Today’s reading: Ephesians 1
Today we begin the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians. Some key background information about his book is that it was probably written between A.D. 60 to 62 while Paul was under house arrest in Rome. Paul had spent many of the early years of his ministry in and around Ephesus and by all accounts, the Church had grown steadily. Unlike most of Paul’s other letters, there was no great controversy in Ephesus which necessitated the writing of the letter. Thus, the letter is a more thoughtful and detailed work than some of Paul’s other writings. It seems to represent an advanced lesson for his oldest converts to help the Church there to continue to strengthen and grow.
There are two highlights from Chapter 1 that I would like to point out. First, Paul again addresses predestination:
… even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
First, Paul begins immediately by pointing out that God has chosen us from before the foundation of the world to be Holy, clearly we are predestined. But look at HOW and WHY God did this. Paul says, “He predestined us in love.” Is it surprising to anyone that God’s will for us is based on his love for us? I should think not, of course, we are chosen to be with God in heaven because of God’s love for us. But think carefully, if you love someone, can you force them to be with you? Of course not. Therefore, God will not force you to be with him. God’s predestination of us is based on his omniscient knowledge of our free will decisions, not on his omnipotent power to overwhelm our choice. God loves us – and because he loves us he will not force us to be with him – but at the same time, he foreknows whether or not we will choose to be with him. This also undermines the idea that some people are created and predestined for hell. Since we are predestined out of love we can only be predestined for the good. This again supports that idea that those who go to hell are choosing it through God’s allowance of free will.
Second, notice what Paul says about the Church
… which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
So Christ is the head of the church which is his body … fair enough, that seems logical. Notice, the body is “the fullness of him…” What is “fullness”? Fullness implies completeness, nothing more can be added, nothing more can be fit in, etc. So the Church, the one that existed at the time of this writing in A.D. 60, is the fullness of Christ. In other words, it lacked nothing and nothing could be added to it. What then is a Church that starts after this writing? A church started later, any Church other than Paul’s Church, is not the fullness, by definition, it lacks something.
Consider also that the verse says that God raised Jesus to the highest place in heaven and “he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things FOR the church.” So the purpose of (or part of the purpose of) God’s raising Jesus to Glory in heaven is to establish the Church. Jesus is given the glory of heaven (in part) to convey it to the Church. As the Church is the body of Christ, it takes on his characteristics. Therefore the Church also occupies the highest place in heaven.
Tomorrow: Ephesians 2