Pauline Epistle, Ephesians, Is Addressed to God Research Proposal

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¶ … Pauline epistle, Ephesians, is addressed to God's church on earth with an urge to unity and holiness. Ephesians 4.1-6 is an ethical exhortation for the Christian church regarding its mission among the common men. The main intent of the passage is to stress the urge for absolute unity, as the achievement of divine harmony among the believers. God is one but also ubiquitous and so the church is to strive for the ultimate spiritual unity. The purpose of the passage is also to raise awareness to God's actual, creative presence in the world and his workings upon earth.

Through the beginning of the Epistle, the holy church is urged to join the Trinity, by endeavoring to remove the obstacles between men and uniting all the people in God. For this, it is also necessary that all the differences between races or cultures be abolished, and that the people live in peace and harmony. The church and the people are called to a new life, which is filled with the sense of jubilation at God's presence. All things must be infused with the renewed presence of the Holy Spirit. As Isam Ballenger argues in his study on the Pauline epistle, the initial exhortation in Ephesians 4.1-6 is also very important in the overall structure of the epistle as the author shift from the theme of belief in God and from the propositions of faith and worship, to the presence of God in the world and to his infinite creativity.

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The fragment thus stresses the actual life of the believers and not only their spirituality. God is seen as a presence in the world that coordinates all the movements of existence. There is a focus here upon earthly life and man's significance to God which is complementary to God's significance for man. The church is urged therefore to become aware of the presence of God in the world and to embark upon its holy mission and bring unity and harmony among the believers.

As Elna Mouton emphasizes, the church is urged towards active faith and praise giving not only to magnify the glory of God but also to strengthen and substantiate the identity awareness of the people and their new life in Christ.

Research Proposal on Pauline Epistle, Ephesians, Is Addressed to God's Assignment

Isam E. Ballenger further points out that the periscope speaks of the life of the church and that of the people, and their mission to participate in the Trinity: "This pericope speaks of the life of the church, that is, it speaks of the mission of the church (for life and mission are inseparable), and the mission of the church is to participate in the Trinity. To participate in the Trinity is to share a common parentage ('one God and Father of all'), to be strengthened by the one Spirit, and to contribute, according to one's God-given abilities, to the one Body."

The perfect spiritual unity to be achieved is therefore a need to acknowledge God as the single and absolute creator of all things in the universe and the father of all men.

Ephesians 4.1. begins by extrapolating on the condition of all men as prisoners of the Lord, that is, as being wholly contained by God and his creation. The line expresses the urge addressed to the church to be worthy of the sacred mission it has received, as the messenger of God's word among people and of the new life brought by Christ: "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received."(Ephesians, 4.1) Ballenger emphasizes that the passage uses the oneness of God as the sole creator and father of man and of the world in order to stress the desire of achieving the same perfect unity among the fragmented human population: "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."

The first line of the passage therefore marks the transition to "direct instruction of behavior after Benediction, Thanksgiving, petition and memorial."

As Martin Kitchen explains, in the first line of the passage, the writer 'beseeches', 'exhorts', 'encourages', 'comforts' or 'warns', not simply as the 'prisoner on behalf of Christ', but also 'prisoner of Christ' (4.1). The significant difference here from Ephesians 3 lies in the word choice that makes the writer the "prisoner of Christ" and not only the prisoner on behalf of Christ or his messenger.

The passage instructs thus on the proper behavior of those who praise God. God must be worshipped and loved, but the people must also endeavor to live according to his holy precepts and thus do him honor. The second line of the passage urges the people to meet the main virtues of a Christian: humility and kindness, patience and love: "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."(Ephesians, 2.1) the believers, as part of the same body of Christ, have to be worthy of their God and behave according to the main precepts of Christian faith. As Martin Kitchen observes, the passage in the beginning of Ephesians 4 is a piece of very well structured moral exhortation.

The passage therefore sets the goal of the moral role of the church upon earthly life, by making a connection between the praise that had occupied the previous part of the epistle and the exhortation in Ephesians 4. The church is a moral pillar of human society and therefore it has to set an example among the believers. The virtue of humility can be likened to that of meekness and the awareness of one's smallness in the hands of the almighty God.

The meekness to which the people are urged here is however not so much that towards God but rather that towards the other men, as a necessary principle for harmony among all people. Such a virtue is naturally accompanied by patience or suffering. The principal role of these essential virtues is to obliterate the differences among people and ensure the absolute unity that the apostle urges the people to embrace. Men have to be ready to love each other with meekness, to be patient and forbearing so as to be able to achieve the unity in the body of Christ. The phrase "bearing one another in love" refers, as Kitchen observes, to the brotherly love among people that is a testimony of people's love to Christ.

According to Kitchen, the third line of the introductory passage, 'striving to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace' (4.3), "indicates a sense of difficulty in practicing the virtues of love and unity," that is, the believers are exhorted towards their task but they are also warned of its difficulty. However, what is important is that the author specifies that the desired unity has only to be maintained and not to be created. The "unity of spirit" refers to both the Holy Spirit and the spiritual unity among people and the "bond of peace" is the engagement to preserve peace and harmony upon earth, in due respect for God's workings. This peace has to unite both the Jew and the Gentile into the same whole.

The next lines of the passage, 4-6 are usually considered together because, as Kitchen remarks, they may be reminiscences from an early Christian hymn: "Ephesians 4.4-6 constitutes a quotation from an early Christian hymn or credal confession."

The first line of these, line 4, relates the fundaments of absolute unity of the whole people in one body and one Spirit: "There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to one hope when you were called -- " (Ephesians, 4.4) the reference to "one hope" probably denotes the hope of salvation and actualization of the life in Christ. The fifth line, "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" enhances the idea of perfect divine unity which must also be simulated among the human communities. As Hans Vorster explains, this phrase is an echo of Mark 16:16: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism," is a sequence which certainly echoes Mark 16:16: the worldwide "great commission" of the risen Christ for "the whole creation," the faith which accepts that commission, and the baptism which ratifies membership in the Christian community of those who stand the test in God's last judgment on the world."

According to Vorster, the phrase stresses baptism as a cleaning of the entire community and its preparation to open one's mind in the face of the divine influence: "In Ephesians 4 the accent has already unmistakably shifted. Now what is emphasized is that the plethora of experiences linked to becoming a Christian involves a coherent, self-consistent event: water baptism as an act of cleansing and reception into the community of those who, from Antioch on, have been called "Christians"; baptism in the Spirit, opening up previously suppressed or otherwise polarized areas… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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