Conclusion – Ephesians

“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning” (Ecclesiastes 7.8). Paul closes this epistle with a final farewell of blessing and benediction (6.21-24). The general language and lack of personal greetings would indicate that this epistle was intended as a circular letter, the target audience being not just those in Ephesus, but Christians throughout the Cayster River valley (see Introduction).

Blessing (21-22)

Paul is sending Tychicus to these saints to bless them with encouragement.

21So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything.

So that…what I am doing:  Both concerning his physical situation (in chains in Rome) as well as his spiritual condition (personally as he preaches under house arrest and also how the church in Rome is doing). These brethren want to know & Paul wants them to know how he is. (cf. Col 4.8)

Tychicus…tell you everything: Tychicus was an Christian from Asia Minor who accompanied Paul (along with Trophimus) on his journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20.4).  He was probably a native of Ephesus or Colossae. He no doubt acted as courier of this epistle as well as Colossians & Philemon. Paul calls him a beloved brother and faithful minister (Gk diakonos) in the Lord (key phrase). This loveable and faithful brother would make known all that these Christians wanted to know about Paul.

Would Paul say about us what he says about Tychicus – that we are not only beloved brothers or sisters, but that we are faithful ministers? We need to love one another and also be loveable ourselves. Every Christian is a minister, a servant unto the Lord (not just the preacher). We need to be found faithful in our service to our God. Like Tychicus…

  1. We need to be devoted to the service of Christ
  2. We need to co-labor with our brothers in Christ
  3. We need a disposition which seeks to encourage brethren

22I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.

I have sent him…encourage your hearts: cf. Colossians 4.8. Paul purpose in sending Tychicus is the same as why he sent him to the Colossians: so that these Christians would know not just Paul’s well-being, but that of those with him (how we are) and that Tychicus might encourage or “comfort” (NASB) these brethren with how God has preserved Paul, even in chains.

Our lives are open books to one another. Paul was eager to share news of the wonder work of God in his life with these brethren knowing that this news would strengthen their hearts. Comforted, they themselves could pursue ministry bolstered in their faith.

We need more Tychicus’ today – those who heal the hearts of saints by the good word and encouragement they share. There are too many Christians who are sour faced curmudgeons, killjoys who believe their sole purpose is to point out how others are doing things “wrong,” and by wrong they mean they are not doing things the way they think it should be done. Tychicus was not a wet blanket saint, a Debbie Downer who only dragged people down. He called people up and built the brethren up. He sought opportunity to share a gracious word with God’s people. He told of the grace, love, and peace God brought to Paul and that imparted grace, love, and peace to His fellow brethren. Yes, we need more people like Tychicus in the church and fewer with Debbie Downer syndrome.

Benediction (23-24)

Paul offers a final prayer of peace, love, faith, and grace for these saints.

23Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace be to the brothers: This was the usual and common form of salutation of the time, especially among the Jews (Heb. Shalom).

Love with faith: Love is the fruit of faith, both of love to God and love toward one another. Where peace exists among brothers, love can flourish, stimulated by faith.

From God…Jesus Christ: The Father is the source of all these virtues and the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the mediator of our peace & love. Both are the objects of our faith.

As Paul has detailed (2.13-17), Christians have peace with God thanks to the blood of Christ and peace with one another due to the same means. Further, God shows us His faithful love by sending Christ into the world to die and into our lives to live. All these virtues come from God: we love because He first loved us; we know peace because He gives us peace; we have grace because He is gracious.

24Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Grace…Jesus Christ: Whereas verse 23 is a specific benediction (“to the brothers” of the local church), here it is more general aimed at all who love our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul seeks the grace which he has spoken so often of in this epistle to be with all Christ-loving Christians.

With [love] incorruptible: or “with undying love” (NET, NIV). Here is the kind of love every Christian should have toward Christ. This is a rare word used only a handful times in the New Testament and typically in association with the resurrection (Romans 2.7; 1 Corinthians 15.42; 2 timothy 1.10). Used here it speaks of the abiding, unfailing love for Christ that marks genuine Christians. It “is not a passing gleam, like the morning cloud and the early dew” (PC 261).

The riches of God’s grace is immeasurable (2.7). But if we have no love for the Lord, this grace eludes us. No wonder Paul says elsewhere “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Cor 16.22). When you are outside of the grace of God because your love for Christ has died there is only a curse! So it is no wonder Paul has prayed for these Christians to know the unknowable love of Christ (3.19); when we know His love then our love for Him can flourish and grow. There will be no decrease or decay in it.

Note: all four (4) of these virtues have been discussed throughout this epistle: Peace (1.2; 2.14, 15, 17; 4.3; 6.15), love (1.4, 15; 2.4; 3.176, 19; 4.2, 15, 16; 5.2, 25, 28, 33), faith (1.1, 15; 2.8; 3.12, 17; 4.5, 13; 6.16, 21), and grace (1.2, 6, 7; 2.5, 7, 8; 3.2, 7, 8; 4.7, 29).

Grow for War Against Darkness

Since the beginning of recorded history, only 8% of that time has been peace time. In 3,100 yrs., only 286 have been warless and 8,000 treaties have been broken. What is intriguing to me is that in nearly 2,000 yrs. of church history, there has never been a single year where there has been peace between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. There’s a war going on in the spiritual realm and every Christian is in it.

As Paul prepares to close this epistle, he makes a final grand & sweeping declaration of war (Ephesians 6.10-20). Christians are engaged in a war as old as time as the forces of light wage war against the forces of darkness. Nevertheless, God has equipped with everything we need to wage war victoriously. The Christian has been endued by God with strength and armor for battle.

Forces Against the Godly (10-12)

The war Christians wage is spiritual in nature, against the forces of darkness & evil.

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Finally: Having laid out the doctrines & duties of Christianity, Paul has one more admonition…

Be strong in the Lord: Lit. be strengthened by the Lord. Christians are empowered constantly by the Lord. The Lord does the strengthening; He makes us powerful. There is no other source which can provide the Christian with the strength he/she needs to live in this world. Cf. 3.16

In the strength of His might: This is God’s might and by faith it becomes ours. To be strengthened is our duty; to be weak is our sin. In a single verse, Paul uses three (3) different words for power. While each has a subtle distinction, the message is that God’s power enables Christians.

There’s a war going on and only the Lord can provide us with the help, the strength we need to be victorious. Depending upon our power, our own strength will have disastrous results.

11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Put on the whole armor of God: Put on as we would the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 13.14), perhaps eluding to baptism (aorist). The whole armor (Gk panoplian) will be listed in detail (v.14-17) and every piece is vital. God is the One who supplies & provides the Christian with this armor.

That you…the devil: the schemes (Gk methodeias) or “wiles” of the devil are the various tricks the our great enemy will use to deceive us unto sin. Elsewhere Paul says we know his tricks (2 Cor 2.11) and here he says we stand against or face off on the battlefield of life with him.

Put on your armor because life is a battlefield (not soft with ease; hard conflict with foes within and without); put on your whole armor, you need every piece for protection. Why? Because we have a cunning, cleaver enemy, an artful adversary who wants to mount our heads above his mantle in the high halls of hell! He will use all his stratagem and tactics, every trick in his book to get us. But clothed in the armor of God, we can stand against his attempts.

12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

For…flesh and blood: “flesh and blood” (reverse order in Gk.) is a Hebraism for men or human beings. This denotes the weakness of men and points to the strength of these real, spiritual enemies. In antiquity, wrestling was a contest in which opponents tried to throw/hurl the other to the ground and victory came when one could hold the other down by the neck.

“Wrestle” is found nowhere else in the NT. This description of the Christian is unique. These spiritual forces of darkness have not gone away. These are the minions of Satan who assail the Christian, trying to pin us down to the ground by the throat. This is life and death. They want to take you down and choke you out! Cf. Matt 13.7, 22. These are still active and are a constant threat to the believer. Neutrality is not an option for the child of God.

But…the present darkness: cf. 1.21; 3.10. While some scholars attempt to make a distinction between each of these classes, New Testament usage does not lend itself to noting significant distinctions between these forces and powers. Only cosmic powers is new here. This was a title applied to pagan gods (Patzia 286) but here seems to be a special designation for the devil & special forces of his. Their power is limited to this present darkness, i.e. this world.

Against…heavenly places: The spiritual forces of evil is a comprehensive way of speaking of the Christians foes. While there is no place in the world where their influence is not found, our battle is waged in the heavenly places where we are seated with Christ (2.6).

Full Armor of God (13-20)

The Christian has access to the panoply of God as well as the ear of the Father in prayer.

13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Therefore: Since we have so great a host of foes who seek our destruction…

Take up…of God: In v.11, it was “put on;” now it is “pick up” the armor God provides. Neglecting the armor of God will leave us vulnerable and open to attack from the evil forces.

That you…to stand firm: Our active resistance to the spiritual forces of darkness (withstand) is dependent upon our wearing God’s armor. Concerning the evil day, “any day the evil one comes upon us in force is an evil day.” Having done all means having conquered or overcome.

