Sunday, January 22, 2012

Scripture Sunday: The Book of Ephesians

Ephesians is a generally positive letter, since it doesn't have any specific church-related problems to address. More than anything, it seems like Paul just wants to remind the Ephesians of all the good things that they as Christians have going for them.

One of the extended metaphors Paul uses is the idea that before accepting Christ, we human beings (and Gentiles in particular) are like strangers/aliens/foreigners, but when we are redeemed by Jesus, we become the adopted children of God. As a member of an adoptive family, I have always been touched by this adoption metaphor. What better way is there to understand how a person can be a complete stranger and then suddenly be a fully accepted and 100% "real" member of the family? And we aren't just adopted--we get a family inheritance (heaven), too. The sentences in Ephesians can be a little difficult to decipher at times just because there are so many clauses strung together in the King James Version, but triumphant tone here is clear.

The power of Christ is also emphasized in this book. Chapter one mentions how God "raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come" (1:20-21). To me, this is emphasizing that "Lion of Judah" aspect of Jesus' identity. I usually think of Jesus' sacrificial aspect first, of the way he gave himself for the world, but beyond his status as the "Lamb of God", he is also ordained to rule over everything one day.

The stranger/adoptee metaphor switches to a death/life metaphor in chapter two, where Paul says that we are all like dead people until God changes us: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ" (2:4-5). Chapter 2 moves on to describe the peace and unity available through Jesus.

Ephesians has a lot of good, practical advice as well. In 4:1-2, Paul says "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love". That's a beautiful yet heavy request. How often do we think of our faith in Christ as our calling or our vocation? And yet, the importance of whatever we do in life pales in comparison to the importance of loving God and loving others through him. That's a pretty lofty vocation, but it's also one where there's no room for self-importance or pride--it's only through God's mercy that we are able to live out this high calling.

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