Unity Among Diversity
Business school was an interesting amalgamation of studies in marketing, finance, production, distribution, technology, and organization behavior that prepared me to fill several ‘chief’ functional roles and become an executive coach and business consultant. All courses taught me to understand the different functions individually and to unite and focus them collectively, like the water on the blades of a turbine to produce optimum results.
Just so, the Apostle Paul reflects the goal of the Godhead to overcome the differences that keep the body of Christ from producing His greatest results, summarized by Jesus in Matthew 10.7-8, at the beginning of His three-year ministry on earth. In John 14.12-13, He envisions the productivity of the unity of the apostles and disciples and the ultimate objective of all endeavors.
The Apostle Paul emphasizes the unity of believers and the tremendous results that such could produce in his doctrinal statements in his letter of encouragement to followers in the churches in and around Ephesus. Why were they divided? How could they become united? This continues today.
- Remember the story of Babelfrom Genesis 11.1-9? It suggests an explanation of the disunity Paul writes about and for us today.
- Note that all people on earth had the same language and became united in purpose: verse 4. Their purpose expressed the development to that time of the lie satan originally told Eve in Genesis 3.5: you can be like God! Man continues to believe this lie!
- But, God checked satan’s move in Genesis 11.7-9. ‘Babel’ means confusion. Babylon, in Iraq (Shinar, verse 2), is the Biblical symbol for confusion and wickedness. King Solomon’s Proverbs contrast truth and confusion/wickedness, endorsing the former, disdaining the latter. Note God’s attribution to satan in Isaiah 14.12; he ‘weakens’ the people! What evidence do you see?
- Note the similarities in people Paul describes in Galatians 3.28 and 1 Corinthians 1.22-24. People are demographically profiled by ethnicity, language, income, net worth, community, occupation, education, and other arbitrary factors that may be warped to satisfy pride.
- Corporations are one symbol of unity. But, monopolies exist only by government fiat (‘some companies are too big to fail’), for competitors find ways to supplant sector leaders in a free market. Note the similarity of God’s comments about satan’s confusion in Jeremiah 51.53. God will never loose! You need Him as your ‘partner’.
- Are ‘denominations’ satan’s way of disuniting the Christian church, like God did with language at Babel? Wikipedia states there are 41,000 Christian denominations of varying size! See Wikipedia’s chart showing the increasing disuniting of Christians beginning in 431 AD. Where did these denominations and sects come from? Men; see Jeremiah 13.10 explaining Genesis 3.5. Were these ‘founders’ led by God or deceived by satan? This is something to think about. And, you may confirm or change your answer from the following.
- By analogy, ourUnited Stateshas been for most of our 237 years a melting pot for peoples from other nations. While demographically different when they arrived, foreigners became citizens and adopted the culture and English language, a shared commonality.
- Apostle Paul described the similar phenomena in Galatians 3.28 and 1 Corinthians 1.22-24. The people did not change outwardly; they did inwardly. They became ‘new creations’ (2 Corinthians 5.17)! What was subtracted? What was added (verses 18-21)?
- But, Paul affirms each separate group into its own unity Ephesians 5.22, 25; 6.1, 5, and 9; thus fulfilling Ephesians 5.21.
- What is the ‘unifying factor’? Ephesians 5.1-2. The NASB reads ‘be imitators of God’. Does Paul mean Genesis 3.5 or John 17.20-21?
- Listen to Paul explain this to the philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens, Greecein Acts 17.22-31. Note especially his call for unity around this ‘unifying factor’ in verses 26-29. How does verse 27 explain why some people come to Christ Jesus more quickly than others? Which group has been closest to the ‘switch’ buy not yet found it? How is this explained by 2 Corinthians 4.3-4?
- Does verse 5 identify the ‘founders’ of denominations? How does this verse also show the way to unity? Note how Paul discussed this in Colossians 2.8-10.
- Paul summarizes the picture of unity and the process for unification in Ephesians 2.19-22 and 4.11-16, the result being Ephesians 4.1-6.
- So, should you not follow God’s instructions in Jeremiah 9.23-24 and Deuteronomy 6.1-9? Oh, that John 14.9 might describe you and me!
