Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Short Comment on Ephesians Part II

Today Im going to look at the theology in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Paul's letter if you wanted to split it up here could be understood as a two fold piece for the Ephesian Church. From Chapters 1 to 3 Pau'ls discussion is mostly on theological or conceptual grounds. In contrast the following chapters 4 - 6 Paul discusses more practical or directly applicational topics. There are many theological aspects of these few chapters but the one's I am going to concentrate on at the moment are the Divine Grace that Pauls Speaks of, and secondly the issue of Jew and gentile races. Looking at Paul's letters his theology and as one writer puts it, is more of an 'occasional' than 'systematic' theology and so we can only understand in part. But here in Chapter 2:1-10 is a basic overview of the theology or theological perspective which sets out in order that he can go on to speak of church issues in context. Divine Grace here being the centre point of what Paul sets out is important, and fits with Paul's famous theology of "Justification by Faith". As we mentioned in Part I Realised Eschatology is one of the point on which authorship is contested, and Paul's emphasis on this is a direct outworking of the understanding of divine Grace for believers right now. As we discussed in Part I, the letters are written to direct situation s in Church's so it is not unimaginable that Paul would put emphasis on particular areas of theology that he though the conduct of the church he was writing to needed to assimilate into their lives. Though I am in no way and expert of the Ephesian church, it could inferred that the Ephesian Church saw their salvation weighted eschatologically and were not living under Grace for now, and the fullness in which Christ had given to them. Some helpful napkin theology in relation to this is a saying of my pastor: "I have been Saved, I am Being Saved and One day I will Be Saved" A side note yet one worth mentioning is that the grace, which is membership in the kingdom of God to come, and that which is partially manifest, is through faith, this is discussed in Galatians and Romans, but faith itself is a gift, in order for it not to be works, faith comes from a knowing of the truth. Many people know the gospel, but those who KNOW it are those with faith and this extra knowing is faith given by God, so justification, righteous-ing, salvation is from God in two fold, the first that he died so that we might be saved, and that he might defeat Death and Hades, secondly that the very gift of understanding that is from God's grace and not our own intellect. A side line maybe, but a worthwhile observation at least. The second Theological issue which is a little newer to me is the unity of Jew and gentile. Paul's theological outlook is that all who are in Christ are saved. Paul himself mentions that if the law was the judge he upheld it as a jew in all the ways he was taught, but this was still not enough to save him. the only way to salvation for Paul. That is why he condemns the jewish christians for demanding that the gentile converts or greeks, become circumscised. For Paul this request shows that the jews are missing the point and he uses the Exodus story of Abraham (I think its Exodus 12 but not entirely sure) where Abraham is reckoned Righteous before God, before he was circumcised. What Paul is saying is that the nation of Israel is no longer under the old covenant, Pauls speaks later on here in Chapter 2:11 11Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)— When paul adds the (by the hands of men) he is directing us towards his opinion that circumcision in the flesh is exactly that circumcision in the flesh. Paul sees this as meaningless if we are not circumcised (set apart for God) in our hearts. Paul continues speaking that there is no favoritism between the Jewish (nation of Israel) and the gentiles, as he sees the gentile as the diasporic descendants of Abraham. In 2:15-16 he goes further: 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. Paul seems to be saying here that, what once was two (as in Jew and Gentile) is now one in Christ and so no work of the law will ever justify us, for both Jew and Gentile the requirements are the same, as they are now one. This is a one sided argument, as there are many scholars in both schools of thought but this one makes the most sense to me. Romans 10:12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, Not only here is Paul defending the right to gentiles to be considered complete members of the Christian community but he is also defending everything he is standing for. In the jews demanding that the gentiles become Jews, they are saying that Paul could find salvation in Judaism and the law, and Paul should not have converted, they are denying his calling to the gentiles to assimilate them into the body of Christ: Gal 2:8 For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. For Paul the gentiles being a full part of the church is an integral part of what it is to be the new Christian community. Finally to conclude this theology Chapters 1-3 section on Ephesians, a good way in which we can visualise the nature of the 3 races which paul is discussing is that if a circle representing the JEWS and a circle representing the GENTILES and overlapped, in the overlap is what would be called the CHURCH, this is the first theory, the theory I am proposing, to understand verse 15 chapter 2 is that there are 3 circles, JEW GENTILE and a third, the CHURCH, a remnant of the Jewish circle and the GENTILE circle make up the CHURCH, but in this, they leave there circles entirely and adopt a new identity as the bride of Christ, the CHURCH. Again Questions, Comments and corrections welcome...

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