Category Archives: Ephesians

6-26-12 Ephesians 6 (16)

Today we discussed Ephesians 6. There are a number of noteworthy aspects to this chapter. In the opening section Paul discusses how children should have respect for their parents, and the parents for their children and then he does the same thing for employers and their servents/slaves/employees. A second major part and very important is to put on the whole armor of Christ in our sturggle to live our lives in God. This chapter concludes the book of Ephesians.

 

We spent some time discussing the meaing of the first section on how to treat children, parents, employers, and employees. It was pointed out that Paul was suggesting that the gospel of Christ made it possible for anyone to come to Christ irrespective of their status or position. This does not mean that Paul was suggesting that we change the way the society operated. Some people in civil war times used this passage to justify slavery. Mark and Bill suggested the example of Vermeer as a company they thought was following Paul’s advice about respect between employer and employees. They gave several examples of ways in which this respect and consideration was demonstrated in the history of the company. Some suggested that employers can do this better in good times and sometimes they do it to avoid having a union. But truly enlightened employers do it for the good of all and not necessarily to avoid dissadent structures that create problems in the company.

 

Next week we will go back to Genesis and read about Abraham. The plan is to read Genesis through chapter 25, the death of Abraham.

6-19-12 Ephesians 5

The Lutheran Study Bible in a footnote says that “Like the Ephesians, we are confronted every dayby a world rebelling against God’s way. In our struggle against its temptations, we can rely on Christ’s word and spirit to lead us. Lord, strengthen me to speak and act as You desire. Replace all the foul talk from my mouth with praise for You and encouragement for my brothers and sisters in Christ.” Paul was telling the people at that time that it was wrong to live the way that lots of people were living then. Today we face the same issues and need to be strong in Christ in order to resist the temptations of the world. It is quite remarkable how similar the people then were to the people today. You might think that when man was created, there was a faulty design! But Paul urges them and us to walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.) Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. When things are exposed to the light they are visible to all to see. This is how we need to lead our lives. We often have questioned how the scriptures help us today. These writings by Paul surely are as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago.

The other major part of this chapter deals with the relationships between men and women as well as other relationships between people. Paul states that the husband should be the head of the household and wives should submit to their husbands, but that doesn’t mean that the husband should lord it over the wife. He says that husbands should love their wives and give himself up for her. That doesn’t sound like Paul expected the wife to be treated as a slave to the husband, but rather that they should be a loving couple each with different roles but equally responsible for making their relationship work. Husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies.  The comparison with Christ and the church is very instructive. He wants the relationship between a husband and wife to be similar to the relationship between Christ and the church.

Peterson in the Message starts this chapter as follows: “Watch what God does and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us, but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” Peterson makes a big point that we shouldn’t be doing useless work, as he calls it the barren pursuit of darkness. He says it is a shame when people waste their lives on things they must do in darkness. He says, Christ will show you the light.

Peterson in verses 22-24 says, “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show you support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands. :

and then in verses 25-28, he says, “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church — a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to being the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness.”

So it is not a matter of who is in charge and should bully the other partner in a marriage, but rather, it should be mutual love between a husband and wife supporting and loving each other.

6-12-12 Ephesians 4 (15)

Ephesians 4 is significant for its proclamations of exclusivity (v. 4-5), for its appeal to unity (v. 3 and 13) and for the admonitions directed at leaving the sinful life and maturing into the fullness of Christ.  Pastor Mark remarked that the Greek word for unity appears twice in Ephesians (v. 3, 13)and otherwise nowhere in scripture. For Mark, Ephesians 4 is meaningful for developing a “household of faith.” It contains an important message about how we live together and treat each other.

Al conjectured that the author’s words are targeted at gentiles who are being encouraged to undertake the passage from a life of ignorance, treachery and licentiousness into the maturity of faith in Christ. The proper functioning of all the parts of the human body serves as a key metaphor for the body of Christ building itself up in love.

Frank remarked about how lofty the agenda is, how high the goals have been set, and, in reflecting on his own life, the despair that he cannot live up to them.  Gene added that we all, under careful examination, fall short in so many ways.

