Interpreting Ephesians 1-3: “God’s People in the Mystery of His Will”

David B. Capes  |  Southwestern Journal of Theology Vol. 39 - Fall 1996


“Majesty.” No other word in the English language quite captures the tone and the imagination of Ephesians like this word. Although we are not privy to the occasion of this epistle, we nevertheless recognize that Paul desired to fire the believers’ imaginations with a new vision of a majestic God who works mightily in the world. Such a perspective promised to create in his readers a new identity to help them live effectively in the world.

Ephesians then is both a declaration of and an invitation to praise and worship the God who initiated his plan of redemption before the founda­tion of the world. Worship, properly practiced, shapes sin-infected lives, corrects aberrant beliefs and morals, and ultimately transforms the world. As Walter Brueggemann noted, praise and adoration produce an alternative reality which subverts all worldly powers with their claims to ultimacy.[1]Walter Brueggemann, Israel’s Praise: Doxolgy Against Idolatry and Ideology (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), passim.  Although Paul and his contemporaries lived in “the present, evil age” (Gal. 1:4) which was subject to a variety of rulers, authorities, and powers (e.g., Eph. 1:21; 2:2; 6:12), through Christ they were blessed, redeemed, raised, and occupied a realm characterized as “heavenly places” (e.g., Eph. 1:3; 2:6).

In Ephesians, Paul summoned his audience to participate in this new reality, this new creation, by which God intended to redeem the world. According to Andrew Lincoln, the author found three ways to cultivate this new identity: “through the language of worship (thanksgiving and prayer), the language of anamnesis (the recall of the past) and the language of paraenesis (ethical exhorta­tion).”[2]Andrew Lincoln and A. J. M. Wedderburn, The Theology of the Later Pauline Letters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 91. These three methods were not new, of course; they emerged from the rich traditions of the Old Testament. The worship, the recollection of God’s saving activity, and the ethical exhortations of the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets formed the identity of God’s people of the old covenant. In the same way the apostle’s praise and prayers, his recollections of God’s more recent saving actions in Christ, and his ethical teachings formed the identity of God’s people of the new covenant.

The task before this writer is to reflect on the first three chapters of Ephesians which comprises thanksgivings, prayers, and recollections of God’s acts. Dr. Mack Roark will comment on chapters four to six with their ethical implications. Yet this division, while practical, is at the same time artificial. A common assumption is to regard Ephesians 1-3 as doctrinal or theological and to understand Ephesians 4-6 as practical or ethical. While these designations may be helpful to some degree, they would seem strange to Paul who never separated theology from ethics, doctrine from duty. For Paul, both were interrelated and interdepen­dent. Theology has ethical implications; and ethics must have its theological foundation.[3]Bruce Corley, “The Theology of Ephesians,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 22 (Fall 1979), 26.

Salutation (1: 1-2)

Ephesians begins as most Pauline letters with the designation of the author, Paul, and his title, “an apostle of Christ Jesus.” The word, “apostle,” was a secular word adopted by early Christians to refer to one commissioned directly by the risen Christ. Interpreters will want to peruse not only Luke’s portrait of Paul’s Christophany (Acts 9, 22, 26) but also the apostle’s own reflec­tions on his conversion and call (e.g., Galatians 1-2; 2 Corinthians 4 and 12; Philippians 3).[4]Seyoon Kim, The Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1982), provides a helpful overview. Like Jeremiah, Paul understood that God called him from his mother’s womb to preach the message of salvation to the Gentiles (Gal. 1:13-16; cf. Jer. 1:4-10).

Paul addressed his recipients as “saints” not because they attained some moral or spiritual supe­riority but because they set themselves apart for Christ by faith. The term “saints” was rich in scrip­tural history as the designation for God’s people, Israel (e.g., Exod. 19:6; Lev. 19:1-2; Deut, 7:6). For Paul, whose perspective was informed by the sym­bolic world of Israel’s sacred texts, the application of “saints” to those loyal to Christ and united with him by faith was certainty natural. Paul wished to claim for the new Israel all the rights and privileges enjoyed by the old. G. B. Caird noticed that Paul never used the word “saint” in the singular; it was always “saints,” that is, plural. He wrote: “Christians are saints only as members of the holy com­munity.”[5]G. B. Caird, Paul’s Letters from Prison (Oxford: University Press, 1976), 31. Unfortunately, American Christianity has absorbed many Enlightenment values which tend to emphasize individuality at the expense of community. Faithful interpreters of Ephesians-or any biblical text for that matter-must struggle with a worldview vastly different from their own. For Paul, no individual may boast a superior call or status within the church, since all believers are “saints.”

Paul brought the salutation to an end with hisstereotypical greeting: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2).[6]Unless designated otherwise, all Scripture references are the author’s translation. This customary Pauline blessing amounts to a combination of the typical Hellenistic greeting, chairein ( = “rejoice”), altered to charis (= “grace”), along with the typical Jewish greeting, eirene (= shalom = “peace”). Grace and peace were key words for the apostle. Grace is God’s unmerited favor and blessing directed toward humanity. Peace is both God’s activity bringing wholeness and harmony to the world and the result of that activity. Our author concluded the letter with a reference to peace and grace in 6:23-24. By bracketing his correspondence with “grace” and “peace,” Paul conveyed his view that all Christian existence and the mystery of God’s will is realized only through God’s grace which establishes peace on earth.

Spiritual Blessings in Christ (1:3-14)

In Greek, this section comprises one long sentence punctuated at points by the phrase “to the praise of his [God’s] glory” (vv. 6, 12, 14). Because of its poetic features and parallel structures, many interpreters think this pericope originated as a preformed tradition which the author quoted as a doxology of praise and adora­tion to God. Although no proof for this theory has been forthcoming, the proposal is plausible and a likely setting for such a piece may have been at Christian baptisms (cf. 28:19-20).[7]J. L. Houlden, Paul’s Letters from Prison: Philippians, Colossians, Phile­mon, and Ephesians (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977), 261.