Most commentators say that Paul’s mind was stimulated by his daily encounters with Roman soldiers to whom he was chained. Morris is typical: “Day by day the apostle, at this time of his confinement (see on v.20), was in all probability chained to a Roman soldier. His mind must often have turned from the thought of the soldier of Rome to the soldier of Jesus Christ, and from the soldier to whom he was bound to the heavenly warrior to whom his life was linked by more real, though invisible, bonds” (178). If that is the case, Paul used a contemporary figure to illustrate transcendent truths. I wonder what this would sound like if he used a modern-day figure…

  1. Belt:
  2. Breastplate: Put on the Kevlar vest of righteousness, bulletproof against the bullets of guilt, shame, and anger that sin shoots.
  3. Feet: put on the combat boots of the gospel of peace.
  4. Shield:
  5. Helmet: Take up enhanced high-strength polyethylene combat helmet of salvation.
  6. Sword: Pick up your M16A4 rifle which is the Word of God

14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

Stand therefore: v. 11, 13 (2); four (4) times Paul exhorts Christians to stand victoriously. “Stand against” (v.11), “withstand” (v.13), “stand firm” (v.13), “stand” (v.14) are all related by the same root. Gk antihisthemi, Eng. antihistamine; a histamine is an amine (C5H9N3) which is released from mast cells as part of an allergic reaction in humans. It stimulates gastric secretion, causes dilation of capillaries, constriction of bronchial smooth muscle, and decreased blood pressure. An antihistamine blocks these reactions. Paul pictures the devil as an allergen the Christian resists, stands against when in the armor of God.

Having…belt of truth: The belt which was tied around the waist would be the 1st item a soldier would put on. So truth (i.e. sincerity, integrity) even in “the inward parts” (Psa 51.6) is essential.

Having…breastplate of righteousness: cf. Isa 59.17. The breastplate protected the heart of the warrior. So the righteousness (i.e. right standing and actions) of God protects our heart from the guilt sin brings. The Christian is to belt and clothe himself in truth & righteousness (middle voice).

What stands out in the description of the armor is the tenses – all of them are aorist tense. These are definite actions which enable our standing (also aorist tense). We belt, clothe, and shoe ourselves with truth, righteousness, and the gospel.

15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

And, as shoes for your feet: “The Roman sandal was furnished with nails that gripped the ground firmly, even when it was sloping or slippery” (PC 259). Without shoes a soldier could not gain traction for the fight and stand against his foe.

Having put on the readiness: or “preparation” (NASB, NKJV). Readiness could mean the Christian soldier is prepared to march forward with the gospel. However, the context (“stand”) indicates that what is in view is firm footing for the conflict so the Christian is unmoved by the enemy.

Given by the gospel of peace: Even in the midst of war the Christian has peace in heart & life due to the gospel.

Ready in mind and willing to share the gospel with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Perhaps Paul has Isaiah 52.7 in mind when he writes these words. The message the Christian brings into this “holy war” is one of peace with and from God. Peace for those who are far off and near (2.17).

16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;

In all…shield of faith: In all circumstances or “above all.” The shield the Romans carried was 4 ft X 2½ ft, and was designed to protect the combatant fully. Faith (in God, Christ) is that shield which round about encompasses the Christian (Psalm 5.12).

With which…the evil one: Though Satan hurl the whole hoard of hell as flaming darts (common practice of antiquity in battle), by faith we extinguish them.

The metaphor here is one where thoughts or ideas “dart” into the mind which inflame lust, pride, anger, revenge, even guilt & shame or any other evil feelings. Should a fire-tipped dart hit the Christian, the danger is the flame spreads and consumes him. Eph 4.27. The painful experience of every Christian is when these kinds of thoughts and ideas suddenly enter our mind despite our efforts to keep them. In moments like these we are no doubt thankful for the shield of faith to quench those darts. By consciously focusing on the abiding presence of Christ, by remembering His love & sacrifice, by resting upon His grace, by recalling the promises found in Scripture, we can extinguish those fiery darts.

17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

Take the helmet of salvation: Take may imply that these items are handed to the soldier after he has dressed for battle. The helmet protected the head of the Roman soldier. So salvation protects the mind of the Christian. Knowing God’s salvation is a blessing which guards the mind.

“Take” is what is called a middle voice verb which means the subject (in this case “you,” i.e. the Ephesians) is participating in the action directly or indirectly and yet the action is also upon the subject. So what that means is that the Ephesians receive or take hold what is being given to them by God. God gives the helmet/salvation and the sword/word; the Christian accepts them, receives them, takes hold of them.

The sword of the Spirit: The Roman had two different swords. The sword (Gk machairan) spoken of here was the short sword or dagger which was used in close combat. It is the same kind of sword Peter used in Gethsemane (Matthew 26.51-52). This is the only offensive weapon mentioned.

Don’t let anyone tell you the Spirit is the Word; the Spirit is God, the sword we yield is the word which is supplied by the Spirit. The Spirit inspired the Word (Bible) and when you put the sword in the Spirit’s hand (fill yourself up with God’s word and allow the indwelling Spirit to work), powerful things will happen in your life.

Which is the word of God: The word (Gk rhêma) is a single unit in a discourse (i.e. a quote) or a spoken word or saying.

Connect this spoken “word” with what Jesus does in Matthew 4: when tempted He said, “It is written…” and then shared a quote from Deuteronomy 6 or 8. They are just brief quotations but sufficient for the occasion. Here Jesus is showing us how to wield the dagger of the Spirit. See we sometimes make the mistake that what is needful is to memorize huge chunks of Scripture; what is sufficient and all that you need is a short saying. We need not think on the big scale when memorizing Scripture; if you can great! But we do need the dagger, the short saying and it is enough. Jesus shows us that.

18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Praying…in [the] Spirit: There is debate about whether prayer is the final piece of armor. Grammatically, it is not or else keep alert would have to be also. However, properly using the armor in glorious battle requires a disposition of prayer at all times. In [the] Spirit speaks to the Spirit’s role as our helper in prayer (cf. Romans 8.26).

True prayer is spiritual (see Rom 8.15, 26; Jude 20). The Spirit is in us (1 Cor 3.16; 6.19, Eph 3.16: Acts 2.38) and He helps us. “The ordinary habit of the soul should be prayerful, realizing the presence of God and looking for his grace and guidance.”

With all prayer and supplication: Paul uses two different words for prayer (Gk proseuchês & deêseos). While each has it subtle meaning, Paul intends merely to emphasize prayer.

To that end…perseverance: Keep alert is a metaphor from staying awake & not falling asleep. The idea is a Christian is to make an effort to watch for potential threats. Coupled with perseverance the idea of intense constancy comes to the forefront.

Making supplication for all the saints: i.e. for all Christians. Christians ought to be mindful of the needs of other Christians and be constant in seeking God’s grace for them.

Prayer must be unceasing (“at all times”), intense (“keep alert with all perseverance”), and universal (“all the saints”). We cannot spend our entire lives in quiet with God, but we can & should live in continual communion with God through prayer.

Pray for all Christians. We should do this: (1) because they are our brethren – though they may have a different skin, language, or name. (2) because, like us, they have hearts prone to evil, and need, with us, the grace of God. (3) because nothing tends so much to make us love others and to forget their faults, as to pray for them. (4) because the condition of the church is always such that it greatly needs the grace of God. Many Christians have backslidden; many are cold or lukewarm; many are in error; many are conformed to the world; and we should pray that they may become more holy and may devote themselves more to God. (5) because each day many a Christian is subjected to some special temptation or trial, and though he may be unknown to us, yet our prayers may benefit him. (6) because each day and each night many Christians die. We may reflect each night as we lie down to rest, that while we sleep, some Christians are kept awake by the prospect of death, and are now passing through the dark valley; and each morning we may reflect that “today” some Christian will die, and we should remember them before God. (7) because we shall soon die, and it will be a comfort to us if we can remember then that we have often prayed for dying saints, and if we may feel that they are praying for us.

19and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,

And also for me: The great apostle who was in constant prayer for the saints asks for their prays.

That words…the gospel: Of all the things Paul could request prayers for he seeks prayers for boldness in speaking the gospel to others. Paul employs a rabbinic phrase (Lit. in the opening of my mouth) to describe the gravity of his ministry. Due to his sober calling, Paul desired for God to give him words (Gk logos) in order to proclaim or “make known” (NKJV, NIV) the mystery of the gospel, i.e. Jews & Gentiles in one body reconciled to God (cf. 3.4-6).

Throughout this epistle, Paul’s emphasis on prayer has been instructive. Once again Paul realigns the prayer lives of the saints by seeking not freedom from prison or good health or safe travel or for the guards to be nice to him; he prays for boldness in speaking the gospel! When is the last time you heard someone pray that God would give us the words we need in order to speak the gospel with boldness?

20for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

For which I…in chains: It was because of his preaching “the mystery of the gospel” that Paul was not in chains, i.e. in prison (3.1; 4.1). But even in prison he was an ambassador or a representative of a dignitary or ruling authority, in this case the King of kings. Some see a play on the idea of ambassadors who, during festive occasions, wore ornamental chains as a mark of prestige.

That I may…speak: Paul’s chief concern was not that his chains be loosed but that his tongue be loosed for the sake of the gospel. He seeks to take unto himself the confidence and freedom to speak that only God can give. He knows how he ought to speak and so the double request for boldness.

Do you know how you ought to speak? Paul tells us it should be confidence. Do you speak this way with folks about the gospel? If not, have you prayed for boldness? Herein lies another key to praying in the Spirit: it involves engaging God and going beyond our immediate concerns (i.e. prison). Also, we should note the use of plural nouns and verbs. In other words, prayer must be a church-wide emphasis – we pray for one another but also we get together regularly and often to pray about BIG things like our mutual need for boldness in evangelism. Remember the other things (health, travel, etc.), but keep the main thing the main thing.

Grow in Your Walk with Christ, part 1

Ephesians can be divided into two main parts: the first three chapters explicate Christian doctrine while the latter three chapters explain Christian duty. Chapters 1-3 put forth our riches in Christ; chapter 4-6 point to our responsibilities in Christ. Beginning in chapter 4, Paul begins to unpack the normal Christian life.

