Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lectionary notes on Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a

Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.

For the second week we have the compilers of the lectionary readings taking a knife to the middle of a verse for no real discernible reason, although this week’s versectomy (it’s a new word I invented! Too much?) doesn’t really change the meaning of the sentence. But here is all of verse 19: “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.”

Ephesus was the Roman capital of Asia Minor; hence, Ephesians emphasizes Jesus as being sent to unify Gentiles and Jews in the worship of God. The authorship of the letter to the Ephesians is not without some dispute. Some argue that the writing style is different from that of Paul’s earlier letters, although the theology is in line with Paul’s developing theology; as it was supposedly written near the end of Puul’s life, it could be Paul’s or it could be written by one of Paul’s disciples from teachings they had heard from him. Since there is no consensus, let’s just call it “Pauline.”

This reading begins in vv. 3-6 with praise and blessing of God for sending Christ as the ultimate blessing from God to humanity, because Christ acts as the bridge between humans and God, making possible our adoption as God’s children. Thus this early section mentions God the Father and God the Son (the trinitarian formula was completed in v. 13, omitted in our selectio today, through reminding the Ephesians that they had been sealed by the Holy Spirit as God’s beloved children).

Our second section contains a typical Pauline feature: a prayer by Paul to God praising the church he is addressing and encouraging them. Verses 15-16 implies that the writer does not peronally know the leaders of the community in Ephesus, but only knows of their faith through hearsay, but gives thanks for it nonetheless. Paul explains the importance of Jesus in making known to us God the Father in verse 17. Jesus is God’s means to give us wisdom and revelation to understand God’s redeeming plan for us. Verse 19 mentions the riches of God’s power that we inherit, but our reading cuts off before what exactly those riches are. This is made clear in verses 20-23: “God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 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 age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” It is the resurrection of Christ, who overcomes death and then sits at the right hand of God, where he reigns as the head of the Church, that we inherit through faith in Christ.

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