The passage erupts in praise to God via the “blessing” or berakah formula.[8]Andrew Lincoln, Ephesians, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1990), 10-19. This expression of praise and thanksgiving was well known in Jewish piety at the time. This expression arose as an act of praise directed toward God for some gracious, beneficent act. With slight variations the formula occurs in the Old Testament (e.g., Gen. 24:27; Psalm 103 [LXX 102], 104 [LXX 103], 144 [LXX 143];1 Kings 8:15, 26), the Apocrypha (e.g., 1 Mace. 4:30-33), the Dead Sea Scrolls (1QS11), and other New Testament books (e.g., 1Pet. 1:3-12). Paul employed the formula here and provided a unique Christian interpretation.

The repetition of the phrase “to the praise of his glory” and the content of the entire passage suggest a structure which is both chronological and trinitarian. The following outline sums up the passage:

Verses 3-6 The Gracious Purpose of God the Father (Past)
Verses 7-12 The Redemptive Work of Christ the Son (Present)
Verses 13-14 The Promised Inheritance through the Holy Spirit (Future)

The initial declaration of praise (1:3) sets the stage for all which follows: “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, ….” The blessings, which Paul enumerated in the verses following, are bestowed by God “in Christ.” For Paul, this means at least two things. First, in an instrumental sense Christ is the one through whom God has acted to redeem the world. Second, in an incorporative sense Christ is the place where believers are located; through baptism they have identified with the crucified and risen Jesus and have entered a vital union with him. The redemption and the benefits of this vital union constitute the “spiritual blessings” Paul had in mind.

The phrase “in the heavenly places” describes the sphere in which “every spiritual blessing” is available. This phrase occurs five times in Ephesians (1:3, 20; 2:6; 3 :10; 6:12) but is absent from the rest of the NT. Exactly what Paul meant by the phrase is unknown. The word “heaven” is capable of several meanings in the biblical texts (e.g., Matt. 5:26; 6:9; 2 Cor. 12:1-2). Clearly, however, heaven constitutes part of God’s creation (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 8:3). Christ was raised there (1:20). Believers are united with him there ( 2:6). The church proclaims the gospel to principalities and powers there (3:10). Believers contend with spiritual powers of wickedness located there (6:12). These passages suggest to G. B. Caird that “the heavenlies” compose

the invisible, spiritual environment, as con­trasted with the visible tangible environ­ment. It is the realm of all the unseen forces, good and evil, which struggle to dominate the individual and corporate life of man, through his politics, his religion, his social ideals and mores, and all the other influences that affect his beliefs and conduct.[9]Caird, 33-34.

According to Paul, God blessed the church with all sorts of spiritual blessings in this age in the pres­ence of the principalities and powers. In the verses which follow, the apostle described many of these spiritual blessings.

The first blessing Paul enumerated is God’s election: “just as he chose us in him [= Christ] before the foundation of the world” ( 1:4); “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Christ” (1:5). The concept of election had its genesis in God’s choice of Abraham and Israel to be his covenant people. Paul adopted and employed this concept here in a uniquely Christian way because he believed Christ to be the goal of God’s saving plan (e.g., Galatians 3-4; Romans 9-10).

Predestination and election are theological notions widely discussed and misunderstood. A careful reading of Ephesians helps lay to rest many improper conclusions about these topics. Two issues are of utmost significance. First, election underscores God’s initiative to redeem humanity. God’s choice occurs “before the foundation of the world,” removing human effort from the picture altogether. Second, election has both a communal and a christological focus. God has chosen “us in Christ.” Paul gave no thought to God choosing one individual over another. The plural pronouns in this section indicate clearly that God’s choice is communal. But what community does he have in mind? God chooses and predestines the community

found “in Christ.” Again the phrase carries an incorporative sense. Those who are “in Christ” are the chosen, the predestined, because before creation God chose Christ as Redeemer and Savior. This reading takes seriously Paul’s theology of a preexistent Christ who with God designed and created all things, including a plan to redeem lost humanity (e.g., 1 Cor. 8:6; Phil. 2: 5-11; Col. 1:15- 20). Through faith and baptism people enter into Christ and are united with Christ’s death and resurrection. These constitute the appropriate human responses to God. In effect, God chose Christ and then chose those who choose Christ.

The purpose of election is two-fold. First, God chose us “to be holy and blameless before him” ( 1:4). “Holy and blameless” are not conditions of acceptance; they are consequences of God’s activity culminating in Christ’s second coming. Second, God predestined us “for adoption as sons” (1:5). Although the concept of “adoption” is rare, if not unknown, in the Old Testament, Yahweh relates to Israel as a son (e.g., Hos. 11:1) and Paul understood Israel’s relation to God via adoption (Rom. 9:4). F. F. Bruce thought it likely that the Pauline metaphor of adoption derived ultimately from God’s act to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage.[10]F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, New International Commentary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1984), 257.  If this is so, such language helps connect Jew with Gentile in a way appropriate to the rest of the letter. At any rate, Paul insisted that from eternity God purposed to create a family and that family exists “through Jesus Christ.” The motives for God’s election are “love” (v. 4) and”his glorious grace,” two key attributes and activi­ties of God.

A second blessing Paul described is redemption: “In him we have redemption through his blood” (1:7). With this passage, Paul moved from God’s pre-creational decision to effect his plan of redemption to the present experience of the believer in Christ. Redemption refers to the release of one held captive. Paul used the metaphor more than any other NT writer. He appropriated the concept from his Scripture where it often referred to God’s act to deliver Israel from Egyptian or Babylonian captivity (e.g., Deut. 7:8; 9:26; 13:5; 15:15; 1 Chron. 17:21; Jer. 15:21; Mic. 4:10) or in some cases rescue from enemies or death (Ps. 25:22 [LXX 24:22]; 69:18 [LXX 68:19]; 119:134 [LXX 118:134]). The implication of such language is that both Jew and Gentile are held captive to powers which enslave them. Though unnamed, these powers would include sin (Rom. 7:7-20), rulers, authorities, and spiritual powers of darkness (Eph. 6:12). Paul asserted that “the blood of Jesus” provides the means by which redemption becomes reality. In addition to deliverance, redemption means “the forgiveness of our trespasses” (cf Col. 1:14).

