Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ephesians 2:17 through 3:6

Verse 17 is interesting. It says Christ preached peace. Since he accomplished this peace on the cross, it seems the preaching of it would have to come later, meaning his post resurrection appearances and then through the disciples.
It reminded me of Peter’s vision on the way to see Cornelius, in Acts 10. In verse 28, Peter tells them God has shown him he should not call any person common or unclean.
Verse 18 tells us we both now have access to the Father, whereas before, only the Jew would have it. In addition, this access comes through one Spirit, the Holy Spirit, given to both Jew and Gentile. There is one Father, one savior, one Spirit and one people of God. In the next 3 verses, he will flesh out what he means by this.
2:19-22 The Household of God
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by [2] the Spirit.
Verse 19 tells us that believing Gentiles have now joined believing Jews as members of the household of God. Notice that he refers to the Jews as citizens, saints and members of the household of God. He is speaking of the church. The first image he uses is the church as a state or kingdom. Gentiles were formerly aliens, but now, in Christ, they have become fellow citizens. The second image is of a household, or a family. The Gentiles formerly were strangers, but now they are fellow members. Paul has taught this concept in other books. Romans 11 speaks of Israel as an olive tree to which Gentiles were grafted in. Galatians 3:26-29 says
for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
Starting in verse 20, Paul is going to work off the word “household” to use the metaphor of building a house or building for Christ’s creation of his people. This is the third image, that of a temple. First, the cornerstone of this building is Christ. The cornerstone is a stone at the corner of two walls or angles, and anchors them together. It is the most important piece, as the others rest on it. We often see them laid in ceremonies or inscribed with the names of important people involved in the construction of the building.
Here Paul is drawing on the Old Testament. In Isaiah 28:16, God spoke of the coming Messiah and said “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation.” Psalm 118:22 says “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jesus applied this verse to himself in Matthew 21:42. Peter tied them together in 1 Peter 2:6-8. (read it)
The foundation is the apostles and prophets, those who spread the gospel and taught the Word they heard from Christ. Jesus told the disciples in John 14:26 he would send the Holy Spirit to them and he would teach them all things and remind them of everything Jesus said. That is why the New Testament if made of the writings of the apostles.
The book of Acts records what we know of the ministry of the apostles as they laid this foundation. Jesus had told them in John 15:26 that they must testify about him. Acts 2 records Peter’s first sermon. In Acts 3, Peter and John heal a man at the temple gate and Peter again preached to the crowd. The first chapters of Acts show Peter continually preaching. Acts 5:12 tells us the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.
Then “The Seven” were chosen. Acts 6:8 tells us Stephen did great wonders and miraculous signs until he was killed. Philip began to preach in Samaria and performed miraculous signs, casting out evil spirits and healing. He became known as Philip the evangelist. Paul then came into the faith and became the dominant evangelist and apostle. All of these laid the foundation for the household of God.
There were also prophets in the early church, in addition to the apostles. Paul wrote of it as a gift of the Spirit. Agabus is mentioned, as he prophesied to Paul. In Acts 21, Luke wrote that Philip had 4 daughters who prophesied. There were other teachers, such as Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos. These were the foundation.
All believers are stones used to build the building, which becomes a temple that is holy to the Lord. God the Father is the architect. He chooses the stones and shapes them for their position in the temple, the church. They are part of the temple because they are in Christ. The workmen are those who preach the gospel and the stones that make up the building are believers. But it is not a physical temple which excludes Gentiles from the inner parts, from God’s presence. It is a spiritual building where Jew and Gentile alike may access the presence of the Father through the completed work of Christ and the present work of the Holy Spirit. The church (not the building, the believers) is holy, it is set apart to God. It is also a dwelling place for God, being built by the Spirit. The physical building of the Temple ceased to be the dwelling place of God.

Ephesians 3
3:1-6 The Mystery of the Gospel Revealed
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, 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, 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.
In verse 1, Paul said he was a prisoner on behalf of the Gentiles. He had been arrested in Jerusalem, ironically bringing an offering from the Gentile churches to the Jewish church. Opposition among the Jews to his mission to the Gentiles The story is told in Acts 21. When Paul told the crowd the Lord had sent him to preach to the Gentiles, the crowd erupted and Paul was arrested. He appealed to Caesar, so he was taken to Caesarea and then to Rome. He wrote this letter to the Ephesians from his confinement in Rome. He was a prisoner on behalf of the Gentiles.
He assumes here they have heard of his calling, the administration of God’s grace given to Paul for them, the Gentiles. The NIV says “surely you have heard”. Paul had told many of this experience with Christ and his calling to go and preach the gospel to the Gentiles. That included the mystery which Christ revealed to Paul.
Mystery here means knowledge that is only known to those to whom it has been revealed. Paul said it had not been known by past generations, but had been revealed to the apostles and prophets, including himself. 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.
There were hints in the Old Testament. God told Abraham all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. Genesis 12:3. But, the Jews believed Gentiles could only come into the blessing if they became Jews, observing the law. So, Gentiles would never be equal in the kingdom because they could not come in their own right, they had to become Jews. This was the heart also of the Judaizers mission. Even after the gospel was preached, they insisted that the old rules be kept in place, requiring the Gentiles not just to embrace Christ, but to embrace Judaism also.
But, Paul said the mystery is that Gentiles would jointly share in the blessings of the kingdom. They would not have to become Jews first. They would not remain second class citizens.
Verse 6 is more forceful in Greek than in the English translations. In Greek, each of the 3 expressions, (fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise) begin with the prefix “syn”, which means “together with”. The NIV takes a pretty good run at it, repeating the word “together” with each expression.
The first expression is that we, as Gentiles, are fellow heirs, or heirs together with Israel. Gentiles are not second class citizens. They will inherit the promises of God, including eternal life, just as the believing Jews will. Galatians 3:29 says “and if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.”
The second expression is members of the same body (ESV) or members together of one body (NIV). There is only one body, not one for Gentiles and one for Jews, and we are equal members of it. This is also true of all other divisions. They are destroyed by Christ on the cross and all believers are members of this one body, the body of Christ.
The third expression is partakers in the promise. The NIV says “sharers together”. The promise of redemption is shared equally by the Jewish believer and the Gentile believer, the male believer and the female believer (females to come to Christ through their husbands), the white believer and the black and brown or any other color believer.
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