A United Walk (1-6)

Christians are to walk together with Christ in unity and peace.

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

I…prisoner for the Lord: see 3.1. Literally “the prisoner,” as if there is no other. Therefore points back to all that Paul has written concerning the rich salvation provided in Christ (chs. 1-3).

I…urge you…have been called: Paul earnestly requests his brethren to soberly consider their calling from God in Christ and walk accordingly. To walk in the NT typically has reference to the whole lifestyle of the person. So a worthy walk would be one in keeping with appropriate Christian behavior. This is similar to what Paul told the Corinthians: “Consider your calling” (1 Cor 1.26). Think about the “holy calling” (2 Tim 1.9) you have received of God. Earlier in Ephesians (1.18) we get a glimpse of this calling: the confident expectation that we are the glorious inheritance of God. Since this is such a high/holy calling, live a life fitting or proper in regards to that calling. “True grace in the heart must show itself by true godliness in the life” (PC 146).

“Obedience is always a response to grace” (Snodgrass 194). God acts first; we respond. God calls us through the gospel; we align our walk accordingly. Since God has acted in history through Christ (chs.1-3), we have an obligation to live a holy lifestyle (chs.4-6). The orthodoxy (right theology) and orthopraxy (right practice) are inseparable and in fact are closely tied together throughout this epistle. The problem with some Christians is that we have a million dollar salvation and a five-cent response. They seem unimpressed with God’s salvation or bored of it or just really don’t care. If any of us has held a low view of God’s calling, repent.

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

With all humility and gentleness: Humility is thinking of self in a right or true way in relation to 1) God & 2) fellow man. Don’t think to highly or too lowly of yourself. Think rightly & live accordingly . Gentleness or “meekness” (KJV) is a gift of the Spirit (Galatians 5.23) cultivated in Christians to maintain unity. It is a disposition of submissiveness & consideration toward others.

With patience…in love: Patience has to do with endurance of injury & perseverance. “A long holding out of the mind before it gives room to action or passion” (Trench). Paul says we need this with one another,”i.e. with brothers/sisters in Christ. We are patient and bear with one another in love. We are seeking the highest purpose and greater good of one another. The highest purpose and greatest good for all of us is of course to see Christ in one another.

This verse is about our relationship to one another. Christianity is relational by nature. We are not spiritual Rambos/Chuck Norris’; we are part of the community of the redeemed which means we must interact with others. So we humility, gentleness, patience, love. We need to get rid of self-centeredness, hostility, our own agendas and hobby horses, even our own self interests if are going to properly demonstrates these Christian virtues. We should recognize that all of us at times have been a burden and a pain to others. It happens; we’re human. But we are bound to our brothers in Christ and we must determine not to let them go. “Oh, love that will not let me go…” While that is talking about God’s love, it is certainly appropriate for our love to one another.

eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Eager…the Spirit: These Christians have this unity; they got it from the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Author of this unity. Christians are continually pursuing or guarding this unity, ready and willing to exert energy and effort in order to maintain the unity of the Spirit.

In the bond of peace: Peace is wrought by Christ (2.14-17). Whatever hostility there may have been between men before Christ saved them is eliminated. Combativeness & carelessness have no place in the church. What remains is the cord of peace tied with the knot of Christ’s blood.

The proper practice of verse 2 feeds into verse 3. In their day, Jews & Gentiles together sought to maintain what God had procured in Christ: the unity of the Spirit. Today, we have an obligation to do the same. To fulfill this obligation requires the obliteration of self. “Self kills peace” (Barclay 165). When we deny self and crucify self, Christ can live in and through us. The church then can fully maintain the unity and oneness God has achieved.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—

There is one body: throughout the Ephesian epistle, Paul uses this image for the church and of which Christ is the Head (e.g. 5.23).

One Spirit: the Holy Spirit of God through whom we have access to the Father (2.18). He animates the body. Soma cannot live without pnuema.

Just as…to your call: The Christian’s hope is the glorious enjoyment awaiting us in heaven. To this we have been called (1.18, 4.1). It’s personal – you were called to this.

one Lord, one faith,one baptism,

One Lord: Jesus Christ

One faith: in Christ. Debate exists about whether this is the body of truth or one’s belief in Christ.

One [immersion]: into the possession of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28.19).

one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

One God…in all: the supreme Being of all, the Father, who is the fountain of all being. the unity of the Spirit which we the church “maintains” is centered on seven (7) ones. Paul paints, stroke by stroke, the basis of unity upon which the admonition rests. Pictured here is a God who is actively involved in His world. He is supremely sovereign over all things and yet He is “through all” providentially at work in the world. No person is beyond His reach. He is “in all” as He sustains everything. Barclay puts it succinctly: “It is the Christian belief that we live in a God-created, God-controlled, God-sustained, God-filled world” (168).

These seven (7) ones show us that Paul is not talking about unity at any cost. Unity is founded upon Christ – our faith in Him and knowledge of Him. So there are limits to unity. Should someone deny one of these seven “ones” then there is an interruption in unity. For example,

  1. Body: Should someone say “one church is as good another,” we should respond that there is but one body, the church, not a multiplicity of rival societies.
  2. Spirit: Should someone claim that the Holy Spirit is not a person but a force, like electricity, we should respond that like the Father or Son the Spirit is a person of the Godhead.
  3. Hope: Should someone say all the righteous will just end up on a renovated earth, we should reply that we will be with the Lord where He is someday.
  4. Lord: should someone “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4), then of course we should take issue as Jude did in his day.
  5. Faith: Should someone claim that all faiths are just different roads up the same mountain, we should respond by pointing out that only faith in the one Lord will suffice.
  6. Immersion: should someone deny that baptism is essential for salvation, then we should likewise take issue.
  7. God: If someone claims that there is a plurality of gods or no God at all…

Grow in the Will of God, part 2

Paul has just defined what the mystery of God is (3.6) and now turns his attention to his role in making known God’s mystery as “a minister.” He will also give special attention to the church’s cosmic role in relation to the mystery as well.

The Propagation of the Mystery (7-13)

The church is steward of the mystery and makes it known in both the physical & spiritual realms.

7Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.

Of this gospel…gift of God’s graceMinister (Gk diakonos) is the word from which we get “deacon.” It was by grace that Paul was a servant of the mystery of the gospel.

It is still by the grace of God that we 1) have our current work for the kingdom & 2) carry out our ministry to the glory of God. The task to which Paul was called “needed no mere human strength and patience and power of endurance” (Foulkes 103). So too with us we need the power and grace of God in all our labor for the kingdom. Far too often we depend upon our own strength and power. What does that look like? Well, perhaps it shows up when we are grateful we survived another year of VBS without tearing off someone’s head. Is that really what we’ve been called to in the church? To survive? Or to thrive? And to actually enjoy comradery with one another as we rally around a common cause in a spirit of love. When we depend upon our own power, we merely survive thru church functions; when we rely upon the power of God, we thrive together being built up in love.

Which was…His power: “Paul gratefully acknowledged that all the power of his ministry was God’s, not his own” (PC 105). This is true both in the equipping for and the exercise of it (Col 1.29). “By the grace of God he was called and received as a servant of the gospel, and by the power of God he did all that was effective in that service” (Foulkes 103-104).

8To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

To me…grace was given: Paul makes a similar statement about his unworthiness in 2 Corinthians 12.11. Here Paul emphasizes all the saints, i.e. he is least in the church at large. This attitude is born out of his reflection upon the marvel of God’s grace working in his life.

There are too many Christians who view themselves as the greatest gift God gave His church. Barclay puts it like this, “The tragic fact in churches is that there are so many who are more concerned with their own honour and prestige than with the honour and prestige of Jesus Christ; and who are more concerned that they should be noticed than that Christ should be seen” (147). To which I say, “Please, hear Paul on this.” He calls himself the least which is not false deprecation. I believe he meant it and truly viewed himself as least. But when you really adopt the role of a servant and the mind of Christ, naturally (or supernaturally) you become least.

To preach…riches of Christ: Grace is not merely something to be received but to be shared with others and so Paul evangelized to the Gentiles with the glorious gospel of grace. The riches of God’s grace in Christ are unsearchable or “unfathomable” (NASB). That is, they are beyond comprehension and understanding. Yet Paul sought to search out the unsearchable. Cf. Job 5.9; 9.10.

9and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,

To bring to light…the mystery: In addition to his preaching, Paul was enlightening everyone (Jew & Gentile) to the plan (Gk oikonomia, same word as v.2) of God in the mystery. So Paul’s function is to explain how God has dispersed His grace to both Jews and Gentiles through Christ.

Hidden for ages…all things: The mystery had been kept secret for ages, inaccessible because it was in God. God’s role as Creator is mentioned to not only affirm the existence of God or deny Darwinian evolution, but to indicate God’s purpose was hidden during those past times from creation until the New Testament church age and prepares us for the next verse…

Textual Note: Some mss have “through Christ Jesus” at the end of this verse, however, many of the ancient mss do not have these words, though it is a Biblical concept (see Hebrews 1.2).

10so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

So that through the church: Now Paul addresses the church’s glorious mission and role in the grand scheme of redemption. This is the purpose of the church now established through the gospel.

