Dean Johnson Ministries


What follows is an examination of the biblical basis for the belief that all creation will be united within Christ. The paper then concludes with a discussion of the implications of the tension that exists between this belief that God makes "all things new" and the doctrine of eternal punishment.

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THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST

AN EXEGESIS OF EPHESIANS THREE

By Dean Johnson

"If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries...and have not love it profits me nothing,"

"We speak a message of wisdom among the mature"

(1 Corinthians 13:2-3, 2:6)


CONTENTS

I INTRODUCTION

II EPHESIAN DISTINCTIVES

III DEPENDANCY UPON COLOSSIANS

IV STRUCTURE

The Digression

The Intercession

V THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST...The main discussion starts here

VI THE FULNESS

The Church is Filled

Christ is Filled

VII THE EXEGESIS

VIII SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PASSAGE

IX THEOLOGICAL CONSIDERATION

X CONCLUSION

____________

INTRODUCTION

Ephesians is an epistle that stretches the limits of New Testament theological thought. Salvation is expanded to include a present reality. God's grace reaches to new heights. Petitions are prayed that push the limits of human imagination. The church, in Christ, is placed in power and authority above all enemies and amid all these revelations, the church is informed of its inherent unity in Christ, and its role in bringing unity to the rest of the cosmos. The church then receives prayer for the power to perform it's task.

EPHESIAN DISTINCTIVES

The piling up of adjectives and the use of eloquent worship language differs from Paul's usual teaching style of question and answer argumentation. Obvious theological shifts in thinking occur in soteriology, Christology, eschatology, and ecclesiology. Salvation is pushed toward the present tense. Christ, as head, is distinct from the body. The return of Christ is not emphasized. The church is universal rather than local. Hostility between Jew and Gentile are presented as a problem of the past.

DEPENDENCY UPON COLOSSIANS

Ephesians 3 appears to be a reworking and explanation of Colossians 1:23- 2:10. Comparing 3:1-13 to Colossians 1:23-29 reveals several extensive word for word parallels. It is the slight differences that are most revealing.

In Colossians 1:23 Paul is a minister. Ephesians 3:1 presents Paul as a prisoner for the sake of the Gentiles. In Colossians 1:24 Paul suffers for the church, Christ's body. Ephesians 3:13 portrays these sufferings as for the Gentile believers. Both these changes have the effect of reinforcing a positive relationship between the Gentile readers and the apostle Paul which can be later drawn upon to enforce ethical exhortations (4:1).

Colossians 1:25 speaks of the "administration of God given" to Paul. Ephesians 3:2 points out that it is the administration of the "grace" of God. That grace is emphasized is apparent by the repeated use of the term and insertion "the grace" in 3:2 which is not found in the Colossian passage (1:25). This emphasis on grace is especially appropriate given the Gentile recipients of the letter (2:7-12). The bestowal of grace on Paul functions to build a bridge and a bond between Paul and these Gentile readers (3:7-8).

In Colossians 1:27 the "riches of the glory of the mystery" is Christ in the believer. Ephesians 3:8 stresses that these riches in Christ are "unsearchable." In Colossians 1:26 the mystery is made known to the saints. Ephesians points the Gentile believers to the "holy apostles and prophets" to whom this mystery is made known. These slight changes place the saints in a position of great indebtedness to the apostle Paul who revealed this unsearchable mystery.

This mystery in Colossians 1:26 is hid from "ages and from generations." This apparently is a reference to time. However, the Ephesian author, by separating these terms and placing them in new contexts brings out new meanings. The "other generations" who did not know the mystery as it is now made known refer to those in the old order (before the resurrection of Christ) which is passing away (3:5). That is not so new. What is new is the placing of the ages from which the mystery was hidden, in the context of the manifold wisdom of God being made known to the principalities and powers (3:9-10). This has the effect of changing the range of meaning within Ephesians that "ages" can have. "Ages" can now be included in the list of the cosmic powers which first century man feared most (2:2, 6:12).