A third blessing refers to God’s disclosure of  “the mystery of his will” and his plan “to sum up all things in him [Christ]” (1:8-10). The word “mys­tery” refers to what God had purposed but yet kept secret in earlier times. Now in “the fullness of time” ( cf. Gal. 4:4) God revealed and effected his plan through Christ. “Wisdom” and “insight” (1:8) are needed to comprehend the mystery, but these too are gracious gifts from God and part of the “spiritual blessings” available through Christ. The mystery comprises several aspects, as later verses reveal. Here it involves summing up all creation under the headship of Christ (cf. Phil. 2:10-11; Col. 1:19-20). As Ralph Martin put it: “in Christ the entire universe will one day find its full expla­nation and rationale.”[11]Ralph Martin, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. Interpretation Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1992), 17. For Paul that day had not yet arrived, but he believed the process of “gather­ing” had already begun. In the Messiah, the Jews had been made God’s portion-his inheritance­ so that they might live to the praise of his glory (1:11-12).[12]The NRSV reads: “we have also obtained an inheritance.” This reading is unlikely since the passive verb of kleroun means “to be appointed by lot.” See Lincoln, Ephesians, 35-36. They were, after all, the first to hope in the Messiah; and the gospel must be proclaimed to the Jews first (Rom. 1:16-17). Just as Israel was called God’s heritage in the OT (e.g., Deut. 9:29), so now those Jews who choose Christ are appointed God’s heritage according to his eschato­logical plan and work. But God’s plan has always extended beyond Israel. It includes all (“you” = Gentiles; 1:13) who hear “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” and believe it.

A fourth blessing entails the ministry of the Holy Spirit: “you were sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise” ( 1:13). The act of sealing refers to a mark or a brand of ownership. Within first-century culture, livestock and slaves were marked to indicate possession and to protect the owner’s property rights. Within prophetic texts, God marks his elect to preserve them from divine judgment (e.g., Ezek. 9:3-6; Rev. 7:1-17). God’s Spirit seals those who believe and sets them apart as his special possession. The phrase “Holy Spirit of promise” alludes to the fact that God promised to pour out his Spirit in the last days (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2). In addition to sealing believers, the Holy Spirit serves as “the down-payment of our inheritance” (v. 14). The import of “inheritance” resides in the future when God will resurrect the dead and determine eternal destinies. Though not clearly defined, the word has to do with the gift of eternal life which God will bestow on that day. If God has so blessed believers with spiritual blessings now, how much more will he give them in the future? As the down payment (arrabon), the Spirit becomes the blessed assurance that those whom he has sealed will have their part in the world to come. On the day of resurrection, God will make good on his promises established in the gospel. As a result, God’s own possession, either his people or all creation (cf. Rom. 8:18-25; Col. 1:15-20), will experience redemption “to the praise of his glory” ( 1:14).

Thanksgiving, Prayer, and the Cosmic Christ (1:15-23)

The spiritual blessings celebrated in 1:3-14 led Paul naturally to thanksgiving and interces­sion for his readers. Apparently, the apostle received some report of their progress in faith and love (1:15) which moved him to perpetual thanks­ giving as he remembered them before God in prayer. “Faith in the Lord Jesus” means (1) Christ is the focus of their faith and (2) they remain loyal and obedient to his call on their lives. Their reputation as having “love for all the saints” indi­cates they engaged in practical acts of care and concern for one another.

Thanksgiving moved Paul ultimately to inter­cession. As C. L. Mitton wrote: “the prayer is more than one of thanksgiving for what already is; it becomes also a petition for still better things yet to come.”[13]C. L. Mitton, Ephesians, New Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1976), 67. The author requested that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the true knowl­edge of him” (1:17). In the biblical tradition, wisdom has nothing to do with common sense, education, or old age. Such wisdom comes by the gift and grace of God (e.g., Jam. 1:5-7). Proverbs 1:7 indicates that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. As the Israelite wisdom tradition demon­strates, wisdom entails: (1) humility before God in life’s big questions-note the tenor of Job and Ecclesiastes-and (2) the knowledge and ability to live life well in practical, day-to-day matters. For Paul, wisdom comes by revelation in the true knowledge of Christ. Therefore, both wisdom and revelation have a christological focus: Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24).

As a result of God’s bestowal of wisdom and revelation, Paul expected the eyes of their heart to be enlightened and they will know certain truths about their lives and future with Christ (1:18). He described three things they will “know” (eidenai) as a consequence of God enlightening their hearts.

First, they will know the true nature of the hope of his calling (1:18). God’s call upon them extends from his election and pre-creational choice to save and redeem them (1:3-5) to the kind of lives they should now live in the world (4:1ff.). In the language of the NT, “hope” (elpis) does not refer to wishful thinking but to the confident assurance that “God’s plan will not miscarry en route to its finale.”[14]Martin, 20. It has to do primarily with Christ’s second coming and the promise that he will raise the dead and transform the living (1 Thess. 4:13-18, 1 Cor. 15:42-57).

Second, they will know “the riches of his glori­ous inheritance among the saints” (1:18). Whereas Paul was able to discuss “our inheritance” in the context of God’s eschatological redemption (1:14), here he had in mind God’s inheritance of a people (cf. Rom. 9:23-24). The concept “God’s inheri­tance” had OT roots in the people of God (e.g., Deut. 4:20; 2 Sam. 21:3; 2 Kings 21:14; Ps. 33:12; 68:9).[15]Lincoln, Ephesians, 59. The phrase “among the holy ones (hagiois)” may refer to angels. In the LXX (Job 15:15; Ps. 88:8; Amos 4:2; Dan. 8:13), the DSS (1QS 11.7, 8; 1QH 11.7,8), and the NT (1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:7, 10; Col. 1:12) the phrase “holy ones” refers to angels. This petition involves not only an appreci­ation for God’s act to establish a people but an awareness of the privileges and responsibilities contained in being God’s people.

