Just as he did in Chapter 2, in Chapter 3 Paul continues to elaborate on the Jew-Gentile relationship that exists within the Church. The Gentiles were once without hope and without God, and the Jews were trapped under a Law they could not fulfill. These two groups were once divided, but in Christ God has broken down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile, making these two groups one new group. This new group, formed of Jews and Gentiles, are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.
Last time when we looked at Chapter 2 we saw that Paul uses various images to describe this new group, for instance temple, dwelling place, family. Yet in discussing the fact that God though Christ has formed a new humanity, which we call the Church, we need to remember why God does this. God didn’t break down the dividing wall so that we could all get along and sing kumbaya around the campfire. The reason why God brought these two groups together was so that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might be made know to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
That sounds pretty ethereal, but if you sit for a second and dwell on that it actually becomes very concrete. Think for a second about how this world deals with differences among groups of peoples. Now think of some words that describe how the world deals with those things. Do happy thoughts come to mind? Probably not. The words that come to my mind are: anger, pride, pain, injustice (and the list goes on.) The way of the world is a way that leads to pain, suffering, marginalization, and anger. Yet God, by revealing this mystery, shows the rulers and authorities that this way of doing life has come to an end. A new age has begun, or better yet a new age has broken in. The key to understanding this is to understand that the church is an eschatalogical community. The church is a community that lives in the now/not yet of history. So as the church lives in unity, across cultures, sub-cultures, races, etc. it shows the heavenly rulers and authorities (as well as their earthly counterparts) that God has the final word and that the future is secure. By living in unity the Church shows the world that in the end its not division, anger, and pain that wins the day rather its the way of new creation that wins the day.
As you think about Ephesians chapter 3 this week spend some time thanking God for revealing the “mystery” and for the incredible riches he has given you in Christ. Also spend some time thinking about the diversity of people and cultures in his Church. Pray that this diversity might grow to fulfill its purpose of making God’s wisdom known around the world. Spend some time praying for unreached people groups. Pray that God would bring them into this family too, so that his wisdom might be made known among the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
If you are interested in learning about how diverse the global church really is I would recommend picking up the following two books by Mark Noll:
- The New Shape of World Christianity
- Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia
If you want a good place to start learning about unreached people groups so that you can pray for them I would recommend checking out http://joshuaproject.net/