Nov 17 2010

49- THE EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL TO THE EPHESIANS part 3

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The Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians

(Part 3)

E- Explanation of the Epistle (contd.)

6- Between Two Testaments (Eph 2: 11-22)

St. Paul continues to compare between the past and the present of the Ephesians Church to show them the richness of their present status.

In the past (from a Jewish point of view, 2: 11, 12), they were called uncircumcised Gentiles, according to the flesh, versus the Jews who are called circumcised (in the flesh).  They were “without Christ” (i.e. not waiting for His salvation), “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” (the people of God), “strangers from the covenants of promise” (The promises to Abraham in Gen 17:7, and afterward to Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David), “without hope” (concerning salvation) and “without God in the world” (like the God of the Jews).

As to the present (2: 13-22), he says: But now, through faith in Christ, and the action of His blood, you “were brought near” after you were “far off”.  After the enmity and alienation that were between you and the Jews, like a “middle separation wall”, Christ came and tore it down by His cross.  He is our peace, who made peace among us.  By His cross he abolished the law and its requirements, and made the two one, in Himself, one new man, neither Jews nor Gentiles.  Because of His death and resurrect­ion, and because we both live in Him, we became unified as one Church “For we, though many, are one bread and one body, for we all partake of that one bread (of Eucharist).” (1Cor10:17).

Christ proclaimed His peace to all “those who are far” (i.e. the Gentiles), and “those who are near” (i.e. the Jews) according to history.  Christ made it possible for us all to “have access” to the Father “in one Spirit”.  “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (2:19,20).  The foundation of the building is the Gospel that the apostles have preached to you, and the prophets that God has chosen.  And Christ is the head of the body (the Church), “In whom the whole building, being fitted together (both Jews and Gentiles), grows into a (one) holy temple in the Lord” (2: 21).  In the same way he wrote to the Corinthians “Do you not know that you (all) are the temple (one) of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you” (1Cor 3:16).

7- The Mystery of Christ and the Gentiles (that is served by St. Paul, Eph 3: 1-13)

St. Paul is moved by the Spirit as he reveals that the Grace of God has been poured on the Gentiles and has united them with the Jews, and reconciled them with God, through the cross, in one body, one Church, and one Temple.  And before he kneels down to pray for them that the Spirit reinforces their faith so that they apprehend the dimensions of the love of God to them, he declares to them what he calls “the mystery of Christ” and his role in proclaiming this mystery.

It was for you, Gentiles, that I was given this “dispensation of the grace of God” [i.e. my encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, and that He chose me to carry His name before the Gentiles, and their kings, and before the people of Israel (Acts 9:1-16), then His calling to me, “Make haste and go out of Jerusalem quickly … Depart for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:18-21)] to preach to you His name, and to be persecuted by the Jews for your sake, to be imprisoned, not a prisoner of Rome, but “a prisoner of Christ Jesus” (3:1), and “as a prisoner of the Lord” (Eph 4:1).  In this way, the Lord has un­covered the mystery, “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs (together with Israel), of the same body (as members), and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel” (3:6).  For this reason Paul became the minister of this mystery, describing himself in all humility as “less than the least of all the saints” whom God has given the grace to preach to the Gentiles “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (3:8), and to enlighten them of their fellowship in this mystery “which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ” (“For by Him all things were created … All things were created by Him and for Him”- Co. 1:16).  This mystery is now being revealed to all, even “the principalities (rulers) and powers (authorities) in the heavenly places” by the Church.  This was according to the eternal purpose of the Father, “which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access (to God) with confidence through faith in Him” (3:11-12).  In the end of his exposition, and before praying for them, St. Paul asks those whom he ministers not to be discouraged because of any of his sufferings for them, which is also for their glory (3:13).

8- The Prayer of St. Paul for the Gentiles (Eph 3: 13-21)

In his far away prison, St. Paul prays for those whom he has served and loved in Ephesus to grow in their faith, and that their knowledge of their savior, the Lord of Glory, may be strengthened.  He prays with all his heart, falling down on his knees, “to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”, from whom (i.e. from the Father) is named (i.e. derives its origin and existence) every tribe (every fatherhood, or community, or family) in heavens (angels, and the victorious Church) and on earth (the struggling Church) to grant them “ according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with might (power) through His Spirit in the inner man (being)” (3:16).  He prays for this so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith, and so that they may be rooted and established in love, then they may be able to comprehend, together with all the saints, the love of Christ – which surpasses all knowledge – in all its dimensions: width, length, height, and depth (3: 18).

