Turn on the Light

(1) The church is a worldwide caring community (Eph 1:15-16).

Our love cannot be confined to the limits of our own specific community. We need a sense of a larger and broader movement of God and of our own involvement with other Christians. Such involvement with other Christians keeps us from being myopic and parochial, and it keeps both churches and pastors from being "lone rangers." Being part of Christ means being part of the others in Christ and working with them in behalf of God’s kingdom.

(2) The church is a praying community (Eph 1:16-17)

To pray is to remember "who owns the house." This is God’s world and the people in it are his. The church is not an independent, self- determining group,- it is a community that acknowledges it is owned and therefore under direction. Our regular practice should include praying for other Christians—even ones we do not know. Through such prayers we acknowledge we all belong to the same God and that we participate together in a common God-given mission. We are one with those in Christ and share life in Christ with them.

(3) The church is a thinking community (Eph 1:18).

Nowhere is the adage "garbage in, garbage out" more true than when dealing with our own minds. If we invest our minds in pornography, sitcoms, and movies, we will not end up with knowledge of God.

The focus on the enlightenment of the mind in verse 18 introduces an important, but too frequently ignored, part of Paul’s thinking. Too many Christians are passive in their thinking and learning or have an anti-intellectual bias. Part of this is understandable, for "intellectualism" has often been destructive and arrogant, but Christians have recoiled with an anti-intellectualism that leads to ignorance. We do not ward off intellectual attack by being less thoughtful!

This text does not suggest we should all be academics or that the solutions to life are all academic. But Christians must always grow in wisdom and in their understanding of life, God, and the relevance of their faith.

Wisdom is practical knowledge for right living. The church should be a community of thinkers— not thinking in distinction from action, but thinking as the basis for action.

Spirit brings to enlighten our hearts, but he does not usually just zap people with understanding. Openness to the work of the Spirit is required, but so is investment in thinking and learning.

We should focus on God, human life, and what God has done for humanity in Christ. From that foundation every other subject needs investigation, and Christians should be at the forefront of an analysis of every subject important for human life—medical ethics and medical research, theology and business, enjoyment and suffering, to name a few.

(4) The church is a community that understands time (Eph 1:18). .

Karl Marx is noted for saying, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." The truth is that all humans live as oppressed creatures, oppressed by meaninglessness and evil—both our own and that of other people. In our society we attempt to insulate ourselves from despair with movies, television, and other forms of entertainment. We are taught from an early age that "they all lived happily ever after," and we pursue this illusion. While life and God’s creation are good and are to be enjoyed, we must always remember the truth that there are no happy endings—at least in this life. We must all deal with meaninglessness, evil, sickness, and death.

Like the doxology (1:3-14), this passage focuses on understanding the past, the present, and the future. This letter will frequently contrast the hopeless past of the recipients with their present and future privilege in Christ. Here it looks to the specific past event of God’s work in Christ—his life, death, and especially resurrection as events that have changed the course of history.

In a world that knows no time except the present, Christians must remind people about the future—something we have failed to do. If there is no future, there is no gospel. The brevity, injustice, suffering, and dying in this life cry out for the ultimate victory of God, for God to do something. Christians are eschatologically oriented because they know that God has done something marvellous and is not finished. The new age has come in the midst of the old, and one day the new age will be all that is left.

(5) The church is a confident community (Eph 1:18).

The reason why Paul prays that his readers will know hope, God’s inheritance, and power is so they may live confidently. If the Christ to whom they are connected has been exalted over every other power, we as Christians do not need to worry about the powers. Nothing can separate us from Christ, disqualify us, or condemn us (Rom. 8:31 -39). If Christ is the one who conveys the fullness of God, we do not need to worry about having missed something. We know of our own value and place in God’s purposes. We are the beneficiaries of his lordship and we live under his lordship.

Our confidence ought not, however, be misunderstood as triumphalism—the sin of overemphasising "victory" so that sin, difficulty, and pain are not acknowledged and dealt with. Triumphalism in its arrogance forgets the cross and God’s identification with the pain of the world. It also forgets what is still awaited—the complete victory of God in the future. The Corinthian community was guilty of the sin of triumphalism, but Paul reminded them of the cross and of the fact that God’s power is made complete in weakness, a weakness that identifies with the self-giving love of the cross (2 Cor. 12:9-13:4).

(6) The church is a community of power (Eph 1:19-21). .

Our culture is schizophrenic in its attitude toward spiritual powers. On the one hand, our "scientific" worldview rejects any belief in spiritual beings, demons, angels, and the like. On the other hand, much of our society still is superstitious, accepts astrology, and is fascinated with thought about spiritual beings. The "psychic network" is a multimillion pound industry. The recent influence of the new age movement has made language about "spirit guides" and angels common. Right in the middle of our "scientific" culture, major news magazines and television series focus on angels. !n most cases, our culture focuses only on positive spiritual powers, Our society does not fear spiritual forces or blame them for things that go wrong,- rather, it looks to them for assistance and good luck.

But looking elsewhere is precisely what many people do. A strange temptation prevails to mix faith in Christ with some other ingredient—such as works, power over the demonic, or astrology—to mention only a few options in the syncretistic brew. But Christ is sufficient and nothing else is needed. To attempt to add to Christ is to take away from him.

The power Christians have is not intrinsic power but a power that comes from God, defined by the resurrection of Jesus and his exaltation as Lord over every other power, both now and in the future. Because no other power can rival him, and because in him the fullness of God lives, we do not have to look elsewhere to find what we need for life. What we need is in Christ.

We must remember this when we seek to apply the language about spiritual powers in 1.21. The purpose of this verse is not to provide information about spiritual beings so that Christians can worry about them or seek to name them and bind them. Its purpose is that people may focus on Christ, rejoice, and live confidently. Evil is real, and as far as we can tell, so are spiritual beings, but they are not mentioned in this passage because they are a threat or should be a cause of concern. Instead, they are defeated and we need not worry.

If such power is available, why do we not see it more? Of course, we live between the times, and Paul acknowledges in this letter that evil is still with us. The new age has come in the midst of the old (2:1-3; 4:17-19; 5:3-17, 6:10-20).  God’s power has invaded this present evil age in the resurrection (1:19-21; Romans 8:31-39). God’s power does not remove us from persecution, danger, difficulty, and death, but makes us more than conquerors in all such things.

This is the power to live in an evil world. This power is for godly living.