Within the intercessory prayer the parallels are less obvious but the differences in the choice of words are revealing. There is a shift from the individual believer to the corporate church. It is no longer the power "which is at work within me" but the power "which is at work within us" (3:20, Colossians 1:29). "Every man perfect" becomes the church "filled with all the fulness of God", or "a perfect man" which illustrates perfect corporate unity (3:19, 4:13, Colossians 1:28). The fulness of deity dwelling in Christ becomes Christ dwelling in the church so that the church "might be filled with all the fulness of God" (3:17, 19, Colossians 2:19-10). This Ephesian emphasis on corporate power, perfection, and unity is specifically done to illustrate in part God's promise of universal unity, and the role of the church in bringing it about. "Rooted...in him" becomes "Rooted...in love" (3:17, Colossians 2:7). Therefore, for the Ephesian author Christ is love. Therefore it is Christ's love that the readers must be grounded in and must know to be filled with this fulness of God.

STRUCTURE

Paul, the imprisoned apostle for the Gentiles reveals the mystery of Christ. The mystery is explained more fully and the church is informed of its' role in making the mystery known. Prayer is made on behalf of the church that it would understand and be empowered to fulfill its' task.

The contents of this chapter 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.

"For this reason" (3:1) reminds the reader of "For this cause" (1:15) and suggests that the author intends to continue the prayer of 1:15-19 which was left unfinished because of the digression of 1:20-23. However, the mention of his imprisonment (3:1) sends the author off on another digression to explain his ministry (3:2-13). The prayer is finally continued in 3:14 again beginning with the words "For this reason."

The inclusio "For you" at both 3:1 and 3:13 suggests that this section deals mainly with Paul's suffering for the Gentiles. The second inclusio "For this cause" at 3:1 and 3:14 in conjunction with the previous inclusio suggests that the reason the author prays is for the benefit of the Gentiles. The prayer closes with a mind stretching doxology which prepares the way for the exhortations which follow.

Here is the Ephesians three text.

Ephesians 3 : 1-21

THE DIGRESSION

For this reason, I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ

for the sake of you Gentiles

Assuming you have heard about the stewardship of God's grace,

that was given to me for you,

that by revelation he made known to me the mystery,

(as I have already written briefly so that you will be able to

understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,

which was not made known to people in other generations as it

has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

That the Gentiles are

joint-heirs and

joint-body and

joint-partakers

in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,

of which, I became a servant

according to the gift of God's grace,

which was given me through the working of his power,

to me, less than the least of all the saints

this grace was given

to preach to the Gentiles

the good news of the unsearchable riches in Christ;

and to make plain to all

the administration of the mystery

which was hidden for (from) ages in God

who created all things,

in order that, now, through the church,

to the principalities and authorities in heavenly places,

should be made known the manifold wisdom of God

according to the purpose of the ages

which he accomplished

in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In whom we have boldness and confident access

through faith in him.

I beg you therefore, not to be discouraged

because of my suffering for you

which is your glory.

THE INTERCESSION

For this reason I kneel before the Father,

from whom every family in heaven and earth

derives its name,

In order that according to the riches of his glory

he might strengthen you with power

through his Spirit in the inner

being, so that Christ might dwell

in your hearts by faith,

that you being rooted and grounded in love

may have power together with all

the saints, to grasp what is the

breadth and length and height and depth,

and to know the love of Christ

which surpasses knowledge,

that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.

Now to him who is able to do

immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine

according to his power that is at work within us,

to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus

throughout all generations and forevermore.

Amen!

THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST

The mystery is defined in 1:10. This secret that has now been revealed is that it is God's intention "to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ." God has purposed that the beginning and the end of creation are found in Christ (1:10, Colossians 1;16). Colossians declares that the mystery is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossian 1:27). Other Pauline writings reveal that "Christ in the believer" will eventually lead to "all in Christ." Romans declares that Christ in the believer will lead to the redemption of the purchased possession or the restoration to life of our mortal bodies.

This in turn will lead to the liberation of all creation which the Ephesian author declares is given to the believers as their inheritance (Romans 8:11, 23, 21, 4:13, Ephesians 1:13-14). Therefore, Christ in the church becomes the evidence that God will bring all into Christ. The church in Christ becomes the means through which Christ will be in all, and rule over all, and God will become all in all (1:18-23, 1 Cor. 15:28).

