Not Yet Time
Today we begin a three week study in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. In this session we are looking at chapter 1:1-14. In the letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul or perhaps one of Paul’s students writes about Mystery of God’s plan as it is revealed in the person of Christ and how that plan is moving both Jews and Gentiles toward unity in God’s house.
Scripture: Ephesians 1:1-14
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.
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Additional Background Information
Nikki shares some of her sources for inspiration and study as she develops her video script.
The Pauline Epistles are the fourteen books, in the New Testament, which are really letters written primarily to new church congregations. Overtime, the authorship of some of these texts has been disputed for reasons related to language, how the author describes himself, historical settings of the books, and even the basic content and theology of the books. The most disputed works that have been credited to Paul are Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus. The works that have most consensus are Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. The fact that the authorship of many of these works are disputed does not have to be cause for alarm. The authors of these disputed works were likely students or disciples of Paul. It was a common practice for a student to write in the name of a teacher as an act of respect and honor. These understanding does not change the uniqueness of scripture in our lives, but it can help us to read it with a better understanding of what is going on in the text.
If I were teaching this text, I would be interested in emphasizing two main ideas. The first has to do with the idea of being chosen by God. When we read scripture, we cannot escape the language of predestination and it is possible that each group will have multiple views on what that means. Some may believe only a certain number of people are chosen to be saved by God. Other may believe that we all have the opportunity to accept the chosen-ness God offers to everyone. Still others may believe that all are chosen and all will be saved by God. While these are worth discussions, I would be more interested in what it means to be chosen by God. When Abraham is chosen by God way back in Genesis 12, he is chosen for a purpose. That purpose is for him to be a blessing to others. This is the same purpose for which all God’s children have been chosen. As children of God we are called to bless others with the love, grace, and mercy of God. It would be nice if people in the class could tell stories about times they have been blessed by others or times they have been able to bless others and show the love of God.
A second idea that a group could discuss would have to do with the abundance of God’s promised gifts in the passage. It might make sense to break a group into four or five smaller groups. Give each group a few verses of the larger text and ask them to discuss what is promised in their verses. Have each group report on what they discovered and then invite the larger group to talk about ways these gifts have concretely showed up in their lives. This passage is incredible dense and it is difficult to understand at a cursory reading. By breaking it down, the passage becomes more manageable. Then as the group discusses the blessings and gifts that have shown up in their own lives, others will find ways to identify God’s gifts in their own lives as well.
Grace and Peace,
Nikki’s Video Script
Not Yet Time
Today we begin a three week study in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. In this session we are looking at chapter 1:1-14. In the letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul or perhaps one of Paul’s students writes about Mystery of God’s plan as it is revealed in the person of Christ and how that plan is moving both Jews and Gentiles toward unity in God’s house. I say Paul or one of his students because several things such as languages and vocabulary used in this letter do not match other letter that are undisputedly written by Paul. In the ancient world it was not uncommon for a student to write in the name of their teacher — it was a sign of trust and admiration.
In today’s text, we find the writer uses long sentences peppered with more adverbs and adjectives than are warranted in our language, but pose no problem in the Greek in which it was originally written. For us, all of the extra words can make the letter feel difficult to read and inaccessible.
As we dig into the text we discover that the author believes that God’s plan for the fullness of time has been a mystery – yet, in the coming of Christ, that mystery was made known to us fully. As he writes he uses the language of adoption and predestination. The idea of being adopted by God is easy for us to connect to – but this idea of being predestined is more difficult. Some people take great comfort in the idea of election and others are bothered by it.
However your group thinks of the idea, we have to figure out how to engage it as part of scripture and I think one thing we can certainly claim is that in the person of Jesus Christ, God has claimed us all as his own. Today’s text illustrates in beautiful and lofty language that God is for us and has revealed to us the plan for us all in the person of Christ.
As Christians today, we find ourselves proclaiming that the fullness of God and God’s plan is revealed in Jesus, but we live in a time in which that fullness is not yet realized in this world. And this is where another important piece for what it means to be chosen by God becomes important. In the Old Testament, when Abraham was chosen by God to be the father of the great nation of Israel – he was told that he would be blessed. But this blessing was not intended to make him special and more important than other. Rather, Abraham and consequently the whole nation of Israel was chosen by God to be a blessing to others. The blessing is that they get to make manifest the goodness and love of God in the world.
As I read this passage, I find myself wondering about how we live in this ‘not yet’ time?” — and I think it has something to do with this understanding of what it means to be chosen by God. We are not chosen for our specialness — rather we are chosen for a task — the task of making the love of God manifest in the lives of others so that God’s hope for all of humanity can be realized.