Monday, August 18, 2008

Fellow Citizens: Thoughts on Ephesians 2, part 2

The second part of Ephesians 2 begins with the word "therefore," referring back to the previous sentence in which Paul tells the believers at Ephesus that God has already prepared the "good works" He has for them to do. The concept of unity Paul lays out in this portion of the letter, then, seems to be one of those "good works" assigned to the body of Christ as a whole. Taking our cues from the Trinity, whose members relate to one another in perfect unity and love ("The Shack" illustrates this concept beautifully), we see that unity is indeed an endeavor to which every believer is called.

This "therefore" is followed by a command to remember that we were separated from Christ when we lived in the flesh. He makes it a point to remind new Gentile believers that before Christ atoned for their sins, they/we were separated from God's relationship with Israel. And then comes the call to unity, which Christ has already provided: "For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility." Because of Christ's fleshy death, there is now no need for us to live in the flesh, and therefore, true unity between Israel and the Church is possible. (It is interesting to note that in 70 B.C.E., a mere 40 years after Christ's death on the cross, the Temple was destroyed by the Romans. While the destruction was a pagan, not a Christian undertaking, perhaps it was a God-ordained symbol expressing the shift of the Temple's existence from a physical structure to the hearts of believers.) While scholars make a variety of arguments for what is meant by “Israel” in this passage, it is clear that as those who have experienced the grace of God, we are to seek to keep peace (). Of course unity in its truest form is only possible where there exists the perfect love of Christ. It is also clear that Christ has given us everything we need to keep unity. Verses 15 and 16 say that He first made peace and then He preached peace. There is a beautiful principle in this: He only asks of us what He has already accomplished!

I can only begin to understand what this unity is supposed to look like. As I try to wrap my mind around it, I think it is one of those Kingdom concepts I have discussed previously, in that there is an already/not yet element at play. We are already called to act upon our knowledge of the Trinity and our understanding of what Christ asked of us, but we do not yet see the full implications of perfect unity and love. With that in mind and my limited understanding of eschatology as well, I believe we are called to passionately pursue relationships with Jews, both Jewish believers (also known as Messianic Jews or Jewish Christians, depending on how they choose to practice their faith in Yeshua) and Jews who are not yet in Christ. This includes support of Messianic movements that seek to preserve Jewish custom and to reach out to fellow Jews. I believe we are also to promote peace in Israel-Palestine. Even recognizing that God has indeed promised the land to His special people, Israel, we can acknowledge that Christ "has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility" between Jew and Gentile.

I graduated with a minor in Jewish studies, and verses 20-22 outline the reason I’m so infatuated with Jewish culture. Verse 20 says that the "household of God" has been built on the sturdy foundation of Jewish heritage (the apostles and the prophets), and that Christ--who was himself a Torah-observing Jew--is the cornerstone. Here is the amazing part: "the structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you are also being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" (verses 21-22). There is no more temple because WE are the temple! Both individually and collectively as a community, the dwelling place for God's spirit, that same ruach elohim the early Jewish believers knew, is IN US! What a beautiful picture God has given his people in the stories and the symbols of Jewish teaching. He is, after all, the God who speaks to us in pictures we can understand.

"'The church, in its whole existence, must be a token of the salvation it has received. Its whole life, lived in a convincing way, would be a call to all men to believe the good news, to experience a change of heart and to unite themselves with its Messiah. This is how Israel and the Church must confront one another, not in theoretical debate, but in existential dialogue; not in an uncommitted battle of words, but in committed competition. By its whole life the Church must witness to the reality of redemption. Is this the case? Is this the witness of the Church? The Jews do not think so. The reality of redemption asserted by the New Testament seems to them, particularly in light of the Old Testament, to have been an illusion' (Hans Kung, The Church, London: Search Press Ltd., 1967, p. 149).”

1 comment:

mowens said...

Cha Cha was wrong about mostly write about Ephesians 2. What a great reminder that we are the temple in which the Spirit of God (ruach Elohim--I know what that means!) lives.