Joint-Body

Taken from the article: THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST by Dean Johnson

 

Joint body refers to the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:16). The author appears to have coined this new word to express a revolutionary new oneness and unity.

The contents of Ephesians 3 develop on the interconnections from preceding texts; especially 2:11-22. The three-fold syn compounds, joint-heir, joint-body, and joint-partaker of 3:6 which describe the new community to which Gentile believers belong is foreshadowed in the terminology found in chapter 2: fellow-citizens, fitted together, and built together (2:19-22). As well, the mention in 2:18 of the direct access of the Gentile community to God prepares the reader for the boldness of the intercessory prayer (3:12). Other reoccurring ideas from previous sections are inheritance, mystery, wisdom, revelation, body, and grace.

The Gentiles are joint-heirs and joint-body and joint-partakers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The mystery that all will be brought into Christ is clarified and explained. The mystery now revealed is that the Gentiles are being included in a completely new community in Christ that transcends old labels, barriers and divisions. The author uses three terms to explain this secret: joint heir, joint body, and joint partaker. The syn-prefix "joint" is common within Ephesians and functions to link the ideas of several passages to the mystery. In Christ, the Gentiles have been made citizens together (2:19) and therefore joint heirs. They are fitted together (2:21, 4:16) and therefore joint body. They are built together (2:22) as the temple of God. The body, building and inheritance themes are all interconnected so that "the whole body fitted together and put together by every supporting joint grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work" (4:16). Therefore the body of Christ, the temple of God grows and is filled or is completed as each member does its part.

In these ways the use of the syn-prefixes reveal much about the manner in which the mystery (or the administration of the mystery) is worked out. As well, the three terms in 3:6 are loaded with meaning. Joint-heirs can imply both an inheritance with Israel and with Christ. Paul's prayer is that we might experientially know Christ's "glorious inheritance in the saints" (1:18). This suggests that we share Christ's inheritance. As well, 2:11-22, suggests that the Gentiles share in the inheritance of Israel. Paul taught that Gentile believers are fellow heirs of all the blessings pledged to Abraham and his seed which is Christ (Rom. 4:13, 16, Gal. 3:16, 29), and are therefore heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). Therefore to be in Christ and to share in his inheritance is also to participate in the promise to Abraham and his descendants.

Joint body refers to the body of Christ (2:16). The author appears to have coined this new word to express this revolutionary new unity between Jews and Gentiles that is created in Christ Jesus (2:13-22). It is in this body that Jews and Gentiles are reconciled to God by the cross (2:16). The use of body terminology is also a reminder of the body which Christ himself fills with all things (1:10, 23). As well it prepares the reader for the mixing of metaphors in the husband and wife analogy. The author declares that this is a great mystery (5:32). Christ loved the church and suffered on a cross, separated from his Father, that he might sanctify and cleanse the church by the washing of the word, that he might present the church to himself in marriage. Christ and the church then become one perfect man. Christ is the savior of the body (5:23). This is such a great mystery, but it becomes even greater when one remembers that all things must eventually be joined in the body '.This perfect man (4:13) who is every man perfect in Christ Jesus (Col. 1:27) becomes the means of sanctifying and cleansing the rest of creation in much the same way that Paul had to fill up that which was lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the Gentiles (Col. 1:24-25). This perfect man shall leave father (the Heavenly Father) and mother (the Heavenly Jerusalem which is the mother of us all. Gal. 4:26, Rev. 21:9-10) and shall be joined unto his wife (the rest of creation), and they two shall be one flesh. At this point, Christ will be filled and the temple will be complete.

Joint partakers of the promise is also a loaded term. The word promise occurs several places in Ephesians each revealing the meaning of the term (1:13, 2:12, 3:6, 6:3). Chapter six verse three is a quotation of Exodus 20:12. "Honor your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." In 6:3 the promise is that you may enjoy long life on the earth. The author is suggesting that the land God is giving his children is the entire earth. The Gentiles will be partakers or enjoyers of the promise that to Abraham and his descendants would be given the entire world (Rom. 4:13). This is what it will mean to share in the covenants of promise (2:12). The Holy Spirit of promise has sealed the believers guaranteeing this inheritance of the earth (1:13). The riches of our inheritance becomes all things in Christ.

