Monday, November 24, 2008

Ephesians 3

In lieu of missing class, here is a translation of Ephesians 3 with some reflections and questions that enter my mind as I work through it. Full quiz credit for 1) a 100 word response to the overall piece and 2) 2 further comments in relation to the flow of discussion that ensues. All outsiders are welcome to participate as well (if you're nice :-). And of course
© Kenneth Schenck, 2008
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3:1-2 For this reason, I Paul, the prisoner of the Christ on behalf of you Gentiles -- if indeed you have heard of the responsibility of the grace of God given to me toward you...
This verse effectively eliminates Ephesus as the only destination of this letter. You'll remember that the words "at Ephesus" are missing from the earliest manuscripts of Ephesians in 1:1. But this comment in 3:1 effectively eliminates Ephesus at least as the sole destination, at least within Paul's lifetime. Paul spent nearly three years there according to Acts. If it were written to Ephesus, there would be no question whether they had heard of Paul's ministry to the Gentiles.

So we should understand Ephesians as something other than a situational letter to the believers at Ephesus. The most likely options are 1) Ephesians is a circular letter, perhaps to churches in Asia, of which Ephesus is one, 2) Ephesians was written to some other location like Laodicea, now lost to history (cf. Col. 4:16), or 3) Ephesians is a pseudonymous letter, perhaps written in Asia Minor or Ephesus, and the "if indeed you have heard" is a "knowing comment"--the audience knows that Paul has been dead for some time and that this letter is meant to convey his basic thought on the unity of the church to them. No deception is involved.

3:3-4 ... according to revelation the mystery was made known to me, just as I wrote briefly to you before, with regard to which, if you read, you are able to know my understanding in the mystery of the Christ...
This comment is difficult if in fact we take Ephesians as a literal letter. To what previous letter would Paul refer? The mystery to which he refers is the inclusion of the Gentiles. Certainly Romans and Galatians have to do with the mystery of the inclusion. Colossians especially uses this language (cf. Col. 1:26). But is it likely that we are reading 2 Colossians here--especially if Colossae was destroyed ca. 61AD. And should we really think of Ephesians as 2 Romans or 2 Galatians? It is possible that Ephesians was written to the general area where Colossae was.

Our commentary, by Klyne Snodgrass, recognizes the difficulty and concludes that Paul is probably referring to an earlier part of this letter, Ephesians, probably 2:1-22 or possibly 1:9-10 (160). He admits that this makes 3:4 "unusual." If we must take Ephesians as a literal letter, then this is the option we must take.

Another option of course is that this comment refers to some of Paul's earlier writings in general and that the "you" here is not a specific audience but a "Scriptural you," by which I mean a you that treats Paul's earlier letters not as situational letters where the "you" are Thessalonians or Romans or Colossians but timeless "you's." Of course they are not really timeless "yous." They become "you's" as in the original audience of Ephesians reading the "you's" of Paul's earlier letters.

This is not exactly Goodspeed's hypothesis, that Ephesians was written as a cover letter to a collection of Paul's writings. That suggestion is way too speculative to prove. However, on this hypothesis, someone would be writing a kind of "Paul in a nutshell" epistle passing on selected aspects of Paul's legacy to a new generation, probably in Asia Minor. The previous writings would thus include letters like Colossians, but the specific "you" of the original letters now is expanded to include the later readers.

If we adopt the "Scriptural you" perspective on the text, we think of Romans, Galatians, and Colossians as Paul writing to us about the mystery of the fact that Gentiles are now included in the people of God.

3:5 ... [mystery] which in different generations was not made known to the sons of mortals as it was now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit,
As in 2:20, this reference to the apostles and prophets is curious for Paul to make. In 2:20, he says that the household of God is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the chief cornerstone. It is not curious to us--nor would it have been to late first century Christians--to think of the church as built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.

But it is more difficult, given Paul's earlier writings, to think of him saying that the household of God is built on the apostles, given that he hardly takes such a universal perspective on the household of God in his earlier writings nor does he "reach out" in this way to other apostles. If we take Paul himself as the author, surely apostles here refers not to the 12 apostles, but to all those like him who are engaged in apostolic work (cf. 1 Cor. 15).

Prophets must certainly refer to Christian prophets, not to the prophets of the Old Testament. The "now" in this verse makes that clear. Snodgrass agrees (161). Thus also the foundation of the household of God in 2:20 surely also speaks of NT prophets, as Snodgrass agrees (137).

If Ephesians is a later epistle, the comment would be less problematic. Looking back from the standpoint of the late first century, Paul's heir looks back and sees another layer beyond the foundation of Jesus Christ in 1 Cor. 3:11. Now there is the foundation of the apostles and prophets, the "deposit" (1 Tim. 6:20), all the more important because they are no longer here to bring the gospel directly.

For Christians today, the New Testament is the embodiment of the revelation by the Spirit to the apostles and prophets.

3:6-7 ... [it was revealed] that the Gentiles are heirs together and of the same body and fellow partakers of the gospel in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me according to the working of His power.
This is the content of the mystery, the inclusion of the Gentiles within the people of God. Paul saw himself as the apostle to the Gentiles, not to the Jews. Notice the grace language, which implies the gifting of a patron. Such gifts were undeserved but often included expectations in return, as in this case. Perhaps the focus in this case is more on the empowerment to do something for God than on the undeserved nature of the gifting.

Note that Paul/Paul heir calls himself a minister, a diakonos. Apparently this term did not yet refer to a fixed role of ministry.

3:8-9 To me, the least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach the good news to the Gentiles, the incomprehensible riches of the Christ and to shed light on what the administration is of the mystery that has been hidden from the ages in the God who created all things.
The idea that Paul is the least of the saints is new. He was the last to become an apostle in 1 Corinthians 15:8 as one born at the wrong time. But now he is the least of the saints, and he will become the greatest sinner in 1 Timothy 1:15. Paul certainly could have said such things. I might mention that anyone who has sat through a time of testimony in a church knows that telling what an aweful sinner you used to be can be a badge of honor.

