“Back to the Holy Fire” – What Really Matters?
A study of the book of Ephesians
By way of introduction, I would like to talk to you briefly about the methodology of exegesis. Just what is exegesis? To put it simply, it is the verse-by-verse study of scripture expounded. Often, scholars will take the passage of scripture on a “microscopic” level, and explain the meaning of the written text word-by-word, taken from Greek or Hebrew texts. I enjoy the expository, verse by verse approach to bible study, taking a slow pace, because it allows one to digest the esoteric (higher and philosophic) meaning of the letter, while seeking to understand what is written in historical context. However, when a new believer asks me how to begin study of the Bible, I usually suggest that they read it just as it was written, like a letter. That is exactly what most of the New Testament is, letters written to various churches concerning how to live out the Gospel life. The four Gospel are historical accounts of the life of Jesus. The book of Acts is the history of the birth of the first century church. Romans through Jude, (the majority of the N. T.) are Epistles, (letters) and Revelation is a literary form of gematria and apocalypse written to tell the story of the plan of Christ revealed in the Earth until His second coming. So, I tell new believers and most layfolk to read the Epistles like letters and the Psalms like poetry, the proverbs, well, like proverbs. In it’s simplicity, the Bible can best be understood.
For instance, when one reads “do not murder” in the book of Exodus, I think that is fairly plain. How about this one, “love your neighbor as yourself…” and even though we all may have had a neighbor or two in the past that challenged our love, that one is still plain as well. Yet, there are passages that are best read in context of the historical times, and are not meant to be lived out today. If we read the Bible as a letter, we leave room in our mind and heart to decide what is really relevant for today, and what isn’t. Most of the time, the practical things that apply to us are quite evident, if we give the Bible a chance. It is with this attitude that I launch into a look at the Ecclesial Book of Ephesians. It is a letter of Paul divided into six chapters and can be described as having to do intently with the heart of the believer and the heart of the church. It is most likely one of my favorite New Testament writings. I hope you will find blessing in its encouragement in the coming weeks.
Some have asked the question why people cross-reference scripture. My answer is that it is helpful to understand the mindset of the day. If the same phraseology is used in other writings, or other topics are addressed, more light can be shed on just what the writer intended the reader to understand. It is quite reliable, since the writers of the New Testament were in close contact with each other, and even Paul spent time with the Apostles in Jerusalem before heading out on his missions. He also spent many months with Luke, John, and Mark.
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Right away, there is a great lesson in the scripture. The very first word. Someone once asked, “What’s in a name?” If you know the story about the conversion of Paul, you understand that before he became a Christian his name was Saul. It was on the road to Damascus that he saw his vision of Jesus, and Christ asked him” Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Not long into the story, Jesus Christ changes Saul’s name to Paul. I believe that there is some significance to this story, at least there is a beautiful imagery to be seen. The name Saul was of Hebrew origin and meant “to ask or pray.” Saul had persecuted the Christians relentlessly, having even been present at the stoning of Stephen, holding the cloak of one of the participants. He was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leadership council. He was a very public figure and most likely very self-righteous. The name Paul now lends the imagery. In Greek, it means “small”. You see, Jesus humbled Saul on the road to Damascus that day, and convicted him of his sin, quickening his heart to the wrong he had committed. It also served to humble Paul the rest of his life, because historians say he was a small man in stature, anyway. Perhaps he was always reminded of his humble state, and how the Lord had changed his life that day, because of his name.
The next phrase “an apostle of Christ by the will of God..” stands out to me because he was not one of the original twelve. Either Paul was being a bit self reliant and appointed here, or the Holy Spirit is revealing to us that it is God who ultimately chooses whom He will. The word Apostle means “One Sent”. So in the sense that Paul was sent by Christ to preach to the Gentiles, he was most correct to use the term. Some would argue his apostolic authority, but the rebel in me simply states “you will know them by their fruit, by their works…”. Most people who have doubted Paul’s authority to me have never shown me equal impact on the world coming from them. The Holy Spirit bears the witness to the works of believers.
The next phase is a favorite of mine. To the Saints. No canonization is needed. These folk lived long before the first pope was venerated. The true definition of a saint; the faithful in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s prayer is one that is universal for all that grace and peace be upon them, and ultimately us. Notice that there is a connection between the concept of grace and peace. Without grace, there can be no truly inward lasting peace. In addition, without the atonement of Jesus Christ, which made peace through the cross, there is no fullness of Grace.
Back to the Holy Fir
“Back to the Holy Fire” – What Really Matters?