This new humanity in Christ that is described by these three terms is replacing the old humanity in Adam (2:15, 4:22, 24). This new humanity makes it possible for man to rule the universe as God had designed it (1:22, Ps. 8), and for the universe to share in the glorious liberty of the sons of God (Rom. 8:21). It is in these ways that joint-heirs, joint-body, and joint-partakers of the promise explain the mystery.

 

Ephesians 3:10

"Through the church" suggests that by viewing the unity created amongst Jews and Gentiles the celestials will see in germ God's plan of ultimate reconciliation. The church becomes an object lesson of the Wisdom of God. "Through the church" also implies that the church will be the means through which the ultimate reconciliation and universal lordship of Christ is brought about.

These principalities and powers, that are also mentioned in 6:12, will be defeated and brought into submission by truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, and by salvation. The church will accomplish this through the word of God and prayer for all the holy ones (6:12-18).

That these celestials participate in salvation rather than a mere domination by Christ is clear. The display of kindness, grace, and salvation rather than mere domination is evident throughout Ephesians (1:3, 2:7, 3:10, 6:11, 12). This can be seen especially well in the churches' battle with these forces. What does it mean for the church to subdue these forces with the gospel and by salvation? Therefore given the declared reconciliation of all things, and the uniting of all in Christ, submission must also involve salvation.

The "Wisdom of Solomon" prepares the reader for God's plan of salvation for the powers. The author of Wisdom explains that God created all things that they might exist and the creative forces of the earth are good. There is no destructive poison in them, nor in the kingdom of hell on earth (Wisdom 1:14). Nevertheless through the envy of the devil, death came into the world; the shameful death of the Son of God (Wisdom 2:18-20, 24). Explaining this, Paul declares that the princes of this world would not have crucified the Lord of glory had they understood God's secret Wisdom and understood what God had prepared for them (1 Cor. 2:8-9). Nevertheless, those who served the devil in crucifying the Lord of glory experience death (Wisdom 2:25). That is the bad news. The good news is that God has a plan of salvation.

This salvation is brought out more clearly by a simple study of the multi-faceted Wisdom of God which is described in Wisdom 7:22. For in Wisdom is "an understanding spirit, holy, manifold, subtle, lively, active, undefiled, plain, not subject to hurt, loving the thing that is good, quick, irresistible, ready to do good, kind to man, steadfast, sure, free from care, having all power, overseeing all things, and containing all spirits, intelligible, pure and perceptive" (Wisdom 7:22).

The writer of Wisdom asks "who is there among men who can know the counsel of God, or who can think what the will of the Lord is?" (Wisdom 9:13). Wisdom declares of God, "You can show your great strength at all times, and who will withstand the power of your arm, for the whole world before you is as a little grain...but you have mercy on all the things that are made, for never would you have made any thing if you hated it. And how could anything have endured if it had not been your will? Or been preserved if not called by you. But you spare all for they are yours. Oh Lord (Wisdom 11:22-27).

This wisdom… is described within Wisdom as the "unspotted mirror of the power of God and the image of his goodness... she can do all things...she makes all things new: and in all ages entering into holy souls, and makes them friends of God" (Wisdom 7:26-27). In Colossians Christ is the image of the invisible God through whom all powers are created and reconciled (Colossian 1:15-16, 20).

What is this manifold Wisdom that the church declares to the principalities and powers? It is that … God is overseeing all things. He has reconciled all to God and is all-powerful and irresistible. He makes all things new and will make them the friends of God. He would not have made them if that had not been His will. God intends to and will spare them by uniting them in Christ, by including them in His body.

God has also ordained through wisdom that humankind should have dominion over all the creatures that were made and that humankind should order the world according to equity (Wisdom 9:2). It is the church's duty to inform the principalities of this wisdom. All of this is according to the eternal purpose of God that He accomplished in Christ Jesus (3:11).

 

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The Joint Body Chiasm

 

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