This led to a discussion about how the church itself has fallen short. Perhaps it can be said that there is a certain unity in the fact that we are all Christians. At the same time what must be acknowledged is that there is a significant amount of dissension and fracturing within the “body of Christ,” to the extent that the metaphor of a properly working body is arguably inappropriate. Several examples were brought up of conflicts within specific churches and within the ELCA. Is this a result, as Chuck opined, of absolutes being too watered down?

Mark wondered how the outside world views the Christian community.  Do we in fact have integrity? Have we earned the position of moral leadership?  Do we have any right to expect that members of other religions would find the Christian message compelling?  What does it mean if this message is rejected? At least Ephesians 4 is pretty clear about what is the one true faith, but what do we, must we, believe?  Mark, for one, says he is not in the business of judging. Me neither.

The proper functioning of all the parts of the human body serves as a key metaphor on June 5, 2012 Ephesians 3 (15).

Submitted by John Grunstad

06-05-12 Ephesians 3 (15)

In Ephesians 3, we find several elements. Paul talks about being a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of the Gentiles. He tells how he has been made a minister to preach to the Gentiles and tell them of the riches of Jesus Christ.He concludes with a prayer for spiritual strength. Mark had some difficulty getting a conversation going this morning.There were a number of questions raised and issues discussed from the encyclicals of the popes and how they came into being like the bringing to light of Micah 6:8 in view of the fight for justice in Salvador and the death of the bishop there.

Items to consider: (you can respond with comments to fill in the ideas suggested here.)

I Timothy 2:5 What is being urged here is simply love. Love that is uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith. This opens our life to God and allows us to follow His will, not the counterfeit actions of the world. This reinforces what Paul was saying in Ephesians 3.

The Ancients have stolen our best ideas. I think frequently that with all we have discovered with modern science that we are much smarter than the ancient peoples. But we frequently find that the thoughts that the ancients had were every bit as good as what we have today. They like we had to solve the problems of the day. As Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” I hate to think of the time it would take me to figure out how to determine the path of sun, moon, stars, and planets as many of the ancient peoples were able to do. Many of the philosophical thoughts were also very applicable for us even today. We may think of how Paul formulated the philosophy that we follow today, even in those troubled times when only bits and fragments were available to him. He was an amazing man as were many of his colleagues.

Does God want us to agree on everything? I think that God knows that people will disagree about various things and some of these things are very important, but the important thing is that we believe in Christ and live our lives according to the example he set on how we should live and treat others who interact with us in our lives.

Steve H. asked why God sent Jesus when he did and how he reveled himself since then and before for that matter. Mark volunteered that God’s presence is furthered by our continuing presence and witness through our conversations with lots of other people. Thus we witness to them as well. Jesus raised questions that he left unanswered and Peter and Paul came along and filled in lots of blanks. Christians have been filling in the blanks ever since in ways that follow the teachings of Christ. Think how extrordinary it is that a man lived 2000 years ago and we are still trying to discern how to interpret His teachings and trying to live our lives according to his teachings.

05-29-12 Ephesians 2 (12)

We discussed Ephesus 2 which led us on a wide range of discussion items. Early in the chapter, there is a discussion of the issues between the Jews and the Gentiles. In those days, it appears that Gentiles could come to Jewish services, but had to stay in an outer area or courtyard while the Jews would go into the inner area. Paul says in this chapter that Jesus in his death and ressurrection erased the distinction between Jew and Gentile and both should be allowed to worship together. This led to the conversation about circumcision. Many early Jewish converts to Christianity thought that all Christians needed to be circumsized just like the Jews were. Eldon raised the question about the conflicts between Peter and Paul and one issue between them seems to be circumcision. Galations 2:11-16 hightlights the conflict between Peter and Paul. Of course Peter was the earliest disciple and Paul had not even been on of the original 12, but was a sort of follower by way of his conversion on the road when he said he was called by Jesus in a conversion experience. Peter was the leader in Jerusalem and, of course, the primary members there were Jews. It is really a confilct of racial or belief purity and what that means. In Galations, Peter sat down with Gentiless, but then withdrew from further relationships with the Gentiles. There were sort of purity police, principally the men of James who were the vitilantes who were protecting the purity of the faith. These people, I gather, believed that for Gentiles to become Christians, they had to be circumsized. Thus Paul believing that Jesus had wiped out this distinction between Jews and Gentiles didn’t need the outward sign of circumcision, so rebuked Peter. It is this kind of issue that is presented here to the Ephesians and since this epistle was intended to be circulted to other early churches, was a matter of faith and doctirne for the eatly churches. It is very interesting how much of the early doctrine was specified by Paul in his epistle where he assembled the teachings of Jesus and drew out from them the principles of the church. Here is a link to a more detaild discussion of these ideas: Peter vs Paul There is also a continued discussion of Peter vs Paul. Remember that Peter was a humble fisherman whereas Paul was raised in the Greek culture and history and we see this in way he expresses himself frequently in a logical way. From the age of 10, Paul was sent to Jerusalem to attend the rabbinical school of Gamaliel, who was the son of Sieon, the son of Hillel. Gamaliel was a most eminent rabbi mendioned in both the Talmud and the New Testament. He composed a parayer against the Christian “heretics.” He lived and died a Jew. Here is a link to further information about Paul’s education.

