Category Archives: Paul

What is God’s ‘Gift’ in Eph 2.8?

Ephesians 2.8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

Another way to read 2.8b would be, “and this does not originate from you.” Baugh points out there is a temptation to read this as pointing to faith. This would read “this faith is not your own doing – it is the gift of God.” What is not our own doing? Is it God’s grace? Our salvation? Our faith? All of it? Baugh believes that the whole event (“being saved by grace through faith”) is God’s gift.

Rather than quoting a quote about obscure Greek grammar, I want to look at some of the examples that Baugh gives.

Eph 5.5, For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

So who won’t inherit the kingdom of God? Those who are impure? Sexually immoral? Covetous? No, all who do those things have no inheritance in God’s kingdom.

Eph 6.1, Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

What is right? The Lord is right? Children are right? It is right that they obey the Lord by obeying their parents.

Phil 1.27-28, Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that . . . I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.

The clear sign is that they are standing firm, in one spirit, living with one mind, striving side by side, for the faith of the gospel – all together.

1 Thess 5.16-18, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

What is God’s will for our lives? To rejoice always, to pray always, to give thanks always.

What can we glean from this? Baugh says that

All the components of the event are also referenced as originating not from human capacity or exertion but as God’s gift. This means that even the believer’s act of believing comes from God, as is said more explicitly by Paul elsewhere: ‘For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him . . . but also suffer for his sake’ (Phil 1:29) . . . Humans contribute nothing of their own to this salvation, since even believing (which the elect are indeed enabled to do) is a divine gift (cf. Rom 3:24–25). The key to this in the context of Eph 2:8 is what Paul had been driving home so forcefully up until now: Before God’s gracious intervention believers were hopelessly dead, with their wills imprisoned by nature . . . in acts that led only to transgression and sin (2:1–5a, 12). (160-161)

In his book What About Free Will?, Scott Christensen points out, “The point at which unbelievers are ‘made alive’ is when they ‘were dead,’ not when they exercised faith.”  He says “it is impossible to exercise saving faith unless God grants it as part of the gift of receiving new life (cf. Phil. 1:29)” (185).

None of these redemptive realities proceed from our own wills. It is impossible for spiritually dead people to engage in an action that is as full of spiritual life and power as exercising saving faith. God’s choosing of people to salvation “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16). This does not mean that our will is not involved later. But Paul’s point is that the exercise of faith doesn’t incite God to act with grace and save us. Rather, it is his grace that incites us to act in faith whereby we willingly receive the benefits of salvation. (185)

As Ephesians 2.10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God prepared beforehand the adoption of both Jews and Gentiles into his family. We have been prepared for good works. God chose us “that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph 1.4).


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Deserving of God’s Wrath By Nature

Ephesians 2.1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

After telling the Ephesians that they were dead in their trespasses, that they deliberately walked in their sins, they followed the spirit at work in the sons of disobedience, and they lived according to the passions of their flesh, the desires of their body and mind, just like the rest of mankind they deserved God’s wrath – by nature. They were born into it. It was natural for them to live a life that deserved God’s wrath. That’s not something you’ll hear on Dr. Phil.

dr.-phil-marriage-boot-camp-pathways-seminar-317jxzptofwdv9m88uylmy

And since we wouldn’t hear this from the likes of Dr. Phil, Oprah, Dr. Oz, Rob Bell, or most of the world, Baugh rightly states, “We have lost the appreciation of just how shocking v. 3f would have been” (152). As Baugh points out, Paul was a Jew “by birth and not [a] Gentile sinner.” He was a “son of Abraham” (Lk 19.9) and a “son of the kingdom” (Matt 8.12). He would not have been a “son of destruction” (Jn 17.12) or a “child of Gehenna” (Matt 23.15). He would have considered himself a child of God, not of the devil (Jn 8.39-44). He certainly wouldn’t have been like the unclean Gentiles (Gal 2.15).

