The Good Word from MIQRA

Many readers of this blog may have noticed occasional references to the MIQRA Institute, a small educational institute in Lincoln, NE that provides seminars and courses in biblical studies, theology, hermeneutics, and other topics. They are fabulous and consistently provide solid and sound teaching in the Word of God.

The President of MIQRA, Vern Steiner, provided the following excellent commentary on Micah 6:8 in their most recent ministry update that I wanted to share with my readers.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

“While studying the line ‘to do justice,’ for example, I discovered that the ‘justice’ in view is rooted in the character and will of God the Creator and Covenant LORD, not in what we or the laws of the land define as fair, impartial, or due punishment in the interest of social equality or national security. The biblical accent…falls more on bringing justice to people than on bringing people to justice. And we do so, that is, we do justice, especially when we intervene on behalf of the wronged, the suffering, or the marginalized and take action in righting the situation. It is obvious, then, that doing justice requires God’s people to approach, say, the issue of immigration in this country with an entirely different set of criteria from those that pass as appropriate legal policy. This is because God’s version of justice, oriented to Creation and measured by the Cross, looks different from anything the world calls ‘just’.”

WOW! YES! Is anyone else out there approaching the issue of immigration in the US this way?? Praise the Lord for a view on immigration that isn’t based in fear but in love. That, my friends, in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

There’s more where that came from at the MIQRA Institute. Check them out!

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*New* Fall Women’s Bible Study: Sermon on the Mount

Happy Fall everyone! We are starting a new women’s Bible study at Grace Chapel here in Lincoln, NE, and I will once again be updating my blog on a weekly basis for those who want to follow along online. We will be studying the Kay Arthur book “LORD, I’m Torn Between Two Masters: A Devotional Study on Genuine Faith from the Sermon on the Mount.”

I am excited about this study because I have never read a book by Kay Arthur before, but I have it on good authority that she is an excellent author and Bible teacher. I am also excited because this study of the Sermon on the Mount will be an excellent follow-up to the study on the Ten Commandments we finished this spring.

I hope you will study along with us as we delve deeply into Matthew 5-7, read how our Lord Jesus expounds on the Ten Commandments, and teaches us to live with a deeper faith and understanding of His Word.

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For the women of Grace Chapel, we will be meeting in the Geneva House every Monday night from 7-8:30 pm for the next 9 weeks. Please read Chapter 1 for next week and I’ll see you at Grace!

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 6

“You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13

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This commandment is simple and to the point, yet Christians continually struggle to determine what exactly this commandment means for us. Does it mean “to kill” or “to murder”? Does this commandment apply to animals? Suicide? War? Does it apply to the accidental killing of another person? Does it apply to the government’s killing of a convicted criminal? Does it apply to the unborn? These are extraordinarily difficult questions that many people believe are not up to our government to decide.

God ordains and even orders the killing of others in many stories of the Old Testament. Is He allowing Israel to break the fifth commandment? According to Hauerwas and Willimon, “All life is God’s. In the Bible, when killing is done, it is done under the agency of God, not by individuals or in service to the state, for only God is to kill and to make alive.” (page 80)

How is this commandment fleshed out further in the person of Jesus Christ? Jesus makes no attempts to soften or simplify this commandment, but makes it more comprehensive by including anger, insults, and demanding reconciliation from the offending parties. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser…” (Matthew 5:21-25a)

The women of Grace Chapel were asked the following question: “How can you be guilty of breaking this commandment without killing a person?” Here are some of their answers:

  • You can murder someone’s reputation, hate them, wish they were dead, or even simply dead to you and out of your life.
  • The New Testament says that hatred of someone is equivalent to murder.
  • Hate kills a relationship. Then love can’t be shown as God would have you do.
  • You can take a person’s reason for living or his livelihood, or demean him.
  • You can be hateful towards someone in thoughts, words, or actions.
  • If you hate someone you have already committed murder in your heart.
  • It is possible to “kill” the image of God in others without slaying the person.