The manifold wisdom…made known: In the blood bought body of Christ God’s wisdom is manifested in a myriad of differing ways. God is putting His genius & intellect on display not only for men, but for…

To the rulers…in heavenly places:  Every created being is watching what God is doing in the church, being enlightened concerning His work in human redemption. While the church’s responsibility is to evangelize the world, the emphasis of this verse is on the spiritual relam. So God’s “master plan” has unfolded throughout this section: first, it was made known to Paul (v.3); then, it was revealed to the apostles and prophets (v.5); next, everyone was enlightened to the plan (v.9); finally, it was made known to the spiritual forces in the unseen heavenly realms (v.10). So Paul brings us full circle from where he started in 1.10: Christ uniting all things in heaven and on earth.

Some might ask, “Why wait?” Why did God wait until the NT times to reveal His master plan? Simply, to glorify Himself. Everything in heaven and on earth and under the earth has now focused on what God is doing through the church, uniting Jew & Gentile, all of them redeemed by the blood of Christ. But this work continues in history as God unites Sunni & Shiite Muslims, American capitalist & Chinese communist, slave & free, black & white, educated & illiterate, democrat & republican – all men into one holy body, the church. And the angels marvel. And the demons shudder. Because this God is so wise. Romans 11.33.

11This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

According to the eternal purpose: Literally, this is the “purpose of the ages.” It answers to v.9 “hidden for ages;” though hidden, God was still in history working out His purpose and putting on display his “manifold wisdom.” “Behind all the events of this world’s history there is an eternal purpose being worked out” (Foulkes 106). This is the reason some suggest we call it His-story. All of human history was driving toward the glorious entrance of Christ. Since it is the eternal purpose, it extends from eternity before time began to eternity when time is no more.

In just a few brief words, Paul puts to bed whatever notions premillenialism has concerning the church being merely an afterthought, a Plan B, a parenthesis, an audible called at the line of scrimmage. Christ’s church has always been Plan A in the “eternal purpose” of God. According to Paul in Ephesians, God planned a work and worked His plan; God purposed a purpose and accomplished that purpose in Christ and the church. See Job 42.2. Maybe Left Behind left out that verse!

He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord: Jesus is the agent by which God “accomplished” (NIV) His eternal purpose. From eternity, God purposed that human redemption would be realized in the cross of Christ (cf. Rev 13.8). If the plan is both eternal and Christocentric, then Christ Himself is from eternity. Indeed, the three-fold name speaks to His eternality: Christ indicates his preexistence, Jesus points to His incarnation, & Lord shows His exalted position in the universe. This enhances our understanding of His work.

What an awesome love God has for His people that before He created time, He loved man. Knowing full well man would rupture that perfect relationship in the beginning and turn his back on God and fall helplessly into the hands of Satan, He loved us. And He loved us so much He devised to save us through Christ. However we say it, it is the greatest love story ever told.

12in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

In Whom…with confidence: Here is a practical benefit of the eternal purpose of God: prayer. Lenski calls this the “crowning gift.” We have is indicative of the Christian’s present reality in addressing the Father. Though He is Almighty God whose purpose & plan encompasses time and eternity, heaven and earth, He is not aloof and far off, but we have His ear. Christ is our access to the Father (cf. 2.18). He is the reason we can have boldness (freedom to speak, even in intimidating circumstances) and confidence (the trust of being heard). There is no fear or shame for either Jew or Gentile to approach when they are in Christ.

Note that the word for “access” was a word used of the High Priest when we entered the Holy of Holies. So all Christians have what a scant few had under the Old Covenant: direct access to the holiest of all, even the throne room of God. This is the whole thrust of the epistle to the Hebrews, but see esp. 4.16 & 10.19.

Through our faith in Him: “Obedient trust in Christ is the condition upon which the blessings of boldness and confidence become reality” (Malone 47). In Christ “we have redemption through His blood” (1.7) and experience “the immeasurable riches of His grace” (2.7) which makes possible our access to the Father.

13So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

So I ask…for you: Implicit in this request of Paul to his readers is that they were becoming or had become discouraged because the apostle to the Gentiles was imprisoned for preaching the gospel to them (cf. 3.1). So Paul makes a heartfelt entreaty to them to realize that his suffering is to their gain. Note: Some see here a prayer of Paul to God for these brethren.

Think of all the brethren the world over who are suffering for the sake of the gospel. Imprisoned, beaten, tortured, etc. for Christ. Like Paul, they are prisoners and yet are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. What can we do? Lobby Washington to urge their release immediately? Sign petitions to be hand delivered to the respective ambassadors of the countries where these brethren are held? Pray for their release? Perhaps Paul could enlighten us: Eph 6.18-19. All Paul wanted from these brethren was that they pray that he would have boldness to speak when opportunity afforded itself.

Which is your glory: Paul’s suffering imprisonment for the Gentiles is the Gentile’s glory inasmuch as it shows 1) God’s immeasurable love for the Gentiles, & 2) enables Paul to rejoice in suffering for Christ (cf. Col 1.24). The Gentiles hear the gospel and Paul preaches Christ. Herein lies a glorious activity.

Grow in the Will of God, part 1

Paul began this epistle with praise (1.3-14) and prayer to God (1.15-23) before discussing what God has done in the church (2.1-22). He will continue to pray for his readers (3.14-21). But first he explains 1) the mystery of God, 2) his role with the mystery, & 3) the church’s cosmic mission.

The Revelation of the Mystery (1-6)

Paul had the mystery revealed to him & he delivered it in this epistle, viz., the union of Jews & Gentiles into one body. The Father (ch.1), the Son (ch.2), & now the Holy Spirit (ch.3).

1For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—

For this reason: This phrase is in reference to the foregoing theological ideas just emphasized. As in 1.15, Paul starts a thought but is diverted (v.2-13) by mention, here, of the Gentiles.

I, Paul, a prisoner…you Gentiles: Not just “a prisoner” but literally “the prisoner,” as if there is no other. Paul is in Roman custody, yet he says in truth he is Christ’s prisoner. His imprisonment for (or possibly by) Christ is for the sake of the Gentiles; in fact, it was his preaching to the Gentiles which landed him in prison. He will refer to himself as a prisoner later also (4.1).

It is all in how you look at you circumstances. “One man will regard his prison as a penance; another man will regard it as a privilege. When we are undergoing hardship, unpopularity, material loss for the sake of Christian principles we can either regard ourselves as the victims of men, or as the champions of Christ. Our point of view will make all the difference” (Barclay 142).

2assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,

Assuming that you have heard: Seems to indicate that the readers were unfamiliar with Paul personally, indicating that this was a circular letter among the churches in the Lycus River Valley. Several scholars do not see doubt, but certainty (i.e. “since…”); they heard from Paul himself.

The stewardship…for you: Stewardship (Gk oikonomian) was used in 1.10 for Christ. Paul had been entrusted with God’s grace which was a gift given to him (see v.7). He served to dispense that grace to the Gentiles through his role as apostle for you, that is, the “nations.”

In a similar fashion, we, brethren, have been entrusted with the grace of God. We have the gospel of grace. We must be faithful stewards of God’s grace by “dispensing” it to those around us (i.e. evangelism).

3how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.

How the mystery: The musterion is the eternal counsel of God kept hidden from man for generations until the times had reached their fulfillment (see p.5). Here especially in this context it is closely related to the gospel being for Gentiles as well as the Jews.

Was made known to me by revelation: The mystery was made known to Paul at some point in his past (aorist tense). Perhaps Paul is thinking of when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and Jesus revealed to him “I am sending you” to the Gentiles (Acts 26.17-18). Cf. Galatians 1.12. The nature of revelation is some truth is uncovered or disclosed by special communication.

As I have written briefly: see 1.9-10. He now expounds upon his brief comments earlier.

None of us had a bright light from heaven blinding us and disclosing some saving secret like Paul did, but we possess the saving secret of God. As the initiated and illuminated of God, we know the mystery of God and can make it known not merely to men but also to spiritual powers in the heavenly places (see verse 10).

4When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,

When you read [this]: This is supplied in English for clarity but is lacking in the Greek. When you read what Paul has written briefly (v.3)…

You can…the mystery of Christ: The word musterion is found 21 times in Paul’s literature with 6 of those in Ephesians (1.9; 3.3, 4, 9; 5.32; 6.19). He will explain it fully in verse 6. So Paul is safe in writing that his readers can understand the mystery just as he understands it.

5which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

Which we not…in other generations: The purpose of God has always been the same though man’s knowledge of His purpose has been limited. The revelation of that grand purpose has been gradual; while the mystery may have been revealed in part in the past, now through the apostles and prophets it has been made fully known.

There were glimpses of God’s grand scheme of redemption, but the full glory of His marvelous plan had yet to be made known fully.

As it has now been revealed: What was once concealed has now been revealed by God. Again, God’s purpose to include Gentiles was not unknown entirely in the Old Testament (cf. Gen 12.3; Isa 49.6); but the full measure of God’s toward the Gentiles was not fully known until now.

To His holy apostles and prophets: Like Paul, these New Testament messengers have been entrusted with the sacred secret of the Savior. That the apostles and prophets are holy speaks to the dedication of their lives to and by the will of God (see 1.1).

By the Spirit: The Spirit alone is able to search “even the depths of God” and only He “comprehends the thoughts of God.”  But the Spirit is also able to teach in words so that man might understand the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2.10-16).

Why don’t we have modern-day prophets? Barnes explains, “They were persons endowed in this manner [i.e. inspired of the Holy Spirit] for the purpose of imparting to the newly formed churches the doctrines of the Christian system. There is no evidence that this was designed to be a permanent order of people in the church. They were necessary for settling the church on a permanent basis, in the absence of a full written revelation, and when the apostles were away. When the volume of revelation was finished, and the doctrines of the gospel were fully understood, the functions of the office ceased.”

