Thursday, April 08, 2010

N. T. Wright on Ephesians - Ecclesiology and Justification

It stuns me as I reflect how many times I have read the book of Ephesians and have been unable to incorporate Paul's use of the word "church" in to the themes of this great book. But if you read the book of Ephesians and start with the assumption that Ephesians is about the church, it all comes into focus. 

Think about Paul's use of the word "mystery". I have always been dumbfounded by this theme. Paul says the mystery of the gospel has been revealed to him. As we read we are anticipating Paul to state the mystery clearly and we expect the mystery to be that the Messiah died for sins that we could be reconciled to God. Is not this the great mystery? But alas, Paul's great mystery, the reason he was called is not to proclaim that individuals are justified, but the great mystery is 

the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things;10so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.
The mystery is the wisdom of God in reconciling both Jews and Gentiles into one church. If you follow the logic of Ephesians the great truth is that justification produces one unified church. Christ has taken away the dividing wall that was the Law and its ordinances and made one body. 

When Paul speaks of marriage he says, "This is a great mystery, But I am not talking about you and your spouse. I am talking about the great mystery of Christ and the Church. Not Christ and the individual, not about marriage, this paragraph of scripture is about Christ and the church, the great mystery. This is ecclesiology!!!

So what is the point. The point is that the purpose of God, the great purpose, is to build a new temple, the church, in our day. This era is the church age and yet we have a low view of the church. God's glory is not just through "life transformation" but church transformation. 

I had a discussion with a young man the other day. He was talking about how people are planning on re-building the temple in Jerusalem and his take was that therefore the end is near. I said in response "but in the New Testament the new temple is the church. Haven't christians been rebuilding the temple for 2000 years. We are the third temple". Yeah, but the temple is going to be built in Jerusalem and then the end will come, he said. What part of "we are the temple don't you understand". My friends the radical wonderful beautiful new temple that is being built to the glory of God is us. Paul saw it and it was this vision that drove him in his journey's. 

That's Paul's perspective and without understanding this perspective we will not understand the radical implications and challenge of the New Covenant. There are many more references to the church in Ephesians but that will have to be for another post. 

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