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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ephesians 4 (part1) - Unity in the Body of Christ

Ephesians 4 (part 1): Unity and Love in the Body of Christ

I. Unity in the Body of Christ (1-16)
A. Called to Unity 1-3 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all humility and meekness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

-“walk worthy” of the calling...here Paul is primarily holding up the unity of the body of Christ. What else are we called to in the body of Christ? We are called to be saints, adopted as children, heirs of God, called to be holy (2 Pet. 1:15).

-The life here that leads to unity includes these virtues: humility, meekness, longsuffering, and bearing one another in love.

-Meekness is a great word, yet it is often associated with weakness in the modern world. Perhaps the rhyme throws us. It suggests self-control, stability, and being unshakeable regardless of circumstances. It was used in the first century for a trained animal as opposed to a wild creature. Think of a wild horse versus a trained thoroughbred. The meek man in Scripture is one who is able to trust God in all circumstances.

-Longsuffering: refusal to retaliate. Chrysostom defined longsuffering as the spirit that has the power to take revenge, but never does. It is characteristic of a forgiving, generous heart.

-Living in these virtues leads to unity. When we are disunited we are working against the essential nature of the church (Farley).

-Our hymnography on the birthday of the Church reflects the essentialness of unity (Farley). Pentecost Kontakion “When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, He divided the nations; but when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to Unity.”

B. Unity Reflects the Trinity (4-6) 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you* all.

-The Father is the Source of Unity. Just as in the previous chapter where Paul stresses the Father is our source, he stresses here that the Unity of the church flows from the Unity that the Father provides. This reflects our own Trinitarian understanding.

C. Unity in Diversity (7-12) 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.

- Once again the Church reflects the Trinity. Within the Trinity there is one essence and yet three persons. Within the Church there is one body and God has given a diversity of gifts. (1 Cor. 14-26).

8 Therefore He says:
"When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men." (Ps. 68:18)
9 (Now this, "He ascended"--what does it mean but that He also first* descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

-Paul now goes into a theological discussion of how God gave us the gifts . Upon ascending into heaven and sitting down at the right hand of the Father, He then sends His Holy Spirit and fills man with His gifts. “O Christ God, Thou hast ascended in glory, granting joy to Thy disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. Through the blessing they were assured that Thou art the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world! (Hymn of Ascension)”

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

-The only gifts he specifically mentions in this passage are the clerical gifts. This verse is really two parts...the gifts of the clergy and their purpose. The purpose of the clerical gifts are so that the they might equip the saints or the laity to the ministry of the church.

-“Equip the saints“: This phrase is used to mean mending nets or to complete what is lacking in something. In this passage it means to give the faithful what they need to do their job.

-“The work of ministry” Once again the word diakonia is used which means the nitty-gritty down to earth work of ministry.

D. Unity in Action (13-16) 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

1. Experience Christ (13)
-As we grow closer in reflection to Christ, we grow closer to one another and vice versa. The word “knowledge” does not imply academic knowledge but experiential knowledge that comes from a relationship. We become like Christ. In this relationship we begin to grow up from children to adults. But it is not in isolation that we grow in Christ, but it is through our relationship with others in the Body that we know and are transformed.

2. Sound Doctrinally
-As we grow we know Christ so well that we recognize falsehood. This is not just speaking to understanding doctrine from an educational point of view, but to know and have experience Christ so much that we can see through the counterfeits. When those that work in counterfeiting are trained to recognize fakes they focus on the real thing so much that the know the fake when they see it. Again this is not done in isolation but through the body of Christ, our own experience of God is kept in check through the experience of the others in the Church. When we begin to isolate ourselves and our experience, it becomes easier to fall into delusion.

3. Be the Truth (15)
Farley translates this “but truthing it in love”. We don’t merely proclaim the truth, but express it through a relationship of love with others in the Body. To be the truth is to love.

4. Grow in Christ
We enable each other not just ourselves to grow in Christ, that is to become like Christ.

5. Become the Body
This process of a relationship of love forms the Body. We move from being the Body on a theoretical level to an actual experiential level. The body is a variety of parts working together for one purpose to be united with God.

Sources used:

Prison Epistles

The Orthodox New Testament

Ancient Christian Commentary

Also Chrysostom’s commentaries which can be found online here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf113.html

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

St. Valentine


Yes, St. Valentine was real!!

He was an early Christian martyr in the 3rd century. He was of the category of saints called "Holy Unmercenaries". Basically this means a physician saint who took no payment for services. He became friends with a Roman jailer and his blind daughter. He prayed for the daughter and tried healing her with various ointments, but to no avail. They picked flowers together and became fast friends. During one of the persecutions, Valentine was arrested. While in jail, the jailer heard of his imprisionment, and came to him. Valentine wrote a short letter to the jailer's daughter and the jailer promised to deliver it. The daughter opened the letter and one of the flowers they had picked fell out. The father read her the letter and all it said was "From your Valentine". The girl then miraculously regained her sight.

In the Orthodox church we celebrate St. Valentine's memory on July 6.

Here is a link to a wonderful icon of the saint: St. Valentine from Come & See Icons

Also, here is a children's book I picked up at a local bookstore that tells the story using mosaic art to illustrate: St. Valentine

Monday, February 12, 2007

Orthodox converts from the Far East

Recently I ran across an excellent site that chronicles multiple stories of men and women who converted to Orthodoxy from Hinduism, Buddhism, and other far eastern religions.

This is a culture and religious tradition that is mostly unknown to me.

However, on the surface many of Orthodox contemplative traditions may look similar to that of the Far East. This site debunks those ideas. There is a lot here and it is worth spending some time if there is an interest.

