The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Monday, January 14, 2013

Called To Be Saints (Part 4): The Hope of His Calling

By: Thomas Clayton Booher

Part 1: read here
Part 2: read here
Part 3: read here

Ephesians 1:18 ....that you may know what is the hope of his calling....

Paul’s first encounter with city of Ephesus is recorded in Acts 18. The events that occurred early in the chapter have a direct bearing on that first visit and more prominently with the letter he later wrote to the Ephesians some time between A.D. 61-63 while a prisoner at Rome under house arrest (Acts 28:16-31:Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20).

Paul had met a Jew named Aquila in Corinth. Both were tentmakers so Paul stayed with him and his wife (Priscilla) and worked. As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, and using the scriptures, he explained in a cogent, clear, and coherent manner the person and work of Christ. It was effective because he persuaded both Jews and Greeks (Acts 18:1-5).

However, there was opposition, in particular from Jews who ‘blasphemed.’ The nature of this blasphemy is not detailed but it obviously had something to do with Christ, perhaps mocking his deity or the salvific work of the cross which Paul elsewhere describes as a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles (1 Cor 1:23). This opposition led Paul to shake his garments and turn his attention and zeal toward the Gentiles.

This was a decisive policy change for his work in Corinth. Though Paul did not always exclude the Jews from his ministry, he consciously recognized a division of labor between him and the other apostles wherein they (Peter in particular) ministered to the Jews, while he labored among the Gentiles (Gal 2:8; cf 1:16).  Having made his decision to go to the Gentiles at Corinth, there seems to be no other effort by Paul to reach the Jews there. There is special mention of the conversion of the ruler of the synagogue, Crispus, and his household who believed, but that may have been a result of previous labor by Paul. The Lord charges Paul to not be afraid, but speak, for He has many people in that city. Hence, Paul spends the next year and a half ‘teaching the word of God among them,’ (Acts 18:11), that is, among hard-core pagans for the city of Corinth was a pagan city whose temple prostitutes were known throughout the ancient world.

From Corinth, Paul moves on and eventually comes to Ephesus accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila, but his stay there was brief – he wanted to make the ‘coming feast in Jerusalem,’ (Acts 18:20). After the feast, Paul embarks on another journey strengthening the churches and eventually makes his way back to Ephesus. Here we see an initial effort to evangelize the Jews. But because of their unbelief and resistance, Paul again turns to the Gentiles. For the next two years, he reasons daily in the school of Tyrannus where there is some indication he may have rented the facilities for teaching in the afternoons (Acts 19:9, manuscript D of the fifth century AD).

Paul’s teaching is so effective, he threatens to destroy the idol making trade of the silversmiths. This caused an uproar whose magnitude threatened the whole city to be called in question, presumably by Rome (Acts 19:23-41).

Later, on his way to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, Paul calls for the elders of Ephesus to meet him in Miletus (a journey of 30 miles or so). He reminds them of how he proclaimed to them the ‘whole counsel of God,’ (Acts 20:27) and charges them to take heed and shepherd the Church of God; to watch out for savage wolves who will come in not sparing the flock, and for those who will rise up from even their own midst and speak lies to draw away disciples to themselves (Acts 20:28-30).

All of this serves as the historical context of the apostle’s letter to the Ephesians. Some key points are (a) his specific ministry to the Gentiles, and (b) his warnings to watch over the flock and protect against the wolves and egomaniacs who would speak lies and lead them away from the firm foundation of the gospel.

With regard to the latter, Paul writes in Ephesians 4 how Christ himself gave gifts to the church. These gifts were men called to the office of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher (Eph 4:7, 11). The purpose of these gifts, among other things, was to prevent the laity from being ‘tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting’ (Eph 4:14).

With regard to the former, Paul’s place in redemptive history as the apostle of the Gentiles comes forcefully into his letter. There is the overt claim that he is the agent by which God reveals the mystery that has been kept hidden in the past but is now revealed (Eph 1:9, 10; 3:1-9), the mystery ‘that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ through the gospel’ (Eph 4:6).

Paul spends much of the first four chapters reiterating this point, that the Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners but are now partakers with the Old Testament people of God of the same covenants and promises (Eph 2:11-13, 19) making Jew and Gentile the one people of God (Eph 2:14-18).

It is in this theological context (that believing Gentiles are now one with the Old Testament people of God, sharing in their covenants and promises) that Paul informs us of his prayer for these uncircumcised believers, that ‘the Father of glory may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe....’ (Eph 1:17-19).

The hope of the Gentile’s calling is their fellowship with the saints of all times, now sharing in their inheritance and no longer without hope and God in the world. For century after century, until the coming of Christ and the installation of the New Covenant, the Gentiles were hopelessly in darkness and ignorance, perishing under God’s wrath and consigned to the most vile passions known among men (cp Romans 1:18-32). But that has all changed. Gentiles are called to be saints as well as the Old Testament people of God. They are now fellow heirs with them, partaking of the same promises and covenants as they partook (Eph 2:11-16).

Most of us are Gentile believers. God’s purpose from the beginning was to save a people for himself. This began with a small ethnic group through whom God exclusively revealed his redemptive purposes in shadow and type. When the shadow gave way to the reality it pointed to, it not only secured the salvation of this peculiar people, the believing Jews of the whole Old Testament era, but now it opens that reality wide to all the families of the earth, as God promised to Abraham (Gen 12:3). The glories that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and all the other Old Testament personalities looked forward to in that day when God will make a new heaven and earth, these are the same glories that the outcasts, the pagans and the Gentiles, by faith in Christ, have now inherited. We who are believing Gentiles are fellow citizens of that heavenly Jerusalem through our calling as saints. But the glory of this calling is not entirely reserved for the new creation, but may be experienced here and now in our sanctification. As fellow citizens called to be saints, ‘God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we may ask or think,’ (Eph 2:20) with regard to the raging war against the sin within us and in the world. Through him we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37); we are overcomers (1 John 2:13, 14; 4:4; 5:4, 5; Rev 21:7).

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