Sunday, October 24, 2010
Ephesians supplemental: Understanding “In Christ”
The first thing one must comprehend in reading Ephesians is to understand what the phrase “in Christ” means. This phrase comes in a few different variants such as, “in Him”. “in Christ appears six times with variants “in Him” used four times. As you can see just in the 23 verses in the first chapter this phrase is used so often it must contain some significance.
To begin to understand the significance we must go to Genesis chapter seven and the creation of Adam. We see Adam is created/formed from the dust of the earth and that being the finiteness of creation itself as there is nothing as fleeting as dust. Dust can be moved by the wind yet in itself cannot even hold a seed to grow anything properly. Then, God breathes His Life giving Breath (which can be translated also as Spirit) into Adam. Note it never states an animal is “breathed into” though they contain the life giving breath, but Adam is more than a mere creature creation. It appears significance is placed on the idea that Adam was not only breathed into the Spirit of Life, but also that Adam became a living “being”.
We humans have a sense of being that may not be experience n the animal kingdom. We have a clear sense of self beyond the physical needs. We have a keen sense to ask questions beyond survival questions. We ask higher questions such as our purpose, - a monkey knows his purpose! Eat, poop, procreate, fight and die. I doubt they ask, “Why me?” when they die, or that they ponder their existence as having purpose as they gasp their last breath… but humans consider their “being” as they live as well as when they die.
Now in Genesis 2:8 it states; “Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.” If one takes note they will notice that God placed Adam in the garden. The Garden is symbolic of Jesus Christ. So, we see a picture of Adam, the newly created man, placed in the Garden the idea of the New Man being placed “in Christ” at his birth.
Romans 6: 3. Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death
We see in this verse the idea that we were “baptized into Christ Jesus”. Now, we can thank good ole King James for creating a bit of confusion by imposing his phobia of bathing into our translations in English. Baptism simply means “immerse”. While I cannot find a credible source, I understand that King James had a phobia of water, so bathing was terrifying to him. So, in deference to King James the translators used the transliteration or “baptizmo” when they simply could have used “immersed”. So the phrase “baptized into Christ Jesus simply means we are immersed/placed into Christ Jesus as Adam was immersed/placed into the Garden. I have always found it strange that even today, most translators use a transliteration of a word that can be translated…, but I digress. If one simply reads this verse as “immersed into Christ Jesus” much of the confusion of ritual drops off and the meaning becomes easier to grasp. Another verse states this concept as “put on the new self” (Ephesians 4: 32) as well as being “clothed in your heavenly dwelling (2 Corinthians 5:2) or that those “who were baptized (immersed) into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3: 27).
In Christ, we have been equipped to do all God has prepared for you to do (Hebrews 13:21-22)! In fact, 2 Peter 1: 3 states, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” The point being, that everything we need is in the Person of Jesus Christ. We come to Jesus with nothing, and God gives us everything “in Christ” and we gain all! Jesus becomes our very all. Jesus becomes our very life, for He is Life eternal. Jesus becomes our dwelling place in which we live out this life eternal. One way to understand this idea is we have died to this world’s reality at the Cross and are born into the New Reality at the Resurrection. While we maintain a citizenship in this world we are no longer of it, but born of the heavenlies. Still another way to express this idea is the idea of the Kingdom. We die to our own kingdom and now live in God’s Kingdom that is eternal. To be “in Christ” means we live in the total dependency and trust in all Jesus has done and is now doing. As Major Ian Thomas often stated, “He who gave His Life for you, gave His Life to you to Live His Life Through you.” If one begins to understand this concept, one realizes it is all Jesus and none of me. One should soon realize that there is no hierarchical idea here... it is very much relational and this relationship is very much one sided.
Reference: All translations are NIV
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
1. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5. he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-- 6. to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8. that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (NIV)
Ephesians 1: Grace and Peace and being ‘in Him”
One must never underestimate the wisdom of Paul as he opens with what seems to be a rather plain opening. Most might read over or even skip the greetings as it seems nothing is really being taught. However, Paul first establishes that he is indeed more than some self appointed teacher. In fact the first thing Paul establishes is not only is he “an apostle of Jesus Christ” but also “by the will of God” to show that this letter is not written by Paul’s authority, but by the will of God through the authority of Jesus Christ. One should note that a seemingly simple opening statement sets this letter apart in authority than the letters of Ignatius or Polycarp. Paul then continues with whom he is addressing and that being the “the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.” I want to draw your attention the simple but profound phrase, “in Christ Jesus.” This phrase will appear over and over in this letter in different forms mostly being “in Christ”. In my opinion, this is the main thought Paul is addressing as he unfolds many attributes of what being “in Christ” is about. While many focus on some sort of pre-existing plan of God where God chooses some for salvation and other for damnation, I see that instead, the plan was Jesus Christ Himself and all creation to be “in Christ” and returned to its original glory, yet not just that, beyond that Glory, and into an all new glory. We will continue with this thought a bit more as we address other versus to come.
“Grace and peace” states Paul, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” sounds again like a mere and rather inornate greeting, yet here Paul address again that this letter is not coming from just his own self interest, but “from God our Father and Jesus Christ.” Not only is this no mere greeting but Paul states that Jesus “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessings in Christ.” Again, notice that phrase “in Christ”.
