Corporate Election in Ephesians 1:4 – Judge’s Question and Answer

by Oct 14, 2019Ephesians0 comments

- ...and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:17 NRS) -

At the end of the debate, I was asked the following by one of the judges:  “For Bob, you said “It is a particularly Jewish blessing” when discussing the blessings in chapter one and later said that “Paul is saying that the blessings that are found in the Jewish Messiah are ALSO received by the Gentiles WHEN they heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, AND BELIEVED in him.” When Paul describes the blessings in chapter one is he describing blessings the Gentiles also enjoy even though he’s not including them in the pronoun “we?”

My answer:

Yes. If you recall from Romans 4, Paul sees the descendants of Abraham as those who have the same faith as Abraham. As a Jew, Paul is presenting what God is doing from a Jewish covenantal perspective. That is, all the promises of Israel come to fruition via the Jewish Messiah. However, he is presenting this to a Gentile audience, as defined in Ephesians 2:11-13.

In his letters, Paul repeatedly is concerned about the lack of unity in the body of Christ that seems to continually rear its head in the early church. So, he uses this very Jewish blessing to tell his audience that they too are now accepted. Note how he says this in Ephesians 2 (part of his elaboration of the introduction) –

11 Therefore remember that AT ONE TIME you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands–
12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
13 BUT NOW in Christ Jesus YOU WHO ONCE WERE FAR OFF HAVE BEEN BROUGHT NEAR by the blood of Christ. (Eph. 2:11-13 ESV)

Paul moves from the disunity of the past to unity, describing the unity we have in Christ. They are no longer aliens, but “fellow citizens” (2:19). But note what the foundation is here:

20 BUILT ON THE FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Eph. 2:20-21 ESV)

So, the foundation is a Jewish framework that is now open to all who have faith.

The gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, TO THE JEW FIRST and ALSO to the Greek.” (Rom. 1:16 ESV)

The church has been dominated by Gentiles for most of the 2000 years of our existence, and it is easy to forget that our roots are deeply embedded in Judaism. That was not the case when Paul writes. The paradigms of his thinking are still Jewish – Messianic Judaism. For Paul, Gentiles are being brought near to receive the blessings of the promise, which he presents in Ephesians 1:3-14. But those blessings are rooted in the covenant.

I think I mentioned that Ephesians 3:6 is the core message of Ephesians. It says:

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Eph. 3:6 ESV)

That is where Paul is leading his audience. But he presents the promise first as being inherited from Judaism. It is not that Jews suddenly become Gentiles through the Messiah. Rather, it is that Gentiles are brought into the community of the faithful.