Kingdom lifestyle: submitting to each other (Ephesians 5:21)

The gospel calls us into an alternative world.

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.

How do you feel about this command? Continue reading “Kingdom lifestyle: submitting to each other (Ephesians 5:21)”

Fear of Christ? (Ephesians 5:21)

Is he scary?

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.

Continue reading “Fear of Christ? (Ephesians 5:21)”

Happiness without harm (Ephesians 5:15-20)

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)
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always 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.

Continue reading “Happiness without harm (Ephesians 5:15-20)”

The gospel call (Ephesians 5:14-20)

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?

What’s niggling me is that the New Testament letters tell us nothing of how to issue this important call. They seem to think the call comes from God. Continue reading “The gospel call (Ephesians 5:14-20)”

Who is the sleeper? (Ephesians 5:14)

Hint: it’s more than an individual.

What does this mean?

Ephesians 5 14 This 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).

Continue reading “Who is the sleeper? (Ephesians 5:14)”

The kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:5-7)

Making sense of this unique phrase.

Do you read this as a warning that you might not go to heaven?

Ephesians 5 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a person is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (NIV)

It didn’t mention heaven. Readers substitute heaven because that’s how kingdom of God has been understood. But the Bible’s narrative isn’t about us going to heaven; it’s about God’s kingship being restored to earth.

We’ll take it phrase by phrase, but first the backstory: the Bible’s narrative of the kingdom of God. Continue reading “The kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:5-7)”