The gospel is for Gentiles too for, after all, God created all things, not just the Jews. The word "administration" is difficult. I translated it as "responsibility" above in 3:1. Perhaps that was a mistake. Does it simply mean "how it works."

3:10-11 ... in order that the wisdom of God might be made known now to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenlies through the church, according to the purpose of the ages, which [God] enacted in Christ Jesus our Lord,
Note that God the Father was the creator in the previous verse and here it is also He that has done the planning about Christ. Ephesians makes no comment on Christ's pre-existence. This plan was of course from before the foundation of the world (e.g., 1:4). Interestingly, it is apparently through the church, perhaps through the apostles and prophets, that the spiritual rulers and authorities are learning about the wisdom of God, done through Jesus.

3:12 ... in whom we have boldness and entrance with confidence through his faithfulness. Therefore, I ask [you] not to be discouraged by my troubles for you, which is glory for you.
Especially if we think of Paul as the literal author but even if it is a Pauline secretary or heir, this verse strongly reinforces the understanding of the phrase "faith of Jesus" in Romans 3:22 and Galatians 2:16 as a reference to Jesus' faithfulness, meaning his faithful death.

The mention of the audience not being discouraged by Paul's troubles will convince most that Paul is the literal author of Ephesians. It is not impossible to account for on the interpretation that Ephesians is a presentation of Paul to a later audience. For one thing, the notion that Paul is suffering for the audience is probably built off of Colossians 1:24. As we've seen, scattered material of Ephesians parallels scattered material in Colossians in much the same order, including the 32 word for word identical stretch in Ephesians 6.

Remember that Snodgrass thinks Ephesians was produced not long after Colossians as a more general letter encouraging, uniting and informing all the believers in the same general area (23). It's a wonder he doesn't mention this when he is dealing with 3:3, because then Colossians could be the earlier letter to which Paul refers.

In any case, the idea of suffering on your behalf could presumably apply to a later audience just as to a contemporary one. In the US we easily could think of the "greatest generation" suffering for us during WW2, as with any other war.

3:14-16 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in the heavens and on the earth is named, in order that He might give to you according to the wealth of His glory to become strong in power through His Spirit in the inner person...
The picture here seems to be one of inheritance. First, God created everything so every being in the heavens or on the earth is His child, has His name. As His child, He wants to give as an inheritance the wealth of His glory. He wants everyone to become strong in power.

3:17-19 ... so that the Christ dwells in your hearts through faith, having been rooted and founded in love, in order that you might be strengthened to take hold with all the holy ones what is the width and length and heighth and depth, and to know the surpassing love of the knowledge of the Christ, in order that you might be filled to all the fulness of God...
Yum, yum. Somehow it seems the wrong tact to try to explain what these verses mean, as if their main point is cognitive or logical. This is good stuff that feels good!

3:20-21 ... and to the One who is able to do extra above all things about which we are asking or thinking, according to the power that is working in us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all the generations of the age of the ages! Amen.
That there's a doxology. The same highly exalted language used of the benefit to the church is now given to God. Once again, Ephesians is highly God centered rather than Christ centered. We glorify God in the church and in Christ Jesus.

OK, if you are in my Prison Epistles class, make one 100 word comment and then respond to at least two other comments in a substantial way.

89 comments:

Anonymous said...

I really love this passage of scripture and the book of Ephesians as a whole because it is so contrary to what we often view the church as. Paul has such an emphasis on unity as well as being "in Christ". I wonder what the implications would be in today’s church stopped bickering and found our common ground in Christ. What type of unity would we have? What new understanding of the kingdom of heaven would we have if we found the unifying factor of our faith in our Savior? Now there is a novel idea. Although, when I was reading your first comment on the first few verses in this section I was wondering what the interpretive difference would be if we said that this book was not necessarily written to Ephesians. Are there any major context-sensitive interpretations that we would have to look at, or this really just a "Bible-head" issue?

Ken Schenck said...

Great question. I would say that the impact of the question of author and destination will depend on how contextually a person uses the Scripture. If you largely read the words as God speaking directly to us, then you're reading it most like the third option. But if a person tends to make a lot of the details, trying to get into the head of Paul and his audience when you preach, then it might have a fairly significant impact on how you preach or use the verses, how you get the congregation into the mood and story of Ephesians.

Also, I would hope a pastor is at least one of the top three most knowledgeable about the Bible in a local congregation. So if someone in your church knows its not likely at all that Ephesians was actually written specifically to Ephesus, and you don't, then it unnecessarily undermines you as a local authority on the Bible.

Anonymous said...

Becca Mathews said...

I love this passage because it finally explains what the mystery is that Paul has been talking about. Not only that, but I love the explanation. It is so refreshing to read about Paul and his passion for announcing the Gentiles as fellow citizens in Heaven.
More specifically, when reading your explanation on 3:8-9, when you say that sometimes people seem to make their past a badge of honor, it made me think back to the first chapter of Galatians when Paul walks through how terrible his past was in light of the truth. Could that be the same thing that you are talking about in these verses?

Ken Schenck said...

I didn't get the feel that Paul was making his past a badge of honor in Galatians 1 or in Philippians 3. Did you think so?, Becca?

Anonymous said...

Becca Mathews said...

Not necessarily, but after reading your comment about that I was curious as to whether or not you thought so.

Anonymous said...