6This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

This mystery is: These words are provided for clarity. Paul states the substance of the mystery.

Gentiles are fellow heirs: with the Jews, that is. The emphasis here is upon receiving an unearned gift, especially the blessings God has for His people (1.3) and the same inheritance (1.11-14). Note the present tense—Gentile are the following. This is present reality.

Members of the same body:  This is a single word in the Greek (susoma) and is unique to Paul later church writers. Literally it is co-body. There is but “one body” (4.4) and both Jews & Gentiles are part of it.

Partakers…through the gospel: The promise most scholars point to is that made to Abraham (Genesis 12.3) and is confirmed in Galatians 3.7-14. “They do not get this blessing indirectly through the Jews, or by becoming Jews, but directly, as Gentiles” (PC 105).  Only in Christ Jesus can Jews and Gentiles partake of this blessing; only through the gospel are they invited and admitted.

It is still “through the gospel” that we gain access to the promise, body, and inheritance today. We must believe, accept, and obey “the gospel of your salvation” (1.13) to be incorporated into Christ Jesus. As Christians, we need to value the gospel. “If we do not value the gospel as revelation from God, it will not impact our lives.”[1] Think of the parable Jesus told about the pearl of great price (Mt 13.44-46). We have that which is of ultimate value; it was all Paul and all we have. “We must give attention to the gospel, be defined by the gospel, and solve our problems by applying the gospel.”[2] And the gospel is not merely about getting to heaven; it is about life here and now as well as over yonder. It captures our initial conversion and our daily walk as disciples. It touches on our forgiveness and how we ought to forgive others. It speaks to God’s unfathomable love for us and how we ought to love one another. With so many implications upon life right now, it is no wonder Paul calls it “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (v.8). And then we gather with the saints once or twice a week and think we’ve got it. No, we only start unwrapping the gift here; you take it home and finish the job the rest of the week.

[1] Snodgrass 169.

[2] Ibid 170.

Grow in the Wisdom of God

Following the opening doxology (3-14), Paul launches into a prayer for his readers (15ff).  Like the doxology, this text is theocentric and Trinitarian, i.e. it is all about the Godhead.

Know His Purpose (15-18)

Paul prays for Christians to realize to what God has called them.

15For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,

For this reason: The ground upon which Paul predicates his prayer (v.16) is the wealth of the spiritual blessings lavished upon these Christians by the Father (3-6), the Son (7-11), and the Holy Spirit (12-14). Based on what God has done through, for, and in Christ he lifts his heart in prayer.

Because I have heard…all the saints: cf. Colossians 1.4. The language seems to indicate that Paul had never met these saints (unlike the Ephesians with whom he lived for three years). Perhaps a larger audience than the Ephesians was the intended target. Nevertheless, Paul had heard of the fruit of the faith. Perhaps someone like Epaphras or Tychicus brought him a report of the progress of their faith and love toward all the saints.  Or their “love toward God’s people as an outgrowth of their faith in Christ” (Patzia 165). The triad of faith, hope, and love appear here (v.12, 15, 18).

16I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,

I do not cease…for you: Paul was constant in his praise and thanksgiving for these brethren. Paul was frequently and regularly giving thanks for these Christians “love with faith” (6.23).

Remembering you in my prayers: Imagine the apostle Paul praying for you! He regularly made petition (Gk proseuchon) for these Christians to God. Specifically…

17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

That the God…Father of glory: Two theological principles are found here in Paul’s prayer for these Christians. First, he addresses the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His human nature God is God of Jesus (see v.3). To us Jesus Christ is Lord. Further, Jesus reveals God as Father (see John 14-17). Second, he describes God as the Father of glory. That is, He is the Author or Source of glory. Following the Incarnation, the Father glorifies the Son (John 17.5).

Concerning God…Father Lenski says: “Both terms of this double designation pertain to the blessings which Paul requests for the Ephesians. Since God is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, we may freely ask of him, as Paul does, all that God has provided for us in our Lord Jesus Christ; and since he is the Father of the glory, we may freely ask him to help us to see and to realize this glory of his as it manifests itself in our exalted Lord for our salvation.”[1]

[1] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians (Columbus, O.: Lutheran Book Concern, 1937). 392-93.

May give you a spirit of wisdom: Like “a spirit of holiness” (Rom 1.4) or “a spirit of gentleness” (Gal 6.1), this is a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit of wisdom. Apart from the Holy Spirit, there can be no distribution of wisdom and understanding. God…the Father will through the Holy Spirit give them spiritual wisdom…

And of revelation…of Him: some writers explain this as the capacity to apprehend the wisdom given by the Spirit (e.g. Blaikie 6). Most connect this verse with Colossians 1.9.  What is revealed is the [full] knowledge of Him (i.e. God). These Christians are to be marked by wisdom derived from God’s revelation of Himself.

Burton Coffman says, “There is still a need for Christians to pray that God will help them to understand the revelation of the sacred Scripture, because most of its marvelous teachings require more than a little application and serious study to be clearly understood.” We come to know God and are made wise unto salvation. We should pray that God continue to make known to us Himself by His word to us and through the Holy Spirit living in us.

18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

Having the eyes…enlightened: This stand in contrast with being “darkened in their understanding” (4.18).  God does the enlightening (passive voice) and illumination occurred at the baptistery (perfect tense; cf. 1 Peter 2.9). We are the illuminated and God desires to illuminate all men (cf. 3.9, “making known”). “The eye is the instrument by which we see; and in like manner the understanding is that by which we perceive truth” (Barnes). Since this is the “heart” (sing.) of the body, we are talking about something spiritual, in the “inner being” (3.16). This enlightenment leads to knowledge of three (3) things…

That you may know…He has called you: Here is the first illuminated truth Paul desires for his readers to know: The Christian’s hope. These Christians possess the Holy Spirit as a guarantee(v.14) and are aware of God’s faithfulness. Thus, when He calls people to something, hope can be said to be “confident expectation.”  Paul wants these Christians to know the glorious enjoyment awaiting us in heaven.

What are the riches…in the saints: Here is the second illuminated truth: God’s rich inheritance. Paul prays that these Christians would have a deeper understanding of what it means to be God’s possession. As God’s heritage, walk in the wealth of His glory.

The church is a thinking community and should stand in stark contrast with our society which has largely stopped thinking. Failure to think breeds ignorance both in secular spheres and sacred. “The church should first of all be a community of thinkers – not thinking in distinction from action, but thinking as the basis for action. Ignorance is an ethical issue” (Snodgrass 88, emphasis original). We should have the reputation of people who think. Historically, this has been the case; presently, it should be. Further, we used to be known as “people of the Book.” We could give book, chapter, and verse for what we believe.  Are we still known by the moniker and if not why not?

Barnes says: The idea here is, that Paul not only wished their “hearts” to be right, but he wished their “understanding” to be right also. Religion has much to do in enlightening the mind. Indeed, its effect there is not less striking and decisive than it is on the heart. The understanding has been blinded by sin. The views which people entertain of themselves and of God are narrow and wrong. The understanding is enfeebled and perverted by the practice of sin. It is limited in its operations by the necessity of the case, and by the impossibility of fully comprehending the great truths which pertain to the divine administration. One of the first effects of true religion is on the understanding. It enlarges its views of truth; gives it more exalted conceptions of God; corrects its errors; raises it up toward the great Fountain of love. And nowhere is the effect of the true religion more apparent than in shedding light on the intellect of the world, and restoring the weak and perverted mind to a just view of the proportion of things, and to the true knowledge of God.

Know His Power (19-22)

Paul prays for Christians to know God’s unknowable power in Christ Who is head of all things.

19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might

What is the immeasurable…us who believe: Here is the third illuminated truth: God’s limitless and unknowable power. God is omnipotent, possessing all power (see Isa 45.7). It is by that power that He 1) secured the means of redemption, 2) safeguards the Christian’s future reward, & 3) secured His eternal inheritance. This power is available exclusively to the Christian community (“us who believe”), i.e. the Church.

According to…His great might: lit. according to the energy of the power of His strength. Paul uses four (4) words to express God’s power. The emphasis here is that nothing is impossible for God, specifically in conjunction with the resurrection and exaltation of Christ…

“LITTLE do men imagine what power is necessary to effect the salvation of their souls.”[1] Paul prays these Ephesian Christians would know that power; it might as well be our prayer today. Oh that we could come to know the unknowable power of God – to save, sanctify, and glorify us! Teach us, Father!

The power Christians have is not intrinsic power, something they have in themselves, but a power that comes from God. [2] The resurrection of Jesus as well as His consequent exaltation to the right hand of God are demonstrations of that fantastic power. God’s power is manifested in the various parts of a Christian’s life:

  1. In the Beginning – at conversion. Remember, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation
  2. In progress – our sanctification. See 1 Peter 1.5
  3. In Glorification – Phil 3.21

When we know the excessive greatness of this power, nothing will ever disturb our hope. Other men also hope; alas, their hopes are built on air, there is no power to fulfill their hopes, to bestow that for which they hope.[3]

[1] Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae Vol. 17: Galatians-Ephesians (London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1833). 283.

[2] Snodgrass 91.

[3] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians (Columbus, O.: Lutheran Book Concern, 1937). 397.

20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

That He worked…from the dead:  In the historical event of the resurrection of Christ God put His infinite might on display. The miraculous event included not merely the reanimation of the dead body, but the transforming of that body. That same power works in the Church.

