John T. Willis

Saturday, May 15, 2010

God's Mystery Revealed--Ephesians 3:1-13

Having emphasized the importance of true unity between Jews and Gentiles [all human beings] in Ephesians 2:11-22 [discussed briefly in a previous blog], Paul now further underlines this by describing God's "mystery" [some scholars prefer the term 'secret'] in Ephesians 3:1-13. Two themes interweave in verses 1-12 [Paul's function in God's plan and purposes--verses 1-2,7-8; the content of the "mystery of God now revealed"--verses 3-6, 9-12], and verse 13 concludes with a personal prayer for the people of God at Ephesus applied to this message.

I. Theme One: Paul's function in God's plan and purposes. Ephesians 3:1-2, 7-8. Here Paul is very careful to emphasize "who he really is" before God. Here Paul makes four very important statements about himself in these verses.
a. Paul is a "prisoner" for Christ Jesus. At this time, Paul was a prisoner at Rome when he wrote Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians--see Philemon 1, 9; Colossians 4:18; Ephesians 4:1; 6:20. Paul was glad he could be a prisoner for Christ. It does not matter whether one is in prisoner or not, as long as Christ is master of our lives. 3:1.
b. Paul declares that "God's grace was given to Paul for all people." Paul did nothing himself to carry out God's plan or purposes. God has "given" Paul God's grace so that Paul could proclaim God's saving message to the Gentiles, and all people. 3:2.
c. Paul is a "servant," NOT a "leader." Paul often emphasizes the fact that he is a "servant" of God, nothing more--see 1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 4:5. While many people, even religious people, desire to be "leaders" of God's people and try to teach others accordingly, Jesus and Paul and all other genuine Christian individuals are not concerned about "leadership," but about "service." Jesus made this quite clear in Mark 10:42-45; Matthew 20:25-28. We have ONLY ONE LEADER: God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. God wants all human beings to be God's followers or disciples or servants, not leaders. 3:7.
d. Paul declares that he "is the very least of all the saints." This is not morbid self-humiliation. Paul is not expressing hidden pride and its concomitant fishing for compliments. Here, Paul is sincere. Paul is who he is ONLY BECAUSE God changed Paul's heart and life. See 1 Timothy 1:15-16; 1 Corinthians 15:9. All of us are "in the same boat." We are right where Paul is here. What a terrible travesty when an individual parades himself or herself as a "great leader" in the church. By its very nature, this contradicts the whole idea of Christian living. Humility is the first letter of Christian life--Matthew 5:3; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5-6. 3:8.

II. The Content of the Mystery Now Revealed. Ephesians 3:3-6, 9-12.
a. In Colossians 2:2, Paul says God's mystery now revealed is "Christ himself."
b. In Colossians 1:27, Paul says God's mystery is "Christ is you [plural=the people of God, the church]."
c. Now, in Ephesians 3:3-6, Paul explains that God's mystery which God had not made known to previous generations has now been revealed by grace through Paul. This mystery now revealed is "the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel." This is another way of saying the same thing as Ephesians 2:11-22. The wall between Jews and Gentiles no longer exists because of the blood which Jesus Christ shed on the cross.
d. Finally, in Ephesians 3:9-12, Paul explains that God's previous mystery now revealed is "the church," all human beings who come to God through Jesus Christ, whether they be Jews or Gentiles--verse 10. God's "eternal purpose" from the beginning was to save all humanity. God has attempted to do this throughout history, and finally God is attempting to do this through Jesus Christ.

III. Paul's Concluding Prayer. Ephesians 3:13.
Paul now prays that God's people will not lose heart over Paul's sufferings while he is in Rome. This very situation is their "glory," because God is saving them daily.

What are YOUR thoughts about this marvelous text? Share YOUR ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


For many years, Evelyn and I have played a game called Rook. This game is based on a bird.

The rook is called in Latin Corvus frugilegus, the latter word meaning "food-dathering." This bird is approximate 12-14 inches long. It is black, but has a blue or bluish-purple sheen in bright sunlight. This bird has a grey-white skin around the base of bill in front of the eyes. Several rooks is called a "building."

The rook lives in Great Britain, Ireland, much of north and central Europe, Iceland, northern Scandinavia, Asia, and New Zealand. This bird eats earthworms and insect larvae, which it finds by probind the ground with its bill, as well as cultivated cereal grain, fruit, small mammals, acorns, small birds, their eggs and young and carrion, human food scraps.

The rook nests in the very tops of trees. Its breaks off branches and twigs. It has 3to 5 eggs usually in February or March, and are incubated for 16 to 18 days. Both adults feel the young, which are fledged by the 32nd or 33rd day. In the fall, the young birds gather into flocks with unpaired birds of former seasons.

The call of the rook is "kaah," flatter than the Carrion Crow. This bird fans its tail and bows on each caw. Solitary birds "sing" to themselves expressing strange clicks, wheezes and almost human-like notes. The rook can use a tool. If they push a stone off a ledge into a tube, they will get food. They can get a stone and carry it to the tube if no stone was already present. They use sticks, wire and figure out how to bend a wire into a hook to reach an item.

