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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ephesians 2 - Entry into the Body of Christ

Ephesians 2 -

Chapter 1 introduced use to the big picture of God plan for the world through the Church. Chapter 2 begins to provide the details of what is happening. Chapter 1 was the why and chapter 2 is the how.
This chapter could easily be divided into two parts. The first part describes salvation offered while an enemy with God. The second part describes salvation offered to man who was outside God’s covenant. Because of the ethnic makeup of the church in Ephesus, there was some tension between Jew and Greek. Each of these parts are somewhat directed to each group respectively, in order to show that all are in need of salvation regardless of ethnic or cultural background.

I. Saved while enemies with God (1-10) This portion of the chapter seems more directed to Jews than the Gentiles. Not that it does not apply to Gentiles, but it is a reminder to the Jews that their ethnicity did not guarantee salvation.

A. What you were (1-3)
1. Dead.
2. Walked with the Devil
3. Walked in the Flesh
-This is a hopeless situation. Nothing could be worse than being dead, and not just dead but dead in your sins. Your continual actions are keeping you dead. Paul calls them children of wrath, and is saying that just like the Gentiles they were shown to be at odds with God. This is not a description of an angry God, but men who were opposed to God. Man had the problem, not God, but God has the solution.

B. What God did (4-6)
-But God! This is an amazing phrase. The situation was so hopeless and that the solution could only come from God. Because He is the one who loves mankind; He reaches in love while we are dead, and He does several things for man.
1. Co-quickened us
2. Co-raised
3. Co-seated
4. Future riches
-By using the prefix “co” (the Greek prefix sun-), Paul makes clear that through our baptismal union we become united with Christ; we share in His life and experience. Thus we are seated with Christ at the right hand of the Father. Since what happens at baptism was not earned but freely given; we are being saved by grace.

C. What you are (7-10)
1. Salvation through faith
-In the previous chapter we discussed power and energy. Power is just potential and must be energized by something to activate it. So what activates the power of God in our life. It is faith.
-What is faith? Farley defines it as “our repentant response to God and our discipleship to Jesus”
-What is your response to God’s grace that has been given?
-This passage is aimed somewhat at the Jews. The Pharisees understanding of our relationship with God was based on works. It was the acquiring and piling up of various commandments.
-Think through this what have you done to deserve what you received at baptism? Nothing.....there is no ground to boast. It is this element of humility that is essential to the life of faith.

2. God’s workmanship
-Farley “good works are not the ground of our salvation but they are what the Christian life is all about.”
These works are part of the plan that God has had for us. The foundation for these works is humility and response to God’s grace. Faith, works, obedience, prayers, fastings, almsgivings, asceticisms, etc all open our hearts to the grace of God. The grace of God transforms us, and activates the power of God within us given at Baptism shaping us into the likeness of God.

II. Saved while strangers (11-22)
- This portion is more directed to the Gentile population of the Ephesian church. Paul is clear to point our that the difference between Jew and Gentile is external.

A. What you were (11-12)
1. Separated from Christ
2. Alienated from Israel
3. Strangers to the promise
4. No hope - no access

- Gentiles were separated from the people of God. At least being part of Israel, they had the promise of Christ. Yet the Gentiles had none of this. Just like the first part of the chapter, this ends with no hope as well.

B. What Christ did (13-18)
1. Brought near
-Because of being in Christ we are brought near to God. They would understand this because this is the language of sacrifice. Even the Gentiles would know the OT because this was their Bible. This is what was read during services and studied in catechism. They would know that in the OT a blood sacrifice was needed to have access to God. They would also understand this from the Liturgy; because as we participate in Christ’s sacrifice we are brought near to God.

2. He is our peace (Is 57:19)
Paul is referring to the peace offering in Lev. 3:1-17. There were multiple sacrifices in the OT. It is often called the fellowship offering. This offering was unlike the others. The other sacrifices were offered for the forgiveness of sins. The peace offering was offered as an act of thanksgiving to God. It was a voluntary act of worship. Just like the others it was the offering of an unblemished animal. It usually would follow another of the sacrifices. The peace offering was different in that it was offered to God, but not fully consumed by the fire. Part of the sacrifice was burned and the rest was eaten by the offered and his family. The typology of the Eucharist is clear. We bring the unblemished sacrifice of Christ to God in thanksgiving, and this as a family we partake together and commune with God.