Here we come on the idea predestination. While many seem to focus on the idea that “we were chosen” I have seen over the years a lack of the understanding or insight on the phrase “in Him” which is another restatement of “in Christ”. We see in verse 4, that the Father has chosen us “in Him” (Jesus) before creation. I hold out the idea that it was not at that time God chose Tommy to inherit the Kingdom and Bill to burn in hell, rather that the eternal plan of salvation was set in plan before creation. In a sense God knew that humanity might fall and choose his own path apart from God, yet also set in motion the plan to teach and redeem humanity “in Christ.” Meaning; Jesus Christ was THE PLAN before creation for the redemption of creation. Part of this reasoning is based on the idea that we are not mentioned as “sons”; meaning the Elect being already saved before creation because they were already chosen, rather that we were planned to be “adopted as sons”. If we were created to be saved, then there would be no need for adoption. We would only retain what was there all along. However, our own sonship was lost in the Garden and in our own desire to be like God and decide what is good and what is evil without God. Again, to assume one was already saved before creation as some present assumes that one was not truly lost or in need of salvation. The assumption that we were sons apart fro adoption also usurps the singular and important position of Jesus being the Only Begotten Son. My point to be clear is that no one is saved before creation; only the potential for salvation was set in the Person of Jesus before creation. That “in Christ” we are predestined, yet if we are not “in Christ” we will not fulfill our predestination of salvation. For a person to claim they were saved before creation in my opinion seems presumptuous and rather overlooking the importance of being in “the Only Begotten Son”. To begin to grasp “in Christ” helps one regain the perspective that apart from Jesus there is no salvation and that only “in Christ” we have salvation.
Next we see “in Him we have the redemption of through His blood and forgiveness of sins. We see repeatedly Paul speaking of the “glorious grace of God” to emphasize that it is by grace we are saved, not by works, or by even some pre-existing pre-salvation. It is only by the “blood of Jesus” we are saved. This was the eternal plan that was before creation. This salvation as Paul re-emphasized, “has been freely given us in the One He loves.” To rephrase that as the grace of God has been freely given “in Christ” because God loves Jesus Christ His Son. While it is true that God loves you and me, God’s sight is on His Son more than on us. God’s sight is on us only as we are “in Christ.”
On point I would like to draw out is a phrase that if translated one way emphasizes on thing one way and another thing if translated slightly differently. The phrase in verse 7 a phrase is translated as “we have”. This translation emphasized the human side of the equation which is there, yet as I look at alternatives in how this could be translated I see a better rendering might be, “conceived”. The verse in my estimation should read; “In him was conceived redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace…” While we do have redemption, I see that this better brings out the eternal plan as being in Jesus Christ before creation and not about what “we have”. The idea of salvation was “in Christ”. The idea of salvation was conceived “in Christ” and out of that we received salvation by His Blood which brought forgiveness of sins which opens the door to eternal Life by the power of the Resurrected life of Jesus Christ. The idea being brought forth is that salvation and redemption were present as ideas in the Person of Jesus Christ even before the creation of all things.
To be continued:
Introduction to Ephesians:
I have been sorting through ideas for new blog posts and have come to realize that maybe I should start a new installment on a book of the bible. Ephesians has been calling out to me for some time though as I read chapter one and two I find myself overwhelmed with the thoughts. Ephesians is a book that reminds me of wading through a NT Wright book. NT Wright can write one sentence with more content than most writers can introduce in a whole book! In a real way I look at what Paul has done with Ephesians as something that might take more time to unpack than Romans and Galatians combined. For me though, Ephesians is a book that contains more powerful truth than some of Paul’s other letters. That is not to say the truth contained in Paul’s other letters are lesser in truth, only that what Paul is teaching in Ephesians seems to reach deeper in to revelation and relational teaching that most realize. In some ways other writings of Paul are more practical while Ephesians seems to reach into Heaven and bring down bits and pieces of truth that may find some readers to feel the ideas are rather intangible if not out of reach of mere mortals. I hope to bring out points that I have been blessed with understanding and as we (the read and myself) humble push forward, that God may bless us both with something new to us, yet ancient in truth.
Ephesus was a city of commerce and a major port in the Mediterranean for trade in the ancient world. Ephesus is located in what we now call Turkey. There is much history in Ephesus from St. Luke’s grave where companion of Paul and writer of the Gospel of Luke was martyred and burred, to temple to the goddess Artemis (who in Greek mythology was the twin sister of Apollo as well as the daughter of Zeus and Leto). Not to mention this was the place Domitian built a temple to honor himself and accept worship as Caesar. Domitian may be the very person in which much of what the Apostle John wrote about as John spent time in Ephesus and was also exiled from Ephesus the Island of Patmos that is only a little over 60 miles away. If one reads the Book of Revelation, they might see that as John unfolds his vision, John describes such places as the Prytaneion as the place of the 24 elders in which the regional administrators would sit before Domitian. John replaces the earthly lord Domitian with the Heavenly Lord of All in the very seat. Again, if one reads the book of Revelation many scenes in Ephesus such as the decree to take the mark 666 in order to buy or sell in Ephesus may sound familiar. It may be a key to understanding the Book of Revelation as Ephesus is the very first church mentioned in the Book of the Revelation and called out on Ephesus is also the place where John returned after his exile and wrote the Gospel of John. John’s grave is also in Ephesus and in the Middle Ages considered to be a holy structure.
