Thursday, 27 March 2008

Ephesians Unfolded - 2

On the 14th of March I blogged about what I thought the outline of the first chapter of Ephesians should be. I noted that the background to Ephesians is that the Gentiles were being intolerant and uppity towards the Jewish Christians and that this letter was in fact a rebuke to them.

In my outline I proposed that Ephesians 1:3-10 is about the Jewish nation being chosen to reveal Christ. On another blog where I made this comment some one replied that I was in fact in a very small minority of belief regarding this and that this group was solely comprised of myself and therefore on that basis I should reconsider my views.

While I do believe in accountability, I don't think that is a good basis to reconsider ones views rather that the Word of God should be used to form ones views. Therefore on that basis I want to look at the Bibles use of the word Adopted which the Greek word is Huiothesia. It is used 5 times in the NT and only by Paul. According to the NIV Exhaustive Concordance it is translated
(1) Adopted as sons Ephesians 1:5
(2) Adoption as sons Romans 8:23 & 9:4
(1) Full rights as sons Gal 4:5
(1) Sonship Romans 8:15
I am proposing that Paul's primary use of adoption in his letters is in regards to illustrating that God first adopted the Israelites as his own and uses the term mainly as a rebuke to the Gentiles who are a little uppity and intolerant towards the Jewish Christians.

  1. Gal 4:5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
When ever Paul uses the law in his letters he is mainly talking to those of a Jewish background and it is in this context that Paul is using the term adopted translated as "Full rights as sons"

2. Rom 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.[7] And by him we cry, "Abba,[8] Father."

While time and space does not permit a full exegesis of Romans, basically Paul alternates between talking to the Jews and the Gentile Christians. Here he is talking to those of a Jewish background about not becoming a slave again to the Law.

3. Rom 8:23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Paul is referring to himself and again to the fact that it is the Jews who had the first fruits of the Spirit waiting eagerly for adoption.

4. Rom 9:4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.

This is perhaps the major verse that gives the most weight to my proposal. Romans is considered by most to be written after Ephesians and is Paul's most systematic tome regarding his theology. Here he is now speaking to his Gentile audience and is clearly saying - it is the people of Israel who were adopted as sons by God and it is to them that the promise of Christ came to first.

If Paul did write Romans after he wrote Ephesians we must allow his use of the term in Romans to highlight what he means in Ephesians.

5.) Eph 1:5 he[3] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-

I believe that Paul is rebuking his Gentile audience reminding them that it was the Jews who were adopted by God first and that it was to them the promises came first.

This is backed up by verse 13 where Paul now says, And you also were included in Christ... which means that Paul was not talking about the Gentiles in his previous sentences rather about someone else and that someone else could only be the Jews who had accepted Christ.

Therefore whenever we read Ephesians we need to keep in mind that those promises Paul speaks of, includes us but he is not primarily talking about us, rather rebuking us to remember that the promises came to the Jews firstly.

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