Seated Him…the heavenly places: Paul continues by explaining that God’s “mighty strength” is on display not only in the resurrection of Christ, but in His exaltation to the right hand of God in the heavenly places. Cf. Psalm 110.1. “The right hand is the place of friendship, honor, confidence, and authority” (Clarke). Christ is exalted to a position of authority—from the tomb to the throne; from “a worm and not a man” to King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Psa 22.6; Rev 19.16).

21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Far above all…dominion: Jesus declared He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt 28.18). The general sense of this phrase is that Jesus has been exalted to the highest conceivable authority. While there is debate about whether Paul has earthly or ethereal governments here, since Jesus’ ascension was into the heavenly realms and thereby into the spiritual realms, it seems best to understand these generally as spiritual forces (cf. 2.2; 3.10; 6.12). Specifically, rule is one order of spiritual beings, authority  is another,  power another, and dominion still another. While some scholars attempt to make a distinction between each of these classes, New Testament usage does not lend itself to noting significant distinctions between these forces and powers. What is heightened and deepened is the universal lordship of Christ.

Above every name that is named: Scholars believe this is directly connected to the Ephesian cult practices. “This particular phrase is loaded with significance for exorcism and magical incantation both in Judaism and the pagan world…Supernatural ‘powers’ were called upon by name through these means [amulets, charms, or gems] by one who desired access to their power and assistance” (Arnold 54). Paul is emphatic—no conceivable spiritual force is beyond the sovereign domain of Christ. After all, He created them (Col 1.16).

Not only…the one to come: Jesus’ Name is above all names in this world and the one to come.

Special Study – Ghosts, Ghouls, & Other Ethereal Beings

I’ve been asked by several people – young and old – about ghosts and demons. I once took a call where for an hour this man explained that he was having demons run around his house. Young people are usually asking about ghosts. I once spent the afternoon with a member’s sister who was a medium – she could contact the dead and had been used by local law enforcement to track down dead bodies.

My initial advice to everybody: stay away from that stuff. There really are spiritual forces of darkness and last time I checked we’re at war with them (Eph 6.10ff). So stay away from Ouija boards, witchcraft, spells, dark arts, etc. Indeed, Isaiah 8.19. They are consulting something, but it isn’t a dead loved one. When a person dies, their soul goes to the hadean realm, i.e. the unseen realm of disembodied spirits. But if you knock on the devil’s door long enough, do be surprised at who answers!

Here’s the point: if Jesus is greater than the whole horde of the spirit realm, why would we pursue the lesser thing? Further, if Jesus has triumphed over these spiritual forces and we are in Christ, then what have we too fear? Spiritists, mediums, witches, and the like cannot lay a finger on the redeemed of God because we have Him who has been seated “far above” all the spiritual forces of darkness.

22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,

He put all things under His feet: cf. Psalm 110.1. Christ is the victor in His conquest of all spiritual forces. He is rule is sovereign over everything—visible and invisible, material and immaterial, animate and inanimate, hostile and friendly.

Gave Him…[to] the church: Note: this verse does not explicitly say Jesus is head of the church; it says Jesus is head over all things and He assumes this role as Head over everything for His Bride. Lenski calls this “a gift of grace to the church”  for it speaks of Christ being in control of everything for the benefit of His body.

23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Which is His body: lit. she is His body. Implied is that Christ is the head (see 5.23).

The fullness of Him who fills all in all: The church is the Filler’s fullness. He is the Onw who fills all things, everything. Yet, even as He fills everything in every way, Christ is filled (lit. complete) with His body. Physically, the head needs the body. In a similar fashion, the spiritual Head needs His body. As it was not good for Adam to be alone, so it is not good for the 2nd Adam not to have His body & bride—the Church.

“Christ is the head; the Church is the body. A head by itself is no use; a mind, a brain by itself is of no use. The head must have a body which it can direct; the brain, the mind must have a body through which it can work. The church is quite literally hands to do Christ’s work, feet to run upon His errands, a voice to speak His words.” (Barclay 108).

There is sense in which the Savior is incomplete without somebody saved, the Redeemer is lacking without someone in distress to rescue. It was Augustine who said, ““Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”” But perhaps it can also be said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and your heart is restless until we find rest in Thee.” If we properly understand this verse, it is both humbling and dignifying – humbling that we complete the Filler’s fullness and dignifying as presenting us with the purpose of our existence.

Introduction & Greetings – Ephesians

Ephesians 1:1–2 (ESV)

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are [in Ephesus,] and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul: see Author. Paul is named as the author and so he is.

An apostle…by the will of God:  Paul is writing in an official capacity so he uses the official title “apostle.” This epistle, then, carries apostolic weight. He is a representative, an ambassador of Christ, sent as His emissary in harmony with the will of God. This was not something that was conferred onto Paul by any man or which he took for himself; Paul was an apostle according to the desire, intent, and purpose of God.

To the saints…[in Ephesus]: or “to those who are saints and faithful in Christ Jesus.”  The Ephesians are both saints and faithful. They have been set apart unto God and put their faith into action. This is true of all Christians—they are saints and they are faithful. For more on “in Ephesus” see Introductory Material.

And are faithful in Christ Jesus: This phrase indicates that Paul intended a larger audience than just those Christians in Ephesus. The phrase “in Christ Jesus” appears 176 times in Paul’s writings, 36 of which are in Ephesians. This is obviously the keystone to Paul’s theology.

2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace to you and peace: This is the Christian rendering of the greeting with which letters in antiquity generally began. It combines the Greek greeting (grace, Gk charis) with the Hebrew greeting (peace, or shalom). Grace is God’s unmerited favor. We don’t earn it or deserve it. Paul invokes God’s grace upon this community (pl. “you”).  not merely the absence of war but the subtle understanding that God is in control of everything. Grace brings peace. Taken together they are Paul’s customary form of greeting (see Rom 1.7; 1 Cor 1.3; 2 Cor 1.2).

From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: God the Father & Son are the source of both grace and peace. So Paul equates (but does not conflate) the Father and Christ. The distinction is not one of nature but of relation to the recipients of the grace and peace: God is Father, having made them children by adoption; Christ is Lord as Head of the Church. Grace comes from the God who is rich in grace (cf. 1.7). Peace must come from the “God of peace” (4.9).

Rejoicing in the Prize of Glory

There apparently were some (“the enemies”) who might have charged that the standard of conduct was not clear. So Paul responds to these with a living pattern of behavior by which their lives could be formed and fashioned. Imitation of this apostolic example assures Christians of their citizenship in heaven and the coming resurrection. This is Paul’s main point in 3.17-4.1 of Philippians.

17Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

Brothers: fellow Christians in Philippi who are citizens of the heavenly kingdom (v.20).

Join in imitating me: as Paul imitates Christ (1 Cor 11.1). Or this imperative is a call for the Philippians to be fellow imitators of Christ or God (cf. Eph 5.1).

And keep your eyes…in us: “keep your eyes on” (Gk skopeite) is to scope them out. Fix your eyes on them and pay attention; observe, contemplate. There is a metaphor change from the Christian life being compared to a race to now a walk. Watch those who daily tread the Christian path of life. The “example” (Gk tupon), either imprint or image, is the Philippians (“have,” present tense) in “us.” Who? Certainly Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus contextually speaking. In a more general sense, the apostolic college at large.

18For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.

For many…walk as [the] enemies of the cross of Christ: No definite number is given and very little is said about their manner of life. But that they tread an unchristian path of life is evident by their conduct. These enemies have given themselves over to their evil passions, evading the obligations Christ’s death lays upon them concerning holiness. They are therefore hostile to the cause of Christ though they move around in Christian circles.

Of whom…with tears: “I have often told you” is past tense. This is not news to the church in Philippi. Paul had constantly warned them of the erroneous enemies among or around them. Through tear laden eyes Paul acknowledges that even as he writes they are still enemies. “So true is his sympathy, so deep his care for all men.” – Chrysostom

19Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

Their end [is] destruction: The destiny of these “many” enemies is destruction for they have cut themselves from salvation in Christ. “They have no prospect except the doom which awaits unsaved humanity” (Martin 161).  “Destruction” is the same word found in 1.28. Lenski says, “The word never means annihilation as has, in view of the translation ‘destruction,’ been claimed by those who attempt to abolish hell.”  It does mean the loss of eternal life unto eternal misery and death. It is the kind of ruination that would happen to a sunk ship.

Their god [is] their belly: Elsewhere Paul speaks of those who “serve…their own belly” to describe divisive brethren who must be avoided (Rom 16.18). Perhaps here the Judaizers are in mind who by their regulations regarding clean/unclean food and “Taste not—touch not” doctrines (cf. Col 2.21) were literally serving their belly while causing dissension in the church

They glory in their shame: Glory, in the Bible is often used of God and in this case answers to “god” in the previous phrase. “Their shame” are their evil practices. This seem to be an allusion to Hosea 4.7 where shame is a “devastating caricature of false gods” (Martin 161). So their sensuality, carnality, all-around earthly-mindedness is condemned.

With minds set on earthly things: All of the preceding is merely indicative that the enemies of the cross of Christ are living their life without a thought of eternity. Their attentions and affections are given over to on a continual basis (present tense) to earthly things. Further, their conduct carries out what they have their minds set on. “It is not so much those who deny the doctrines of the cross, as it is those who oppose its influence on their hearts” (Barnes).

20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

But our citizenship is in heaven: present tense. It exists there now, therefore, we are even now enjoying the benefits of being kingdom citizens. Though Paul was a Roman citizen and leveraged that privilege to his advantage (Acts 16.38; 22.25-29); though the Philippians, by virtue of the fact that they lived in a Roman colony, enjoyed the rights and privileges of citizenship—Christians are citizens of a kingdom not of this world (John 18.36). “Our” citizenship is above which requires certain behavior (cf. 1.27) stands in contrast to those who have their “minds set on earthly things” (v.19). Christians are  looking toward the imperial city of Christ. All we have is in the heavens: our Savior, our city, whatever a man can name (Chrysostom).