Third, they will know “the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of the strength of his might” (1:19). Simply put, Paul prayed they will know and experi­ence God’s great power in their lives; and he emphasized that rhetorically “by piling up four synonyms for power in order to convey an impres­sion of something of the divine might.”[16]Lincoln, Ephesians, 60.

Paul’s petition for power escorted him to Easter, for the resurrection of Jesus constituted the supreme demonstration of God’s power (v. 20; cf. 1 Cor. 6:14; Phil. 3:10; Col. 2:12) and formed the basis of early Christian confession (e.g., Rom. 10:9-13). Paul implied that the same power which raised Jesus from the dead continues to operate in the lives of those who believe. Reflections on the resurrection and its ongoing significance now dominate his discourse.

God’s power accomplished the unimaginable when it conquered death in the body of Jesus. More than that, however, the same power “seated him at his [God’s] right hand …and put all things under his [Jesus’] feet” (1:20-22), clear allusions to Ps. 110:1 and 8:6, respectively. Originally, Psalm 110 celebrated the enthronement of a king, proba­bly a Davidic king, to the “right hand” and promised Yahweh would elevate him over his enemies. In early Christianity these concepts became a favorite way of portraying God’s exalta­tion of Jesus from Easter onward (e.g., Matt. 22:44; Acts 2:34; 1 Cor. 15:25; Heb. 1:3, 13). To “sit at the right hand” means that Jesus exercises divine power and occupies the place of supreme impor­tance in the cosmos.[17]See David M. Hay, Glory at the Right Hand: Psalm 110 in Early Christianity (Nashville: Abingdon, 1973), 19-30, for the question whether Psalm 110 was interpreted messianically in pre-Christian Jewish circles. Psalm 8 extols God’s majestic name for his acts in creation, specifically his creation of humanity. When God conferred upon humanity dominion over creation and “put all things under their feet” (Ps. 8:6), he gave them a share in his own dignity and honor.

For Paul, the resurrection and exaltation of Christ mark the beginning of a new creation, a: return to God’s original plan which sin corrupted but the resurrection corrected. Yet Christ’s domin­ion extends beyond animals, birds, and fish to include “all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come” (1:20-21).[18]Recent investigations into the language of “power” in the N include: Walter Wink, Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), who attempts to demythologize the powers, claiming the powers are not spiritual beings but “inner and outer aspects of any given manifestation of power” (p. 5) e.g., social structures, institutions, states, religious movements (pp. 104 5); C. E. Arnold, Ephesians: Power and Magic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); and idem, Powers of Darkness: Principalities a Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992). By this Paul meant that Christ reigns supreme over those spiritual powers most feared by citizens of western Asia Minor. His readers occupied an age dominated by fate, demons, spirits, gods, goddesses, and magical practices. Their world taught them that not all enemies were flesh and blood; many were invisible, spiritual (6:12). But Paul asserted that all had been subjected to Christ. He knew that “every name that is named” will bow down to “the name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9- 11).[19]Arnold, Powers of Darkness, 107-8, writes that knowing the right names and the most powerful names were key to the practice of magic in the first century A.D. The phrases “this age” and “the age to come” derive from Paul’s Jewish apocalyptic background.  This schema viewed history as two successive ages divided by God’s sovereign intervention; “the age to come” will supplant “this age.” But Paul believed that both ages co-existed (cf. Gal 1:4; 1Cor. 10:11). In Christ the new creation began (2 Cor. 5:17) even while evil continued (Gal. 1:4). So, in Pauline theology, the subjugation of the powers continues and finds its culmination at the parousia.

In Jesus’ exaltation, God “made him the head over all things for the Church” (1:22). The benefi­ciary of Christ’s headship[20]In this case the word “head” means “ruler” or “leader” of the cosmos (cf. 1 Cor. 11:3; Col. 2:10). By implication, Christ is “head” of the church, though that does not seem to be the writer’s point here. The church benefits directly from Christ’s headship over the universe. Lin­coln, Ephesians, 67-68. and Lordship is the “church.” As Christ’s “body,” the church shares his supremacy and victory over the rulers, powers, and authorities. The former dissonance, created by human enmity and hostile powers, yields to an ecclesiastical harmony inaugurated by Christ’s headship over “all things.” In Paul’s letters the term “church” (ekklesia ) frequently means a local gathering or congregation of Christians. “Church” probably came from the Greek OT where it translated the Hebrew word qahal, the covenant community of Israel before Yahweh. The apostle also uses it to refer to the universal church consist­ing of all believers (e.g., Gal. 1:13; Col. 1:18, 24). In Ephesians, the nine occurrences of the word carry this “universal” sense (1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23, 24, 25, 27, 29; 32); yet the distinction between church local and universal should not be over­ played since the universal church manifests itself in local congregations. Still Paul appears to have the larger picture in mind.

Paul went on to describe the church as Christ’s body (1:23), a common theme in Paul’s epistles (1 Car. 12:12-26; Rom. 12:4-5; Eph. 4:15, 16; Col. 1:18, 24); but he mentions it with little commen­tary. He stated it as if it were common knowledge, for he quickly continued: “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (v. 23 ). A number of interpretive problems confront us in these words. ls Christ or the church the “fullness”? Does “fullness” have an active (“that which fills”) or passive (“that which is being filled”) sense? According to Martin, there are three ways to read the passage: (1) the church fills Christ; (2) the church is being filled by Christ; or (3) Christ is being filled by the Father.[21]Martin, 24. See also Mitton, 76-9. The first option intimates that Christ is somehow incomplete without the church. The third depends upon Christ being in apposition to “fullness,” which syntactically proves problematic. The second option, therefore, makes good grammatical and theological sense. To summarize then, in view of Paul’s cosmic Christ, the church represents the fullness of Christ and Christ is in the process of filling the universe (“all things”) completely. As in other places (e.g., Col. 1:15-20), Paul brought the church and cosmos into close relation because he believed the redemption of the cosmos already began in the church.