- This world needs to see the example of unity. Diversity has been celebrated too long! Paul addressed this in 1 Corinthians 12.12-27 and Ephesians 4.1-6.
- Unity is what King David pictured in Psalm 110.1-2.
- Jeremiah 1.9-10 and 51.20-23 picture the subjugation of Jesus’ enemies. Note that you are the ‘you’ in these verses, just like Jesus also said in John 17.18! A similar scene is depicted in Revelation 19.15. If you are on the throne with Jesus, you must be on the horse, too!
- Why unity? Because satan is already defeated and needs the body of Christ to manifest this and enforce his defeat! See 2 Corinthians 10.3-6.
- Because of John 14.6!
Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2013. www.sozoclass.com
You are in Christ!
This is the theme of Paul’s seminal book known as Ephesians in the Bible. It is a declaration of reality for the believer that must be better understood in these days of multiple cultural and philosophical worldviews. Acting like ‘You are in Christ’ will require your change of self-image: stop seeing yourself with the limitations of the flesh and start seeing yourself in the unlimited image with which God looks at you.
God’s view of you…now!
- Ephesians 2.1-10 discuss your life before you accepted Jesus as your Savior and the transition the end result of your transformation. Picture a teeter-totter that starts out with one end up, the end exalting your flesh, and rotates to find the other end up, the end exalting your spirit. Your mind is the fulcrum deciding which to exalt (Genesis 4.7); it must be renewed (Romans 12.1-2).
- Note the transformation that occurs in verse 5 and the resultant translation in verse 6. You begin on earth but end in Heaven…now! You are not a sinner but once were, before Jesus took your sin upon Himself onCalvary’s Cross! Yes, you still may sin, but now do so less and less, as your spirit replaces your flesh in exaltation.
- Envision Psalm 110.1-2. Although addressed to Jesus, you are there, too!
- You may grasp this better by listening to Jesus’ words in John 17.20-26. What do you hear? Ephesians 2.7 is what Paul heard.
What does your self-image mean to God, Jesus, Paul, and to you?
What does your new self-image mean to you?
- Jesus summarizes this meaning in John 8.31-32. Do you see yourself as ‘free’ from satan’s deceptions of fleshly bondage? You are and must continue the instruction of James 4.7.
- God expressed the same image in Isaiah 54.17.
- Finally, Paul paints a picture of you in 2 Corinthians 2.14.
- This is the real you!
Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter, 2013. www.sozoclass.com
Overview of Ephesians
The Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome (AD60-62) awaiting trial before Caesar on the charge of stirring up a rebellion (sedition) in Jerusalem (Acts 21.15-25.12; note God’s intent in Acts 23.11, fulfilling His words to Paul remembered in Acts 26.16-18; see Acts 9.15-16, also. What do you do when you have time on your hands? Paul studied Scripture (Philippians 3.8-11), meditated with the Holy Spirit (before John 14.26 was written), witnessed to others (similar to Acts 16.25; 26.16, 30-31; Romans 1.14-15), and wrote letters of encouragement and instruction. He wrote Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon in AD 60 and Philippians and Hebrews in AD61. Tychicus was the messenger that delivered Ephesians (probably his home town; Acts 20.4), Colossians, and Philemon (Ephesians 6.21-22; Colossians 4.7-9) to their readers, also giving an update on Paul’s situation.
- Ephesuswas the capital of the Roman province of Asia, the western part of Asia Minor, colonized mainly fromAthens,Greece. It was a harbor city on the Aegean Sea at the mouth of theCaysterRiver. The city was one of the greatest seaports of the ancient world; thus, a city of travel and commerce. Three major roads led from the seaport: one road went east towardsBabylonviaLaodicea, another to the north viaSmyrnaand a third south to theMeanderValley(BiblePlaces.com).
- Ephesuswas ‘the first and greatest metropolis of Asia’ during the time of the Romans (Easton Dictionary of the Bible). It had the largest amphitheater of the day, seating 50,000 spectators at the base of MountPion(see 1 Corinthians 4.9, 15.32).