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For Week 7, please read Chapter 6 on the Sixth Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. Why is sexual conduct taken so seriously by God?
  2. What does this commandment prohibit besides adultery?
  3. How can you break this commandment without being married?
  4. Why does our culture make this commandment so hard to keep?
  5. What does this commandment mean to those who are single?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 5

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:8-12)

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Our parents were the first ones to love us, the first ones to teach us about Jesus, and the first ones to teach us about what it means to worship God. They kept the Ten Commandments while we were watching them with a child’s eyes.

Yet before our parents loved us, God loved us. The fourth commandment reminds us of this, and also that we must love our parents and obey our parents as we love and obey God. We can understand all notions of fatherhood and parenthood from what God tells us about his Father in heaven.

It is important to see the relationship between the commandment to obey the Sabbath and the commandment to honor our father and mother. “Even as the third commandment tells us that we must live in time as a gift, rather than as an arena of our achievements and assertions, so the fourth commandment commands us to live as those who know their very being is a gift. Our lives are not self-derived. The self-made man or woman is a lie.” (Hauerwas & Willimon, page 69)

Here are thoughts from the women of Grace Chapel on what it means to honor our parents: show them respect, be dutiful in taking care of them, respect them and love them even if you don’t agree with them, obey them always as long as it doesn’t go against the word of God, submit to them as an act of humility, pray for the will of God to be active in their lives, remember their authority over you, love them because they are the parents God gave you.

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For Week 6, please read Chapter 5 on the Fifth Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. Why did God give us this commandment?
  2. How does anger fit into this commandment?
  3. Is this a simple commandment? Why or why not?
  4. How can you be guilty of breaking this commandment without killing a person?
  5. What is the key to keeping this commandment?
  6. Does this commandment relate to suicide? War?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 4

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

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Sabbath is God’s gift to humanity. With the sabbath, God has given us back time because time is not our own. God intends for us to have consecrated time to remember who God is and to remember who we are – part of His creation…part of His original work. On this day we are called to remember, recall, recollect.

Sabbath is tied to Creation. God rested from His work of creation on the seventh day to designate the work as good, and to recognize the goal of perfect rest – reflection, perfection, recognition of God’s intention for life. “The third commandment is a reminder that we have been created for no higher purpose than the worship of God.” (Hauerwas and Willimon, page 58)

Observing the sabbath faithfully is a witness to the world. How we choose to observe the sabbath will set us apart from a world that strives for more work by showing that life must contain a balance of work and rest, and this balance is the gift of a gracious Creator. How we choose to observe the sabbath will teach our children about self-discipline and what it looks like to use our time intentionally to worship God faithfully.

Here are thoughts from the women of Grace Chapel on how to spend the Sabbath day: church, reading the Bible with family, prayer, silence, spiritual conversation and fellowship, meals together, relax, spend time with loved ones, taking a walk and admiring nature, worship, reflection, serving others, volunteering in the church service, Bible study…add your own ideas to the list!

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For Week 5, please read Chapter 4 on the Fourth Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. Why did God give us this commandment? What is the need?
  2. What does it mean to “honor”?
  3. What qualities does good parenting require?
  4. What are the benefits of following this commandment?
  5. What does it cost to follow this commandment?
  6. Does this commandment have any limitations? If so, what?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 3

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. (Exodus 20:7)

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God gave us the gift of His name. This name gives God a tangible identity – He is no longer a mystery, but a God with an identity. This God seeks a personal relationship with His creation and we can no longer make “God” mean whatever we want. The name of God shares His character, nature, power, passion, and authority. Knowing God’s name allows us to honor, worship, and glorify Him in the most appropriate way. This is an incredible and awe-inspiring gift.

