“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, …” Ephesians 3:14-16
Wow – a LOT of stuff going on here.
There is Paul’s prayer and the interesting observation that there is something divinely ordained about how human family exists.
There is a reference to the glorious wealth of God that can strengthen us – through his Spirit.
There is a reference to our “inner-being.” Unlike some well-meaning preachers, it seems to me that this (and many other texts) tells us that our inner life is important to God. Much can be said about that.
However, what strikes me as I read this passage is that it surprises me to realize how much the Jew-Gentile issue permeated the early church.
I am sure that is exactly what you were thinking, as well.
I key in on this because of Paul’s statement about how every family is under God. This would have meant something powerful to a church full of ethnic Jews and Gentiles. In the world in which they were born – those families did NOT share anything in common. In the old world, those families were not allowed to mix.
This issue is touched on by Paul nearly everywhere, it seems, though it is most strongly discussed in his letters to the Galatians and the Romans.
This problem, even hostility, was caused by the Mosaic Law. Recent Bible scholars and commentators have suggested that the Law was not meant to be a way of salvation (clearly, Paul is on board with this notion [Gal. 3:11]), or a way of life meant to be the Best Understanding To Date of How To Live In The Bronze Age. Rather, these scholars suggest, the Law is an “Identity Marker.” That is, that it is a way of life specifically targeted to the notion that these people are different, specific, “peculiar,” and unique: ‘If you live by the Law, you are Jewish; if not, you are not;’ ‘Are you inside or outside the tent of Jewishness?’ And this is an interesting insight into the nature of the Mosaic law. It seems to me that this notion of Identity Marker says something, but not all, of what the Law was about.
But here came the problem with the early church, which had many Jews in it: Jesus came and took away the Identity Marker of the Law from those Jews. For them, it *felt* like their identity had been stripped away. This led to not a little confusion and defensiveness. Paul understood this very well and affirmed the first part of that truth: Christian ethnic Jews no longer had the Law as an Identity Marker. Instead, they – along with their Gentile brothers – were now “in Christ.”
Those Gentiles, the pagans?, had a lot of Identity Markers, as well. Same story: Jesus strips those away and puts those people into one: in Christ.
Really, there was no need for hostility between the Jewish and Gentile believers. In fact, God not only removed this hostility between these two groups but also removed the hostility that all people had toward God himself – and that was done by Jesus. Christ is our peace: with each other and with God.