Saturday 20 October 2012

Bible Book:

"Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things." (vv. 8-9)

Ephesians 3:1-13 Saturday 20 October 2012


Put into the 'mouth' of Paul this passage is a defence of hisministry, presumably against those who interpreted his imprisonment(verse 1) and other sufferings (verse 13) as evidence of theinauthenticity of his apostleship (verse 2) or of the falsity ofhis claims about the power of Christ (verse 11). It seems that someof the Gentile (non Jewish) Christians were losing heart (v13) inthe face of Paul's sufferings and were tempted to revert to theirformer fatalism in the face of the heartless "rules and authoritiesin the heavenly places" (v. 10) who were seen as largelyindifferent to human affairs.

The passage raises a perennial problem for Christians about howto hold together a belief in the plan and purposes of God, and thereality of evil and suffering in the world. One way to approachthis problem is to interpret verse 9 as meaning that everythingthat happens is within God's plan. Although this promotes trust inGod, it can also give the impression of a God who is indifferent tothe suffering of human beings as God ploughs on towards higherthings - a picture which is both morally abhorrent and at odds withthe picture of God we have in Jesus of Nazareth and in much of theOld Testament.

In this passage, however, the plan of God is not a cover for allthat happens. Rather verse 9 refers to the plan of God to redeemall things and peoples through Jesus Christ (verse 6). It is clearthat suffering still happens, though it is given meaning (and evenmight reveal glory), as the Apostles, like Paul, offer theirsuffering alongside Christ's, that others may know his "boundlessriches" (v. 8).

The word for suffering ('thlipsis' in verse 13) used here is thesame as that used of Paul's trials being a 'completion' of Christ'ssufferings (Colossians 1:24). Here, not only Paul, but thewhole Church is being called to resist being dragged into a greyworld of lifeless fatalism. Instead we are invited into the vibrant(literally, 'multi-coloured' verse 10) wisdom of God in order thatwe and others might live life to the full.

To Ponder

  • Has anything ever caused you to 'lose heart' and be draggedinto a lifeless grey fatalism? What was it?
  • What helps you to stay in touch with the vision of God's wisdomfor the world as a multi-coloured and life-filled arena, despiteits suffering?
  • How do you hold together a notion of God's plan, and some ofthe terrible things that happen in the world?

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