Now Paul rightly understands that . . . the whole world, both Jew and Gentile, stands condemned before God apart from Christ . . . If he had simply said that “we were children of wrath,” it might be supposed that this was a state humans happened to fall into or could climb out of themselves, but when Paul says that this state belongs to all “by nature,” he is saying that all—excepting only Christ Jesus . . . were conceived in sin” (152).

We were not “dead in our trespasses,” but we still had enough good moral capacity to choose Christ. We were dead weight, and we were sinking deeper and deeper into an ocean that doesn’t give up it’s dead.

The Good News

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will,” (Eph 1.4-5).

“The Christian is an adopted son of God [see my post here] and [a] natural . . . son of divine wrath; he or she derives ‘nobility of birth’ from only the one Father” (153).

This new life we have “is inaugurated in this life by an operation of the Holy Spirit . . . who somehow mysteriously brings the believer into fellowship with the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ such that Paul can say that the believer is co-made alive,’ ‘co-raised,’ and ‘co-seated’ with Christ Jesus in the heavenly realms” (156).

This period flows out of what was said before and anticipates what will shortly be said. The church is God’s redeemed, prized possession (1:14), rescued out of thrall to the prince of the power of the air (2:2–3) and included in the host-given gifts out of the bounty of Christ’s victorious ascent to heaven (1:20–23; 3:10; 4:7–10). Hence, in v. 7 Paul says that the church will be the trophies of battle on display “in the ages to come” (157).

In Job 1.8 Yahweh, seated before his divine counsel, asks the adversary, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”” Baugh says that the church will receive a similar, but much better, recommendation. “But by being a redeemed and washed, resplendent church (5:27), Paul says more particularly that God’s heavenly sacred treasury will be filled with the ‘surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.’” (157).

As Baugh remarks, and as I can attest, I usually hear (and have also taught) that God’s divine grace is defined as his “undeserved favor” toward us. Yet if we’re not careful, this can sound more like a friendly neighbor loaning sugar to the always-forgetful neighborhood.

Yet,

“As this whole passage shows, God’s grace, which is emphasized here by putting it first in the colon* (v. 8a[, read about the importance here]), is actually God’s favor granted to those who deserve his wrath (v. 3). It is not just undeserved, as if the people whom God befriends were neutral. It is [an] act of immense favor bestowed on those who lie under God’s just condemnation as transgressors and sinners. Hence, a better quick definition is: ‘God’s favor despite human demerit.’”


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Ephesian Magic

Abramelin-the-Mage

Welcome to a world of lucky charms, incantations, amulets, and divination. Welcome to the daily life of an Ephesian. Acts tells us that magic was prevalent throughout the Roman world.

Acts 8.9 tells us about Simon the magician, But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great.

And Luke tells us Acts 13.6 about Bar-Jesus, When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus.

Yet it was in Ephesus where, after turning to Christ, “a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver (Acts 19.19).

It’s hard for most westerners to imagine a life (even a day) where people lived in fear of the dark, unseen forces that surrounded them. In his commentary on Ephesians, S. M. Baugh gives us a few examples into the Greco-Roman and Ephesian mind.

One of Greece’s earliest poets, Hesiod, advised people to “take nothing to eat or to wash with from uncharmed pots, for in them there is mischief” (133).

But nobody cleans a pot and calls it a day. Theophrastus said that the superstitious man “is apt to purify his house frequently, claiming Hekate has bewitched it” (133).

And while many today like turtles (I grew up with plenty in and around my house) because they’re cute, in antiquity the “discovery of a tortoise is particularly lucky, for this animal was ‘a bulwark against baneful spells’” according to the Homeric Hymns (133).

Baugh says that “[f]amous witches like Circe or Medea dot Hellenistic literature with their use of ‘noxious roots of the earth,’ the evil eye, and mystic incantations and rites too fearful even to recount” (134).

