Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thoughts from Ephesians 3:1-13

A sampling of some thoughts written down for a session of our Young Marrieds group we happened to lead at the end of June:

*In bringing the Gentiles into the Church through Christ, there were obvious differences in how people lived and followed Christ. These differences could at times cause problems. So far, Paul has told us that the use of the Law to divide God’s people has been abolished (2:14-16) and now Gentiles have been accepted into the promises and privileges of Israel as equals. It’s not that Gentiles have replaced Israel or that all Israel has been rejected (see also Romans 9-11) but Jews as Jews and Gentiles as Gentiles are accepted in Christ as parts of the one people of God made up of many peoples (see Isaiah 19:23-25) on the basis of grace through faith (2:4-9). In history, however, as Gentiles became the majority, this was forgotten and Jews were expected to become Gentiles and leave their Jewishness behind them – theologians even thought that performing the Jewish aspects of the Law would condemn you to hell! The church, historically, then, has not dealt well with differences.

*In the 2nd century, Marcion saw a sharp dichotomy between an Old Testament creator god, Yahweh, who was full of wrath, judgment, and law and a New Testament rescuing god, the Father, who was full of love, mercy, and grace. The Old Testament was to be rejected as a product of the inferior god of the Jews who Jesus came to rescue us from. Despite being condemned, these views continue to be circulated in the church – people see the Law as bad, a way of getting salvation by works in contrast to the New Testament way of grace, the Old Testament religion as legalistic and primitive and to be replaced by good, rational, Gentile Christianity.

*Verses 10-11: God’s eternal purpose is to save a remnant through faith of all humankind, Jew and Gentile united together. This uniting and undoing of the division of sin and evil in the church will display to the “powers and principalities” that Jesus is now Lord, not them – their time is up and God’s bringing all things together (1:10) has begun in Christ in, through, and for the church.

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