Death to Life (2:1-10)

The seam between Ephesians 1 and 2 is some­ what ragged. The theological thread joining them appears to be further reflection upon the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus (1:20). The enthronement of Jesus to the right hand means more than the subjugation of heavenly and earthly powers in this and coming ages. This enthrone­ment transforms lives so radically that the change can only be described as death to life. The passage divides naturally into two movements, the first, existence before Christ (vv. 1-3), the second, existence after Christ (vv. 4-10).[22]Rhetorically, it appears that the key word “walk” brackets the dis­cussion. “Formerly you walked in [sin]” (v. 2) corresponds to “we should walk in [good works]” (v. 10). The term “walk” occurs as a thematic marker in ethical discourse.

From the perspective of faith, the former life looks like death (cf. Phil. 3 :4-11). Paul wrote: “you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived” (2:1, NRSV). “You” refers to Gentile Christians and contrasts with the “we” in verse 3, probably Jewish Christians. In certain contexts, Paul had a propensity for juxtaposing Gentile and Jewish pasts (e.g., Rom. 1:18-3:20) while insisting that in Christ they are destined ultimately for unity (Romans 9-11; Eph. 2:11-22). Here any distinction is slight, however, since he asserted that both Jews and Gentiles were dead due to transgressions before they identified with Christ (cf. 2:1, 5). Although space does not allow elabora­tion at this juncture, the apostle believed that sin and death are inextricably bound in human experi­ence (e.g., Rom. 5:12-21; 6:23; 8:1-3). Yet sin and trespasses are more than human choice; they involve spiritual powers which rule the world. This seems to be the import of the phrases, “according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now at work among the sons of disobedience” (2:2). Though somewhat obscure, the phrases should be read as parallel references to the devil (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; 1Cor. 2:6- 8).[23]Bruce, 280-83. Markus Barth, Ephesians, 2 vols. Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974), 214, considered “the age of this world” a title for the devil. “This world” and “the air” underscore the proximity and influence of these evil powers. They stood as an ever present threat against human well being.

Paul counted the Jews (“we also”) among the sons of disobedience (2: 3). Formerly, he said, they conducted their lives in the passions of their flesh, performing the will of the flesh and the mind. The word “flesh” refers to that aspect of human exis­tence which stands in opposition to God and is concerned primarily with self-interest. The flesh manifests itself in deeds such as sexual immorality, idolatry, jealousy, envy, and the like (Gal. 5:19- 21). The claim, “we were by nature children of wrath,” is a Hebraism and means “we” deserved God’s judgment and condemnation (cf. Rom 6:23).

The apostle characterized the turning point in human history by the phrase, “but God” ( 2:4; cf Rom. 3:21-26). Even though Jew and Gentile were dead in sins, enslaved to the evil powers resident in the world and their own fleshly desires, and even though they deserved God’s wrath, God’s mercy and love moved him to act on their behalf (cf. Rom. 5:8). The OT often characterized God as merciful and loving in his dealings with Israel, his covenant people (e.g., Exod. 34:6; Deut. 4: 31; 2 Chron. 30:9; Pss. 86:15; 103:8; Mic. 7:18); now Paul acknowledged God’s mercy and love in his dealings with Jew and Gentile. God’s love could not remain passive; this love had to come down from heaven to rescue and redeem. According to Paul, God “made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (2:5-6). The apostle apparently coined the Greek verb translated “made us alive together with” to articulate his notion that God overcomes death and imparts life to those in a faith relationship with Christ.[24]Bultmann, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 2:875. This divine reversal finds its origin in Jesus’ story (note the parallel in 1:20). God raised Christ and us together with him. God seated Christ at his right hand and us together with him. Clearly, the resurrection and exaltation recall events of the past. Yet Paul understood that faith and baptism identified and united believers with Christ so that his story became their story. His destiny became their destiny. As a result, in the ages to come God will continue to display his grace and kindness upon us in Christ (2:7). Regarding this, Bruce wrote: “Throughout time and in eternity the church, this society of pardoned rebels, is designed by God to be the masterpiece of his goodness.”[25]Bruce, 288.

Thoughts of grace moved Paul to reiterate and elaborate on his previous remarks. He wrote: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God” (2:8). As in 2:5 the verb, “you have been saved,” occurs in the Greek perfect tense. The Greek perfect indicates a completed act with abiding result. Else where Paul described salvation in terms of the future (e.g., Rom. 5:9-10; 10:9-13; 1Cor. 3:15); here it is an accomplished event. Once again his focus must be on the cross and resurrection of Jesus which makes salvation possible. In this regard, salvation is already fully achieved if not fully realized. “Grace” emphasizes that salvation is God act from first to last; it is God’s gift.

People do, however, have a role: that role is faith. Faith is a human activity even if it comes ultimately from God. Faith is our grateful response to what God has done. Faith is our acceptance that God has accepted us in Christ. Nevertheless, salvation is not ultimately from us nor “from works, so that no one may boast” (2:9). By “works” Paul had in mind any practices customarily associated with religion but particularly “the works of the law” (Galatians 2-3). With works ruled out, there is no room for boasting. Boasting refers to confidence i one’s own spiritual competence before God.[26]Bultmann, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 3:645-54. Boasting is akin to self-righteousness (cf. Rom. 9:30-10:4) and the antithesis of the first beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3).

Some early Christians received Paul’s message grace and faith as a license to indulge fleshly appetites and engage in undisciplined lives (e.g., Rom. 6:1-12; Tit. 2:14). Against this tendency, Paul affirmed that good works do have a role in Christian living; they are the consequence of God’ transforming grace. “We [believing Jews and Gentiles] are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared before hand so that we might walk in them” (2:10). Together the words translated “workmanship” (poiema) and “created” recall God’s new creation · Christ (cf. Rom. 1:20; Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17). Just as the former life had its characteristic sins and transgressions motivated by spiritual powers and fleshly lusts, so also the new life in Christ will express itself in “good works” motivated by the power of transformed lives. The phrase translated “God prepared beforehand” recollects God’s plan “before the foundation of the world” (1:3-5), indicating that from eternity God desired to create a people who would live responsibly and morally in the world.