This chapter Ephesians is one of my favorite. My most favorite part of the passage is the prayer at the end of the chapter. The reason being is that I personally read this passage a lot this summer as a prayer of strength for my team and myself. This chapter is very unique because in the first part of the chapter Paul tells the readers why he is doing what he is doing. Letting him know time and time again that God has given him this gift and the reason why he is using his gift. Then in verse 14 he changes thoughts and begins to pray for the readers. They way I look at this chapter is Paul says in a way “Ok. Here is why I am doing what I am doing and with the Lords strength. Enough about me... I am praying for strength for all who read this.” This is great because it builds confidence in the reader. They see in first part of chapter why Paul is doing what he is, and return have a confidence in him because he is not just “another Missionary” but he is genuine. Then he goes and prays for strength while he himself is in Chains. GREAT CHAPTER. The only question I was curious about is what they readers reaction was when Paul said that they were in the same body as the Jews. What went through their minds?

Anonymous said...

RJ,

I love the questions you asked about unity. I have no idea what that would like but it is something so exciting to see. I unfortunately believe as the time goes we begin to lose unity as a body of Christ. I know that this will be a stretch but i believe that this all began when all of the denominations began. At time i feel that we aren't one body but many different bodies with Christ as the head, hopefully.

I know that this may be confusing. Sorry

Bello

Anonymous said...

Chris,
I agree. The segmentation of the church is a real issue. So I guess the question is, how do we bridge what we see in Ephesians with the pluralistic culture and especially within Christianity with her thousands of denominations. What is the practical implications? Would you like to field that Dr. Schenck?

Ken Schenck said...

No :-)

Just kidding. I don't think the solution is one big mother denomination, like the Roman Catholic Church. I think cooperation across denominations and a recognition that while we all have different takes on various ideas and issues, we all share the "one God, one Lord, one faith, one baptism..."

What do you think...

Amber Rae said...

Well, let me first say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in Prison Epistles. Anyway, when Paul refers to the foundation that was built on apostles and prophets, my first thought personally was the Old Testament prophets, not the New Testament prophets. So my question is, in general, what made a New Testament prophet a prophet? Did they prophecy like the prophets of the Old Testament? I know Snodgrass covered some of these things, but I’m still curious about this. Then I know that Paul considered himself the least of all apostles because he was called last and he also persecuted the Church before he was a Christian. However, my question here is why he also called himself the least of the saints? Is it because of his humbleness, or did he consider himself the least of the saints because of his past?

Anonymous said...

As we all would agree, there’s things about Christianity that make it different than anything else: “a perfect law that gives freedom” (James 1), the Creator dying for His creation, or the apostles leaving the Sanhedrin, “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5), after they had just been flogged. There’s a countless list of seemingly, worldly absurdities in regards to Christianity. When I first read 3:7, being a “servant (as the NIV translates) of the gospel by the gift of God’s grace that was given to me for you,” it struck me in this way. Being a servant is a gift? Not to mention a servant by “grace”—something that frees? As Snodgrass points out, God’s Gospel is a “revelation that enlists.” Grace empowers us to serve, and compels us to do so. Throughout Scripture this theme of a chosen and joyous servitude is mentioned. Right off the bat I think of James, Peter, and Paul all starting off their letters with the self-given label as a servant, a lowly title. Do we view service with a joyful fulfillment and delight because of the gift we have received?

Anonymous said...

My favorite passages in Ephesians 3 is verses 20-21. I think that these verses are very uplifting and they provide us with a glimpse of what the heart of God truly looks like. He is able to do more than we can even imagine... We used this as our theme for one of the summers that I worked at YouthWorks and it was neat to see how these words played out in the ministry that was done in West Virginia.

Anonymous said...

A few of you have already mentioned how the prayer in this chapter is your favorite part, and I'd have to say that it's mine too.

Here's Paul explaining again just how important unity is and how he is called to make the message of Christ available to the Gentiles, and then there is this change into an attitude of prayer. He sums up the first three chapters with this eloquent little prayer which expresses his desire for them to know Christ's love...and then in the next chapter he shows how this love is core to the unity they were already seeking. Beautiful! This prayer is the ending AND the beginning, and to me that is just how it should be in all things. This is how we should treat our ministry, our dreams, and our desires. Prayer at the begin and the end...prayer to start it out, to cement it, and then to end it

Anonymous said...

Schenk-

I totally agree that we need to form cooperation across denominations, but my question is: How exactly to do we foster that kind of cooperation? What steps can be taken?

Ken Schenck said...

Katy, it seems easy enough to get going on a local level, having community wide fellowships and projects. Then if we can get denominational leaders talking to each other, working together on projects like Darfur, etc. Conferences and interchristian fellowships. It seems like it should be really easy, especially if we're all predisposed toward it rather than against it.

What ideas do you have?

Anonymous said...

To me, the proposal that Ephesians could have been written as a pseudonymous letter would take away from the authenticity of the theology. How well could someone after Paul's death truly understand his views on Christian unity and his Christology and Theology? It seems much more likely that this was a circular letter. There doesn't seem to be any issues addressed that could be specific to any one group, and the general themes Paul writes about could apply to Christians in any setting. For me, that's what makes Ephesians such a vital asset. Such truths as what we find verses 17-19 hold fast for Christians in all walks of life and through all generations.

Anonymous said...

In response to Amber's comment about the apostles and prophets, my thoughts went to the Old Testament as well. It seems that the generation Paul would have written to would have been more familar with the OT prophets as well, so that makes me curious as to how this was intended to be understood. Apostles seemed to have been a more generic identification, but his reference to prophets makes me curious as to what was meant.

Anonymous said...

Becca Mathews said...

RJ-
I can't tell you how often I've wondered the same thing. Sometimes the thought of the entire Church body working as we are supposed to is almost unfathomable. What if we reached the type of unity that Paul is describing in this chapter? We really are empowered to love the world to heaven but sometimes I don't think the way the body acts now allows us to see that possibility.

Anonymous said...

Becca Mathews said...

