Summary: Too often we miss the forest for the trees in Ephesians because we fail to take into account the corporate groups Paul talks about. Understanding this is the only way to understand Paul's ecclesiology, and it has ramifications for us personally as well.
Missing the Forest for the Trees
Ephesians - Live Like You Really Are
January 15, 2012
POWERPOINT: There is a PowerPoint presentation for this sermon available by requesting it from me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEXT: Please turn in your Bibles to Ephesians 1:22
Illus. – One night a wife found her husband standing over their infant’s crib. As she watched him looking down at their very first baby, she saw on his face a mixture of emotions: disbelief, doubt, delight, amazement, enchantment, skepticism. Touched by this unusual display and deep emotions, with eyes glistening she slipped her arm around her husband.
“A penny for your thoughts,” she said.
“It’s amazing” he replied. “I just can’t see how anybody can make a crib like that for only $46.50.”
When I read that story, I thought how some people can’t see the forest for the trees. Often, when you concentrate on the details of something, you lose sight of the big picture, I believe that is the problem with understanding Ephesians.
I’ve read in many of my commentaries that the main theme of Ephesians is the church. I could never see this, especially in chapters 1-3 because my judgment was clouded by the focus on individualistic salvation that both Calvinism and Arminianism share, as well as the unhealthy focus of individualism of modern Western Christianity. So when I read about our chosenness in Christ in chapter 1, verse 4; predestination in verses 5 and 11; adoption in verse 5; acceptance in Christ the beloved in verse 6; and many other salvation truths, I naturally interpreted them through the theological lenses I had studied and the individualism bred by my Western culture. In other words, I couldn’t see the forest of Paul’s main emphasis for the trees of theology and culture that had clouded my view.
In chapter 1, one of the things I’ve tried to help you see is that Paul’s frame of reference is not the salvation of INDIVIDUALS per se, but rather on corporate groups of people. So we saw that when Paul speaks of chosenness, predestination, adoption, acceptance, etc., he’s not really talking so much about our INDIVIDUAL chosenness, predestination, adoption, acceptance, etc., but about the church as a whole, or the entire body of Christ, that individuals partake of inasmuch as they are connected to Christ and His body by faith. This is no more true than in chapter 2 which is often applied to individuals exclusively, reinforcing people’s theological and cultural predispositions, but in reality is talking about four broad corporate entities: Mankind as a whole, Israel, God’s Old Testament corporate chosen people, the Gentiles, and the Church, God’s New Testament chosen people.
To see this clearly, we’re going to take a bird’s eye view of Paul’s doctrine of the church, and in the process, we’re going to pass over a lot of detail without a lot of commentary.