The Ultimate Synthesis (2:11-22)

Paul again made use of anamnesis (recollec­tion) as he invited the Gentiles t consider their former plight in the world without Christ (2:11-12). They were called “the uncircum­cision” by the so-called “circumcision,” namely, the Jews. Since Abraham (Gen. 17 :9-14), circum­cision had been the sign of God’s election and covenant with Israel. Circumcision stood as a continuous reminder that God chose them as his special people. It served as a boundary marker between Israel and other peoples. Though Paul once gloried in his circumcision on the eighth day, he now considered the church the true circumci­sion (Phil. 3:3-5) and regarded the Jewish practice as a “circumcision in the flesh made by human hands” (2:11). The “circumcision of Christ,” he wrote elsewhere, is made without human hands (Col. 2:11; cf. Jer. 4:4, “the circumcision of the heart”). Furthermore, Paul called the Gentiles to remember that they had been “without Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers of the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12). In short, they had been outside God’s work in history. Israel, on the other hand, enjoyed immense privilege and advantage as God’s covenant people (e.g., Rom. 3 :1-2; 9:4-5). In their former state, Gentile converts had no part in the patriarchal covenants, no hope and thereby no future, and ultimately, though they had many gods and religions, they had no knowledge or experience of the true God.

All this changed, however, in Christ. Paul wrote: “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13 ). The phrase, “but now” (cf. Rom. 3:21), recalls the divine reversal in 2:4 and again describes a change in status for believing Gentiles. Those once “far off” (= the Gentiles; cf. Acts 2:39) are made “near” (cf. Heb. 10:19-22) “in Christ Jesus,” that is, in the new creation Christ inaugu­rated through his blood.[27]Peter Stuhlmacher, Reconciliation, Law, and Righteousness (Phila­delphia: Fortress, 1986), thinks Eph. 2:13-18 may be a Christian midrash (= commentary) on Isa. 57:19 which reads: “Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the LORD, and I will heal them.” This is why Paul stated: “he himself is our peace” (2:14). Through Christ God reconciles Jew and Gentile to himself. Furthermore, through Christ God reconciles Jew to Gentile by making both groups one, eclipsing the former distinctions with their prejudices and establishing a new unity. According to Paul, the people of Christ form a new race which unites all the descendants of Adam into one people.

Christ accomplished this in two ways. First, he tore down “the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (2:14, NRSV). The “dividing wall” carries both literal and metaphorical signification. In the literal sense, the dividing wall referred to the temple wall which separated the court of the Gentiles from the inner courts used by the Jews. Josephus (War 5.194) reports that signs on this wall warned Gentiles not to enter under penalty of death. Do not forget Paul’s Roman imprisonment came about because of a rumor that he led Trophimus, a Gentile from Ephesus, into the Jewish courts (Acts 21:27-36). On a figurative level, the dividing wall pertains to those ethnic and religious barriers which created antipathy between Jew and Gentile and continued to threaten Paul’s mission.

For Paul, Christ effectively dismantled the wall and its accompanying hostilities “in his flesh.” Second, he “abolished the law of the command­ments [contained] in ordinances” (2:15).[28]Any way one approaches the subject, Paul’s view of the law is com­ plex. On the one hand, he affirmed the value of the law (e.g., Rom. 3:1-2, 31; 9:4-5). On the other, he characterized it as “the ministry of death” (2 Corinthians 3; cf. Romans 7). Ultimately, he understood that God’s intent for the law was temporary and that Christ was the goal of the law (Gal. 3:19-29; Rom. 10:4). Paul’s argument focuses on the law as it divided Jew from Gentile. Of all the nations, Israel uniquely possessed the law (Rom. 9:45) and the law called for separation from the nations. At the same time, some prophets envisioned a day when the nations would receive God’s light (e.g., Isa. 49:1-6). Christ, the end (telos) of the law (Rom. 10:4), came preaching peace to those “far off” and those “near” (2:17). Therefore, the teachings of the law could no longer be appropriated as the ground for maintaining distinctions. If God’s Messiah came preaching peace and unity, as Paul understood, the separation demanded by the law had come to an end. With the law out of the way, the Messiah was free to establish a new humanity from two ances­tral enemies for his new creation.

Christ reconciled the two groups to God in one body, the Church, through the cross (2:16). The Church is therefore a reconciled and reconciling community (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17-21), a community birthed and nurtured in God’s everlasting peace. Through Christ the church, consisting of Jew and Gentile, enjoy equal access to the Father by the same Holy Spirit (2:18).

The Jew-Gentile division is just one example of the barriers we erect. Racial, sexual, educational, denominational, ideological, and social barriers threaten Christ’s church in our time. As Paul proclaimed the unity of Jew and Gentile in one church for his day, he continues to herald a vision whereby Christ’s new creation dismantles the prejudices, enmities, and strife dividing the con­ temporary church. Those who maintain and promote such divisions deny the ultimacy of the cross and the gospel to overcome them. They are enemies of God’s kingdom no less dangerous than Paul’s Judaizing opponents.

In the concluding verses of chapter two, Paul brought to an end his discussion of the inclusion of the Gentiles with three stirring images. First, employing a political metaphor, he wrote that the Gentiles are no longer strangers or resident aliens; they are full citizens with God’s other saints ( 2:19). Second, viewing the church as a family, he declared them “members of the household of God” (2:19). Third, in architectural terms he described them as integral structures of a building, growing together into a holy temple ( 2:20-22; cf. 1Cor. 3:9-11, 1 QS 8.5-6). He envisaged Gentile believers built upon the foundation of the apostles and Christian prophets (2:20). This statement may be interpreted three ways: (1) the apostles and prophets rest on this foundation; ( 2) the apostles and prophets laid this foundation; or (3) the apos­tles and prophets form the foundation. Regardless, Paul considered the work of apostles and prophets crucial to the founding and continued well being of the church (cf. 4:11-16). More specifically, although the original founders were Jews, he recog­nized the congruity of their “foundation” with the additional structures, the believing Gentiles.

