Friday, September 2, 2016

Paul's (and Scott's) Prayer for the Church

I ask that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit. I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God. Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.
- Ephesians 3:16-21

   Allow me for a moment to address the question of who wrote the Letter to the Ephesians. It is considered, by some, a contested letter, as there are characteristics that have caused some to doubt that Paul wrote it. I side with Luke Timothy Johnson in understanding that the differences are all within the norms for any author who writes to different audiences on a variety of topics; there is no reason to think the Apostle Paul did not write this letter. In it, he summarizes the Gospel in a way that is unique among his writings. Back to the prayer...
   Paul is writing to Gentiles (not Jewish and probably Greek in ethnicity and culture) who are probably gathered in many locations around Ephesus. His prayer is very bodily in nature: they they would be strengthened, their hearts would be healthy, and they would be able to stand firm because they are rooted in love. He also prays for their minds, that they might be able to understand how large is the love and power of God in their lives and in the whole cosmos. Yet, he also refers to something deeper than knowledge: the mystery of the fullness of God. Finally, whatever blessings we choose to accept or deny, God is at work with us or without us through Jesus Christ, putting the whole world back together.
   God wants to use us for good. Paul knows God is offering everything we need to be used by God. He prays for unity, if it is possible, and for us to point to the truth that is illumined by Jesus Christ shining in the world. This was Paul's prayer for churches back then; it is my prayer for us now. Grace and peace, Scott

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