Monday, August 21, 2006

First Pass at This Weekend's Bible Lesson: Ephesians 6:10-20

[Each week, I present as many updates on my reflections and study of the Biblical texts on which our weekend worship celebrations will be built as I can. The purpose is to help the people of the congregation I serve as pastor, Friendship Lutheran Church of Amelia, Ohio, get ready for worship. Hopefully, it's helpful to others as well, since most weekends, our Bible lesson is one from the weekly lectionary, variations of which are used in most of the churches of the world.]

This Weekend's Bible Lesson:
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.

19Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

General Comments:
1. For basic information on Ephesians, see here.

2. This lesson is the rhetorical summarization of the book of Ephesians, which we've been looking at through much of this summer.

3. According to Ephesians 1:10, peace and reconciliation with God and oneness between God and His creation comes from the plan of salvation effected through Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 1:10). That peace includes the Body of Christ, as Ephesians describes the Church, Christ's eternal community of reconciliation already alive in a world darkened by evil. The rulers and powers discussed in this passage know about God's plan and attempt to destroy our peace with God. That's what lay behind this passage's exhortation to the Ephesian Christians--and to us--to cover ourselves in the power of God, protecting ourselves against "the wiles of the devil."

4. I love this summary of the passage by Chris Haslam:
The author now concludes his letter. Earlier, he has prayed that his readers may come to know the power of God operative in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ to heaven, and in his victory over the forces of evil. The Church participates in that victory; its members know something of this power in their conversion: a resurrection from a fatalism that viewed the world as continually declining towards evil.

Now the author tells them that they must learn to rely on that power: they are to equip themselves with “armour” (vv. 11, 13) provided by God, as they oppose not people (“blood and flesh”, v. 12) but the malevolent forces (“rulers ... authorities”) which control them. The metaphor of the soldier is from Isaiah; here he is girded with “truth” (v. 14) and integrity (“righteousness”); his “shoes” (v. 15) give him firmer footing for (paradoxically) proclaiming the “gospel of peace”. His faith will protect him against attack from the devil (“the evil one”, v. 16). He accepts “salvation” (v. 17). He has one offensive weapon, given to him by the Spirit, “the word of God”. Persistent prayer, prompted by the Spirit, is his aid in interceding for fellow Christians (“saints”, v. 18). In vv. 19-20, the author asks his readers to pray for him that he may be given a gift of the right words in telling of the “mystery”, God’s age-long purpose, now disclosed, to call both Jews and Gentiles to share in Christ’s saving action. Paul is (like) a prisoner awaiting trial (“in chains”) yet is able to tell the good news “boldly” and freely.
More on the passage and then, specific verse-by-verse comments later, I hope.

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