THE PLEROMA OR FULNESS

A discussion of "fulness" will be helpful in understanding the working out of the mystery as described in chapter three. Since fulness can refer to Christ or the church, and the filler can be God or Christ, "the fulness of him who fills all in all" seems to be deliberately worded in such a way that several meanings are appropriate (1:23). First, all things are brought together in Christ by God, who fills Christ, who is the fulness (1:10 Colossians 1:19). Second, the church as Christ's body is the fulness of Christ which Christ himself fills. Third, the church is the fulness of God because God fills it with the Spirit of God (2:21 - 22, 3:19).

In Ephesians the lines between church, Christ and God are deliberately fuzzy. Therefore, the church is both that which is filled and completed by Christ, and that which fills and completes Christ. Both of these views can be seen in Ephesians chapter three.

THE CHURCH IS FILLED (3:19)

The goal of the author's intercessory prayer is that the church might be filled with all the fulness of God. The fulness of God is the aggregate of the Divine attributes, virtues and powers. This fulness of God dwells in Christ (Colossians 1:19, 2:9 - 10). Therefore, the church is filled with this same fulness of God as it is filled with Christ.

CHRIST IS FILLED (EPH. 3:10. 21)

The reason the author intercedes for this fulness is so that the church will be empowered to fill up and complete Christ. This task of the church is what is described in the first half of chapter three. "According to his power that is at work within us" God is revealing and accomplishing his eternal purpose (3:21, 10-11, 1:10).

This power is first given to apostles and prophets like Paul to reveal the mystery of Christ to the church (3:5, 7). Christ has given these ministries to the church so that the church can reach to and attain to the full measure of the filling up or the completion of Christ (4:11, 13). This is done by the gathering together of all things into Christ, by God, through the church.

Now that the mystery of Christ has been made known to the church, that same power that Paul had is given to the church (3:19-20). The church now has the role of making known God's wisdom and eternal plan to the principalities and powers. God has reconciled even these things to himself (Colossian 1:16, 20). God's eternal purpose to unite them in Christ, and for them to take their place in the filling up of Christ is an accomplished reality in the mind of God (3:11).

As Christ is filled up the church grows. As the church grows Christ is filled up. In the ages to come God will include even the rebellious powers (2:7, 1:10). All begins in Christ. All ends in Christ. Given such an inspired imagination it is a wonder that the author could end his theological discourse by suggesting that God is able to do even more than has been imagined. To him be glory in the church!

THE EXEGESIS

3:1

The phrase "the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles" is closely intertwined with the thought within the phrases "was made a servant according to the gift of God's grace" (3:7) and "am less than the least of all saints" (3:8). They all reveal aspects of Paul's role in the fulfilling of God's plan for creation.

In Colossians, Paul suffers to fulfill or complete the word of God, the mystery. Such language, given the Ephesian understanding that the mystery is that God intends to fill Christ, suggests that Paul's suffering is for the purpose of accomplishing God's will, the summing up of all things in Christ. To accomplish this the Gentiles must know the mystery. Paul is presented as the prisoner of Jesus Christ, of his will and His purpose, to bring the Gentiles in line with God's plan that they might reveal the manifold wisdom of God to the rest of the cosmos.

That Paul was made a servant is significant. After Jesus took on the form of a servant. God exalted him promising that every knee would bow and every tongue would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The author is saying, be imitators of me even as I am of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:1). In so doing the Gentiles will partake in the universal dominion of Christ (1:22), for God's plan in creation was to give man dominion [ 1 ].

The third description of Paul reveals the pattern of God's plan. When Paul describes himself as the least of the apostles he sets himself up as an example of an apostolic ministry. He says, as the least, I worked harder than all the other apostles at preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 15:9-11). Therefore by calling the Gentile readers the least of all saints the author is suggesting that they should set the example by working harder than all the other saints (perhaps the Jewish believers) in proclaiming the gospel [ 2 ].

Paul's place as both prisoner and "less than the least of all saints" (3:8) positions him as an example to the Gentile believers as one who suffers to make the gospel known. Paul suffers under the Roman guard. The Roman guard really had no dominion over him, however Paul made the gospel known to them (Phil. 1:12-14). The believers suffer under the powers of the air. The powers really have no dominion over the believers, however the believers following Paul's example, make the manifold wisdom of God known to these powers.