TJ-
After re-reading the verses that you said are your favorite, I have to agree with your description of them being uplifting. He really can do more than we can imagine or understand. I've been reading a book by Francis Chan and one of my favorite quotes goes something like: "Insn't it wonderful to worship a God that we cannot exaggerate?" This reminds me a lot of what you are talking about with those verses..

Anonymous said...

I was just reading the discourse between Katy and Professor Schenck about how we can foster unity across denominational lines. I often see disunity within denominational lines and it seems to me that the key to true unity in the universal church as a whole is selflessness. It seems that if Christians choose to "put the needs of others above their own" and truly seek the heart of God unity within the Christian church universally can be achieved. As a PK, I've seen how individual preferences can tear apart church unity and take focus away from evangelizing the world, which is what we are called to do. If we can remember what Christ has called us to and agree to disagree on those things that are secondary to our main call, then true unity can begin to occur within the universal church.

Brina said...

I enjoy how Paul stresses how he is working among the Gentile. As we talked about earlier in class this is something which he was unqualified to do, yet he would have been qualified to work among the Jews. The opposite is true of Peter. Is this to be a reminder that God often calls us to do things which we are unqualified for, which then makes us lean upon HIM and HIS understanding? This is something I know I have found evident within my own life. Also, Schenck briefly mentioned that we know people who often brag of sins in the past in comparison with our lives now. In my mind I do not see Paul doing this when he says he is the least of the sins and a sinner in Timothy, perhaps this is not what he implied either. What is the importance of Paul saying that in this context? If is not to brag or make sure that his influence will effect possibly political decisions?

Brina said...

RJ-

I agree that some in the church seem to focus on the differences which exist among the members. We often use the excuse that "people are people and we cannot have a perfect church, because its made of people." Yet, we use this excuse to keep us from trying to be unified. Perhaps if we, as the church today, would also realize the foundation of the church Paul mentions, not only with the corner stone of Christ, but also with the apostles. What implications could this have on the church? I know Vardaman would relish in us bringing more of a history and past into the church, instead of focusing on the new ways to do music or implementing technology, but knowing where we come from and who has influenced the church.

Brina said...

Angela-

I know was one of my firs thoughts as well. I believe that in our time a pseudonymous writing would not be seen of having as much value, for it wouldn't be written by the hand it should have been. This leaves us weary and questioning certain aspects of a letter. However, regardless of which option is more true (although I would agree with you that I prefer to have the circular letter) it is important to see how the church agreed with the statements found in Ephesians and how accurate they are to the general flow of Paul's thoughts and stance on issues.

Roger said...

The idea of Paul calling himself the greastest of sinners and the least of the apostles has always intrigued me. It never really made sense to me. Even before Paul was saved he was chasing what he thought was truth. You have to admire his dilegence because he was doing what he thought was right. Once he was converted he committed every part of his life to Christianity. He even had to correct Peter who was the Rock Christ would build his church on. With all these credentials why would Paul consider himself the least of apostles and greatest of siners? I think as Paul pursued his relationship with Jesus he began to realize how far he was from God. It seems that the closer you get to God the more you realize how far away you really are. Gradually throughout his life, Paul began to understand how much his sin had hurt God. Paul knew that every "minor" sin caused grief to his Savior. This type of revelation would cause Paul to pursue holiness with the passion I desire. I really like how Paul says it is only by grace that he is able to preach. If Paul had to rely on grace to preach the Gospel how much more do I need to get this revelation of grace in my life.

Amber Rae said...

Going off of what Schenck and Katy were talking about and what Angela commented on. There is, in most cases, a problem with unity within the Church. There are even unity problems within denominations as well as the local churches. I sometimes wonder what the Apostle Paul would say if he saw how many denominations there were and the unity that exists between Christians. I wonder if he would even call us Christians? That's always something that crosses my mind. I mean we treat some of our fellow Christians worse than we treat complete strangers who are Christians. No wonder the world looks at us at times like hypocrites.

Amber Rae said...

Good thought, Michelle. God does call some of us to jobs that we are unqualified for or feel unqualified for. This is especially true when we look at the ministry. There are times when I sit in my room and I wonder why God called me into ministry. I think that surely, there has to be someone better than me. Why me? But then I think about it and realize that God will use me wherever he will and will touch those whoever he wants through whatever ministry I may do and no matter what it may look like. Still doesn't make it any easier to understand why God called you to something that you don't feel qualified for or ready to do at all.

Joel Clark said...

I struggle with how the Jews viewed the book of Jonah. It seems clear that God cared for the Gentiles. The only verse in Jonah that could be confusing is where the lives of the humans are listed along with the lives of the animals. (Jonah 4:11) Why is God’s loving care a mystery? Was Jonah not a huge hint that God would in some way include the Gentiles? Didn’t the comment by Jesus in Luke 11:32 allude to God including the Gentiles? Lk 11:32 "The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here." And yet Paul says that the mystery was unknown prior to the time of his writing.

Anonymous said...

Schenck and Angela-

I totally agree with both of you. We need to be fostering unity between denominations through joining in ministry, etc; and also by creating selflessness within our churches. I guess my follow-up question in both situations would be how do we begin? How do we start these cross-denominational relationships? Is it enough to start with our individual churches? How do we encourage people to be selfless?

sorry...that's a lot of questions basically all asking the same thing

Anonymous said...

To get my little bit into this whole unity talk, I completely agree with what Angela was saying earlier. Selflessness is what fosters unity. When we put the needs of others ahead of our own concerns, and as they hopefully do likewise, trivial, divisive issues can't help but pass away and we are further able to pursue the greatest need of others we can, their salvation. The whole unity thing sure reminds me of the start of Philippians 2 and into the "hymn."

Roger said...