- Ephesuswas a pagan city, home to the Templeof Diana, her chief shrine. John wrote Jesus’ words about Ephesusin Revelation 2.1-7. Why?
- Paul visited Ephesus(population about 250,000 people) briefly in AD51 (second journey AD51-53; first AD45-49; third AD54-58), for he hurried to celebrate feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem. He was returning from Greeceand left Aquilaand Priscilla there to spread the good news of Jesus (Acts 18.18-21). Paul returned during his third journey and stayed in Ephesus three years (Acts 20.31; 19.10-12). He talked with the elders of the church in Ephesus briefly at Miletus (30 miles away) as he returned from this third journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20.17-38), which led to his first Roman imprisonment.
- There is no further mention of Ephesusuntil Paul instructs Timothy to ‘remain in Ephesus’ to war against heretical teachings (1 Timothy 1.3).
- Tradition says that the Apostle John was imprisoned inEphesusand died there, apparently after writing Jesus’ Revelation.
- Today, Ayasaluk is a small Turkish village located on part of the city.
Message for Believers in Ephesus
- ‘You are in Christ.’ Paul wrote about this theme in 1 Corinthians 12 (AD55-56) and Romans 12 (AD56-57). He develops this truth more fully in Ephesians. Chapters 1-3 tell you what you are in Christ. Chapters 4-6 tell you what to do because you are in Christ.
- The Open Bible introduction to Ephesians: ‘The theological insight and depth of this epistle are so great that some have considered it to be the most profound work in the entire Bible. No book in all the Bible gives such a panorama of God’s redemptive purpose – from before the foundation of the world to its consummation in the fullness of Christ. The breadth of the entire Biblical message is encompassed within this brief letter: God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world; made us alive from sin by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and, by breaking down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Greek, male and female, bond and free, made us one new man in Christ, that we might grow up unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’
- Remember that Paul wrote such depth from the only books and parchments he had, i.e., the Pentateuch and the writings of certain prophets, including Isaiah. So, he depended heavily on the truth of John 14.26, which would not be written for another 30 years. Paul epitomized Romans 8.14. How about you? You have all 66 books!
Chapter One, Verses 1-14
- After his salutation, Paul stated his blessing on believers in Ephesus, as he would state to you today if he were here. Paraphrased: God’s promises to you and His willingness to use His mighty power to bring them to your reality will bring you peace from the Father and from Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior! Receive them! (See John 1.12.) How is Paul’s blessing like Numbers 6.22-27?
- Paul’s next three sentences, verses 3-6, 7-12, and 13-14, are some of the most satisfying theological points you will ever consider, so savor and digest them slowly.
- Suggestion: read each group for understanding from your word-for-word translation (ESV, NASB, NKJV); write or state your paraphrase of each; and, then, read the following scholarly paraphrases from J. B. (John Bertram; 1906-1982; British) Phillips’ translation of The New Testament in Modern English, The MacMillan Company,New York, 1958.
- Verses 3-6: ‘Praise be to God for giving us through Christ every possible spiritual benefit as citizens of Heaven! For consider what he has done – before the foundation of the world he chose us to become, in Christ, his holy and blameless children living within his constant care. He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ – that we might learn to praise that glorious generosity of his which has made us welcome in the everlasting love he bears toward the Son.’
- Verses 7-12: ‘It is through the Son, at the cost of his own blood, that we are redeemed, freely forgiven through that full and generous grace which has overflowed into our lives and opened our eyes to the truth. For God has allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in him. And here is the staggering thing – that in all which will one day belong to him we have been promised a share (since we were long ago destined for this by the one who achieves his purposes by his sovereign will), so that we, as the first to put our confidence in Christ, may bring praise to his glory! And you too trusted him, when you had heard the message of truth, the Gospel of your salvation.’
- Verses 13-14: ‘And after you gave your confidence to him you were, so to speak, stamped with the promised Holy Spirit as a guarantee of purchase, until the day when God completes the redemption of what he has paid for as His own; and that will again be to the praise of his glory.’
Who are you ‘in Christ’?
Praise God!!! Copyright © by Maurice L. Painter. www.sozoclass.com