In an even more subtle way Paul as "less than the least of all saints" is set up as a "spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men" (1 Cor. 4:9),[3]. The "least of all saints" can refer to the Gentiles. The "saints", in this case, can refer to the aeons or the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, (Daniel 4:17),[4].

Suggesting that Paul is less than these powers is even more dramatic than suggesting he is the worst of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). However, just as the "worst of sinners" (Paul) was a pattern to those who would later believe, so also here, the "less than the least of all saints" (Paul) becomes a pattern for the "least of all saints" (the Gentiles). Then both Paul and the Gentiles become a display piece to "the saints" or holy ones (the aeons), the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.

3:2

At the beginning of this digression Paul reminds the readers of the commission, administration, and management of the knowledge and insight into the mystery that has been given to him for the Gentiles. This emphasizes Paul's special vocation which God uses to fulfill his plan.

3:3

This mystery was not arrived at by human reasoning, but by "the spirit of wisdom and revelation so that (they) might know him better" (1:17).

Given the linguistic parallels between Colossians 1:23-29 and Ephesians three, Colossians one is quite likely the brief writing being referred to. If the readers were not familiar with Colossians, which is unlikely given the dependency on the epistle, then 1:9-10 and possibly 2:11-22 could be the previous writing.

3:4

This previous writing needs to be read so that the readers can understand Paul's insight into the mystery. The book of Ephesians is a deeper elaboration and interpretation of the insights described in Colossians. Specifically, the mystery of Christ is explained more explicitly.

3:5

The mystery was a completely new revelation. It had just now, in that generation, been revealed to the holy apostles and prophets. This reminds the Gentile readers of the foundational role of these leaders (2:20). The author thereby points out that all subsequent teaching must be built upon that foundation if it is to survive (1 Cor. 3:13-14).

3:6

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.

This new community is also made alive together, raised up together, and seated together in Christ connecting the new life, resurrection, and position with fulfillment of the mystery, the filling up of Christ (2:5-6). Therefore, it is only by being delivered from death and the dominion of the prince of the power of the air (1:7, 2:1-2, 5, Colossians 1:13, 14), and by being raised up together in Christ, and by being seated in Christ in heavenly places, far above these powers of the air, that this new community is able to display the unsearchable riches of Christ (2:7), and make known the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, that they might take their place in the body of Christ (3:10, 1:10).

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 [ 5 ] '.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 [ 6 ]. At this point, Christ will be filled and the temple will be complete [ 7 ].

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.

3:7

This calling to make the mystery known is portrayed as a high honor. This ministry is not only given by God's grace but its effectiveness was dependant upon God's power. This calling and power is now given to the saints to accomplish more than they could ask or think (3:10, 20).

3:8

The unsearchable riches of Christ are the riches of our inheritance in Christ (1:18, 3:6). All things are included in these riches. These unsearchable riches are closely linked to the manifold wisdom of God (3;10) which is also unsearchable (Rom. 11:33). In Colossians the riches of the glory of the mystery is Christ in you (Col. 1:27). Therefore it would not be incorrect to say that Christ is both this wisdom and these riches, but that is not the emphasis of this epistle. However, given that Christ is the wisdom of God, the wisdom literature is most revealing. Wisdom says, "With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity" (Prov. 8:18). All things came into being through Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 8:6). The works of his hands are the riches. This will be discussed more fully in the consideration of the manifold wisdom of God (3:10).

3:9

Paul's commission was to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery. This is a task that must be completed. In answer to Paul's prayer that utterance may be given to him to open his mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel (6:20), the church must now respond. Now through the church all men will see the message of Paul.

This message has been hidden for ages and from the ages (aeons). It was completely hidden in God. The close proximity in the text of aeons to principalities and powers in 3:10 suggests that these aeons are also celestials. The designation of God as the one who. "created all things by Jesus Christ" suggests that God is powerful and able to fulfill his plan of salvation for all creation which includes the rebellious powers (see also Col. 1:16, 20).

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 [ 8 ]? 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 which the Ephesian author interprets to be Christ [ 9 ] 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 Christ the wisdom of 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).