And from it…Lord Jesus Christ: this waiting is appropriate behavior of the kingdom citizen. Eager expectation of the imminent return of Christ is the normal attitude of the Christian.  Even as right now our citizenship is in heaven, we are also presently waiting for Him who will deliver us from this world to our home. While Christians are saved in the present there is yet a future full and final realization of salvation to come.

21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Who will transform: the root for “transform” is the word we get our English words “scheme” and “schematic” (Gk metaschematisei). A scheme is a plan or design. In this case, coupled with the prefix, the original design is changed .

Our lowly body…glorious body: lit. our body of humiliation, which refers to our present mortal, carnal, broken by sin, subject to pain, destruction, and death body.  This body will be changed to be  like (lit.) the body of His glory. This refers to an immortal, spiritual, heavenly, indestructible, undying body. Whether dead or alive at the time of Christ’s return, “we shall all be changed” (1 Cor 15.51). This new body will be suitable for life in the afterlife and to associate with Christ in His glory.

By the power…to himself: How much power does Christ have? Plenty, and then some. His power enables Him to bring under firm control everything—the cosmos, angels, demons, Satan, death, hell. The whole universe and beyond. “Nothing is to hard for you” (Jer 32.17). “If anyone doubts the power of Christ to do this transformation, Paul replies the he has power ‘even to subject all things unto himself’” (Robertson).

1Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Therefore: This is the conclusion of the third chapter (cf. 2.12). In light of the foregoing…

My brothers: fellow citizens of the kingdom of Christ, born again into that kingdom (Jn 3.3,5)

Whom I love and long for: a few words later they are also “my beloved.”  No other congregation associated with Paul is referred to in this manner. “Paul lets all his love, all his joy in the Philippians, all his pride in them, speak at once” (Lenski). It his love and affection for these brethren which should act as motivation to carry out what he commands.

My joy and crown: As noted, joy runs throughout this epistle. These brethren had been nothing but a joy to Paul. Further, their steadfastness would indicate he had not “run in vain” but had run and won the victors crown (Gk stephanos).

Stand firm thus in the Lord: This is an admonition oft repeated by Paul (1 Cor 16.13; Gal 5.1; 2 Thess 2.15). Earlier in the epistle, Paul said of his brethren that they are “standing firm in one spirit” (1.27). This is further behavior becoming citizens of the kingdom of Christ. Here, the call is to stand “in the Lord” as opposed to outside of the Lord like the enemies of the cross would. Since our citizenship is “in [the] heavens” Christians must keep standing (present imperative), unmoved by the errors and attacks of enemies and the defection of the panicked.

Special Study – Savior

The word “Savior” appears 24 times in the New Testament. Interestingly, Paul only refers to Jesus as “Savior” about nine (9) times in all his epistles (Eph 5.23; Phil 3.20; 1 Tim 1.1; 2.3; 4.10; 2 Tim 1.10; Titus 1.3, 4; 2.10, 13; 3.4, 6). Some argue he uses the term infrequently because gods and even the emperor were referred to as “saviors.” By comparison, John refers to Jesus as Savior only twice (Jn 4.42; 1 Jn 4.14) and Luke only 4 times (Luke 1.47; 2.11; Acts 5.31; 13.23). Arguably, Paul uses it more than all other New Testament writers.

Rejoicing in Pursuit of Growth

After writing about a couple of brothers who have rendered invaluable service to him (2.19ff), Paul turns his attention toward those Judaizing teachers who threaten the faith of the Philippians (3.1-16).

Rejoice in the Lord (3.1)

Once more Paul exhorts his brothers to celebrate and be glad in the Lord.

1Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.

Finally, my brother: this phrase can also be translated “furthermore.” Paul is not attempting to wrap up the epistle, but commence a warning. This is distinct from 4.8 where he concludes

Rejoice in [the] Lord: A common theme throughout this epistle (2.18; 4.4; cf. 1.4, 25). The command can only be fulfilled in the Lord—Christians in Him and He in us.

To write…safe for you: To repeat himself concerning Christian joy does not bother Paul and for his brethren it will free them from danger. What kind of danger?

Reprove the Lawbreaker (3.2-4a)

Paul warns his brethren about Judaizing teachers and reminds them they are the true Israel.

2Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.

Look out: Beware! Repeated thrice for emphasis and urgency. Keep an eye on them.

For the dogs…mutilate the flesh: Paul uses three phrases to describe the Judaizing teachers. First, they are dogs. The irony here is that Jews viewed Gentiles as dogs because they were outside of the covenant; now they are excluded from the covenant and are dogs. Second, they are evildoers. They are evildoers because of their opposition to the gospel. Third, they are flesh mutilators. This is hyperbole for circumcision.

3For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—

For we are the circumcision: Believers in Christ are the spiritual circumcision (see Col 2.11-12), the new Israel (cf. Gal 6.16). Paul presents three identifying markers of believers…

Who worship by the Spirit of God: Worship (Gk latreuontes) should read “serving.” It denotes that Christians render religious service. There is a textual variant: some mss read “God in [the] Spirit” (so reads NKJV); however, the best mss have “by/in [the] Spirit of God.” Some commentators suggest this phrase could also be rendered “serving God’s Spirit.”

And glory is Christ Jesus: that is, Christians boast in the Lord (Jer 9.24; 1 Cor 1.31). Christ alone is our ground for confidence.

And put no confidence in the flesh: The Judaizing teachers would trust in circumcision and other religious rites. To put one’s confidence or trust in anything except Jesus Christ is confidence in the flesh.

4though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.

Though I…also: While Paul may “have reason” to trust in the flesh, he will not use it.

Reasons from Paul’s Life (4b-6)

Paul appeals to his life before Christ in order to compare and contrast with the Judaizers.

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:

If anyone…I have more: “More than anybody else, more than any of the Judaizers themselves, he could have trusted in the flesh and carnal privileges” (Muller 109). Paul will lay out his credentials, not for grounds of boasting, but to show he had every Jewish privilege.

5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;

Circumcised on the eighth day: This was characteristic of all Jewish boys (Lev 12.3). He was a child of the covenant because of his parents’ conformity to the Law.

Of the people of Israel: He was not a proselyte but genetically (Gk genous) of Israel.

Of the tribe of Benjamin: Indeed, he shared his name with Israel’s king who was from the tribe of Benjamin (Saul).

A Hebrew of Hebrews: “The Hebrew son of Hebrew parents” (Moffat). Also, he would have been reared  in the ancient Hebrew languages (Hebrew & Aramaic), a sign of faithfulness.

As to the Law, a Pharisee: In regards to his devotion to the Torah (Law), he claimed the strictest sect of the religion—Pharisee (Cf. Acts 26.5; Gal 1.14).

6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

As to zeal, a persecutor of the church: Zealous for the law and eager to protect the Jewish religion, Saul of Tarsus pursued, persecuted the church with the aim of exterminating it.

As to righteousness under the law, blameless: no charge could be brought against him as pertaining to his obedience and conformity to the Law of God.

Recognize the Lord (3.7-11)

The highest and greatest goal for Paul is to know Christ, His resurrection, and His suffering.

7But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

But whatever gain…the sake of Christ: These “gains” (pl), the seven reasons he could boast in the flesh, were regarded and continue to be regarded (perfect tense) by Paul as one giant loss because of Jesus. Indeed, this statement builds on Jesus’ teaching in the gospels (Matt 16.26; Mark 8.36; Luke 9.25). Paul gained the whole Jewish world but lost his soul for it. “They were loss because confidence in outward things tends to keep the soul from Christ.”

8Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Indeed…Jesus my Lord: any and every possible thing which might somehow be conceived as a merit or advantage acceptable to God by a pious person is invaluable compared to Christ. That is how much better and greater knowing Christ is—everything else in life is worthless. “Knowing (Gk from gnosis) Christ Jesus” is more than head knowledge; it is heart knowledge based upon experience (i.e. fellowship). The worth of knowing Christ—see John 17.3

For his sake…I may gain Christ: Lit. through Him I lost everything. Paul “lost” (aorist) everything at his conversion; they were taken from him (passive). Paul counts everything he lost as garbage (KJV dung). Not only Paul’s Jewish heritage but anything he might claim as valuable religiously are considered a stinking mess. The purpose of this strong renunciation of everything is that Paul understands to lose all means to gain Christ. “Paul was never satisfied with his knowledge of Christ and always craved more fellowship with him” (Robertson). To gain Christ is to rely upon His all-sufficient merit.

9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

And be found in Him: that is, at the Day of Judgment when Christ returns. “Be found” (Gk eurisko) is the idea of discovered as though by surprise. No one knows when Christ will return so we must be found in Him now, at the last day, and always.

Not having [a] righteousness…from the law: Lit. not having my righteousness. This kind of righteousness is derived by the bootstrap method of self-effort and commandment keeping which condemns “ because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2.16). Even though Paul was “blameless” under the Law (v.6) he was still under the curse of the law (Gal 3.10).

But that which…depends on faith: “but” (Gk alla) draws a sharp contrast—not my righteousness BUT God’s righteousness through faith in Christ. This is the righteousness a Christian puts on through obedient (active) faith in Christ. Paul speaks of “having” (present tense) this righteousness. While he possesses it, it is not his own but God’s.

10that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

That I may know Him: The ever-constant aim for Paul and all Christians—to experience the righteousness of God enabling us to know Christ and His salvation.

