" Participating in the body is not static and not passive; it is not a once-for-all experience. It is neither habit nor mere tradition. It has to do with life and growth, being the body of Christ in place and in time, in changing places and in changing times."
Finally, the last line, "one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all," evokes the ubiquity of God and the percolating nature of divinity. God spreads his influence to infuse all the fields of human existence and all the parts of creation, and it is this influence that should raise people's awareness and invite them to achieve a perfect communion upon earth.
As Paul Stroble points out, the text therefore highlights Paul's gospel as a declaration of God's intent on uniting all the separate parts of creation into a single body of Christ: The text highlights the implications of the restatement of Paul's gospel as the declaration of God's plan to unite the whole human race in the one body of Christ. The ethical implications of all these are spelled out in 4.1-6.9, with an ethic of unity which is built upon the teaching contained in the Benediction and Thanksgiving of 1-2."
The church has therefore the mission to spread the good word of Jesus and thus unite the people into a single unity: "Peace' is that which is brought about by this preaching of Christ, according to the Pauline gospel as understood here in Ephesians. The gospel and the preaching of it is the church's task, and the church as a body must have a concern for spreading the good news of Jesus."
The unity is therefore dependant on God's own unity and his omnipresence in the world.
The believers are urged to regain their sight of the initial unity in the body of Christ. According to Ballenger, both the notions of mission and unity are very important in the text and they can be interpreted as complementary. Thus, the church unites with the mission of God to unite all things, forming therefore a union of purpose and scope: "The church, which accepts the mission of God to be at one with God, unites with the mission of God to unite all things, things in heaven and things upon earth, that is, to bring the whole creation into harmony to the praise and glory of the creator. Earlier the writer has presented the Trinity of relationships whereby God participates with humankind (missio Dei). The oneness of God is diverse in relating to the brokenness of humankind with the purpose of restoring unity. Now, attention must be directed to the Trinity, whereby humankind may participate with God for the purpose of restoring unity."
This unity, as it has already been noticed is not to be created anew or attainted. It has been already given to man, and is intrinsically related to the absolute oneness of the creator. Therefore, as Ballenger proposes, oneness is a truth over which man does not have any control: "Notice that the text does not say that we must in some way create or bring about the one Spirit. Oneness is a given, a truth over which we have no control. There is one body and one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, a seven-fold oneness that should leave no doubt as to the significance of the affirmation. This unity which embraces diversity can be observed in congregations, denominations, and ecumenical circles."
The participation of every individual and of the human community as a whole in Oneness surpasses the barriers of doctrine and practice, as they are understood and actualized by the church. Also, race and nationality, culture, economic and educational status and all the other elements of diversity disappear under the perfect unity professed by the church. As Ballenger notes, diversity remains, "but it has been integrated in the one Spirit, joined in the one hope." Yet there are also multiple evidences of our disunity, and disunity diminishes the mission of the church both centripetally ("See how they don't love one another") and centrifugally ("Which brand of Christianity represents the church?" asks the interested Muslim).
The body of the church and of mankind consists of many parts, but it is essentially one. The epistle therefore imposes this new vision of the unified creation, in which all diversity can be united through the pervasive Spirit of God.
The cry for spiritual unity obviously holds material consequences also. One may be tempted to reduce the impact of these verses by asserting that the writer is speaking of a spiritual unity without material consequences. But there can be no spiritual unity void of consequences, of actions: "This truth is founded biblically and theologically upon God as Love and God as Trinity, Spiritually, One. Note the consequences; note the action. Love begets the Son (male) and sends forth the Spirit (female), the fullness of God, in order to unite and return all things to God. The theme is unity and mission."
Thus, the men are called upon to achieve the divine will and realize the unity reflected in God, on earth.
This miraculous possibility, participation in the Trinity or participation in the life and mission of the church, does not come naturally; it does not occur without some effort, a significant degree of personal engagement. The virtues the writer appeals for are not very important but also very difficult to maintain. Participation in the Trinity is to remove barriers to human connectedness and making efforts toward the union of all things in God. As there is always conflict between people and as many times the conflict arises precisely because of diversity, the unity is difficult to achieve. All this was foreseen by the writer, who urges the people to make the necessary effort to abolish conflict and strive for unity among all the people of the earth. The passage therefore contains, in a few condensed lines, the essence of the mission of church and that of the individual people. Proceeding from the absolute unity of God, the writer urges for unity of all men as a recognizance of the all-pervading Spirit of God.
The epistle of the Ephesians 4: 1-6 is therefore a complex exhortation to faith in God but also a moral call for the church and the people. The emphasis lies on the life of men on earth and the way in which they conduct their existence. The brotherhood of all men appears as the necessary condition for the maintenance of the unity given by men. Therefore, division among people is clearly the result of man's inability to preserve peace and harmony. The maintenance of this ideal state requires a sum of virtues that should be practiced by all the people. The faith in God and the glorification of God are therefore complemented by the need to maintain brotherhood among men. Essentially, the beginning of the fourth part of the Ephesians invokes the need for a new vision of life that would celebrate the unity of all people into the body and spirit of Christ. To achieve the unity, this vision must be adopted and understood, so as to be able to live by the word of God. The epistle is especially significant for the modern world in which division rather than unity thrives. For a change to come, people should be able to share the same vision of the meaning of life and of the importance of unity, as expressed by the Ephesians 4: 1-6. Life should be lived according to this vision, which is the only link that can hold all the separate elements of the world together.
Ballenger, Isam. "Ephesians." Interpretation 51.n3 (July 1997): p.p292(4).
Bridges, Ronaid and Luther a. Weigle. The Bible Word Book: Concerning Obsolete and Archaic Words in the King James Version of the Bible. Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1960
Caird, G.B. And L.D. Hurst. ed. New Testament Theology. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. Hunter, Archibald M. 1959. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians -- the Layman's Bible Commentary. Richmond, VA: John Knox Press.
Kitchen, Martin. Ephesians. New York: Routledge, 1994
Moule, H.C.G. Studies in Ephesians. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1977.
Mouton, Elna. Reading a New Testament Document Ethically. Boston: Brill, 2002.
Spicq, Ceslas. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament. Vol. 3. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994.
Stroble, Paul. "Living by the word: kindly candor." The Christian Century 123.16 (August 8, 2006): 16(1).
Vorster, Hans. "We Confess one Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins." The Ecumenical Review, vol. 51, 1999.
Isam Ballenger, Ephesians, Interpretation…
Participating in the body is not static and not passive; it is not a once-for-all experience. It is neither habit nor mere tradition. It has to do with life and growth, being the body of Christ in place and in time, in changing places and in changing times."
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