Empowering the king’s servants (Ephesians 4:10-13)

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.

Continue reading “Empowering the king’s servants (Ephesians 4:10-13)”

Grace is a generous king (Ephesians 4:7–10)

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)”

Being good news (Ephesians 4:1-6)

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)”

Ethics from a convict (Ephesians 4:1)

“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.

Continue reading “Ethics from a convict (Ephesians 4:1)”

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”

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)”