Through the second commandment, God is saying that we cannot make Him part of our lies. We can no longer avoid the truth to save our own skin, we can no longer allow our prayers to be insincere, and we can no longer seek to flatter our Christian brothers and sisters because it is easier than discipling them. Christians must not only live truthfully but we must also speak truthfully.

Pride, fear, confusion, selfishness, habit, anger, ignorance — all of these very human qualities cause us to break this commandment. The challenge of keeping this commandment is that we must go against our very nature. We must learn simplicity of speech and integrity of relationship. Not taking the Lord’s name in vain means that we are committed to speaking truthfully to God, to ourselves, and to one another.  (Hauerwas and Willimon, p 46)

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For Week 4, please read Chapter 3 on the Third Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. What is the purpose of the Sabbath day?
  2. How is the Sabbath tied to Creation?
  3. Why is rest so important to God?
  4. What work can’t be avoided on a Sunday?
  5. What activities should we participate in on Sunday?
  6. How is obeying the third commandment a witness to the world?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 2

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am  jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.  (Exodus 20:3-6)

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God loved us enough to speak to us. He loved us enough to not only tell us His name, but also to own us, call us into relationship with Him, tell us how to worship Him, and hold us accountable. We understand the God of Israel by understanding His commandments, and to understand the commandments “perfectly” is to understand that they cannot be read in isolation from one another.

Through the first commandment, God is saying that He desires our complete and utter devotion. By placing God on the throne of our lives, we open ourselves up to the movement of the Holy Spirit and enable the kind of relationship and communication that God desires with us. We realize that we are not attempting to get something out of God but we are instead “bending our lives toward God.” (Hauerwas and Willimon, p 34)

Our God reacts intensely to those who disobey this commandment. He is jealous because He is sovereign. He has a particular and passionate desire for relationship with us and expects our very particular and passionate worship of Him in return.

Note that this is a commandment with consequences, both good and bad. By following this commandment, we are promised God’s steadfast love to the thousandth generation! By failing to follow this commandment, our iniquity will result in our children being punished to the third and fourth generation.

What are the “costs” of following this commandment? In the western world, the costs are often social — we may not look or sound like those around us. Our behavior may result in our isolation from others who do not know Christ. In other parts of the world, the cost may be death. What are the costs of not following this commandment? Sin itself is the punishment.

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For Week 3, please read Chapter 2 on the Second Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. Why did God give us His name?
  2. Why is knowing God’s name such a great gift to us?
  3. How do we rightly or wrongly use God’s name?
  4. What causes us to break this commandment?
  5. How are we hurt by abusing God’s name?
  6. What are the public consequences of keeping this commandment?
  7. How would you explain this commandment to a child?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 1

“It is not so much God who reveals to us the Ten Commandments, but the Ten Commandments that reveal God to us.”

We kicked off our study of the Ten Commandments tonight at Grace Chapel! For the next several weeks we will be reading through the book “The Truth About God: The Ten Commandments in Christian Life” by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon. This book will challenge us to understand God in a new and powerful way — as a God who loves us enough to not only tell us His name, but who wants us to know how to properly worship Him in speech, rest, parenting, relationship, marriage, speech, and many other ways.

We hope you will study along with us online!

**For women of Grace Chapel – there will be no meeting on May 25 due to the Memorial Day holiday.**

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For Week 2, please read the Introduction and Chapter 1 on the First Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. Through this commandment, what is God saying He wants from us?
  2. Why is God a jealous God?
  3. What are the benefits of following this commandment?
  4. What is the purpose of following this commandment?
  5. What are the costs of following this commandment?
  6. Why is God so passionate about our obedience?
  7. What are modern idols that people worship?

Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 7

What exactly does “putting on the new self” look like? According to Ephesians 4, it looks like speaking the truth, letting go of anger, helping others in need, building each other up with your words, being gentle and sensitive with each other, and forgiving as thoroughly as Christ forgave you. Can we do it? When we are in Jesus, Yes We Can!