These witches were devotees of the “night-stalking Hekate.” The Hymn to Hecate describes Hakate as, “Lovely Hecate … reveling in the souls of the dead … monstrous queen … of repelling countenance.” She was a “fierce mistress of the black arts who had an active cult* throughout Asia Minor, including many references in the remains from Ephesus” (134).

Simply because one became a Christian did not mean that person was no longer tempted to believe in the effects of magic. There was always a pull to conform to the rest of society, to partake in the discussions and practices of warding off the evil spirits with various spells and amulets.

ISSsbnq

Early postbiblical writers repeatedly warn their readers to stay away from the “black arts.”

In the Epistle of Barnabas 20.1, the author says, But the way of the Black One is crooked and full of a curse. For it is a way of eternal death with punishment wherein are the things that destroy men’s souls—idolatry, boldness, exaltation of power, hypocrisy… witchcraft, magic, covetousness, absence of the fear of God.”

And Didache 3.4 says, My child, be no dealer in omens, since it leads to idolatry, nor an enchanter nor an astrologer nor a magician, neither be willing to look at them; for from all these things idolatry is engendered.

In Ignatius’ letter to the Ephesians, he said that Christ’s incarnation “has dissolved all magic practices… and the bondage of evil and ignorance; the old kingdom of the prince of this age has been destroyed” (134).

From that time forward every sorcery and every spell was dissolved, the ignorance of wickedness vanished away, the ancient kingdom was pulled down, when God appeared in the likeness of man unto newness of everlasting life; and that which had been perfected in the counsels of God began to take effect. Thence all things were perturbed, because the abolishing of death was taken in hand.

Christ, Who Has All Things Beneath His Feet

Baugh quotes Clinton Arnold (who wrote a commentary on Ephesians) from Arnold’s book Power and Magic on the background of the Ephesians and their culture of magic. Arnold says:

God’s superior power is available to believers and is working for their best interest—he desires to mediate it to his people for their protection and growth. Believers are depicted as having been transplanted from one sphere of power (kingdom, or dominion) and placed in another. This transfer forms the basis for their access to the power of God. There is therefore no need for believers to seek any additional protection from the “powers” by any means. This would include the devising of ways to manipulate the demons or the invoking of angelic assistance. (134-35, fn 289)

This is simply one of the gifts given by the grace of God our Father which comes through faith in Christ alone. It is Christ who sits at the right hand of God (Eph 1.20). It is Christ who sits in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (1.20-21). And it is Christ who has “all things under his feet” and who is “head over all things to the church, who is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (1.22-23).


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The Father of Christ

Ephesians 1.3 says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ….

Ephesians 1.16-18 says, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ … may grant you…”

In Ephesians 1, both vv3 and 17 express the genuine humanity of Christ. Paul speaks of God the Father as Jesus’ God (as does John in 20:17, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”). Was Jesus not divine?

Yet we must hold this truth with what the Bible says elsewhere of Jesus’ own divinity.

Who, though he [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [or ‘exploited’] (Phil 2.6).

What gives? Is God the “God” of Jesus? We worship Jesus, and Jesus worships the Father?

Baugh explains Paul’s idea, and it just takes a bit of knowledge of the OT. Paul speaks of Jesus’ humanity here in Ephesians for two reasons.

1. Exclusive Human Mediation

Jesus is the only way to the Father. There is no other way to get to the Father.

1 Tim 2.5, For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

In the OT God was known by those whom he had covenanted with.

Ps 41.13, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.”

Ezek 11.22, Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.

Lk 1.68, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people

1 Kgs 18.36, And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.

Acts 3.13, The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.