3. Restored Jew & Gentile
- The Gentiles who were “far off” and the Jews who were “near” are both transformed and given access to the Father (Gal. 6:15). There is no longer Jew or Gentile, there is a new man in Christ. Farley says that “One Spirit” refers to the Eucharistic assembly.

C. What you are (19-22)
1. Co-citizens with the saints
-Who were the saints? The OT saints. The history and heritage of Israel is now the Gentiles heritage
2. Dwelling place for God.

Conclusion: Chapter 2 gives us a huge understanding of life without God outside of the Church. It showed us what God has done for us. It also shows us who we are now. The wonderful gifts God has given--what are we doing with those gifts? Are we living to the potential of what God has given us?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ephesians 1: Intro to the Body of Christ

This chapter opens like many of Paul’s letters. First the opening, then a thanksgiving to God, and finally a pray for the church.

I. Opening (1,2) -”the saints” Paul is writing to merchants, slaves, men, women, tradesmen, artisans, rich and poor; yet he calls them saints. Amazing! This is not a congregation of monks, but they are called saints because they are faithful.

II. Thanksgiving (3-14)

A. Vs.3 “We Bless God for He blessed us”

Every service in the Orthodox church begins with the blessing of God, because our life is a life of praise and worship to God. Chrysostom makes much of the term “spiritual blessing” as opposed to thanking God for material blessings. Chrys. “You are made immortal, you are made free, you are made a son, you are made righteous, you are made a brother, you are made a fellow-heir, you reign with Christ, you are glorified with Christ; all things are freely given you.” Then he asks, “What more do you need?”

B. God Chose the Church (4-6)

- “in Him” This phrase is used often in Paul’s writing. Christ is the instrument or channel for God’s blessing and choosing. It is because the Christian has been united with Christ in Baptism that he can partake in the blessings of God.
- The Church is God’s chosen people for a purpose. There is no sense here or in the writings of the Church that God is talking about an individual choosing for salvation or damnation before creation. The idea is corporate. God before the foundation of the world has chosen a people. Early on in salvation history, this choosing was Israel. Israel was not chosen to the exclusion and damnation of the rest of mankind, but that they would be the instrument to bring salvation to all man. The Church is merely an expansion of Israel. In fact in other places Paul is clear to point out that the Gentiles coming into the Church is a picture of them being grafted into Israel. God is choosing a people corporately called the Church that will be used to bring salvation to the world.
-The purpose in choosing the church is to be holy and blameless. This once again is using OT language. Just as the sacrifices of old were to be blameless and holy, as well as the people of Israel, the Church is to be a people who are set apart to be used by God and free from the blemish of sin. Chrys “A holy man is he who is a partaker of faith; a blameless man is he who leads a irreproachable life.” “We are to be holy before God not just man.”
-It is to His glory because it reflects Him. God does not need our praise but it changes us to receive more and more of God’s grace. God did not just clean us up but gave us more than we could have imagined.

C. God Redeem us (7-8)

-Redemption is the language of slavery. We were slaves of sin and death and Christ’s blood was like the payment that freed us from those slave masters.
-“The forgiveness of sin” Forgiveness also fits this slavery language. Forgiveness ultimately means release or to be freed. The chains of sin which enslave man are released through power of Christ’s blood.

D. The Mystery of His will (8-10)
- What’s the mystery or secret? It’s all about Jesus. He is the Logos made Incarnate and within Him Heaven and Earth are brought back together. What was separated at the fall was brought together through the person of Christ. Ireneaus discusses the term “gather together” or “recapitulate”. He says that Christ became and sanctified all aspects of being man.

E. An Inheritance (11-12)

- This plan that Christ would have an inheritance was planned out from the beginning. There is the language of sonship here. Christ being the Son of the Father inherits the people of God. The people of God being adopted as sons inherits Christ.