Ephesians 4: 17-32

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A.      “Two Ways” form of instruction

Examples: Plato, Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Galatians 5:16-25

1.       Puts 2 ways of living in stark contrast, one positive and the other negative.

a. Three required components

  • Dualistic introduction
  • Lists of virtues and vices
  • Eschatological warning (eschatological = “end times”)

b. Based on the notion that conversion leads to moral renewal (Perkins, 1997)

  • Ephesians is reminding Gentiles about a proper lifestyle for a Christian
  • Presumably so they can “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [they] have been called…” (4:1)

B.      The Text

Parenesis (4:1-6:20) – advice or exhortation

Unity and Diversity: a call to maintain Christian unity (4:1-6) and the goals of Christian diversity (4:7-16)

A “Two Ways” form (4:17-5:21)

The Two Ways form: Part I (4:17-32)

General exhortations (vv 17-24)

  • What not to do (vv 17-19)
  • Why not to do it (vv 20-21)
  • What to do (vv 22-24)

Specifics of a New Life (vv 25-32)

  • 5 specific exhortations regarding specific behaviors

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[17] Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. [18] They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. [19] They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

What are Christians not to do? (vv 17-19)
• “Walk as the Gentiles do” (cf I Pet 4:3-4)

In other words, do not have the lifestyle of an unsaved Gentile that is marked by:
• futility of the mind (cf I Pet 1:18)
• darkened understanding (cf Rom 1:21)
• alienation from the life of God because of ignorance (cf Eph 2:12)
• hardness of heart
• callousness
• given up to sensuality, greed, and every kind of impurity (cf Rom 1:24)

[20] But that is not the way you learned Christ! – [21] assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,

Why should Christians not live as the Gentiles do? (vv 20-21)
• the (unsaved) Gentile lifestyle is at odds with the walk that Jesus embodied (Talbert, p 123)

Note in v 20 that what is learned is a person.

Talbert notes that this would not have been an unusual concept for the Ephesian culture, as they viewed rulers as “the living law” (eg, Caesar). One learned the right way of living by observing the ruler in power.
Paul is referring to “learning Christ” as the totality of the Christ paradigm (Talbert, p 123).
• One learns Christ
• One is taught by means of Christ
• The truth resides in Christ

[22] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, [23] and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, [24] and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

What are Christians to do? (vv 22-24)
• Undergo moral transformation

How?
• put off the old self
• be renewed in the spirit of [our] minds (cf Rom 1:1-2; Col 3:10)
• put on the new self

Picture the image of changing garments. The new garment (or self) is created “in true righteousness and holiness.” (v 24)

“In Jesus one sees the norm of all values. This vision produces righteousness and holiness, not debauchery and a greedy desire to practice all kinds of uncleanness.” (Talbert, p 124)

[25] Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

What does this “new self” look like?

Exhortation 1: stop lying and speak the truth

Why? Because “we are members of one another” (cf I Cor 12:12, 14, 18)

The Message: “What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.”

[26] Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, [27] and give no opportunity to the devil.

Exhortation 2: stop holding on to your anger

Why? Because this gives opportunity to the devil, or “opens one to the influence of the evil powers” (cf 2:1-2)

The Message: “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry-but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.”

[28] Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Exhortation 3: stop stealing and do honest work instead

Why? So that you will have something to share with those in need (cf 2 Thess 3:6-11)

The Message: “Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.”

[29] Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. [30] And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Exhortation 4: watch your words and what you say to each other.

Why? So that your words will only benefit one another, and so that you will not grieve the Holy Spirit.

The Message: “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.”

[31] Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. [32] Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Exhortation 5: let go of bitterness, revenge, anger, slander, and malice and instead be tender and forgiving of one another.

Why? Because this is how Christ first acted towards us.

The Message: “Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”

C.      The Major Issues

1.       Putting off the “old self”

a. Why does “Paul” discuss these issues at this particular point in the letter to the Ephesians?