3:11

"The purpose of the ages" suggests that God is working out his purpose throughout the ages to bring his plan to fulfillment in the fulness of time (1:10). This purpose though yet to be fully worked out has been already accomplished in the mind of God through Jesus Christ and his death on the cross (1:7, 11, 14, Colossians 1:13-14, 22, 20) [ 10 ].

3:12

Having finished the digression, the author now begins to prepare the reader for the immensity of the intercession about to be prayed. The one article shared by boldness and access may be a hendiadys suggesting that the meaning could be bold access. Bold access suggests a freedom before God to say all that is in one's heart because of an assurance of God's favor [ 11 ]. "Through faith in him" could be translated "By the faith of him" or also "by his faithfulness." Each has quite a different meaning but all are allowed and perhaps even intended by the author. Our faith in Christ seals us with the Holy Spirit through whom we have access to God (1:13, 15). This is the primary meaning. However, the life we now live in the heavenly places far above all principality and power with easy access to God through Christ, we now live through the faith of the Son of God. This life is not of ourselves it is through the faith of the Son of God (2:5-6, 8, 18) [ 12 ] . "By the faithfulness of Christ" suggests that our access to God was dependant upon Christ's obedience to God unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8). Through his death on the cross we have peace with God and with one another, and can therefore come boldly to the throne of grace.

3:13

Since we have this bold access toward God and all is being transformed into his image Paul encourages his readers to not lose heart. His sufferings are for the glory of the Gentiles. "Your glory" refers to the glory of the inheritance that is all things in Christ which is given to the saints. The implication is that the Gentiles' suffering will also be for the glory of those they reach [13]. The use of the word glory also has eschatological overtones suggesting that the fulness of this glory may yet be in the ages to come [14].

3:14-15

Kneeling is used in Paul's writing only three times [15]. Two of these refer to an eschatological bowing of the knee to a universal king. These references should be in the back of the readers mind as they read this prayer. In this way the universal scope of salvation is not forgotten.

Every family in heaven and on earth is full of meaning. The families in heaven can refer not only to the church triumphant who have gone before but also to the families of angels [16]. The families on earth refer first of all to the household of faith (2:19-22), but also to the rest of mankind in the sense that God the Father is the creator of all (Acts 17:24, 28). Family (patria) can refer to both fatherhood and family. Therefore every father and every family comes from the "God and Father of all (4:6) who "created all things" (3:9). This extends the Fatherhood of God to cosmic proportions. It is the Father who blesses his children with all spiritual blessings and opens their understanding to know what it is they are called to (1:3, 18, Wisdom 11:26).

Naming is important within Ephesians [ 17 ]. "Derives its' name" could imply submission to the One who gives the name. Such submission is depicted by Adam naming Eve and the animals (Genesis 2:19-20, 3:20). However, within this subjection the giving of a name also implies the bestowal of certain powers (1:21). Therefore this phrase implies that all power in heaven and on earth is under the control of God the Father [ 18 ].

3:16

The author continues the prayer, interceding that the knowledge of the riches of the glory of our inheritance, which is all things in Christ, would strengthen us with power in the inner being. To be strengthened with might is the first of a string of requests that depend on the fulfillment of the requests that went before. Therefore to be strengthened and to understand that strengthening is of primary importance to the author (3:16, 1:19).

3:17

This strengthening makes it possible for Christ to take up permanent residence in their inner being. The church is that dwelling. It is being built together as a dwelling place for God in the "heart" or "spirit of the mind" of the corporate church " [ 19 ]. It is also available to individual believers since the individual believer is complete in Christ [ 20 ].

"That you may be rooted and established in love" are images of the corporate church. The metaphors describe biological growth (4:16) and building (2:20-21). Just as the church is built on the foundation of Christ the cornerstone who is love, so also the church must bury its roots deep within that love so that they may be able to grasp the extent of the salvation of Christ which is based on love.

