Reading through the Bible together

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

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I am always encouraged when I hear church members say positive things about the church. However, the most enthusiastic among us surely falls short of Paul’s exuberant testimony about the church in Ephesians 3. 

Paul starts a report of his prayers for believers in Ephesus (v. 1; cf. 1:15-23) but breaks off to discuss the wonder of God’s creation of the church (vv. 2-13) before completing that prayer report (vv. 14-21). Along the way we come to understand important things about God’s “plan” or “mystery”:

• In eternity, God conceives of “the mystery” or “the plan” about the church (vv. 3-5, 9, 11).
• Through the life and death of Jesus, that long-hidden plan is “accomplished” (v. 11; cf. 2:11-22).
• By revelation, Paul learns “the mystery” of the church and the astonishing fact that Gentiles are to be full partners in it (vv. 3-6).
• Paul participates in spreading this good news as preacher to the Gentiles of “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (vv. 8-9).
• With many won to Christ, the church, composed as it is of both Jews and Gentiles, displays “the manifold wisdom of God” to “the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (v. 10), announcing their coming doom (cf. 6:10-20). The plan to unite all things in Christ (1:10) is underway and their time is short.

This understanding of the church motivates Paul to pray for those believers of old. Why not imagine him praying the heartfelt prayer of vv. 14-21 about you? Why not imagine him praying that you will be “filled with all the fullness of God” (v. 19) and participate fully in the amazing, unfolding mystery of a unified church?

John McVay
Walla Walla University
United States