Here's the site: The Watchful Gate

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ephesians 3 - Mystery of the Body of Christ

Ephesians 3

I. Paul servant of salvation

A. Paul’s Revelation 1-6

1. To the Gentiles: For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles--

-Paul is talking about the revelation that he was given to bring to the Gentiles. This is the revelation that he was given on the road to Damascus. Gal. 1:15-17; Acts 9:1-22

2. Steward of the mystery of God’s Grace 2   if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3   how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4   by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),

-”steward” oikonomos - the steward of the house in those days was the man entrusted with the arrangements and administration of the house; the steward owned nothing but was entrusted by the master with the care of it.
-God has given to Paul the authority to speak and deliver this mystery to the Gentiles.
-whatever talent God has given you is to be used for others in the kingdom

3. Content of the Mystery 5   which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6   that the Gentiles should be joint heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,

-Gentiles are going to be part of the people of God. (Is. 2:1-4) This was a major part of the mystery. The prophets had foretold the Gentiles worshipping the God of Judah, but the surprise was that the Gentiles would become part of the people of God. In this passage, they take on equality with Israel and not sub-par. Paul stresses this by once again using the Greek prefix sun-. He says they are joint-heirs, a joint-body, joint-partakers. God is doing more than just making Gentiles into Jews, He is creating a new man (2:15) which transcends Jew and Gentiles.

B. Paul the Servant 7   of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. 8   To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

1. Servant of God’s grace
- Paul recognizes that his ministry is not due to anything in and of himself but is only a gift of God’s grace. “Least of all the saints” the word he is using here means trivial or unimportant or less than than the least.

2. Preaching to the Gentiles
-This is a great irony; that the man who was a Jew of Jews was called to bring Gentiles into the Church

C. Servant of the Mystery of our Salvation 9-13 9   and to make all see what is the stewardship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;* 10   to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11   according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12   in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 13   Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.


1. The Mystery was Hidden
-The stewardship; or as Farley calls it the “implemented strategy” is the plan that God used to administer salvation the world. This is something that God had hidden; yet all history was leading up to moment of Christ and the birth of the Church.

2. Revealed through Church
-The manifold wisdom is “many-sided”. God knit together all the events of history to fulfill His own purposes for our salvation. God chose to reveal this plan through the Church.
-The Church is what God is using to proclaim this mystery; not just to deliver a body of knowledge, but the Church is the body in which the mystery is experienced.
-”To the rulers and the authorities in the heavenlies” These are the angels. This plan is not focused just on man but is cosmic in nature and part of God’s salvation of all the cosmos. (1 Pet. 1:10-12)
3. Revealed in Christ
-Once again it all points to Christ; and we are united with Christ through the Church because the Church is His body.
4. We Now Have Access to the Father
- Because Christ is our Sacrifice we can have boldness to access God because we are united with Him through Christ.

II. Prayer for growth in salvation (14-21)

A. The Family of the Father (14-15) 14   For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,* 15   from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

- Family in Greek is “patria” which comes from the word father “pater”; So family is really “fatherhoods”. So all “fatherhoods” find their ultimate source in God the Father.
-The Father is source of all; so Paul is looking to Him to accomplish this salvation in the Ephesians.

B. Signs of Growth (16-19) 16   that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17   that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18   may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-- 19   to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

1. Strengthened in the Inner Man
- Here is that word dynamis again. Paul is praying that God will activate Christ’s own power that dwells in each of us through our Baptism.
- “Inner man” the part of us which is the image of God; the part of our soul that enables us to communicate and commune with God.
2. Christ is Dwelling Within
- We are so transformed that Christ makes His home in our hearts.
- This is through faith; the ongoing trust and obedience toward God causes us to reflect Christ.

3. You Will Know the Love of Christ
- Christ love which is the foundation for the spiritual life.
-Chrysostom “Although the love of Christ lies above the reach of all human knowledge, yet shall you know it, if you shall have Christ dwelling in you.”
- 1 Cor. 13
-”The breadth, length, height, depth” some of the Fathers (Augustine, St. Gregory of Nyssa) saw this as a reference to the cross. Nothing displays the love of God for the whole world than the Cross of Christ. St. Gregory of Nyssa “The apostle is describing by the figure of the Cross the power that controls and holds together the universe when he expresses a desire that they may be exalted to know the exceeding glory of this power...It manifests a great mystery: that both things in heaven, and things under the earth, and all the furthest bounds of the things that are, are ruled and sustained by Him Who gave an example of this unspeakable and mighty power in the figure of the Cross.”

4. You Will Experience the Fullness of God.
-Our goal is not just to be forgiven and get to heaven, or escape hell. Salvation is not mere “fire insurance” Salvation is about knowing God and being transformed by this knowledge. (2 Pet. 1:4)
-This mirrors the Early Father‘s slogan that ”God became man so that man might become like God”

C. Praise to the Father (20-21) 20   Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21   to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

-Paul began this prayer by praising God as the source of all good things. Now he ends with similar praise.
-Paul is amazed at what God has done and knows that He will continue to do those things that surpass what we understand.

Sources used:

Prison Epistles

The Orthodox New Testament

Ancient Christian Commentary

Also Chrysostom’s commentaries which can be found online here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf113.html

Groundhogs and Ghana

This Sunday I mentioned a couple stories I read this past week.

The first was the connection between Groundhog Day and the Feast of the Presentation. Lori Balakos told me about this the year that we went through the 12 feasts of the church.

You can read that one here.

The other is a brief of story of the Orthodox Church in Ghana. They are celebrating their 25th anniversary. The story is here.

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