And the power of His resurrection: It was the power of God which raised Jesus (Rom 1.4). “The resurrection of Christ was a glorious manifestation of Divine power” (Caffin 113).

And may share in His sufferings: Lit. fellowship (Gk koinonian) His sufferings. The was an honored prized to Paul (cf. Col 1.24) since He bore all our sufferings (Isa 53.4).

Becoming like Him in His death: present passive participle indicates this is continual and progressive “deep, real, inner conformity” through daily self-death (Luke 9.23; Gal 2.20).

11that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

That by any means…from the dead: Paul’s language here does not denote uncertainty about his destiny. Rather, this is the language of humble expectation. In the struggle of faith, Paul uses language to capture the resurrection as arriving at the end of a journey. Here and now Christians are risen with Christ, but we still look forward to the final consummation.

Reach for What Lies Ahead (3.12-16)

Paul continues his discussion (which is intended to indict the Judaizers among the brethren in Philippi) of pursuing perfection or maturity. He just wrote about trusting only in Christ’s righteousness (not his own); now he exhorts these brethren to press on in righteousness.

12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

Not that I…am already perfect: Paul does not want the church to be mistaken about what he just said in v.11—he is not saying he has “obtained” (aorist) the prize at conversion nor is he saying that he attained perfection in the past and stands perfect presently (perfect tense). In other words, Paul is saying that he has not reached the end of his journey and race.

But I press on to make it my own: Rather, the object is before him and with speed and energy he is moving toward it. The word Paul uses was a hunting term as in the pursuit of game. It was also a term for foot-racing. Paul’s whole life is a pressing on to the future goal that he seeks to make His own or overtake and arrest.

Because Christ Jesus has made me His own: When? At his conversion. When he was immersed for forgiveness of sin, that was the beginning of the chase for Paul, not the end. Further, that was when Christ overtook Paul and made him His own possession. NKJV: “laid hold” that is to grasp or seize.

13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,

Brothers: fellow Christians of the Philippian church who are in the same course of pursuit.

I do not consider…in my own: There will come a time when Paul will say, “I have obtained it!” Or God will say, “It has been finished!” Or Paul “I have finished” by God’s grace. But it stands to reason that that time is not right now. Not yet.

But one thing I do: Lit. But—one thing. “I am single-minded” (NET).

Forgetting what lies behind: This includes his Jewish pedigree (v.5-6), his life as a church persecutor, and even that part of his life as a Christian with whatever failures and miseries had come to him. By deliberate and continuous “forgetting” Paul further progresses to the prize.

Straining forward to what lies ahead: the image is of a runner leaning forward as they run. So Paul with great energy reaches for those last Day things (v.11).

14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I press on toward the goal: exact same word as v.12—with all his being and strength Paul is in pursuit of the prize and crown. This pursuit is continuous.

For the prize…in Christ Jesus: The prize for which Paul is striving for he has named in v.11—the resurrection of the dead and that unto eternal blessedness in heaven. Hence, this calling is “upward” to the heavens (cf. Heb 3.1—”heavenly calling”). Notice it is God who calls Paul “in/by Christ Jesus.” In these last days [God] has spoken to us by His Son who is the Word of God (Heb 1.2; Jn 1.1).

15Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

Let those of us…think this way: “Mature” is a word related to “perfect” in v.12. Some see a wordplay here where the “perfect” ones are those who know perfection is not possible in this life. Others make a distinction between absolute perfectionism (where no further striving is necessary) and relative perfectionism (being full-grown, see Eph 4.15-16).  So maturity is bound up in pursuit of fuller maturity.

And if…you think otherwise: Those among the Philippians who believed perfection in this life was/is attainable or Paul’s general opponents who were just anti-Paul.

God will reveal that also to you: Paul “invokes the aid of God to illuminate the minds and correct the behaviour (sic) of those who do not share his conviction” of the truth he has stated.

16Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Only let us…attained: “Let there be no falling back; let us, at each point in our Christian course, maintain and walk according to that degree of grace at which we arrived” (Caffin 115).  “Hold true” lit. means to walk in a line. In other words, stay the course.

Special Study – Joy in Philippians

Every year, researchers publish their results of the Happy Planet Index (HPI) identifying the happiest countries in the world. Right now (2014) the happiest country on the planet is Costa Rica. To discover a country’s happiness quotient, researchers multiply life expectancy by something called “Experienced Well Being” and divide by “Ecological Footprint.” An interesting note: the top ten countries were almost all Central or South American countries (although Vietnam was 2nd). The US ranks near the bottom at 115th.

The question everyone wants answered is “How do I be happy?” Barnes & Nobel stays in business selling shelf-fulls of books explaining how to be happy. Consider several authors’ take on how to be happy:

Joel Osteen

In his book Your Best Life Now:

  1. Enlarge your vision
  2. Develop a healthy self-image
  3. Discover the power of your thoughts and words
  4. Let go of the past
  5. Find strength through adversity
  6. Live to give
  7. Choose to be happy

Happiness for Dummies

The author offers 4 ingredients:

  1. Feeling of safety
  2. Sense of satisfaction
  3. Sense of perspective
  4. Quietude

Plus, other “ingredients”… Satisfaction, pleasure, gratitude, serenity, and well-being

John Chaffee

From his book The Thinker’s Way, he offers 8 steps:

  1. Think critically
  2. Live creatively
  3. Choose freely
  4. Solve problems effectively
  5. Communicate effectively
  6. Analyze complex issues
  7. Develop enlightened values
  8. Think through relationship

Scott Peck

The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult” (1978)

Further Along the Road Less Traveled: “Life is complex” (1993)

The Road Less Traveled and Beyond: Failure to think is “the problem” (1998)

While all these attempt to offer solutions to the happiness crisis many people face in life, there is truly only one Book – the Book of books – that can explain how to satisfy man’s deepest craving which is joy and not happiness. But first, let’s discuss the difference…

The root word of “happy” is “hap” which is defined as one’s luck or accidental. Thus, when circumstances and situations are good, one is happy; when they are not, one is unhappy.  What all of these writers fail to discover is that it is not positive thinking which will counter negative thinking; it is truth thinking which trumps both (all) thinking patterns. The Biblical paradigm is one which seeks to guide and shape people’s thoughts. Very rarely is happiness used to describe the state of the saint. Instead, New Testament writers often speak of “joy.” While happiness is influenced and affected by circumstances, joy is not. That is why Paul can repeatedly write from a Roman prison cell, “Rejoice!” Positive thinking will only get one so far down the happiness trail since happiness is rooted in circumstances. But the psychological significance of truth-thinking transcends circumstances and situations. Now for some background…

The Philosophical Idea of Joy

The philosophers spoke of “joy” (Gk chara) to express certain Hellenistic ideas. Plato saw joy as being equal with hedonism. Aristotle, though, saw hedonism as being greater than joy. Then, the Stoics got the idea that hedonism is nothing more than a special kind of joy but it, like other self-gratifying emotions, was bad. It should be evident that the only thing to change in the secular understanding of happiness and joy is the time and date.

The Biblical Idea of Joy in the Old Testament

The Biblical writers introduce a vastly different concept of joy. David speaks of “the joy of Your presence” (Psa 21.6). Several times, God’s work in salvation is a chief reason for joy (see Psalm 5.11; 9.2; 16.9). There is singing associated with the joy of salvation. Indeed, the whole being is summoned to rejoice. When people are faithful to God’s word there is joy (Isaiah 65.13-14) causing God Himself to rejoice (65.19). Perhaps Jeremiah is the most explicit when he writes, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy (chara) and the delight of my heart” (15.16). Here one finds a direct correlation between joy and the word of God. When people (especially God’s people) consume the word of God, are faithful to His law, and are thereby saved, joy is manifested. This joy is not merely internal and inward; it has a cause and finds expression, especially in singing.

The Biblical Idea of Joy in the New Testament

Much of these ideas get carried over into the New Testament and are amplified at the realization and fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption. In Matthew, chara carries an eschatological emphasis (see especially 25.21, 23). Mark only uses the word once but it is significant because chara comes because of the reception of the word of God (4.16, parable of the soils). Joy shows up in the final discourse of Jesus recorded by John; it is used 6 times in the span of three chapters (15.11; 16.20, 21, 22, 24; 17.13). It is Luke, though, who uses chara the most (8 times). It is joy which is a theme running through his gospel narrative from Jesus’ arrival (2.10) to His ascension (24.52). The overarching connection seems to be with the coming of the King into His kingdom.

Paul and Joy

No New Testament writer used the word chara more than Paul. It is never used in a secular sense but is usually connected with his work as an apostle. In other words, Paul never uses the word group in a mundane way, but in a majestic way. Philippians is no doubt Paul’s treatise on joy. This book is riddled through with chara. Early in the epistle Paul sets the stage for the entire letter by explaining that he is a joyful servant (Philippians 1.1, 4).  The joy Paul has is reciprocal in nature, from him to his brethren in Philippi through his fellow worker Timothy (2.28-29). Indeed, the Christians at Philippi are the embodiment of Paul’s joy (4.1). Over and over, Paul exhorts his brethren through command to “rejoice in the Lord” (3.1; 4.4). This kind of rejoicing should be the Christian’s disposition at all times (or “always” see 4.4). Even when confronted by a situation in which Christ is preached out of envy and rivalry with the intent of somehow harming Paul, so long as Christ is preached Paul has joy (1.18). The source of this kind of supernatural joy is faith in Christ (1.25). So Paul presents the Biblical and psychological significance facets of joy in this short epistle.