The idea of unity through out the church is a great goal and definitly God's will. A problem I have noticed in the church lately is pastor's compromising on the gospel. I at was a funeral a few weeks ago and listened to the pastor tell the audience that there are plenty of ways to get to heaven. The man who died was driving drunk and had traces of marijuana in his blood and the pastor said he would be in heaven because he was a good guy. I'm not the judge of whose saved but I'm not gonna tell people their going to heaven because thier good. I have heard of many examples like this around the country here lately because of these trying times. I think the true church has a better chance of being unified because true children of God will have a love for eachother. I'm not too worried about denominations, I think the true church will have a Christ like love for eachother.

Joel Clark said...

Paul states that the Holy Spirit reveals knowledge to us. It amazes me that He either places this knowledge before us, or opens our eyes to see what was there all along. Amber asked what a New Testament prophet looked like. The verse in my church bulletin today gave a good example. Luke 2:28-32 “Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”” In Ephesians 3:5 Paul lets us know that he is not the only one who has had the mystery revealed to him. Apparently Simeon knew about the promise to the Gentiles when Christ was only a week old.

Anonymous said...

First of all, let me say that I feel a little left out of this whole blog issue. I can blame no one but myself. I've been out on the town for awhile, havn't gotten a minute to sit down and read some of your esteemed insights and "quadrilateral thoughts", and no Dr. Schenck, I wasn't talking about yours, I was talking about Rogers! :) (Good, only 50 words left) Jusssst Kidding. Anyways, starting from...

v5
I agree with you Dr. on the basis that Paul would definetely not say that the "household of God" was/would be built on the apostles and prophets of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, my initial conclusion of Paul, not necessarily writing this letter, but rather "signing his name", if you will, has been affirmed within me. However, I do believe, if Paul did write it, which can be argued as well, I believe that he was saying that the prophets and apostles, not necessarily "real" apostles of Jesus Christ, but the metaphoric APOSTLES OF GOD...meaning that Paul was referring to the literal followers of God, MEANING the church. I think that MAYBE, if Paul did in fact right this, that this could be a conclusion that we could draw from this phrase of the "author." Therefore, "apostles and prophets (little less believable that he would use "prophets") would then, to the reader, equal or be in conjuction to the leaders and the body of the church. Yae?

V.6
I find it interesting, in parallel to Becca's findings that Paul, being a non-believer and radical of the church, and someone who necessarily wasn't the target ground of hearing the gospel is so determined to include the Gentiles into the heart and soul of the work of the Lord. Many time we see in testimonies that what people don't get or the life that they do get, they transfer that one thing, and make it an undeniable goal in their ministry to minister too. Ex. A person who grew up with a broken home and bad father would more likely focus their energy of their ministry on those who have grown up the same. God uses those. In Paul's case, one that knows the meaning of being transformed, also believes it can happen to others, therefore, making his audience very very widespread, including the gentiles. Could another apostle have preached like this to the "outcasted race"? (parallel with verse 8)

Good Passage, lot of feel good stuff...

Preaching Moment by Dr. Paul Nieman: "Although I am less of the least"

God can use anyone...Even you Chris Bello...even You!

Anonymous said...

And Yes, I did read the whole thing...I just felt it necessary to comment on what I did. So there...

Anonymous said...

To All...

The Prayer is great, and yes (pointed to know one, but agreeing with myself), Yes, Paul, I do see that Paul talks about himself a lot. But (to everyone, now) what example does the church get to look after? Especcially the Gentiles. If I were a church, lost, or even, on the right track...I would love to hear the personal side of the author's life. When he expresses himself, and the sould of who he, where he was, and the choice of God to pick Him, is amazing. I know that people say Paul talks about himself, but look at his life! Wouldn't you want to hear his life story, his testimony? But, yet, he only gives us bits and pieces of his own struggles, and in many cases, his successes, but why not...Paul is great..

I'm really appa"u"lled by the Paul and, also with the strength of his name! :)

Anonymous said...

Just in case you didn't get that, Chris Mikesell,...my name is Paul, is was a Paul pun...you'll get it

Anonymous said...

This whole issue about demonination and unity...pshh

Demoninations...Who likes them? Nobody, however, they are necessary to the needs and beliefs of every distinct individual, yes? But how come God gives different insight about the "one" true word, to everybody? Well for exactly that point. If there were one insight about the word of God, There would be no room for a blog, there would be no room for a study Bible, and there would be (nobody clap) no room for Sniffodgrass either. But Demoniaions, although some, a little iffy, i agree, help, actually believe it or not, BENEFIT and BUILD the unity of Christ! It doesn't tear it down. Although the world today has a bitter problem of accepting others ideas and thoughts, the idea of demoniations was to bring new ideas to the table. Now is has become a place in which walls are formed and the heart of God is being torn within churches, schools, and even families.

Anonymous said...

Let's do this again sometime...

Anonymous said...

Dr. Schenck,
Do you not think that the church could benefit from some of the better attributes of the Catholic church? I wonder if it would be possible to have a level of unity where we all identif as christians of the same church (as apposed to to Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, etc.) yet still retain enough flexibility within our belief systems that everyone is happy within their own contect.

Ken Schenck said...

Paul, I don't know what I would do if you weren't in this class :-)

Ken Schenck said...

RJ, I definitely think it would be quite nice for the various theological groups to hook up even organizationally (Wesleyan tradition, Calvinist tradition, etc...). I do personally think, though, that having some diversity helps distinctives.

Katy, it seems to me that hooking up as individual churches is a no brainer. But I have no doubt that you all are bright and willing enough to think even bigger, when the opportunity comes...

Roger said...

I heard a preacher say he believed that these denominations were supposed to build on eachother. Not neccassarily each minor 2 million denominations but the major movements. He said Wesleyanism was to build on with Calvinism and that was to blend with Pentacostalism (if these are words) and so forth. He said that now all these movements have gone to slight extremes and will no longer blend together. He said each movement has great benifits and negatives that would blend well together. I don't know what I think but just an idea.