This leads us to the other very important point in this chapter which not only applies to the early church but also is central in our beliefs as well, which begins in verse 8 and says “For by Grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that w should walk in them.” This opens up the whole discussion about faith vs works as well as how faith comes to us. Is it a gift of God to us? Or do we have to do something like even accepting it before it is part of us. But does that undermine the nature of the gift of God originally to give us faith. Lots of issues, but if we but accept this as simple acceptance of the submission of our lives to carry out the works of Jesus. In Paul’s view, Jesus broke down the barriers of religious purity and admitted all peoples to the possibility of a fuller life through Christ. This also opens a further discussion of the conflict between Peter and Paul because of the Jewish reliance on obedince to laws. The Message interpretation of vs 14-15 says “He (sic Jesus) repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped.” How many times during His ministry was Jesus asked about fine points of the law and how Jesus always reacted by a spirit of understanidng of the bigger picture of the law and more openness of the belief in God and the fullness that this brings to our everyday life. As Al says, we don’t have to wait until after death to realize the joy of being in the freedom of Christ.

05-22-12 Ephesians 1 (16)

There is some doubt that Paul actually wrote this letter to the Ephesians where he had served as their pastor for the previous 3 years. But he was certainly involved in its writing. It was written somewhere in the time span of 50-80 AD. Questions were raised as to why the church had spread north to Asia Minor in the way it did . It was probably because of the trade routes of that time. There is a reference in this blog to the missionary journeys of Paul and maps that delineate where he went.http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CN092MAPS1.htm They no longer went south to Cairo, but rather went north and then East across the Bosporus into Greece. Paul appeared in his missionary journeys to travel from Jerusalem to cities in Greece, Syria, and Turkey. This letter was an encyclical that was perhaps re titled and sent to multiple churches. It started out with the idea baptism and this seems to emphasize the evangelism that Paul felt strongly about. The passages in the first few verses relate to Deuteronomy 2.

One of the big topics in this chapter is predestination. It is used in verse 5 and then the last section of the chapter as well. It appears to be saying that God had a plan for salvation of the people who believed in Him and that somehow, people had to be made aware of it and then the Holy Spirit would come to them and abide with him. Calvin saw it as deterministic predestination and fore ordination as the eternal decree of God by which  God has determined the life of each and every individual before the world was created. This doesn’t fit with what I think I being said here. It may be referring more to the style of one’s life that fits with God’s plan. Those people that God chose were defined by holy characteristics, not individuals. An interpretation of this predestination is that of choosing where and to whom the gospel should be preached not a preselection of the saved and lost before the world was created. God loves every human and has acted to make it possible for the salvation of each one through the death and resurrection of Christ that made it possible for everyone to receive atonement for their sins. Election is conditioned by man’s response or failure to respond to God in faith and obedience. Robert Shank in his book called “Elect in the Son” affirmed that the salvation election comprehends all men potentially and that the salvation of grace can reach out to any person. There is a very strong statement that Jesus after his Resurrection was deep in the heavens directing the universe . This probably goes along with the Jewish belief in the levels of heaven as specified by the angels in terms of rule, authority, power, and domination. Paul said that through baptism there is a true organic unity between all believers and Christ that is nurtured by receiving his true body in the Lord’s Supper. I think this means that it is God’s plan is for us to live a full life in the manner that his plan specified for the life of his people before all worlds.

You can read about a number of views of predestination in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predestination