He Did What? (1)
Part One. Not so random thoughts on Ephesians 4:7-8
Can I just say that the message of the Bible is not tame? It is wilder and more wonderful than most of us dare to imagine. Meek and mild men are always seeking to soften it.
Case in point? The multilayered message of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. One might begin to tease apart the manifold layers of timeless truth by employing prepositions:
- God in you
- God with you.
- God among you.
- God beyond you.
- God through you.
- God on behalf of you.
- And, without a doubt, God for you.
What I mean to do by drawing attention to “God for you” is to highlight the ultimate plan/cosmic warfare aspect of the epistle. Paul strives to do much more than create a cozy little life for the Ephesian believers; He means to draw them into the eternal plan and overarching purpose of God. That purpose and plan are playing out right now as a hyper-galactic spiritual battle that stretches from one corner of creation to the other—but finds its focus on the earth.
Many Christians glimpse this spiritual warfare aspect of the letter in the “armor of God” passage in Ephesians 6:10-20, where Paul writes:
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:11, ESV
But spiritual warfare/cosmic battle is woven throughout the letter:
We see it in God’s plan in Ephesians 1:10, where He intends to unite ALL His creation—earthly rebels and the holy host of heaven—under one Ruler. (Read 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 for a fuller description, and note Paul’s use thereof “all in all,” an idea that he drives home in Ephesians 1:23 and 4:10. Don’t miss how the concept is applied to believers specifically in Ephesians 3:19.)
We see it in Ephesians 1:20-23, where Christ has been seated “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above EVERY name that is named” . . . and ALL things have been placed under His feet.
We see it in Ephesians 2:2 with the reminder that the whole world is following after “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (And why does Paul use the gender-specific term, “sons of disobedience?” Because the judgment their father receives will be their inheritance.)
We see it in Ephesians 2:6-7, where Paul writes that we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (For the rest of eternity, when God speaks of His grace, He will point to us as Exhibit A. And to whom is He “showing” His grace? Not to us—we have experienced it!—but to the unseen heavenly realm, who will bow in stunned amazement.)
We may see it in Ephesians 2:19, wherein the context it is not unreasonable to believe that we have been made not only fellow citizens with the earthly “saints,” but also with the “holy ones” of glory.
We see it again in Ephesians 3:10, where we are told that through the church God is making known His manifold wisdom “to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (In this context, the wisdom in view involves the magnificent glories of God’s battlefield strategy in bringing us back into a relationship with Himself through His Son!)
We see it in Ephesians 3:14, where Paul writes, “I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.”
And, recognizing all that, we finally arrive at the passage I have been pressing toward, where we see the ultimate plan and cosmic warfare aspect of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians shining brightly in this rather strange and enigmatic passage—
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) Ephesians 4:7-10, NASB
Note that these verses are a hinge, not because they are difficult to understand (although they sort of are), but because this is a meeting place for several of the prepositions: God in us, God through us, God beyond us, God on behalf of us—and, without a doubt, God for us.
Sorry . . . not sorry . . . to take so long with background and context, but if this were quick and easy we wouldn’t be writing about it.
Clearly, we’re just getting started. Up Next: Part Two.