Happy Monday! Last time I told you about my New Year’s resolution, today I’m going to tell you about how it’s going. I know we’re only 11 days into 2016, but in that time I’ve read through Ephesians on a She Reads Truth plan. Do you ever have this struggle while reading where you read bits at a time over a few days, and by the time you finish the book or the chapter or the article, you can’t hardly make the pieces make sense with one another? This is something I struggle with when I do a reading plan on a book of the Bible. I get a lot out of each day, but if someone were to ask me to explain the book of Ephesians to them, I would be totally clueless.
There’s another reason this is really important, one I learned about this summer as I read a book called Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin with some friends in Springfield. In the very first chapter, she talks about what it means to study the Bible with purpose, and put that feeling of disjointedness into words better than I ever could.
We know when we are seeing something beautiful in the pages of Scripture, but we don’t always know how what we are seeing fits with the rest of the story.
There’s good news though – when you study with purpose, you study in an effort to find how these pieces are all connected. The Bible is made up of smaller stories, but they are explained by one comprehensive theme. Jen calls this “the Big Story.” Another term she uses is “metanarrative,” which also describes many works of literature. However intelligent metanarrative might found, I love the term Big Story because it’s so literal. The story of God’s love for us is THE biggest story we will ever read! So – what is it?
From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is telling us about the reign and rule of God. Its topography speaks of creation, fall, redemption and restoration in every vista. The topography of the Big Story is populated with different genres of writing – historical narrative, poetry, wisdom literature, law, prophecy, parables, epistles – all conspiring to expand our understanding of the reign and rule of God in different ways.
So headed into this goal of intentionally spending as much time as possible in the Word, I wanted to make sure I had 1. a way to keep myself accountable and 2. sort of recap after reading to put each chapter and book in the context of the Big Story. I couldn’t think of a better way than to share just a little bit about what I’ve been reading on this blog. So finally, after all that – let me tell you about Ephesians!
Ephesians has two parts: position and practice. Paul begins the book by discussing with the people of Ephesus what they believe as Christians. Then, beginning in chapter four, he begins to describe to them the ways these beliefs and truths should impact the way they live. Throughout the book, he also focuses on the fullness, depth, and intricacy of God’s eternal plan – and how the grace in it, revealed in Jesus Christ’s death, resurrection and offer of salvation, unites both Jews and Gentiles under one name, in one body.
When I was in Belize earlier this year, Pastor Diaz at Iglesia de Buen Pastor in San Antonio preached on the passage where Paul begins to shift from practice to position. He said, “When we don’t change our lives to follow Christ, we delay the advancement of the Gospel in our community.” How true this is.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Chapter 4, verses 1-3 ESV)
I think this is where Ephesians most fits into the Big Story of the Bible. The first half preaches the Gospel of truth into our lives, which fills us up with the Spirit, a guarantee of God’s presence with us and the eternal life in glory promised to us. But the second half tells us how that truth and that Spirit can overflow, out of our lives and into the lives of others. As Christians, all of our earthly relationships, interactions and experiences are about Christ, because not only is the Bible a Big Story of small stories, but our lives are small stories in the same Big Story. When our lives are changed and we live out of that change, we give agency to the Gospel in our community. We experience deeper unity with people different from us. We replace negative don’ts with positive do’s and live out of a place of love and grace.
Most days, it’s not easy to live like that. The world doesn’t take too kindly to it. This book closes by describing Armor of God. We only need armor because we’re fighting in a battle – there’s a person called satan, he is real and he is fighting us with all the powers and temptations of this world under his control.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. They have the divine power to demolish strongholds.
2 Corinthians 10:3-4
The battle’s not over, but the victory has already been won, and we are no ordinary soldiers. We are believers, we are practicers of our position, we are the recipients of grace, we are soldiers of the Spirit, and we are new romantics.
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.