But God is no longer known as “the God of Israel” or “the God of Abraham.” Now his covenant name is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Cor 1.3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” (cf. 11.31)

1 Pet 1.3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

In his commentary on 2 Corinthians, Mark Seifrid remarks,

In speaking of God as “the God and Father of Jesus Christ,” Paul . . . identifies Jesus Christ with God . . . in Jesus God has revealed himself as “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” As Paul makes clear shortly, all the promises of God find their Yes in him (v 20). The Christ is Jesus, the Suffering Servant of God (6:2; cf. Isa 49:8). He is the one in whom the hope the patriarchs is fulfilled. His name therefore replaces theirs and that Israel in the apostolic benediction. We know God and give him thanks only as the God of Jesus Christ. (17-18)

God is no longer a single-national God, but “the God of all nations (including Israelites) who come to the Father through the incarnate Son” (Baugh, 116).

2. Pagans

Because they lived in the Hellenistic pagan culture, the NT authors stressed Jesus’ humanity.

Acts 14.11-12 lets us catch a glimpse of this. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the leading speaker.

“The ancient Greek gods were thought to appear on earth in human guise,” says Baugh (116). Edward Schnabel states, “As the citizens hail Paul and Barnabas as deities, they would have made sure that the two ‘gods in human form’ understand that they [the citizens] have recognized them [the ‘gods’].

Schnabel tells of an ancient legend with a town neighboring Lystra,

A legend connected with neighboring Phrygia relates that two local gods, perhaps Tarchunt and Runt… —in the Greek version of the legend Zeus and Hermes—wandered through the region as human beings. Nobody provided them with hospitality until Philemon and Baucis, an older couple, shared their supplies with the unrecognized gods. The gods rewarded the couple, making them priests in the temple of Zeus, eventually transforming them into sacred trees, while inflicting judgment upon the other people.

Baugh says that of the more famous of these appearances was that of “Athena as trusted old Mentor to Odysseus’s son, Telemachos, in the Odyssey.” There is also the evidence that Artemis Ephesia was “thought to manifest her appearance to her worshipers in the Ephesian Artemisium” (116).

Paul

Yet none of these appearances are true incarnations. The gods simply appear before people (albeit in a fleshly form). Jesus was not only in a fleshly form, he was human, just like you and me.

Hebrews 2:14, Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For . . . he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” 


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Predestination

Foxtrot

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace(Eph 1.3-6a).

Predestination has a long history of discussion (read: arguments) behind it, and it’s certainly not something that I’m going to dive head first into in this post (there are other posts for that). Instead, if you read my post about the Pauline sentence then you would have seen my arrangement of the text of Ephesians 1.3-14 on the bottom of the post. In writing about Ephesians 1.4e-6a Baugh says, “What is most remarkable about the period… is that it consists entirely of six prepositional phrases” which qualify and show the focus of the act of predestination (84).

No Dictionary Provided

You can learn a good deal about a word from it’s definition. The verb to predestine means “to make a previous determination about something or someone” (84). But you learn even more about a word by the way it is used. This is especially true when you’re learning another language.

In English, many things can run. I can run. My nose can run. You can be “in the running” for an award. If you car is almost out of gas you are “running on fumes.“ Boys in elementary (and high school) fear being told they “run like a girl.”

Or this…

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Each use of run here has a different connotation from the rest, even the last one.

“Predestined”

God’s motive: in love

Goal: for adoption

Mediation: through Jesus Christ

Interrelation of adoption: to himself

Standard governing the act: according to the good pleasure of his will

Result: for the praise of the glory of his grace

Because of God’s love, he chose those who were “dead in their sins” (2.1) to become adopted sons and daughters through his perfect Son, Jesus Christ. And it was through Jesus Christ that we would be brought to the Father, and he would become our Father.

“God’s gracious bestowal of the believer’s position as son-heir is entirely due to the Father’s own will and grace, independent of any sort of qualifications or attractiveness inherent in him or her“ (88) – qualifications we did not have.

Deuteronomy 7:6–8, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”


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“Adoption as Sons Through Jesus Christ”

prodigal-son

“He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph 1.5).

