Why Do We Need Ephesians So Desperately Today?
With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
As we begin our leisurely devotional trek through Ephesians, I thought I might whet your appetite a bit. I believe that this book of Scripture is desperately needed today. I need it. You need it. The church needs it. The world needs it. Almost more than any other book of the Bible, Ephesians speaks to our situation with incisive wisdom and transforming power.
I explained in yesterday's post that I am writing a commentary on Ephesians. I asked you to be my partner in discernment and discipleship as we work through this book together. Today, I want to explain why I am writing on Ephesians, in particular.
During my sixteen-year tenure as Senior Pastor at Irvine Presbyterian Church, I had always planned to preach on Ephesians. But I didn't feel quite ready to take on such a monumental challenge. I believed that I needed more spiritual maturity and pastoral experience before I tackled this demanding book.
Finally, early in 2007, I determined to preach my way through Ephesians beginning in the fall. But, as you might know, God had other plans for my life. In the fall of 2007, I left Irvine Presbyterian Church for my new role with Laity Lodge. I felt sad about losing the opportunity to work through Ephesians with that wonderful congregation. I wondered when, if ever, I'd have the chance to teach through this book.
A year later, Scot McKnight, a New Testament professor, prolific writer, and leading blogger, told me he was editing a new commentary series for Zondervan. He explained his vision of seeing each part of Scripture as part of God's larger story, and asked if I would be willing to participate. I was honored by the invitation, and told Scot that I would be glad to join in, but only if I could write on Ephesians. I explained how timely I believed Ephesians to be and my sense that I was supposed to work through it in a systematic way. Scot said he couldn't make any promises, but that he would take my request to heart.
When I heard back from Scot, he informed me that Zondervan would indeed invite me to write the volume on Ephesians. I was thrilled. Then I felt overwhelmed. What an awesome opportunity and responsibility! But, I wondered, how would I be able to write an excellent commentary without a congregation to walk with me through the process of discernment and discipleship? Then it occurred to me that I had a congregation, the community of people who receive the Daily Reflections and share with me their responses to God's Word.
I didn't choose Ephesians simply because I had once planned to preach on it, however. I chose it because I believe its message is urgently needed today. In a time when the church is in turmoil and new forms of church are emerging, we need to pay attention to the most concentrated vision of the church in all of Scripture, which is found in Ephesians. In a time when people throughout the world are feeling half-dead even though they are technically alive, we need to understand how God has brought us from death to life in Christ. In a time when people are increasingly divided, when churches are splitting, when the world seems poised for self-destruction, we need the "mystery" of God's will as revealed in Ephesians 1:10: God is working "to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ." This is not just lofty theology. It is the central theme of a story that can change your life, even as it is changing the world.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you have any initial impressions of Ephesians? Have you ever studied this book carefully? As you read Ephesians 1:3-10, what impresses you?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the chance you have given me to study Ephesians and share what I learn with others. Thank you for the amazing "coincidence" of Scot's invitation. Thank you for the "congregation" you have given me today, for the 18,000 plus folk who receive the Daily Reflections. Thank you for their desire to grow in you through the prayerful study of your Word.
Help us, dear Lord, as we make our way through Ephesians. May we see as never before the stirring vision this book lays before us. May we take to heart its truth and be transformed by it. May we find new life, new vision, new passion for you and your purposes.
All, praise, glory, and honor be to you, O God, for making known to us the mystery of your will, and for your work to unite all things in Christ. Amen.
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