Part One is HERE
So where were we? Ah, that’s right… Scripture. Finally! 🙂
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named […]” – Ephesians 3:14-15
As I prepared for last Thursday’s study, I decided to finally utilize the Greek & Hebrew Bible app that my friend, Sherri, had told me about. I had seen her use it on multiple occasions as she led the Women’s Fellowship in a study of Genesis, and because I gleaned so much from knowing more about the words used in a particular passage, I was inspired and curious to see what that kind of word study would do in Ephesians.
From those two verses, I honed in on “Father” and “family.”
No big surprise there, right? With everything going on with my family, they are always on my mind.
But the Apostle Paul was a single, childless, adult male. Why would he use those words?
The study Bible that I have notes that in his Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul was addressing a group of believers who were living as spiritual paupers because they did not know the full riches they had in Christ. But why and what didn’t they know?
I think Ephesians 2:11-22 gives us a clue; here’s an excerpt from verses 11 to 13:
“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 – 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. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. ” – Ephesians 2:11-13
For someone like me in the 21st century, the distinction between Jew and Gentile doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. But to the Gentile believers that Paul was addressing, it was. From birth, they probably knew who they were, or more importantly who they weren’t, in relation to God’s chosen people, the Jews. There must have been some sense of alienation and of being outcasts deeply ingrained in their thoughts and feelings.
Which is why when Paul spoke of unity so intimately in the way that he addressed them as part of one family, one body in Christ, it must have been a truly life-altering mental shift. What he was proclaiming was radical; the implications were huge. Centuries old divisions and hierarchies were being struck down in Christ.
The Greek & Hebrew Bible app noted 2 other instances in the New Testament where that particular form of the word “family” is used:
1) Luke 2:4 – “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David.”
2) Acts 3:25 – “You are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘In your seed will all the families of the earth be blessed.”
Of David. Of Abraham.
But while Gentile believers had been living their lives apart from the Jewish people who were of that human bloodline, Paul was now affirming that Christ’s death on the cross had made them part of God’s own family. They belonged to God’s family because Christ had paid for their sins, His righteousness was bestowed upon them, and now they “who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” – Ephesians 2:13. And that was not an identity that could be shaken or denied them by anything or anyone.
If you’ve grown up going to church/in the church, you’ve heard the phrase “family in Christ” tossed around a lot. But if you take a second to stop and think about what it really means and looks like in your mind, what do you see? Who do you see?
And another question… do you belong?
Not do you feel like you belong. But do YOU belong?
From what I shared in the previous post, I carried pretty large wounds and chips on my shoulder towards those who called themselves Christians. But according to this passage, and many others, there was no need for me to feel that way.
I do believe that hurt is a natural and valid reaction to being othered, but to carry a grudge? No. I’ve come to realize that I didn’t have to, and that I don’t have to. You see, the only reason I felt that way was because I was giving others the ability to tell me my identity and to decide whether or not I belonged in God’s family, when He had already affirmed me in His Son as His daughter.
I can bypass the inner turmoil of always waiting to see if I’m going to be accepted, and for how long, because I claim the fact that I belong because I am a forgiven sinner and a child of God. That is my only identity and in Christ, I not only have a place in Heaven for me, but wherever God calls me now, I have, as one of my sisters in Christ likes to put it, “a place at the table” – whether others recognize and/or grant me that space or not.
Now, this doesn’t mean I get to figuratively or literally bust through doors and shove it in others’ faces. No. I can come boldly, but in humility, or else God will certainly have something to say about the pride and hatred in my heart.
Lastly, if you look through some of the pictures that I’ve posted around this blog, you’ll probably notice that I look Asian (I’m Filipino), but that my Dad is… most decidedly not, lol. If you think so, then you’re right. He is African-American. The larger story behind this happy circumstance will definitely be something to post on later, but I will say that even if he isn’t my biological father, he has shown me all the love any father could ever show his daughter. I’ve been blessed to have been given such unconditional love from another human being in the role of an earthly father to me.
But it is an entirely different thing on a whole ‘nother level to know the endless love of our Father in Heaven. I pray that we can come to know and accept that, and stand secure in who we are, and what we have, in Him.