F. Sealed with the Spirit (13-14)

-The seal shows ownership much like a brand or trademark. As Orthodox, we also understand this through the sacrament of Chrismation which accompanies Baptism, and is the sealing and coming of the Holy Spirit into the life of the believer. In fact, as the priest anoints the person with oil (chrism) he says, “Sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”. Those of the Church who are present will respond each time with the word, “Seal!”.
- “the pledge” This is a business term meaning down payment. Paul uses this another place and it is usually translated earnest or down payment. The Spirit of God is the down payment on our salvation.

III. Petition to know Christ (15-23)

- 15- 17 is transitional in Paul’s thought. His prayer is that the Church of Ephesus will experience God not merely understand Him.

A. Eyes be enlightened (18)
B. Hope of His Calling (18)
C. Riches (18)
D. Power of Christ (19-23)

-The power that God used to raise Christ from the dead is the power that is in the Church. Nothing will trump this power. He is the head of the Church. The Church is His body, and has the same power that is in Him. When Christ left, He replaced Himself with the Church. Within Greek the word for power (dynamis) suggests potential power. This is why you will often see “energy” words near “power”. Because it takes something to activate this latent power. It is God’s grace which activates this power of Christ within the Church. To the degree the Church opens herself to God’s grace will be the same degree of power will be evident.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Intro to Ephesians

Two weeks ago I began our Ephesian study. Once again our base text for the class is Fr. Lawrence Farley's Prison Epistles.

The introduction is history rich. We spent most of the day in the book of Acts going through chapters 18-20. This passage gives the origin of the church.

Here are some highlights about Ephesus itself.

It was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. In the first century there were approximately 400-500K people. It was a coastal city that provide a lot of trade for all of Asia Minor. It became a hub for the whole province and then a hub of Christian evangelism in the early centuries. Even though it was on the coast, its harbor had to be dredged regularly, and today is filed in with sediment. The town of Melitus often provided an easier access to the city. The big claim to fame was the Temple of Diana (Artemis) that was part of the city. The temple itself is considered one of the seven ancient wonders. It could hold up to 25,000 people in the city. As you read the story of the church in Acts, it was an uproar around the temple that eventually got Paul kicked out of town.

The church was comprised of a healthy combination of Jews and Gentiles, and former disciples of John the Baptist. The next time we see the church is in the Apocrypha. After the death of the Virgin Mary, John left Jerusalem and settled in Ephesus. It was from Ephesus that he wrote his epistles and gospel. During his state-imposed exile to the isle of Patmos, he wrote the book of Revelation which is a letter to Ephesus and six other churches in Asia Minor. The city of Ephesus is where John ended his life and was buried. The emperor Justinian later built a church over his resting place. The ruins can be seen to this day.

Ephesus remained a center for Christianity until the Muslim Turks conquered the area. Christians continued to reside around the area until the early 20th century when most Christians were driven out of Turkey. The modern Turkish city is Seljuk, however, one can still visit many of the ruins today.

Other facts about the city: St. Ignatius address one of his epistles to the city. The 3rd Ecumenical Council which upheld the title of Theotokos and condemned Nestorian's version of Christology took place there. Also my patron, St. Mark of Ephesus, hailed from the city. St. Mark prevented a renuion with Rome in 15th century, but that's another story.

The book of Ephesians is a book about the Church. The Church is the body of Christ, and this is consistently address. The issues of the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles in the Church is constant back-theme.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Orthodox Sermons to Go!

It's been a little while since my last blog. In class, we just started the book of Ephesians. So this week, I will post our Introductory lesson as well as the lesson on Chapter 1.

In the meantime I wanted to share a link to some excellent Orthodox sermons. The sermons are given by Fr. Jon Braun at St. Anthony's Orthodox Church in San Diego. Fr. Jon was part of the Campus Crusade group that came into the Orthodox church in the late eighties. He is a great communicator and excellent teacher. The link will give you several of his current sermons as well as an eight week series he did on the book of Leviticus. His series on Leviticus is particularly good. He goes through the various sacrifices and rituals of OT worship and shows how they are fulfilled in the person of Christ. He also calls it a Eucharistic primer, and shows how our the Divine Liturgy is a fulfillment of those sacrifices.

Here's the link: Orthodox Sermons

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