3:18

This is a prayer for Gentile Christians to understand the entire revelation of God. Strength is needed so that the inner being can be stretched to comprehend the full dimensions of Christ's love and salvation. Theories and speculations concerning the exact meaning of "breadth and length and depth and height" abound. Suggestions have been made that these dimensions refer to the cross, magic rituals to pull down the deity, and even to the ability of the human spirit to spread itself throughout the universe. These are unlikely. Linguistically all four dimensions are governed by one article which suggests that they are a unity representing one idea. This one idea that the author wants us to grasp is probably a reference to the universe and Christ's love for it. Just before the description of the multifaceted wisdom of God the author of Wisdom declares that God had given him "a true understanding of all the things that exist, to know how the world was made, and the activity of the elements, the beginning and the end..." (Wisdom 7:17-21). Therefore the author's prayer is that we might comprehend the beginning and the end of the universe given the love of Christ. All was created in him. All will be united in him.

The wisdom literature seems to have provided the vocabulary for this phrasing. Wisdom is described as higher than heaven..., deeper than sheol..., its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea" (Job 11:8-9). The depth refers to sheol and the fulness of Christ bringing salvation to this realm (4:9-10). The height refers to the dominion of Christ in the heavens (1:20-21), and of his filling also this realm (4:9-10). To understand the sea to which the breadth refers, a closer examination of an apocalyptic text will be useful. Revelation twenty-one includes ideas about the sea, the bride of Christ, the dwelling of God, all things made new, the inheritance, the apostles, angels, the temple, and the nations. Since all these ideas are also found in Ephesians it is reasonable to look here to understand the meaning of the sea. In Revelation 21:1 "there was no longer any sea" when the New Jerusalem came down out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Christ). This sea appears to refer to the lake of fire or the people of the realm of the dead where confusion reigns (mentioned in the previous verses, Rev. 20:13-15). The sea is an interesting part of this mystery. The sea or lake of fire is emptied of its dead and there is no more sea (Revelation 21:1). There is a new creation. There is no more confusion in people but rather wisdom. They are brought into Christ who is the wisdom of God. All things are made new (Revelation 21:3-5). Christ and the church shall be one flesh. This is a great secret (5:32).

The length of the earth is a reference to the rest of the nations as well as Israel (3:6) being included in the full salvation of Christ. It is possible that it could also be a reference to the length of time this plan of salvation encompasses (2:7, 3:5, 9, 11). Both are suggested within Ephesians.

3:19

For the church to be rooted and grounded and grasp this love is necessary if it is to know this love experientially.

The culminating purpose behind all these prayers is so that the saints "might be filled with ALL THE FULNESS OF GOD." All the fulness of God already dwells in Christ establishing his divinity (Col. 2:9). This fulness is now prayed to be in the saints. When this prayer is fulfilled "the Lord God almighty and the Lamb are the temple" (Rev. 21:22). This could, I write with fear and trembling, be the divinization of the church.

This fulness of God is first in Christ (Col. 1:19, 2:9), then in the church, (1:23, 4:13 - 16), and finally in all the cosmos which unites in the church (4:10, 1:23). God then becomes all in all (1 Cor. 15:28).

3:20

Try to imagine all of this. And yet God is able to do even more than this by the power that is at work within us.

3:21

These final words sum up the entire theological discovery. They could be restated as: To Christ be brought the glory of the inheritance which is all things united in the church and in Christ Jesus to all the generations of the age of the ages. The Church of Jesus Christ declares "Amen - so be it".

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PASSAGE

Today's church system to a large extent appears oblivious to the plan of God. Yet Paul suffered so dearly to make it known to the saints and prayed for the saints that they would understand it. How brightly could the body of Christ burn if she is empowered to understand the full extent of Christ's love? Where are the saints who will pray as Paul prayed? Finally, where are the saints who will suffer the loss of all things to see the church experience the fulness?

THEOLOGICAL CONSIDERATION

Christ died to reconcile all things to himself. However, how is this doctrine of ultimate reconciliation to be reconciled with the doctrine of eternal punishment?

What are the possibilities?

1. Given the progressive nature of revelation, are we to assume that this epistle takes precedence over earlier revelations that seem to proclaim eternal separation from God?

2. Are we to assume an annihilation of the wicked so that only that which remains is united in Christ?

3. Perhaps those passages, which have often been interpreted to teach eternal punishment, should rather be understood as referring to limited ages of punishment and discipline.