“While [the] English ‘adoption’ is the best rendering for υἱοθεσία… this term does not convey the same connotations today as it did in a Graeco-Roman city like Ephesus” (84).

In the Greco-Roman world, the head of the family had legal authority over all members of his family, members of all ages. However, the head could release members of his family from his legal authority through emancipation. He could also give them into a new family through adoption.

If the son had already been emancipated, the procedure was adrogatio. Adrogation, among ancient Romans, was a kind of adoption in which the person adopted was free, and consented to be adopted by another. The adopted son was no longer a member of his old family, but he was now heir “to become the head of the family of the property and persons of the new familia: ‘If a son, then an heir’ (Gal 4:7)” (86). 

Gardner says, “The initial purpose of the institution of adoption, therefore, like that of will-making, appears to have been to allow people without [house heirs] of their own to acquire someone to inherit their [property]” (86, fn 176).

Adoption served the purpose to continue the “family and… its external relations.” For example, “if the head of the family was patron of a town or of soldiers; the son inherited that position as part of his patrimony [inheritance of property]” (87).

Octavian Augustus was adopted by Julius Caesar. Through this adoption, Octavian “inherited the allegiance of his [‘father,’ Caesar’s]… soldiers, which gave him immediate resources to prosecute his bid to ‘save’ the Roman Republic by transforming it into an empire” (86, fn 177).

Ephesians 1.4-5

“Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will,” (Eph 1.4-5).

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Eph 1.13-14).

Due to the Father’s own grace, love, and will, all believers have become members of God’s family. Though we are not “the son of God,” we have been adopted through the Father’s Son. In the Greco-Roman world, adoption was given (at least) generally to males. Yet the Lord extends his love and grace to all.

Paul writes his letter to the Ephesian church, a church made up of not only men, but women, children, freedmen, and slaves. Even if they were treated kindly by their masters, “[s]laves in Graeco-Roman antiquity were legally not human persons” (88).

Given that we no longer live in a time where slavery runs rampant (at least, not so visibly and legally like it did in Rome), Baugh reminds us, “We have lost the momentous impact Paul’s statement would have had in its original setting” (88).

For the Christians at Ephesus who were or had been slaves, to hear that God had predestined them not just to become God’s freedmen (1 Cor 7:22) or free children (John 1:12) but through υἱοθεσία [“adoption”] to become ruling sons (whether male or female) was an astoundingly magnificent statement of God’s lavish grace, poured out upon the objects of his eternal love. (88)

God’s Love and Favor

And to state the magnitude of God’s love and favor, Baugh points out that

Graeco-Roman adoptees were often members of the father’s extended relations. In the case of believers, God has taken the most distant foreigners to be his kin for inheritance of his whole estate. Not the deserving or good (Rom 5:7), not many well-born, powerful, or wise (1 Cor 1:26–30), but those who were “by nature”… not of his kin at all but “children of wrath” (Eph 2:3) and darkened “sons of disobedience” (Eph 5:6, 8; also 4:17–24)—his helpless, wicked, sinful enemies (Rom 5:6–10) under thrall to the realm of darkness (Eph 2:1–3…). God does not place these new sons into a subordinate, inferior family; he appoints them all to become coheirs with his natural, firstborn Son, in whom the whole creation is “summarized” (v. 10) for corule over all things with him as those who have been coseated with him in the high-heavenlies (2:6; Rom 8:14–17, 29–32; … Rev 3:21). These stupendous acts of divine grace have no parallel in Graeco-Roman society. It surpasses even the unthinkable idea of the Roman emperor adopting a slave from the most barbaric hinterlands to be the next emperor. It is no wonder that Paul exults in “praise of the glory of his grace, which he bestowed on us in his Beloved” (1:6). (87)

We are no longer dead in our sins (Eph 2.1), but we are alive in Christ (2.5). We are his workmanship (2.10). Christ is our peace (2.14), and we are God’s holy temple (2.21; 2 Cor 6.16). We have a “new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4.24). We love the Father who dwells in incorruptibility (6.24) as we experience the beginning fulfillment of the new creation (2.11-22; 2 Cor 5.17; Gal 6.15), which will be fulfilled at the end of the age (Rev 21-22).