  • An attempt to eliminate common vices that divide people
  • To further the theme of harmony and unity in the body of Christ

b. Does this passage apply to modern‑day Christians?

  • Do we see these vices in ourselves and in our own congregations?
  • How would addressing these vices help us to live in community and “do life together”

Homework for Week 8:

Read Ephesians 5:1-21 and consider the following questions:

  • Ephesians 5:1 tells us to “be imitators of God.” What does this mean to you? How do you think the original Gentile readers would have understood this exhortation in their culture and time in history?
  • The last portion of Chapter 5 and the first portion of Chapter 6 have specific examples of relationships where we can be “imitators of God” (wives and husbands; children and parents; slaves and masters). How do you think becoming “imitators of God” can help us to fulfill these roles?

Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 5

We finished up the first half of Ephesians tonight with a great discussion on the “mystery” of Christ as well as the implications of needing strength to understand the full dimensions of Christ’s infinite love. His riches are unsearachable and His love surpasses knowledge! Amen.

Ephesians 3: 1-21

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A.      Digression #2, Intercession #2, and a Doxology

1.       Digression #2

a. God’s power at work in Paul (3:2-13)

  • This is the second digression the author uses to discuss God’s power – the first digression addressed God’s power at work in Christ and in Christians (1:20-2:22), and the second digression addresses God’s power at work in and through Christ’s apostle Paul.

2.       Intercession #2

a. Paul intercedes for the Gentiles a second time (3:14-19)

  • This time the intercession is for the Gentile readers’ empowerment, enlightenment, and filling with the Holy Spirit

3.       Doxology

a. Praising God for His power at work in Christians (3:20-21)

  • Doxology: a hymn or verse in Christian liturgy glorifying God

B.      The Text

Salutation (1:1-2)

Prayers: using the language of worship to reinforce Christian identity (1:3-3:21)

Berakah: blessing God for blessings bestowed on believers (1:3-14)

Thanksgiving: thanking God for the readers’ faith and love (1:15-16a)

Intercession 1: asking God for the readers’ enlightenment, especially that they might know God’s power at work in them (1:16b-19)

Digression 1: God’s power at work in Christ and in Christians (1:20-2:22)

Raised through Christ: victory over sin and evil powers (1:20-2:10)

Reconciled through Christ: victory over alienation (2:11-22)

Digression 2: God’s power at work in and through Christ’s apostle Paul (3:2-13)

Intercession 2: asking God for the readers’ empowerment, enlightenment, and filling with the Holy Spirit (3:14-19)

Doxology: praising God for his power at work in Christians (3:20-21)

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[3:1] For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles – [2] assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,

“For this reason” refers back to Digression #1, where Jew and Gentile are described as being a new humanity reconciled both to each other and to God through Christ. In verse 1 it appears that “Paul” is going to resume the intercessory prayer for the Gentiles that he began in 1:16b-19, but the prayer is again interrupted in verse 2 with Digression #2.

“Paul” begins the digression with the assumption that the Gentile readers in the region of Ephesus in Asia Minor have heard of him and the specific ministry to the Gentiles that has been given to him by God.

[3] how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. [4] When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,

When did “Paul” write briefly about “the mystery” made known to him by revelation? He is likely referring back to 1:9‑10 (“making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for he fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”)

What does “the mystery” mean? In pre-Christian Judaism, “mystery” often referred to something hidden that is revealed by God to or through someone (cf, Dan 2:27-28)

In the New Testament, “mystery” sometimes refers to an aspect of religious tradition about which there is an element of secrecy (cf, Mark 4:11) or something in need of interpretation (cf, Romans 11:25) 

[5] which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. [6] This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The Spirit has revealed this mystery to all of the apostles and prophets, including “Paul” who is now sharing it with the Gentiles.