If the church is a building, a holy temple, Christ Jesus is its “cornerstone” (2:20; perhaps an allusion to Isa. 28:16; cf. 1 Pet. 2:6). The Greek word trans­lated “cornerstone” occurs only in biblical texts and may mean either “cornerstone” or “capstone.”[29]See Bruce, 304-6; Lincoln, Ephesians, 154-56. To a significant degree, the “cornerstone” deter­mines the lay of the building and how the various pieces of the structure fit together. Similarly, Christ determines the character and makeup of this holy temple; he serves as a model or pattern for the rest of the members (e.g., 5:1-2, 22-32). In Christ “the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (2:21). This joining together, the inclusion of believing Gentiles (“in whom you also,” v. 22) beside believing Jews, results in the growth and increase into this holy temple, a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Paul’s Role in God’s Plan (3:1-13)

In 3:1, Paul began a prayer for his readers, but an extended digression occupied his attention until he resumed the prayer in 3:14. From 3:2-13 the apostle reflected on his own role in God’s plan to win the Gentiles (cf. Col. 1:23-29). At present he continued his imprisonment for the sake of the Gentiles. Luke recorded in Acts that Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles fomented anger o the part of Jews (e.g., Acts 13:44-52). Ultimately, Jewish unrest against Paul in Jerusalem led to his imprisonments in Jerusalem, Caesarea, and finally Rome. Hence Paul could say that his imprisonment was truly for their sake. He assumed they had heard how God’s grace worked in him to carry out his commission (3:2, oikonomia ) to win the Gentiles. As he had written before (perhaps 1:9-10; 2: 14-1 or in another letter), he claimed “the mystery” w made known to him by a revelation (3:3). Here h had in mind God’s revelation of his son to him o the road to Damascus which constituted his call t take the gospel to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 9:1-19; Gal. 1:11-17). In previous generations “the mystery of Christ” (3:4), as he called it, remained hidden from human understanding (cf. Rom. 16:25; Col. 1:25-27); but now in these last days God disclosed it to “his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (3:5). He laid out the content of the mystery in 3:6: “in Christ Jesus through the gospel the Gen­ tiles are [now] fellow heirs, members of the same body, participants in the promise.” The promise began with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-2), was renewed with each patriarch (e.g., Gen. 26:1-5; 28:10-17), and found fulfillment in the ministry of God’s Messiah. For Paul, the crux of the promise regarded God’s pledge to bless all the families of the earth (= the Gentiles) through Abraham (Gal. 3:6-9). What was not expected, however, was that God purposed to include believing Gentiles in the same family and body[30]The phrase “members of the same body” translates one Greek word, sussomos, which Paul apparently coined to describe the inclusion the Gentiles. as the Jews, the physical heirs or “seed” of Abraham. Now in Christ they enjoy the same election, redemption, and future as their Jewish counterparts m the church.

Paul considered himself a “servant” (diakonos) of this gospel, a role for him brought about by the gift of God’s grace effected through the working of God’s power (3:7). God’s power had been opera­tive in his life beginning with his initial vision of the risen Christ (Acts 9:1-9), continuing with other visions and revelations of the Lord in his private, spiritual experience ( 2 Cor. 12:1-4) and with manifestations of God’s power in his public ministry (e.g., Acts 16:16-34; 19:11-20). Paul also referred to himself as “the least of all the saints” (3:8), an allusion no doubt to the fact that he persecuted the church. This troubling fact appears to disturb Paul throughout his ministry (cf. 1Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13).

As Paul stated, he viewed his commission as an act of God’s grace designed to benefit the Gentiles. His task involved preaching the incomprehensible wealth of Christ to them (3:8; cf. Gal. 1:16) and enlightening all to how God, the Creator of all things, is working out the mystery previously hidden in the ages (3:9). All this had a purpose, namely, “so that the multi-faceted wisdom of God might be made known now to the rulers and the powers in heavenly places through the Church” (3:10). The church, as a reconciled community of Jews and Gentiles, serves as God’s model of recon­ciliation to the heavens and the earth. The church then becomes God’s first installment of the reconciled creation which will ultimately fill the cosmos. Christians are to live their lives in peace, consonant with God’s plan and thereby reveal to the powers in the heaven lies God’s manifold wisdom. The “rulers” and “powers” in heavenly places may refer to beneficent angels (1 Cor. 4:9) or evil, demonic powers.[31]Arnold, Powers of Darkness, 194-98. This cosmic gospel accords with God’s eternal purpose which begins and ends with Christ, the alpha and omega (3:11; cf. Rev. 22:12-13). In Christ both Jew and Gentile “have boldness and confident access through faith in him” (3:12). “Boldness” refers to boldness in speech and “access” recalls 2:18. “Faith in Christ” suggests the means by which believers enjoy bold access to God. Some translate the final phrase “through his [Christ’s] faith [or faithfulness].”[32]G. E. Howard, “The ‘Faith of Christ,” Expository Times 85 (1973-74), 212-15. Given the first phrase in the clause, “in whom [= Christ],” this reading appears redundant. Most interpreters translate the phrase “through [our] faith in Christ” (Christou as an objective genitive).

Based upon these things, namely, the grace given Paul to exercise his ministry and God’s plan to include the Gentiles, the apostle appealed to his readers not to lose heart on account of his troubles (3:13). Perhaps he requested this because he had received a report that some churches in Asia Minor had grown dismayed over his plight. But other than an occasional mention of his imprison­ment (e.g., 3:1; 4:1), this letter says little about the apostle’s sufferings. Indeed it contains a triumphant tone, indicating his confidence that his tribulations would ultimately lead to greater victories. Despite all that happened to Paul, God had not abandoned the Gentile mission. In fact, his imprisonment served to advance the gospel (Phil. 1:12-30).