The Apostle Paul, who also lived in Ephesus for a time wrote about Ephesus, as we will read later, Paul calls out by name the silversmith Demetrius as there was the fear of loss of income by those who made idols as people turned from paganism to Christianity. Another point of interest as the popular cult of Diana seems to have been replaced by the cult of the Virgin Mary.
The Letter of Paul called the book of Ephesians is considered one of the “prison” letters as Paul was written during his imprisonment. If there be one theme to consider, Charles Rye sums it up as we go through Ephesians, is “God’s eternal purpose to establish and complete His Body the church of Christ.” (Ryrie NIV study Bible) Jon Stott in his book on Ephesians states the basic theme this way. “We are the family of God the Father, the body of Jesus Christ his Son and the temple or dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.” (Stott p. 25) Stott also puts forth the main message is “adumbrated in the apostle’s opening salutation: Greece to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. While this may seem like a common greeting, and as Stott points out even a “Christianized” version of the Greek and Hebrew written greetings, there is nothing common about this introduction… for the key word of Ephesians are “Grace” and “Peace” which are found in not only in the concept of being “in Christ” but in the very Person and message of Jesus that was set forth even before creation.
1. Ring, T., Salkin, R., & La Boda, S. (1996). International Dictionary of Historic Places: Southern Europe. Available from http://books.google.com/books?id=74JI2UlcU8AC&pg=PA217&lpg=PA217&dq=prytaneion+and+revelation&source=bl&ots=jtvPbCr2LK&sig=CLk1DEfhAS2LUflLoxooNHKjvOE&hl=en&ei=6qa-TNvWCYSnnAfi4vGJDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=prytaneion%20and%20revelation&f=false.
2. R. W. Stott, J., The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Ephesians (Inter Varsity Press, Leicester, England. Downers Grove, Illinois, U.S.A. 1979)
Thursday, October 14, 2010
So once again I am taking a few days/weeks between blog posts. I could say I don’t have much to say, however I seem to have tons on my mind. The issue is that I am having problems organizing thoughts to better able write them. Why? Not sure. Could be new job with upside down hours—yet that was happening before then. I am done with school for now, though I want to keep going. I am not sure about the hours of work and being able to adequately do quality work that school demands. So, I am working, sleeping, and trying to regain health, which btw seems to be coming back well, though I still do not have the stamina I hoped to by now. I have lost about 60+ lbs since my gastric bypass surgery so in that way I am very happy. Clothes that were tights now hang loosely on me. I tried on one shirt that actually was tight that now hangs down on the shoulders!
I finally finished The Shack… I know been a while since it was published. Personally I don’t see the big issue about it… unless one is so boxed into their theology they cannot understand a work of fiction! And I suppose that is what many have going on with them. I found it enchanting and a reflection of my own journey and conversations with God… I can understand those who use their theology to keep God at arms length would have much trouble sorting though the book, however I found many who have found rest and peace in the Grace of God embrace the book and understand what it is about. OK… I admit that this sounds a bit harsh… but sometimes I just want to toss out the truth for people as I see it.
Sometime I suppose I will write a review on it, but there are many out there… and the negative ones, really… don’t bother…. They are simply unable to release God to be God and seek to use their theology to put people who the book is freeing in bondage to religion. As I realized on my new job when a person called and asked me to fix his account and while I was doing so go angry with me and cursed me and then hung up… you can only help people as much as they let you… you or I cannot control anyone else. In fact if you do, then you are being God in their life and usurping God from doing His job… in fact you are trying to create that other person in YOUR image instead of letting the Holy Spirit transform them into the Image of Jesus… think about that for a while… if you disagree, the really, may God help you realize what you are doing.
For me, relationship is what faith in Christ is all about. If a relationship is based on anything but love, then there is no REAL relationship. If someone is bound to another by Law or doctrines or religion and it is all about rules, the it is not about relationship with the Creator, but about relationship with the Law, religion and rules. (Go back and read that a couple of times before you post a comment in anger.)
Meanwhile I am now reading The Saving Life of Christ by Major Ian Thomas… strangely while I have listened to hours of the Major’s preaching, I have yet to finish one of his books. It is not that he is a bad writer, but that it seems whenever I do try to read one, another book is sent for me to read and write a review on. Saying that, expect a review on Jonathan Brinks’ new book (you can listen to the podcast here) Discovering the God Imagination.
If you want some great new music... try out Robert Plant's Band of Joy album... some great surprises on that release... in fact been listening to it as I wrote this... it may become habit forming.
If you want some great new music... try out Robert Plant's Band of Joy album... some great surprises on that release... in fact been listening to it as I wrote this... it may become habit forming.
Well, as you can see this is sort of a rambling post… maybe after this one, I can get more focused…
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Book Publishers as part of a Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”