Anonymous said...

I have always been amazed at the level of seeming arrogance of paul at times, and then the extreme humility which paul echoes in verse 8. It just amazes me that he can be what seems to be such a dichotomy, it seems that he has the best of both worlds; a large amount of confidence as well as Christlike humility. It seems that this is something we should attempt to mirror because this is something we see in Christ as well. Afterall the things which Paul Boasts in are things Christ has made him strong in. I guess the difference between Paul's Confidence and unwarranted pride is that Paul is giving the glory to God for giving him the things in which he is boasting.

Anonymous said...

Joel I agree with what you were saying about pastors compromising the Gospel. It is one thing for people in the church to believe that there is more than one way to heaven, but for pastors to preach that is a whole other issue.

Anonymous said...

To get in on the denomination deal, As a part of the Wesleyan church my whole life I have always loved the security and network of accountability which a denomination can offer. However, I feel that the reason there is so much of a negative stigma towards denominations to some people is because of the way different denominations have fought for years about doctrinal issues. While those discussions are important I feel that they have caused so many problems that people would rather not tie themselves to any denomination and would rather just be out on their own.

Anonymous said...

This chapter of Ephesians is quite an interesting chapter. I see the many similarities between this and Colossians as Dr. Schenck has pointed out, and seem to lean toward this book being a second letter to the Collosae area. Its title as 'Ephesians' seems to make sence given the lack of a Colosae in the early 60s AD.
I find Paul (the apostle) hard to follow sometimes, especially when he chases a rabbit for a couple sentances rather than just a stray thought, which seems to happen more often. This is one of those times. There are many good nuggets in here, and it all makes sense broken up into these nice little sections, but reading it all as one section: I don't understand how he got to where he ended up from where he started. He started talking about how the Jews and Gentiles are all together in Christ and that this was a great mystery that he was called to proclaim, and he ends up on a tangent featuring everything he felt like saying about Jesus at the time. Maybe I am just dull to the line of thought, but i tried to trace a line through it all and i just can't.

Anonymous said...

Assuming an authentic Pauline authorship for this text, what strikes me most is Paul's apparent humility in discussing his past legalism and current apostolic state. Paul stays consistent in boasting in Christ and His work rather than the work of his own doing. In this chapter, Paul refers to himself as “the least of all the saints” and praises God for the opportunity to serve as a minister to the gentiles. I can only pray that I have this attitude of joy in the opportunity to serve and preach the gospel. For Paul, though, there seems to be a struggle for him between establishing and somewhat proving his apostolic state and humbling himself to exalt Christ. Am I just making this up? And how can we best find this balance in our own ministries?

Anonymous said...

Joel, i have wondered the same thing sometimes (the book of jonah, the idea that this was a mystery until Paul). it seems to me that the Jews were hung up from the time of the exodus until Paul (the apostle) and even into today's time that they were the chosen race. Maybe they saw it as being the chosen recipients of God's Love, but really it was the chosen venue through which God's love was supposed to flow to all. They had so many problems throughout their whole history of judges and kings and exiles that maybe there was never a long enough time of Godly generations for them to realize it. I don't know. hindsight is 20/20 though, we can look at it now and see it and say, "how could they be so stupid", but they may have had a logical explination at that time.

Anonymous said...

In response to the continuous conversation between RJ and Dr. Schenck, you both mentioned a lot about the ecumenism of the Western Church, but there is nothing mentioned about the Eastern tradition and our establishing relationships with them. Are we to continue seeking established relationships with them as well as with the Western church? And what would that look like?

Anonymous said...

JE - (maybe i'm wrong here) but it seems that at that time, Paul (the apostle) was always speaking, doing, and writing with two different audiences in mind. He had the Jewish audience to which he may have needed to boast some and prove his apostolic status, and he had the Gentile audience to which he was ministering and thus was humbling himself to exalt Christ. For us this may mean more proving than humbling or humbling than proving, that will depend most on our settings. In the church now, i think more humbling is neccesary in most instances because the apostolic base has been built for most of us; there is nothing much for us to prove to the modern church. However here in America, you will always find those few people that will want to walk all over you at the slightest hint of humbling or weakness and at those situations we need to be able to not be afraid to pull out the apostolic base to put those people down. We can see paul as a good inspiration for this rather than seeing him as boasting in his status as Darren said he has seen him in many situations and letters, and as i have previously seen Paul.

Unknown said...

i would agree that i too like this passage as well. although i never truly questioned whether this is in response to another letter or whether paul wrote it. i would wonder what our churches would look like if we were more focused on those that the least and the lost. i know that the churches i have been to save one have looked at these people and viewed the effort as a charity case. would you say that this follows what Paul expresses when he denotes the great pleasure and privilege to speak to the Gentiles.

Unknown said...

joel-i would agree that he seems to go on forever before finally coming back to the point he wrote about, but i would say that doesn't that seem to be what we do at times when we preach. maybe not as far but when we add some illustrations would we also go down deep rabbit trails?

Anonymous said...

good point jonathan, i will try to keep my rabbit trails a little closer to the point next time i preach. ha ha.

Ken Schenck said...

JE, I wasn't at all meaning to keep the East out... :-)

Unknown said...

I agree with Angela. Ephesians seems to be a really good circular letter which may have originated in Ephesus. it appears that perhaps Paul wrote one letter which can sum up his ideas as a type of cover letter.

Anonymous said...

Its interesting how its came up that denominations can maybe further express a complex God, or actually breed more unity through division. I haven't really thought much of them in that light before. Nonetheless, we all can probablly sit here and think of a time or another where denominations have hindered the Kingdom, at least in our opinions. I'm thinking of one case in particular in my life as I write, but if its true that denominations are not necessarily a bad thing, why don't we live that out more? Why does one church view another church as competition rather than a teammate? A house divided against itself falls, and our competition is not against each other. Thankfully, Christ wins in the end. But are we trying to work together towards that end? I know I don't work to be cross-denominational, so why do I expect someone else to. In bridging the denominational gap, I believe selflessness, like in Philippians 2, is big.