4. Or maybe eternal punishment is a serious threat of which God will repent himself at the repentance of mankind.

5. Or refusing all these possibilities should we attempt to hold two obviously contradictory doctrines together in tension, choosing to deny neither one?

Perhaps this tension is the very thing that prevents the widespread acceptance of this great mystery. However, the church desperately needs to hear this message. For the sake of the church an answer needs to be found. If the mystery is going to be proclaimed then it must be proclaimed boldly.

CONCLUSION

One desire hidden in the mind of God revealed at the right time with the recipients bathed in prayer results in the realization of that which is accomplished.

One desire in the heart of the recipient expressed at the right time with all prayer and supplication ushers in the fulfillment of the mystery.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the mystery and knowledge of God! [21 ].

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barth, Markus. Ephesians, The Anchor Bible. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Incorporated, 1974.

Brown, Colin, ed. The New International Dictionary of New Testament, Theology, Volume 1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971. S.V. "Fullness," by R. Schippers.

Caird, G.B. Paul's Letters From Prison. London: Oxford University Press, 1976.

Friedrich, Gerhard, ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume VI. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969, S.V. "Pleroma," by Delling.

Kittel, Gerhard, ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume VI. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968, S.V. "Mysterion," by Born Kamm.

Lincoln, Andrew. Ephesians, Word Biblical Commentary. Edited by Ralph P. Martin. Dallas: Word Book, Publisher, 1990.

Schnackenburg, Rudolf. Ephesians, A Commentary. Translated by Helen Heron. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991.

ENDNOTES

[ 1 ] 2 See also 1:18, 22, 2:7, 3:6 fellow heirs, Wisdom 8:18, 9:2, Psalm 8, 110:1, Genesis 1:26.

[ 2 ] Notice that the apostle to the Gentiles called himself the least of the apostles because he was born much later than the other apostles, having seen Christ only in a vision after the resurrection. Perhaps the author is suggesting that the Gentile believers could be called the least of the saints because they did not receive their calling till much later after it had been offered to Israel (see also 2:19).

[ 3 ] Holy ones can refer to angels (see Daniel 4:17).

[ 4 ] In the Septuagint saints or holy ones can refer to the celestial being's that surround the throne (Ps. 89:3-18).

[ 5 ] To include imagery of Christ as head, and Church as body fits the mystery images more completely than to suggest that Christ only marries a limited portion of mankind. It also allows the successive ages of fulfillment of the mystery to be revealed more fully. God's plan is worked out in Christ, then the Gentile church, then the rest of mankind, then the universe.

[ 6 ] Notice that in Rev. 21:1-5 the first mention of the bride places the emphasis on God dwelling- with men. The second mention of the bride centers around the involvement and interest of an angel (21:9, 15). Note also that John points out that at this point he did not see a temple in the city because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple (Rev. 21:22). This points to the divinization and oneness of the church with God in Christ (3:19, 1 Cor. 15:28).

[ 7 ] Christ will be joined to the church which has been filled (5:31).

[ 8 ] The image of the warrior left standing- suggests a final victory (6:11, 13, 14).

[ 9 ] See also 1 Cor. 1:24.

[ 10 ] Salvation must be worked out (Phil. 2:11-12).

[ 11 ] 2:18, 6:19.

[ 12 ] Ephesians two suggests that those who serve the devil experience death (Wisdom 2:25). Through the faith of the Son of God we are given life (Gal. 2:20).

[ 13 ] See also 2 Cor. 3:18-4:1-2, Eph. 6:19).

[ 14 ] See 2 Cor. 4:17, 2 Cor. 1:6, Rom. 8:17-18, 2 Tim. 2:10, Eph. 2:7).

[ 15 ] Romans 11:4, 14:11, Phil. 2:10.

[ 16 ] Gen. 6:2-4, 1 Enoch 69:3-4, 71:1, 106:5).

[ 17 ] 1:21, 3:15, 5:3, 5:20.

[ 18 ] "of our Lord Jesus Christ" is often a rejected reading' despite 1:3.

[ 19 ] 3:17, 4:23.

[ 20 ] Colossians 1:28, 2:9.

[ 21 ] Rom. 11:33

 

In Christ "dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in him."

Will All Mankind Eventually Be Saved?

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