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Paul the Preacher to the Gentiles April 23, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Ephesians 3:1-13.

Summary: Paul begins by telling the Ephesians that as they are 1) fellow citizens with God’s people and 2) part of God’s temple, he – as a prisoner of Christ with the commission of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles…

…since they have heard of his office as an apostle and of the grace given to his office, as he has been commissioned to the Gentiles; in particular, God has revealed to him the fact that the Gentiles and Jews are united in one body, which he has just communicated to them – with few words. From reading what he has written, they can judge his knowledge of Christ. Now the fact that the Gentiles and Jews are united in one body was not revealed to men during other ages, yet the Holy Spirit has now communicated it to God’s sacred apostles and prophets. The Gospel message shows that the Gentiles and Jews 1) have the same inheritance, 2) share in the life of Christ, and 3) partake in the promise of redemption by being united with Christ.

Paul then states that he is a minister of the Gospel – and his calling as an apostle is by God’s grace through God’s power. Although he views himself as the least of all believers – as he formerly persecuted Christ – God has allowed him to preach the fullness of the divinity of Christ to the Gentiles. Moreover, he has been commissioned to teach all people God’s plan of redemption, which He – who created all things – had concealed from the beginning of time. In this way the various facets of God’s wisdom in His plan of redemption can be revealed to angels through the church – according to His purpose formed in eternity, which He has executed in the incarnation and death of Christ. Now by faith in Christ believers have access to God and may approach Him freely and fearlessly. Paul concludes by imploring the Ephesians – as they have this free access to God – to not faint due to his sufferings for them, as these sufferings are an honor to them.

Thoughts: In verse 8, we see that Paul views himself as the least of all believers. Hodge offers some thought-provoking comments on this point:

It was not merely the sense of his sinfulness in general which weighed so heavily on the apostle’s conscience; it was the sin of persecuting Christ, for which he could never forgive himself. As soon as God revealed his Son in him, and he understood the infinite excellence and love of Christ, the sin of rejecting and blaspheming such a Saviour appeared so great that all other sins paled into insignificance.

Now Hodge’s note that Paul was unable to “forgive himself” of his prior sins as the chief opponent of Christianity is rather odd. Did Paul regularly chastise himself by recalling these past sins? If so, how did he have the time and energy to serve the Lord wholeheartedly in his role as an apostle (as summarized – rather amazingly – in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33)? Perhaps what Hodge meant to say is that while Paul did not want to forgive himself for his past sins, the Holy Spirit kept working in him, allowing him to experience His forgiveness. Modern-day believers should be grateful that the Holy Spirit kept Paul from wallowing in self-flagellation.

Verse 10 shows that God has chosen to reveal His wisdom in His plan of redemption through His church. Hodge raises an interesting point in his commentary:

If this clause depends on the one preceding it, then the apostle teaches that creation is for redemption. God created all things “in order that” his manifold wisdom might be made known by the church. This is the supralapsarian view of the order of the divine purposes, and as it is the only passage in Scripture which is adduced as directly asserting that theory, its correct interpretation is of special interest.

I was unfamiliar with the word “supralapsarian,” and a quick Google search turned up a helpful link. Now Hodge uses several approaches to refute the “supralapsarian view,” including 1) noting that it is based on an improper connection of clauses and 2) teasing out the context of Paul’s argument. Now it is unclear to me whether 1) God decreed that He would elect people to be saved before decreeing that all men would sin in Adam, or 2) election occurred after the decree of the Fall. This is one of those theological issues that will probably remain unresolved before the Second Coming. Moreover, it is unclear whether God will resolve this debate in the next life; if the temporal order of these events is not critical to our salvation, does God need to clarify it for our benefit?

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1. Paul’s Labor for the Church « Ringing In - October 11, 2012

[…] This passage is analogous to Ephesians 3, which I’ve blogged about. Perusing those posts reminds me of the difficulties of fully comprehending Christ and His […]


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