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Homer and Paul

Simpsons Tales Domain 8

Ephesians 6.11 reads, “Put on the panoply of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the Devil.”

In his commentary on Ephesians, Steven Baugh says,

Here the “schemes”… the Ephesians are to stand against are said to originate from the Devil, the father of lies… but they are manifest directly through human false teachers and their deceitful trickery.”

These texts look back to Ephesians 4.27, “and give no opportunity to the devil,” and 4.13c-14, “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Christ was won the victory and has ascended on high to the Father (Eph 4.8). Having received the promised Spirit (Acts 2.33) he gave gifts to us (Acts 2.33; Eph 1.13; 4.8). He gave people to build the church up so that we may all grow in maturity in Christ (4.11-13) and stand firm in Christ (4.14; 6.11). Since we are all a part of the body of Christ, we are to build each other up in love (4.16). And when e do anger one another, we are not to fall prey to the Devil’s schemes, but we are to remember our love for one another and forgive each other (4.25-27).

Romans 13.12 says, “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Baugh says that there is “also a moral and eschatological aspect to this fight.” As 1 John says, we are in the last hour (2.18), and the Day of the Lord is near (Acts 2.20; 2 Pet 3.10).

Horse Tricks

Trojan Horse

It’s possible that there is more behind this text than what we think. Jeffrey Asher has suggested that “classical and especially Homeric deceit and trickery lies behind v. 11.”

Homer was memorized in the schools, chanted at the various festivals, and expanded on or imitated in countless other works (e.g., the Aeneid), and the Homeric myths, characters, and themes form the story lines of numerous plays in antiquity, including those put on in first-century Ephesus. One of the favorite Homeric characters was Odysseus, full of wit and guile (i.e., the Trojan horse and the deception of the Cyclops in his cave).

Cyclops

Odysseus was the deceiver; Achilles, the hero. Apparently Achilles “was godlike in battle strength with his divinely crafted, magically charmed armor (Il. 20.268).” Asher’s view holds that “Paul is calling on the audience to imitate Achilles and the other Homeric heroes in strength and battle prowess, while through Paul’s attribution of ‘schemes’… to the Devil and his followers, he ‘labels the enemy of the believers as an unworthy foe.’”

The Christian is to put on the panoply (“armor”) of God, which is a term that refers both to armor and weapons. Paul refers to the Roman armor in 6.14 and 16-17. Albrecht Oepke believes this armor corresponds “exactly’ to the gear of contemporary Roman soldiers of Paul’s day.”

Jeffrey Asher says,

This allusion to a Roman soldier, however, would not preclude additional and even more pronounced allusions to heroic characters such as Achilles and Odysseus.… Achilles was an adaptable character who was often ‘modernized’ to meet the needs of a new literary and artistic generation.

Baugh adds,

It should be noted that there were not very many Roman legionaries in first-century Ephesus, and most would have been in undress uniform rather than in their battle gear. Ephesians more frequently saw classical Greek armor and warriors depicted in their art, architecture, and coins, which further supports Asher’s insights.

So Paul’s language would be likely to first bring to mind not real Roman soldiers, but those portrayed in Roman culture, i.e., books like Homer’s Odyssey.

UtnevUB

To give a modern translation, Ephesians 6.11 could read “Suit up, that you may stand against the schemes of the Devil.“ Saying “Suit up” would bring to the minds of many readers the many superhero comics, cartoons, and movies that are around. It may also draw up imagery of Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, which I suppose would still work. In HIMYM, a situation goes haywire, Barney says, “Suit up!“, the group “stands firm together“ together, and by the end of the show everything is, at least somewhat, “fixed.”

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