 What is the Christian mystery to which “Paul” is referring? That Jews and Gentiles are now part of one body making up the household of God. This is made possible through the promises fulfilled in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

[7] Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. [8] To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, [9] and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, [10] so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

“Paul” reiterates that his mission to the Gentiles was a gift from God, although he is “the least of all the saints.” Recall that Paul refers to himself as a persecutor of the church (cf, I Cor 15:9, Gal 1:13) and a “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” (I Tim 1:13).

What is this mission? To “preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” and to “bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things”

Why is “Paul” preaching to the Gentiles and revealing the plan for unification of Jews and Gentiles into one body (the “mystery” as defined in verse 6)? So that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

The unification of humanity through Christ is a testimony to all heavenly powers (angels, demons, supernatural rulers and authorities) that God’s wise plans and purposes are being carried out according to His will. Even angels wouldn’t necessarily know this mystery (cf, I Pet 1:12).

[11] This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, [12] in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. [13] So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

 

This universal unification plan is being fulfilled according to an eternal purpose, and this purpose has been realized in Jesus Christ.

Verse 12 reiterates the notion of “access” that was first presented in 2:18 (“For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”) This access through the cross of Christ should give us boldness and confidence in our faith.

“Paul” closes Digression #2 with what some scholars refer to as “an exercise in self-praise.” However, this self-praise is not done in an effort to be self-congratulatory. Instead, it is in the context of praising God, recognizing the purpose of ministry to the Gentiles, and raising the confidence of the new Gentile believers.

[14] For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, [15] from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, [16] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

After finishing his digression, “Paul” now continues the intercessory prayer begun in Chapter 1. Note that he first clarifies that he has taken the position of bowing his knees in prayer.

What is the nature of “Paul’s” prayer?

The request: that the Gentiles (“you” plural) might be strengthened with power through the Spirit in “our” inner being

The four-fold purpose of the request:

  • So that Christ may dwell in our hearts, rooting and grounding us in love
  • So that we may have strength to comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of Christ (or Christ’s love)
  • So that we may know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge
  • So that we may be filled with all the fullness of God

As Talbert says, “The goal is that believers be filled up to the level of the fullness of God…The empowering, indwelling, and filling are characterized by the experience of power and love. This is the primary Christian religious experience.” (Talbert, pp 102-103)

In Beth Moore’s study “A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place” she compares the description of dimensions in v 18b with the description of the New Jerusalem in Rev 21:15-17. In those verses, the heavenly city is described as a perfect cube, having equal breadth, length, height, and depth, descending out of heaven from God and having the radiance of God’s glory.

[20] Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The first half of Ephesians ends with a doxology praising God, acknowledging the power of God at work within us as Christians, and recognizing God’s glory.

The doxology ends with the Hebrew word “Amen” meaning truly, so be it, or truth.

C.      The Major Issues

1.       Wrap-up of “Ephesians Part I”

a. Ephesians falls into 2 main sections: Chs 1-3 and Chs 4-6

  • In Chs 1-3, the blessing, intercessory prayer, and digressions function to prepare the Gentile readers for the last 3 chapters where “Paul” will provide the main teaching of the letter.
  • God was first blessed for bestowing blessing on believers, God was then thanked for the Gentile readers’ faith and love, “Paul” then interceded on the Gentile’s behalf for enlightenment, empowerment, and filling with the Spirit, and the Gentiles have been reminded about God’s power at work in Christ, in Christians, and in “Paul” as a minister of the Christian “mystery.”

 Homework for Week 6:

 Read Ephesians 4:1-16 and consider the following questions:

  •  Scholars refer to 4:4 as stating the “seven unifying realities of the Christian faith. Do you agree with these realities? Do you agree that they are unifying?
  •  The language in 4:9-10 is somewhat controversial in the description of Christ as descending “into the lower parts of the earth.” Did Christ literally descend? If so, where?
  •  How do you see the diversity of gifts among Christian believers as aiding unity in the body of Christ?