Anonymous said...

Joel - thanks for your response, and you posed some really great concepts. Just for clarity though, are you suggesting that the revelation of our humility should be discerned based upon the context of our environment and the people to which we relate? Also (I really don't know this), but are there any instances you guys can think of where Jesus sets an example similar to that?

-Derek Trout- said...

I think that one of the “best” verses in this passage is often overlooked. That verse is verse 7 which says: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power.” (NIV, sorry Schenck) But, Wow. If we could all become servants of the gospel how would this “change the world”? Maybe a better question would be: How would I be changed? If there is one thing we could accomplish, or one example of Paul that we may follow, may it be that we become servants of the gospel. In Paul becoming a servant of the gospel he took the gospel to the gentiles to preach the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” How would our attitudes be changed and who would we preach to if we became true servants of the gospel…

Ken Schenck said...

Hmmm, Derek, wonder where you were when you posted this! :-)

Anonymous said...

When it says in verse 7 that Paul became a servant of the gospel I would say that it meant that God gave him an ability to effectively share the gospel as an evangelist. I think that today we have to distinct lines between being an evangelist and being a Christian. When we have an opportunity to share Christ with someone than we to have a chance to be a servant of the Gospel. I would say that many times this doesn't even have to be in a speaking role, just simply living our lives in a manner that reflects the glory of God.

Anonymous said...

I love verses 20-21 in this chapter: "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church an in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." What a promise! I think that sometimes it sounds cliche to say "God can do so much more than we ever dreamed"--it sounds generic in the church, especially when someone is dealing with something hard. But when you really stop to think about it, "immeasurably more" means just that. We can't possibly measure by any human standard the work that God does, and if we can't measure it, it's hard for us to imagine it. To me, this is a promise of how faithful God is. Then Paul tops it off with "to Him be the glory" and I'm shouting AMEN!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to think about this whole denomination thing. In some ways I agree with Paul that we don't need them. When you get down to the nitty gritty of Christianity, only two things is important: your belief in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and your personal relationship with Him. I don't understand how people can take the same passages of the Bible to mean such different things, which causes denominations to form. I guess it's just one more example of our limited human understanding. We won't know everything until God chooses to reveal it to us.

Anonymous said...

Amber: I have always wondered about the New Testament prophets. Even more so, there seems to be a huge shift in the way OT and NT writers expressed their words. I understand that the most obvious shift was the fact that Jesus came, but history tells us that He was born into a world not much different than that of the OT. What caused that shift in writing? Maybe it's simply Hebrew vs. Greek. I don't know. Dr. Schenck? Any thoughts? Am I totally off?

Anonymous said...

I have often wondered why this "mystery" that acknowledges the equality between God's chosen people, the Jews, and everyone else, the Gentiles, was not really expressed in the Old Testament except through subtle hints given at different times. Then I came to see the similarity between this “mystery” and this “love that God has for us”. Although these two concepts are both expressed in the Old Testament, neither are really understood very well. This changed when Christ came. Through his life, actions, and the things that He said while here on earth, we are given the “key” missing pieces in this faith. When we insert these ideas into the Old Testament, things that were really unclear become clear.

Travi706 said...

After reading this passage these are the verses that stuck out to me the most. I think that in past times of reading this i have overlooked them, but this time they stuck out to me.
3:8-9 To me, the least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach the good news to the Gentiles, the incomprehensible riches of the Christ and to shed light on what the administration is of the mystery that has been hidden from the ages in the God who created all things. I think that so many times we overlook the grace that God gives us or we forget that God gives the grace. We often times assume that grace is there and we take it for granted.

Travi706 said...

I like what RJ had to say about how often times we forget that God is in control and that we have commonality "in Christ". I agree with RJ in the fact that we need to get back to being on the same page with each other as the church universal, but i agree that differences are what make us unique and differnt.

Travi706 said...

I like where this conversation is heading. But i think that we need to have denominations (paul) i think that is what helps us be unique and what sets us apart. I think that we just need to make sure that we are on the same page dogmatically. Sarah i'm glad that you ended by saying its up to God and when he chooses to reveal things to us. I couldn't agree with you more.

Gwen said...

[testing, testing, 1, 2, 3]

Gwen said...

Dr. Schenck, Katy, Angela, etc.:

In response to your comments about fostering interdenominational relationships:
A church I attended promoted and publicized activities (Vacation Bible School, family fun night, etc.) of other “sister” churches in the area. Groups from one church would attend, and of course, actually interact with attendees of the other church. So there are some practical suggestions for you! :)

Gwen said...

Dr. Schenck, Joel, etc.:

Interesting connection to Jonah, Joel! How would an ancient reader interpret this potential foreshadowing of God's message being being proclaimed to the whole world (Gentiles)?

Anonymous said...

The thought of the foundation of the church being built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets intrigues me. I agree that Paul isn’t referring to the 12 apostles of Jesus. In fact, I agree wholeheartedly that he is referring to those involved in apostolic work. What serves as a road block for me is the idea that the apostles are no longer here to bring the gospel directly. Is this in reference to the early Doctors and Fathers of the church? Is the New Testament the only embodiment of the revelation of the Spirit?

I am amazed at the complete mind change and attitude change of Paul from what I know of his life as a persecutor of the Christian Church. In verses 8-9, Paul boasts about being the least of all the saints, and also of his privilege to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul regarded himself as the most Zealous, a Pharisee of Pharisees. And now he is working with people who were regarded by Jews as outside the faith? God does some pretty amazing things, that’s for sure.

Anonymous said...