Prayer and Doxology (3:14-21)

Paul resumed the prayer begun in 3:1: “for this reason I bow my knees to the Father” (3:14). Since Jews and early Christians typically prayed standing (e.g., Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11, 13), kneeling implied Paul’s subordination to and worship of God (cf. Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10, citing Isa. 45:23 ). The address “Father” derived from Jesus’ personal and prescribed approach to God (e.g., Matt. 6:9 and par.) developed perhaps in his own reflection on Isa. 63:16 and 64:8. In 3:15 Paul explained the Fatherhood of God utilizing a play on words between “Father” (pater) and “father­ hood” or “family” (patria): “[the Father] from whom every family in the heavens and on earth is named.” Fatherhood in this context relates to creation. By virtue of his role as Creator, God becomes the Father of all heavenly angels and earthly creatures (cf. Eph. 4:6).

Paul’s first petition for his audience asked that God would “strengthen [them] with power in the inner man through his Spirit according to the wealth of his glory” (3:16). Although in some ways salvation may be complete in Christ, daily life demands divine strength to be lived effectively. Paul knew this, so his first petition called for God to strengthen his people. The phrase, “wealth of his glory,” defines the measure of divine power and trumpets Paul’s conviction that God’s supply cannot be exhausted. This spiritual strength comes about through the effectual mediation of the Holy Spirit operating “in the inner man.” “Inner Man” does not connote some gnostic duality; it means the inner self, the center of life and vitality. Within Judaism and early Christianity this term is roughly synonymous with “heart,” as 3:17 suggests. The apostle elaborated on his initial petition as he requested “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (3:17 ).

For Paul, the indwelling Christ and the Holy Spirit are one. In fact, the Spirit of God may also be called the Spirit of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:9-11). Moreover, the phrase “in your hearts” parallels “the inner man.” Consistent with OT anthropology, “heart” represents the center of the true self, the seat of thoughts, feelings, and choices. “Hearts” are where Christ dwells in the church and that “through faith.” “Being rooted in and founded on love” may represent another request and can be translated, “[I pray] you may be rooted in and founded on love” (3:17; cf. 2:20-21). These agricul­tural and architectural metaphors are present also in Col. 1:23 and 2:7. As Lincoln wrote: “Here in Ephesians love is the soil in which believers are to be rooted and grow, the foundation on which they are to be built.”[33]Lincoln, Ephesians, 207. Love may refer either to God’s love for us expressed through Christ or Christians’ love for God and one another as summarized in the great commandment (Mark 12:28-31 and par.)

Paul further petitioned God that they, along with all the saints, might be empowered to grasp the breadth, length, height, and depth (3:18). It would have been convenient had Paul clarified what he meant with a genitive phrase, for example, “depth of love,” or “depth of wisdom.” But he did not. So we are left to context, both theological and epistolary, to discern what he intended. Some conclude Paul had in mind the breadth, length, height, and depth of God’s love. This accords well with the surrounding context which mentions   being rooted in and founded on love (3:17 ) and knowing the love of Christ which exceeds human understanding (3:19). This interpretation also corresponds to Paul’s theology since he often celebrated God’s love as expressed in Christ (e.g., Rom. 5:8; 8:35-39), particularly in this letter (Eph. 1:5; 2:4 ). That God would love sinners so much that he gave Christ to redeem them clearly aston­ished the apostle. This may well be what he had in mind. But there is another possibility. The petition may be a prayer for them to grasp the full dimen­sions of God’s wisdom. Earlier in this chapter, Paul discussed the eternal plan for the ages and how “God’s multi-faceted wisdom” was being made known to the powers through the church (3:10). In chapter one he acknowledged the revelation of

God’s mystery made known by God’s wisdom and insight (1:9). The language employed, “breadth, length, height, and depth,” may derive from dimensional descriptions of God’s wisdom in the sapiential tradition (e.g., Job 11:5-9). In Paul’s doxology in Rom. 11:33 he wrote: “O the depths the wealth and wisdom and knowledge of God.” wisdom may be the unwritten genitive in 3:18. Fo God’s saints to grasp thefoll measure of God’s wisdom, through which he created the world and of which Christ is the incarnation (1 Car. 1:21- 30), demands divine power.

Finally, Paul prayed that they might “know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (3:19). To know what is beyond knowledge is a paradox resolved only through prayer and the divine gift o grace. “Know” means to “know by experience” or “know by relationship,” namely, God’s new covenant made with the church in Christ. To know the love of Christ is to be loved by him and beyond that, to love others through him. This lo surpasses knowledge, that is, it transcends previous experiences and relationships of love. This divine love can reside in mortal, finite creatures. The fin phrase of the prayer, “so that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God,” (3:19), envisions the result of these petitions. When (1) God grants power through the Spirit in the inner man, (2) Christ dwells in the heart, (3) God’s people are rooted in and founded on love, (4) they compre­hend the full dimension of God’s wisdom and(5) know the love of Christ, they will be filled with God’s fullness (cf. 1:23).

The first part of Ephesians comes to a fitting end with a doxology of praise to God. The rhetorical flair Paul employed enhances confidence in the Father’s ability to perform far beyond the petition previously prayed, It reads: “now to the one who has the power to do far beyond everything which we ask or think according to the power at work in us, to him be [or “is due”] glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations forever and ever Amen” (vv. 20-21). Recalling his initial petition for “power” (3:16), Paul referred to God as “the one who has the power.” Any other translation obscures the verbal link. In 3:14-19 he asked God “to do” several things for his readers; now he assures them the Father can “do” far more than he or they, ask or imagine. At the same time he did acknowledge that God’s power is already at work in us. “Glory” (doxa) is a frequent ascription to God in the NT (e.g., Luke 2:14; Rom. 11:33-36; 16:25-27; Gal.1:5; Phil. 4:20; Jude 24, 25; Rev. 4:11). This ascripton generally denotes God’s exalted status, lendor, majesty, or honor (BAGD, 202-3 ). The mention of “church” in this doxology is extraordinary, particularly since it occurs prior to Christ Jesus. Apparently, Paul employed the phases, “in the church and in Christ Jesus, to highlight the unity between them. Christ is in the church and the church is “in Christ.” The church must recog­nize and proclaim God’s glory even as Christ in and through his church will manifest God’s glory into eternity for the benefit of every future genera­tion. Such lofty hopes evoke the only appropriate response from Paul and his readers, both ancient and modem, “Amen.”

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