(Due to the busyness of last week I have several posts I hand intended to write, but just never got to them… here is number three)
Chapter three of Ephesians serves as a prolonged capstone to the ideas presented in the first two chapters. Paul starts by turning to prayer, but then is sidetracked into a discussion of why he is a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles, and then finally returns to his prayer for his readers. Here are my reflections:
- Distractions can be from God. When I was first trying to understand the structure of this section I kept getting annoyed at the seeming disconnect between verses 1 and 2. Finally, with some help of smarter people (scholars), I recognized that Paul was beginning in prayer, but had a thought… and he chose to follow that thought (for 12 verses). Paul recognized that as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, this may cause some disconcertment to his readers and they needed to know more about his story.
- Our own story of change can present the Gospel and God’s mighty hand. Paul makes sure his readers know that his change was not one of his own cleverness, but the God who had grace on him and poured out revelation. Paul saw himself as the “least(er) of God’s people” and so was able to point to God’s mighty power in whatever was accomplished through Paul.
- The mystery was in the mechanism. The great mystery of Christ was not that Gentiles (foreigners, non-Jews) were brought into the people of God, but how it was done… through the death of Jesus Christ and the proclamation of His Gospel message. These mechanisms of the mystery then allowed not just conversion to the old system, but being made into a new people with equal standing. Through the Gospel, in Christ Jesus.
- The purpose of the Church – make God’s manifold wisdom known. Yes, Jesus died so that God could be reconciled to man, and so that he could dwell with a holy people, but this is only the penultimate goal… the ultimate goal: God’s glory. That by taking a rebellious and divided people and bringing them together (church) and to himself, God can show off to the world and to the heavenly beings his incredible multifaceted wisdom. Declaring that His ways are the better ways. Even in suffering, loss, poverty, and abuse, God’s people will continue to praise God, prove Satan wrong, and actually be happier in their sufferings than Satan’s people are in their maximizing of possessions and pleasures… this is the manifold wisdom of God displayed.
- We need to know and proclaim the wonder of the Church. Paul never got over the wonder of the great doctrine of the church, nor that he had been commissioned to make it known to the world. We are notn apostles, as Paul was. We have not received fresh revelation. But the revelation is ours no less than it was his, and our responsibility to know it and proclaim it is the same as Paul’s.
- We need to be the wonder of the Church. God saw it fit in his plan to take a divided people and unite them together to display his glory and wisdom… we should therefore desire greatly to be those people… united; declaring to the world that we are his disciples by loving one another.
- Prayer is worth getting back to. As I mentioned before, Paul takes a diverting thought for a few blocks, but here he returns to the very prayer he had already intended. Paul, a man who knew that God was sovereign and working out His divine plan was compelled to be part of it through praying for his fellow believers.
- We need God’s power. Having done all that Paul can to help his readers understand who they are in Christ, Paul does not simply jump to telling them to just live it out on their own strength. He knows that left on their own they will be discouraged and defeated. Instead, he prays for the Spirit to empower them.
- We need Christ’s presence. This is the verse from which I took my blog’s name. Paul is praying for Christians, so it is not for non-believers to initially come to Christ, but for Christians to submit themselves to the continual rule of Christ in their heart. Christ’s presence, His dwelling is a ruling presence/dwelling. This blog too is for believers: to encourage you to be filled with Christ, His Word, His Spirit, His rule…
- We need to grasp Christ’s love. It is vast! It is knowable and yet it also surpasses knowledge. It is most clearly seen in Jesus on the cross.
- We need to mature into who God has us to be. A wonderful result of being empowered by the Spirit, indwelt by Christ, and understanding His great love… we change, we grow, we mature.
- To the glory of God, who does more. More than we can have asked for or imagined.
- This can be a disappointing prayer. It may not be the prayer we would have prayed for ourselves (Lord, give me this or change this or fix this), but it is the prayer we need. God is a good Dad and cares about our hurts and wants and needs, but He also is a Dad that is working out something even greater in us: that despite pain, or hard times, we as His children can praise Him, can bless others, can reveal His great wisdom and glory into this world… by His power, His presence, His love, and His fulness revealed in us.