Ephesians 4(a)

This week we are looking at Ephesians 4. Before reading this chapter, please go back and read Paul’s prayer in 3:14-21. Paul did not write in chapter and verse (these were added in the last medieval period), and so this prayer was intended by Paul to be read with the subsequent text because the following chapters won’t make sense unless “your roots grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

The late first-century Stoic philosopher Epictetus taught that “when a difficulty befalls, remember that God, like a physical trainer, has matched you with a rugged young sparring partner so that you may obtain victory. But that victory cannot be obtained without sweat and struggle.” Discourses, Bk., Ch. 24. Over the final three chapters of Ephesians, we need to struggle with the application of what Paul is actually saying. I have been in Bible studies before where a verse is read, everyone nods in agreement, and we move on. Thankfully, this is not the experience we have had over the last several weeks. For this week, wrestle, in the full knowledge and love of Christ, with some of the implications of Paul’s teachings. For example:

·         In verses 1-16, Paul speaks of the unity of the Body of Christ, echoing Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21 that we all may be one. However, we know from Scripture that Paul himself sometimes contributed to the disunity of the church, such as when he opposed Peter in Galatia (Galatians 2:11) or when he separated from Barnabas over a “sharp contention” (Acts 15:39). In our own experience the Church often seems disunited, otherwise we would all still be Roman Catholic. As you read through the first part of Chapter 4, think about whether the unity that Paul calls us to is a unity of the Church Universal or of the Church as the local congregation. Is every disagreement, such as Paul’s split from Barnabas, necessarily a tear in the fabric of the unity of the church and contrary to Ephesians 4? When, if ever, is it acceptable to challenge the unity of the Church or of a congregation? What are some of the practical means by which unity in the Church is obtained and restored?

·         In verses 14-16, Paul admonishes his audience to be “grown-up” Christians. What does it mean to be a mature Christian? Think of specific examples (some can be found at the end of chapter 4) of mature Christianity. As you have matured in your faith, do you read Scripture differently? Are maturity and knowledge the same thing?

·         In verse 26, Paul says “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” How can anger be a “Christian” response and are there times when anger is the only appropriate “Christian” response? Remember Jesus himself expressed anger by making a whip to cleanse the Temple (John 2:13-17) and calling his most solid disciple “satan” (Matt. 16:23). Here is a good Reflection on the Passion of Anger. (Msgr Charles Pope, 5/28/13)

Dinner is at 6. The menu this week is hamburgers. Please bring a guest or invite someone new.

So, be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

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