Folklore says rooks are able to forecast the werath and sense the approach of death. If a rookery was abandoned, it brought bad fortune for the family that owned the land. Rooks are responsible for escorting the souls of the virtuous dead to heaven.

I hope YOU appreciate rooks. They are very interesting and intriguing creatures. They are just another example of God's wonders throughout planet earth. I hope YOU are thankful for God and his marvelous works. Share YOUR experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, May 10, 2010

One New Humanity--Ephesians 2:11-22

Ephesians 2 is a major focal center of biblical thought. Ephesians 2:1-10 emphasizes the vertical relationship between God and human beings--God saved us by grace through faith. Ephesians 2:11-22 emphasizes the horizontal relationship between human beings. God's purpose and mission on earth is to save all humanity, and bring all humanity into unity under God through Jesus Christ by his blood on the cross. This paragraph falls into three parts: I. The way all human beings used to be: 2:11-12. II. What God has done for all human beings through Christ--2:13-18. III. The ongoing journey of all human beings through life--2:19-22.

I. The Way All Human Beings Used To Be. Ephesians 2:11-12. Paul begins by addressing Gentiles directly, because Paul is an apostle to the Gentiles. [But in reality, all human beings are in this same status before God saves human beings through Christ]. Compared with Jews, Gentiles were "in the flesh," and "uncircumcised." "Remember" is not mere intellectual activity, but pertains to repentance, decision, and gratitude. Paul specifically mentions five conditions of lost human beings.
a. Without Christ--thus, without the shed blood of Jesus on the cross, thus, without salvation from sin.
b. Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel--Excluded from citizenship--see 2:19; Philippians 3:20.
c. Strangers to the covenant of the promise--God's promise--see Romans 4:13; 9:4; Galatians 3:16-29.
d. Having no hope--Totally destitute from any future at all.See Colossians 1:5;
1 Thessalonians 4:13.
e. Without God in the world--thus, without any encouragement or support. See Psalm 121.

II. What God Has Done for All Human Beings through Christ--Ephesians 2:13-19.
a. "BUT NOW" in 2:13 is a powerful transitional term. "ONCE," all human beings were "FAR OFF" from God, but NOW God has brought them "NEAR" by the blood of Christ. This language comes from Isaiah 57:19. 2:13, repeated in 2:17.
b. Christ is "OUR PEACE." "Peace" in this context does not mean "inner peace" of individuals, but "peace" between previously hostile divided people. God's one purpose and mission on earth is to unite man with fellow-man, Jew and Gentile. Note the recurring emphasis on "peace" in verses 14, 15, 17 [twice]. This "peace" is not something which human being work out as in "The League of Nations" or "The United Nations." On the contrary, God "MAKES BOTH GROUPS [Jews and Gentiles] INTO ONE" by the miraculous power of the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. God has broken down the dividing wall between human beings, the hostility between them. 2:14.
c. God has abolished all human laws which human beings strive to being about unity between divided human beings. This will never happen. Rather, God "CREATES" in Christ "ONE NEW HUMANITY." This is a heart issue. God changes the heart, and causes people to love other people whom they normally hate and oppose. 2:15.
d. God has "reconciled" all human beings to God "IN ONE BODY," the spiritual family of God "THROUGH THE CROSS," thus putting to death the previous hostility between human beings. See Colossians 1:20, 22. 2:16.
e. Through Christ, all human beings have access "IN ONE SPIRIT" to God the Father. Note that this one verse mentions God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. 2:18.

III. The Ongoing Journey of All Human Beings through Life--Ephesians 2:19-22.
a. Those who come to God the Father through Jesus Christ his Son are no longer strangers and aliens (see 2:12), but citizens with the saints (see 2:12) and members of the household or family or community of God. Every day, the whole family functions in unity through Christ. 2:19.
b. The spiritual foundation of this household is the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 2:20. See 1 Corinthians 3:9-11.
c. In Christ, the entire family of God is "JOINED TOGETHER" in unity and grows into a "HOLY TEMPLE" in the Lord. See the same figure in Ephesians 4:16. This family continues to grow spiritually--maturity. See Hebrews 5:11-6:6. 2:21.
d. Collectively, not individually, the people of God are "BUILT TOGETHER" by God's miraculous work in the heart [see 2:10; Philippians 2:12-14] spiritually into a "DWELLING PLACE" for God. The church herself is not reconciliation, but lives from it and manifests it. She serves the glory of God as her members mutually help, support, and strengthen one another. No individual can independently claim after Christ's coming to offer an appropriate home for God, but all human beings together are now ordained by God to become his temple. The Holy Spirit supplies the building material and forges it into a unit. Only human beings driven and guided by the Holy Spirit are appropriate stones for the temple walls. This temple is not made of stone, but of human beings and inhabited by God--see 1 Peter 2:5.

This marvelous paragraph captivates the hearts of the people of God. May God bless YOU richly, and may God's people grow spiritually daily to carry out God's purpose and mission.

Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis