The church has an important role in restoring the earth as God’s kingdom, but the church isn’t the goal. The church points to something bigger than itself: life under Jesus’ kingship.
The gospel of the Lord is the good news of his kingdom — his kingship restored to the earth in his anointed. Here it is in summary:
Ephesians 4 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. (NIV)
The Bible’s whole story in that verse. Our heavenly sovereign entrusted his earthly realm to people who rebelled against his kingship and ended up as captives to evil instead. Instead of using force to defeat force, God’s anointed ruler joined us in our captivity, dying at the hands of the rulers who were puppets of evil. When God raised him out of death, the captives enslaved under death were set free — free to live in the reign of God’s anointed. When the king was restored to us, his kingdom was restored to the universe.
Since God designed humans to be agents of the divine sovereign’s reign in his earthly realm (Genesis 1), the Messiah restored this mandate to humanity. The resurrected king gave gifts to humanity. His gifts were people — people entrusted with the responsibility to share in his management of the planet, by leading humanity into communal life under his kingship:
Ephesians 4 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (NIV)
This is unique. Any other ruler would have been wary of trusting power to ex-rebels, but Jesus entrusts his regal dominion to people, servants who empower the whole of humanity to grow up into Christ, our king.
Divine benevolence beyond imagination.
If you want to handle Scripture well, you’ll be very interested in how the New Testament writers handled the Old. What they do can seem puzzling, but it’s so informative.
Consider this example where Paul seems to misquote a Psalm: Continue reading “Grace is a generous king (Ephesians 4:7–10)”
At the hinge of the book, Ephesians calls us to outwork the gospel: to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (4:1).
Previously, it explained the good news: God is reuniting humanity in the reign of his anointed. Now it explains how the good news people embody his reign: in community (4:1-16), in ourselves (4:17 – 5:20), in home and business life (5:21 – 6:9), and in the wider community (6:10-23).
Did you notice what’s missing? In a book about the gospel, he forgot to advise us on how to get the unsaved to make a decision, how to get our neighbours into church, how to get that aunt to pray the Sinner’s Prayer before she dies. Continue reading “Being good news (Ephesians 4:1-6)”
“As a jailbird, I urge you to live up to your calling.” That has to be one of the funniest sentences in the Bible. Do you really want to learn ethics from a criminal?
It makes no sense if you don’t understand the gospel of the kingdom, the nature of sin and salvation.
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)”
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.