The ultimate purpose of being “strengthened with power through the Spirit”, and the knowledge of “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge”, and the “dwelling of Christ in the heart through faith” is that they “may be filled with all the fullness of God (the Father)” (3:19).  The grace of God that we received in Jesus Christ began with choosing us for adoption as children, justification, and sanctification by His redemption, and His dwelling in our hearts through faith.  Then, we were able to enter to the holies, and sit with Him in heaven, and His grace abounded to reach its goal – in Christ- to be filled to the measure of the fullness of God [or as Christ said in His final prayer before His suffering “that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in Me, and I in You” (John 17:21)].  Also, as St. Paul said in the beginning of his epistle regarding the Church, that it is the fullness of Christ, “the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph 1: 22, 23).

Since we cannot by our own efforts reach this goal that surpasses even the limit of our thinking, St. Paul concludes his prayer with a supplication to God “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (3:20) to rekindle the power of the Spirit within us, to obtain the fullness of God within us, so as to glorify God in His Church in Christ Jesus, forever.

9- Sacred Unity (Eph 4: 1-6)

The second (practical applications: Ch. 4-6) part of the epistle starts from this section.  After St. Paul has presented in the first part (doctrine teachings: Ch. 1–3) the eternal purpose of God for man, he elaborates in the second part of his letter on the faithful’s obligations to live in concordance with this divine purpose.

So here, he – who is prisoner for the cause of the gospel of Christ – urges them to live their life according to what is befitting to the calling they have received,  keeping their eyes with all diligence on the unity of the Spirit [this is what Christ has fulfilled by His cross and resurrection, ‘that they all may be one” (John 17:21), “to create in Himself one new man from the two (Jews & Gentiles),thus making peace” (Eph 2: 15), and this is what St. Paul requested from all Churches, “that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27) ], and this will be the proof for their life in Christ. 1

To achieve the oneness of spirit, the conduct should be in humility and meekness with long suffering and loving tolerance for one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity in the bond of peace, “For He Himself is our peace” (Eph 2:14), “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace (1Cor 14:33).  This is the course which Christ set for us, He who “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of bond servant … He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death …” (Phil 2:7, 8).  He put Himself as an example for all believers, “learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt. 11:29).  St. Paul walked in Christ’s footsteps, “serving the Lord with all humility” (Acts 20:19).

The following are the elements of unity and its pillars which St. Paul urges us to live by (4:4-6):

1- “One Body” (For the Church is the one body of Christ);

2- “One Spirit” (The Holy Spirit gives us from what is the Father’s and the Son’s, and gathers the Church in one body in Christ);

3- “One Hope” (The hope of one eternal life which is the goal of the one calling);

4- “One Lord” (The head of the Church is the One Lord Jesus Christ);

5- “One Faith” (which is the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ – Acts 20:21, Rom 3:22, Gal 3:26, 1Tim 3:13, the Gospel’s faith, Phil 1:27);

6- “One Baptism” We confess one baptism (to all without discrimination) for the remission of sins (we become one in Christ – Gal 3:27,28) – The Creed] – Baptism is death and resurrection with Christ to a new life – Rom 6:14);

7- “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all”.

Dear Reader: Welcome to the ONE HOLY, CATHOLIC*, ORTHODOX*, AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH OF GOD
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” Eph. 2:19-20.
Please memorize these holy words and Praise the Lord in your prayers with them, acknowledging His grace to you.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
*Catholic = Universal and Everlasting,
*Orthodox = Straight faith and glorification of God

For this study to be useful, please pray and read the section of the Bible before reading its explanation. For comments or questions, please write to us:
PO Box 6192, Columbia, MD 21045

To be continued, part 4.

Footnotes:

  1. The Church has chosen this part of the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians to be read in the beginning of the day in the Matins Prayer to protect the believer all day, and to remind him/her to behave in the depth of humility, in meekness in his/her conduct with others, and with long­ suffering and love to all others, to lead him/her to the unity of the Spirit within the family, the Church, at work, with relatives, and strangers, and to give no opportunity or room for the devil.

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