News and Updates
“The Church Symphony” (Ephesians 1:3-23)
Often time I wonder how Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians. How could Paul visualize the Church like what he presented here? If I could liken Paul’s letters to music, the letter to Philemon would feature a piccolo, vivid and brisk, like a scherzo. Galatians is like a piece of music featuring a cello with a somber and sad tone illustrating Paul’s frustration and disappointment, worry and anger. For the letter to the Ephesians, only an orchestra can do. The content, structure, motif and texture of this letter as a whole is like a great piece of symphonic music.
When Paul wrote this letter, he was locked in prison, probably in a cell somewhere in Rome with hardly any light, and no view of scenery to inspire his writing. Yet this letter to the Ephesians is grand and bright; it is a letter of breadth, depth, height, length, simply grand and glorious, bright and splendid. Locked in a cell without glimpse of light or hope, what was it that enabled Paul write an extraordinary letter like this? Some says it was imagination.
When Paul wrote this letter, the churches he knew were not doing well at all. So it was impossible that he was inspired by the young churches to write this master piece. The churches in Galatia, which were among the earliest churches planted by Paul, were falling -- or already had fallen -- away from the Gospel. The Christians in Corinth where Paul established churches were gifted richly, yet Paul’s pain and anguish caused by their conflicts and problems were even more evident. Even to the churches at Philippi to which Paul wrote a letter now commonly and widely known as “the Letter of Joy,” he explained his imprisonment and encouraged them to stand firm in times of persecution. One should not overlook that Paul was concerned about the conflicts within the communities. Even the churches in Rome were not in good shape. Situated in the sensitive political center, churches in Rome would soon face the cost of addressing Jesus as Lord, not Caesar.
When Paul was writing this letter, either looking back or forward, he was aware of all the danger, problems and difficulties that the churches were facing. The churches were just too vulnerable. Issues and problems like doctrine, ethics, ecclesiastical, issues and administrative problems, legal issues — you name it. What was it that enabled Paul to visualize the Church not as it is — vulnerable, clumsy, scandalizing, but as it can be and will be — glorious and great.
Listen closely to the thanksgiving (verses 3-14), and the picture becomes clearer. In about ten verses Paul more than ten times used “in Christ,” “in Him” “in His Beloved” to describe the readers’ identity and status. Later he even described the Church with the phrases he used to describe Christ, God’s beloved Son whom He raised from death and sat on his right hand in heavens (1:20).
He loved us and made us alive with Christ when were dead in trespasses. He raised us and sat us with Christ Jesus in heaven (2:4-5). More so astounding is the assertion that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God is made known to all the principalities and power in heaven (3.9-10).
In the Old Testament human beings were created in the image and likeness to manifest God’s love for His creation. The Church was created in Christ to become the manifestation of God’s love for the whole creation and the children of God (4:24). In this letter, Paul could speak of the Church being the Body and Bride of Christ. The Church has become the manifestation of God’s wisdom, power and glory.
Some say it was imagination that let Paul write this glorious letter. I believe it was faith. Faith in Christ. It was in faith that he could write something like grand symphony even when he was in chains. It was faith in Christ that Paul can say elsewhere that “in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to be abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want.” (Phil 4:11-12)
It was not through his imagination or will. In his words: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” He was sustained by faith in Jesus Christ who was raised from the dead and now reigns with God and the revelation that God the Father of us all is above all and through all and in all (4:6).
It was in faith that Paul could see the church as it could be and will be even though it may not presently be. When the Church as the body is connected to Christ the Head, when Church the bride is faithful to the bridegroom, despite the reality of her vulnerability, clumsiness, blemish, ignorance, weakness and scandal, the Church will be and in fact is God’s wisdom, power and glory. For the will of God is faithful unlike our wobbling mind, His strength is more real than our limitation and error. His beauty is more real than our ugliness, His wisdom is more inspiring and perceptive than our bias, shallowness and shortsightedness, His power is more real than our vulnerability. His love is greater than our hatred and anger.
It is not only communal but also individual, even cosmic. The Church is to be built up to maturity, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, joined and held together by every supporting ligament. It grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work, until “all of us come to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God...” (2:4; 4:13-16).
Looking back our life, for example, we galloped, leaped, ran and stumbled, up and down. There were days we were wise, but once in a while, maybe most of the time, we made mistake because of misjudgment, or because we did not see clear enough. Of course we know too well that even when we made right judgment, things just did not turn out right for reasons we never knew. Having walked through we have to admitted that we are saved not through work but faith (2.8). Not just “salvation” in the sense that “we were saved one day in the past” but that we learn to believe and help others to believe and are saved everyday.
This is church, an orchestra in which everyone plays a part to make the music written by God great and glorious as He so wills.
Let us give thanks to God
Let us pray to God