Another big view of God's plans in the book of Ephesians. This time, 2v11-3v13. It's all about being together in Christ - seeing the church as God's all frequencies transmission of the message of his immense grace.
2v11-22. God has made a new humanity - “one new man” through the dead of Jesus (2v16). This removes the hostility between man and man, and between man and God. All who come in Christ can now have access to the Father, by the one Spirit – The whole trinity involved in bringing us to God. The result of this is that we belong with God (19), members of his household. That house has Christ as Cornerstone – everything built on him and upon the “apostles and prophets” so that the church becomes the place where God now dwells. We, the people of God, are the new temple of God – not a building but the people.
3v1-13. Paul then turns to speak about “the mystery of Christ”. This mystery however isn't something mysterious, mystic and inaccessible. The mystery is something that was hidden and is now revealed. It wasn't understood before, but now it is. And it is this: v6, ...that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ.
Essentially, that Jews and Gentiles alike can belong to God's people through Jesus Christ. This is what Paul preaches. And he's in prison because of it. He speaks of Jesus to all people so they can come to Christ. He's the least of God's people but he is God's messenger, of God's unsearchable riches - “making plan to everyone the administration of this mystery” which God had hidden but now revealed. He has to speak about Jesus so that people will understand.
This however has a massive cosmic effect. Paul doesn't preach to the “heavenly realms” but through his preaching the church comes into existence – 3v10 – and the church makes known God's manifest wisdom (the gospel) to the heavenly realms, by it's existence. By the unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ. This will dumbfound the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. God has achieved what seemed impossible. God has united enemies in one new man.
All of these new people together have access to God – through Jesus we are free to approach – free to pray. Not with caution but with confidence. God's plan gives us complete access.
Paul imagines the Ephesians to be discouraged. Perhaps by his imprisonment. Whatever the reason, he wants them to be encouraged by what he has said. Notice the “therefore” in 3v13. All
that he has told them is for their encouragement. Paul is absent but they are a new humanity, they have access to God and the heavenly realms have heard about it. Everything has changed. They're not in the dark anymore – God's mystery isn't hidden anymore. It has been made plain. God is making his church in Christ, calling us to participate in his new adventures in cosmic broadcasting - displaying his grace in high definition, blow your mind glory.
A note on “apostles and prophets” (2v20, 3v5, 4v11)
There's much debate about what this means and whether it has the same meaning in each place. Context helps us know what words mean... what we can see is that these a+p are foundations of the church (2:20), to whom God has revealed the gospel (3:5) and are themselves gifts to the church to prepare her for service and growth (4:11-12). They could just be the original a+p of the 1st Century in which case they are with us today through scripture.
Others would say that new a+p remain in the church today in person. Whomever they are, they get the gospel into the church – they're the kind of people who love the effects of the gospel in God's people.
2v11-22 Living together in Christ as the church.
What was life like for the gentiles? (11-12)
How is it now? (13)
What changed things? (14-18)
What' is our life now? (19-22)
What difference does it make to know that we are “one new man” not just individual Christians?
How does this effect our view of other Christians?
What's the cornerstone of the church? How?
What's the foundation?
What does it mean for the church to be built on the apostles & prophets (also 3:5, 4:!1)?
Why is God building his church? (21-22)
What will it look like for the church to be on Christ and in Christ? (20-22)
3v1-13 “The Church” preached to the heavenly realms
What is the mystery that Paul preaches? (3v6)
Where did he get the mystery from? (3-5)
What are the effects of Paul's preaching? (8-10) What are his aims?
What is the cosmic impact? (10)
How might the heavenly realms respond to hearing about this?
How does the mystery help Christians? (6+12+1v18+22)
How do we use this freedom?
In v13, Paul is concerned that the original readers might get discouraged – he doesn't say why. How does what God has said here combat discouragement?