations of Jacob’s descendants remained under foreign domination, rising and dying like the grass of the field. As nations fought and conquered each other, as empires rose and fell, Israel remained the meat in their sandwich.

They wondered how God would resolve this injustice. When would the day of the Lord arrive? How would the sovereign Lord overpower the evil that oppressed them and destroy the power of the nations? Continue reading “The apocalyptic framework of Ephesians 3”

Making sense of suffering when Christ is king (Ephesians 3:1)

According to Ephesians, the good news of King Jesus is transforming the world:

But, if Jesus is running the world, why do we suffer? Why was Paul locked up in Caesar’s prison when he wrote this? Doesn’t it feel incongruous?

Rather than complain that he’s starved of food and sleep in these oppressive conditions, Paul flipped the script — the humour of incongruity.

Continue reading “Making sense of suffering when Christ is king (Ephesians 3:1)”

Good mysteries have a reveal (Ephesians 3:2-6)

A surprise birthday party? A campaign shrouded in mystery until the launch? The joy of good secrets is in the reveal.

But we struggle when we don’t know. We fill the vacuum with stories or fears of what might happen. Even theologians fear the worst when we don’t know. Like what will happen to people who never heard about Jesus? Maybe we need to trust God instead of letting our imagination run amok. Continue reading “Good mysteries have a reveal (Ephesians 3:2-6)”

Questions take you deeper (Ephesians 2)

Here’s an example of how asking good questions leads to a richer appreciation of what God is doing.

When you read Scripture, what are you looking for? It’s not enough to approach the Bible like a shopping trip, to pick up some things that appeal to you. The Bible changes us. It’s the revelation of the God who is reshaping us into community in his image.

Questions help open us to that transformation, beyond the way we currently think and live. Rich communal understanding and life grows from asking good questions together.

An example from a recent post. Ephesians 2:1 (NIV) says, As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. We asked, “Who is the you?” The tendency is to assume it’s me, because our culture is individualistic. But you is plural, so perhaps it’s us? But two verses later, the writer switches from you to us. Turns out he’s using we to mean his own people (fellow Jews), and addressing people of other nations (gentiles) as you.

That leads to another question. What were the transgressions and sins of the gentiles? The sins of the Jewish nation could be any violations of the law God gave them at Sinai, but how were gentiles disobedient to God?

Continue reading “Questions take you deeper (Ephesians 2)”

Good news of peace (Ephesians 2:11-22)

It was a day in 1945 my Mum remembered vividly. She was a teenager working in a pharmacy in Roma (Qld) when a great hullabaloo broke out. People were dancing and hugging in the streets. Cars honked, making jubilation laps in the street. Joy swept through the whole town at the news, “The war is over!”

We have a message that’s even greater. Jesus is the end of hostilities on earth!

Have you heard the good news? Continue reading “Good news of peace (Ephesians 2:11-22)”