Christianity 201

October 18, 2015

The New Community

Yesterday’s reading was quite long; today I want to give you more time to look at it. So we have a reading and a few notes from commentaries at BibleGateway.com

Ephesians 1:17-23 New International Version (NIV)

17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

If you wanted to just stop there and read this passage just one more time (out loud is even better) that’s fine, otherwise here are some supplementary notes on this passage.

  • The Reformation Study Bible gives us a good introduction:

First, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in believers (2:4, 5; 3:16, 17). Second, Christ enjoys His position as head over everything for the sake of the church. Not only is Christ at the most exalted position in the universe, He is there representing believers (2:6; Col. 3:3) and governing the universe for their sake. The principles of conduct in Ephesians emphasize that authority exists for the sake of service.

  • The Encyclopedia of the Bible on what is meant by the phrase “the church”:

In 1 Corinthians and Romans the phrase indicates the local church, and emphasizes the unity of its members and their harmonious working together according to the varying functions God has assigned by His Spirit to each (Rom 12:4-8; 1 Cor 12:4-31). Paul does not think of Christ as head of the body in these epistles (1 Cor 12:21). In Paul’s later letters, Ephesians and Colossians, reference is to the universal Church, of which Christ is the head (Eph 1:22, 23; 4:15, 16; 5:23; Col 1:18; 2:19). Each member is related to Christ as the directing, controlling center. The unity emphasized in Ephesians is that of Jew and Gentile in the one body (Eph 2:11-16; 3:6; 4:4) while in Colossians the unity of the whole cosmos under Christ’s headship is in view (Col 1:16-19; 2:10).

The origin of Paul’s thought of the Church as the body of Christ has been sought in four fields: (1) the communal participation in the communion bread, as suggested by 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17; (2) the Stoic description of an ecclesia, a public meeting, as a united body composed of different independent persons; (3) the meaning of the “corporate personality” of Israel in the OT, as in the figure of the vine (Ps 80:8); (4) the close identification of Christ with Christians, as for example in their sufferings (Acts 9:4, 5; Col 1:24).

Some regard the phrase as indicating that the Church is the extension of the incarnation, but it is better understood metaphorically, signifying the unity of believers in the Church, a unity which depends upon Christ.

  • Finally, an excerpt from The Asbury Bible Commentary:

Vv. 20b-22a are creedal in regard to the present role of the risen Son, although they also demonstrate the scope of divine power. Not only did the Father raise the Son from death, but he made him co-regent, with authority far above all [human] rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given on earth. Jesus has authority and dominion both now and in the age to come. Furthermore, God gave Jesus supremacy over all creation (cf. 1Co 15:28) and gave him to the church, his body, as its supreme Head.

Here, then, is the new community, the called-out ones (ekklesia), from both Judaism and paganism that now constitute the church. By divine power and appointment Christ now presides over the church the fullness [or complement] of him who fills everything and provides all spiritual vitality. The fulfillment of the Father’s purpose for the Son is his lordship over the church. Jesus, who fills the whole universe with his presence and governs the entire creation with his given authority, finds his completion as Head of the body, the church. A head without a body is incomplete. As the body renders the head complete, so the church fulfills God’s purpose for Christ.


Footnotes:

  1. Ephesians 1:17 Or a spirit

If there are any passages you would like to see covered here, feel free to write.

 

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