Communication matters. Did you see Sam Mendes’ movie, 1917? Two soldiers were tasked with carrying a message across enemy lines, a message that could save the lives of many compatriots. Technology has come a long way in the last 100 years, but the movie reminds us how crucial communication is for saving lives. Continue reading “Staying in touch with our king (Ephesians 6:18-20)”
Abraham lived his entire life for the kingdom of God.
This podcast (28 minutes) surveys Genesis 12–25 as the foundational story of the kingdom of God.
God founded his human rescue project in Abraham and Sarah. They left the region of the Babel-builders to establish a nation under God — a representative kingdom of God among the nations. The obstacles they faced are the obstacles that threaten God’s kingdom project. They trusted God, even though restoring God’s kingdom would take many lifetimes.
When I first blogged these thoughts four years ago, it became my most popular post (downloaded more than 10,000 times). Enjoy this podcast version.
The gospel is the history-making proclamation that God’s chosen leader is running the world.
I can’t imagine what it might be like to live through a civil war, where brothers tear each other apart for power. “Civil war” is a euphemism: there’s nothing civil about war.
That’s why Christians must be so careful how we play out the biggest conflict of all time, the battle for who runs the planet. We have a gospel that proclaims the restoration of God’s reign (Ephesians 1:3-14), with God’s anointed on the throne (1:15-23). For the people who’ve been oppressed under evil, that’s liberating news (2:1-10), the end of conflict, the establishment of global peace in God’s Christ (2:11-22). Continue reading “Why doesn’t the Bible condemn bad rulers? (Ephesians 6:12)”
The Spirit’s sword isn’t for cutting people down; it’s for cutting them free.
The final piece of armour is the sword of the Spirit. It’s described as the word of God, so some of us have thought of it as the Bible. That’s not how the Ephesians would have understood it when they received this letter: they didn’t have Bibles.
The final section of the Ephesian letter explains how we’re to live as the kingdom of God in a world where not everyone recognizes Jesus’ kingship yet. Those who claim to have power don’t relinquish it easily, so it’s a volatile conflict. That’s why we need armour. Continue reading “Using God’s armour (Ephesians 6:13-17)”
How useful is this old armour? Depends who you’re fighting.
Defence is a big deal. Globally, we think it’s worth $1.8 trillion dollars each year.
When Christians talk about putting on a breastplate and helmet, taking up a sword and shield, it sounds pretty lame against piloted drones and guided missiles. Do you think technology is wiping out Christianity?
Truth is, the Christians’ armour would have sounded lame in the first century too. Rome was the superpower of their world, and the Romans soldiers were legendary at supporting Caesar’s reign. For any community to support another king was suicidal.
Yet, Christians were openly proclaiming that God had set someone else on the throne, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked” including Caesar’s (Ephesians 1:21). The gospel — the good news that Jesus is Lord and reigns over all nations — placed Christians at loggerheads with the existing authorities. Caesar also described himself as good news for the world, its lord, and saviour of its people.
Some of my friends struggle with “Submit to each other” (Ephesians 5:21). So many people have been subjected to abuse, humiliation, and injustice that subjecting them to anything further feels like more grief.
Other friends find submission natural. God is the authority, with all authorities under him, so of course Christians must be submissive.
Fear of Christ is a phrase found just once (Ephesians 5:21). It’s the generic word for fear (phobos). Many translations render it as “reverence” or “respect”, but that isn’t strong enough. In a kingdom perspective, fear of Christ displaces every fear.
When do you feel alive? I can understand people wanting to use substances to drown their sorrows, but sorrows turn out to be good swimmers.
If you’re looking for an alternative way to come alive, how about this: Do not get drunk on wine … Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
This isn’t random advice. It’s part of a bigger story of how people who feel like the walking dead can come alive in our resurrected king (Ephesians 2:1-5).
The one thing that overpowers our pain is the life-generating work of the Holy Spirit bringing us to life in Christ. He’s establishing a whole new society where our feelings of alienation are replaced with the music of life — Spirit-inspired songs of gratitude for the rescue that’s underway, the restoration of humanity in the leader God has given us.
So, c’mon: God is calling us to let go of the brokenness and participate in being truly human together:
Ephesians 5:15–20 (NIV) 15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Why raise this contrast at this point of the book? Why wine specifically? Is there anything in the Bible’s larger narrative that would suggest this contrast.
How do we issue the gospel invitation? We agree the gospel is important, but we have different ways to get people to respond. Should we follow Billy Graham’s approach, inviting people to respond to an altar call to be saved?
Ephesians 5 14This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (NIV)
It’s not an Old Testament quotation. Was it a baptismal formula, something early churches said as they laid someone back in the water and raised them up in the Lord? That’s an attractive idea but it doesn’t really work: you is plural, even though sleeper is singular. It seems the sleeper is a corporate entity, not a baptismal candidate.
While not a direct quote, it could be a distillation of Isaiah’s extensive imagery of light and dark (Isaiah 54–62).