One things i love so much about this passage is the prayer at the end and the doxology. As a junior in H.S. i went on a mission trip to Jamaica. My youth group went down with like 60 other kids from across the nation, but anyway the only guys to go from my youth group were me and my youth pastor. One thing that i will never forget is the one on one time that pastor Chelo spent with me. One of those things was to pray scripture. Every morning while we were doing our devotional together we would pray for each member of our team using a different prayer of scripture as a guideline. That was one of the most life changing things i have ever done. I need to actually start doing that more often, thanks Schenck for reminding me of such practices. and this is cool...

Anonymous said...

One things i love so much about this passage is the prayer at the end and the doxology. As a junior in H.S. i went on a mission trip to Jamaica. My youth group went down with like 60 other kids from across the nation, but anyway the only guys to go from my youth group were me and my youth pastor. One thing that i will never forget is the one on one time that pastor Chelo spent with me. One of those things was to pray scripture. Every morning while we were doing our devotional together we would pray for each member of our team using a different prayer of scripture as a guideline. That was one of the most life changing things i have ever done. I need to actually start doing that more often, thanks Schenck for reminding me of such practices. and this is cool...

Anonymous said...

I agree with Gwen in her response to Joel's connection with the book of Jonah. I have always had trouble with the overwhelming view of Gentioles being looked down upon. Surely, God DOES care for the Gentiles as well.

Anonymous said...

Derek i agree with you totally on the importance of becoming a servant for the gospel. If each person was willing to become a true servant and that means do whatever God wanted them to, what a world we would live in! The thing is its scary to say to God that you will do whatever he asks you to, he might send you to china... But we do all need to be servant of the Gospel, willing to risk everything for the sake of Christ. sorry i posted my first thing twice, my internet messed up.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I think praying things scripturally is extremely important. Sometimes when I sit down to pray, I can't find a way to express what is on my heart-- I find that in the Scriptures, what I need to say is already verbalized for me in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be really cool to do a study on the Holy Spirit before and after pentecost Joel. The thing is the Holy Spirit is all over the place in the Gospels, yet was received after the ascension.

Anonymous said...

I love the inheritance/heir language Paul uses. In such cultures as the one's the Gentiles lived in, people were defined by where they come from and where their families come from. This is so hard for modern Americans since we live in a culture that places so much pressure on the individual to be an individual. We make things happen for ourselves and define ourselves. The Gentiles were looked down on by Jews and so thought that they would be far from any corporate body or family that came from Judaism. This is great news for the Gentiles that they can be heirs of the best secret Judaism has ever encountered.

Anonymous said...

RJ and Chris
The segmentation of the church into denominations cannot be particularly blamed for the disunity of the church. Disunity is hard to address in general. I'd like to think that Christ as the head is the one who guides the church towards anything but disunity. I like to think of the head as the part of the body that takes completely unrelated body parts and allows them to work in cooperation to accomplish tasks. Your head orchestrates the cooperation between your hand as it grabs the doorknob and your feet as they take a step back as you pull the door open. Christ is like the conductor of and orchestra. He takes different instruments and sections and makes a beautiful composition.

Anonymous said...

Becca
Agreed. The best part of any mystery story is the revelation at the end. Luckily it's just the beginning of a completely new story for Gentiles... and us

Anonymous said...

All the questions about denominational cooperation:

You might be surprised just how well denominations already interact and cooperate. In relation to centuries past, the kind of cooperation we have now is much better than peasant revolts and religious wars. We have come a long way and have a long way to go.

Anonymous said...

Derek Trout

Nice point. To be a "doulos" of the gospel. What an honor.

Gwen said...

It is easy to take the privilege to approach God with boldness for granted. Because of Christ’s faithfulness, access to the Father with confidence is made possible. In this context it is likely that Paul (assuming Pauline authorship) was referring to the fact that Gentiles now have access to God and can approach Him boldly. The idea of approaching God with boldness was once explained to me in parallel to Ester: The king’s officials were aware that anyone who approached the king while he was in the inner court without being summoned would be killed. The only exception to this is if the king extends his scepter. When Ester approached the king and he extended his scepter, she was permitted to approach him. So perhaps this is not the original meaning of the story of Ester, but bear with me! Through Christ, we can approach God boldly and without fear of death (yet with reverent fear) in the presence of a holy God. So enjoy the privilege to approach God, you Gentiles! :)

Anonymous said...

I really liked verses 14-16 when it talks about the inheritance. I think that we get lost in that sometimes. It's because of that forget fullness that we loose track of what our goal really is. Not just the goal but the respect that we need to show God in the process. I know for me I seem to lose track of humbling myself before God and because of that I take for granted the kingdom in which he created me to be in. I don't know I guess these verses are just a good reminder of things for me.

Anonymous said...

Sarah I really liked those verses too. I think you really hit the point when you said we seem to take it for granted. I really think it's those simple things that we need to focus the most on.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. God certainly does care for the Gentiles too! I would argue even when it looks like God cares very little for people, we can find where he actually does. Like the Egyptians before the Exodus. He hardened Pharaoh's heart and took his miracles out to where common Egyptians could see and some believed.

Anonymous said...

Travis I agree with you that we take for granted or completely forget about his grace. I think it's something that is told to us so much that we forget about it. Man this book seems to be filled with things that we overlook or that we need to remember alot more then we do.

-Derek Trout- said...

I guess you could say that I was somewhere where I was inspired Dr. Schenck.

so does that mean that God will only allow certain people to be a "servant of the gospel"?

jeremypruett said...

derek,
Sounds like we're starting to get into a Calvinsitic thought?!

jeremypruett said...

Paul,
I really enjoyed your thoughts about denominations. I'm with you, I don't really enjoy the hundreds of denominations. As long as we have the love of God i hearts, what does it matter which denomination? to me, it seems that denominations sometimes are there to spoon-feed those who want relativity.