5/10 Devotion

And We Dance: Unity to All Things

 

Beloved, last week we started our study on Ephesians. We discussed the divisive word predestination, and what it means that Paul says God chose us. Today we will look at the whole introduction and how the many blessings that are ours in Christ, point us to God’s loving cosmic plan for unity. How an often-confusing word, Trinity, shows us God’s model for living in unity perfectly, and what dancing has to do with all of it. Before diving in re-watch the first 2 minutes and 40 seconds of the Ephesians overview video from last week.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y71r-T98E2Q – Ephesians Overview

This is what the word of the Lord says: (Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

 

            So, as we discussed last week the most prominent historical understanding of our being chosen is not as individuals but as a community. It’s not that God made certain individuals choose Him and others not, or that He used foreknowledge to “choose” those who He knew would choose Him. Rather, God had a plan to live with His creation and invite all to accept his gift and be faithful to Him; in doing so joining in a community with Him. This community first realized as Israel in the Old Testament and later once the gentiles were grafted in through Christ, as the church, is what God chose beforehand. This is the change we see in verse 13 from the “we” language to the “you” language. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” The you Paul mentions is the gentiles who are adopted into this family, in Christ. It is this relational goal of God that shows us the relational nature of our God who is 3 in 1.

Small Group Questions: Which verbs are ascribed to God in this passage? Which verbs are ascribed to “us” the recipients of the blessings? Who is the primary one at work?

            Verse 3 tells us that we are blessed by God the Father, in Christ. Verse 4 that we were chosen, in Christ, and verse 5 chosen for adoption through Jesus. Verse 6 says God has freely given us grace, in the One He loves (Jesus). Verse 7 says the redemption comes through Christ’s blood in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. Verse 9 says that God made known to us the mystery of His will, coming through the proposal of Christ. Verse 10 tells us that God’s will is to bring unity under the Lordship of Jesus. Finally, Verse 13 tells us that God marks us, in Christ with the seal of God the Spirit (Holy Spirit).

            There is lots of God the Father acting in and through Jesus, and also in and through the Holy Spirit in this passage. All of this language can get confusing at times. It was this language that led Jewish authorities to call the early church polytheists. Similarly, this Trinitarian language is used as a critique by Islamic leaders today, stating that we worship 3 gods and not 1. The teachers in the early church needed to understand what all of this meant and how they were supposed to interact with God. This task is ours today. How can we understand this in a way that is helpful for us as a community to faithfully live, here, and now?

             A helpful and beautiful place to start is with the doctrine of perichoresis. This doctrine was developed by the early church fathers to help answer some of these questions. The word perichoresis is a combination of the Greek roots, peri meaning around, and chorein meaning to give away. The word chorein is where we get the English word Choreography. So, put together perichoresis means “dancing around” or “mutually moving”. Steve Dancause in his book Trinity Matter (which I highly recommend) explains it this way “Perichoresis is the divine dance of self-giving love that is the triune God. In this dance, each member pours himself out into the others, even as he is filled by the others.” So, God as Trinity is Father, Son, and Spirit constantly and simultaneously supporting and being supported. 

I get that this is still hard to understand, but it gets us moving in the right direction. So, think of God as in a divine dance. When our passage says God the Father does something (chooses, blesses, adopts) in or through Jesus, what it means is that all 3 persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Spirit) reach out unified to do that action. But that Jesus, is the primary actor, being supported by the Father and the Spirit. Using dancing terms, Jesus takes the lead for that part of the dance, but someone cannot lead without a partner to dance with. So, Father, Son, and Spirit are active in all actions together, though submitting the lead to each other constantly. Thus, it is never proper to say that Father, Son, or Spirit act alone in anything, but always act in concert with each other.

SMALL GROUP QUESTIONS: Does this language of a divine dance make sense? What questions do you still have?

Follow Up Study: This week some time look at the story of the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3. This passage is used to help people understand that God does not act as Father sometimes, Son sometimes and Spirit sometimes, as many people think. This line of thought of God working in different “modes” is called modalism and was declared a heresy by the early church. In the baptism of Jesus, we see all three persons of the Trinity at the same time, each working while supported by the others. After reading the passage, what questions do you have? Was your thinking helped or edified by this passage?

 

So, if God is dancing, where do we fit in? God in His perfect love and mercy created a plan to make a creation to love and be loved in return, furthering this cosmic back and forth. This does not mean that God needed to create or lacked something without making us. It means only that the perfect love of God was so good, He desired to share it even more. So, God created, The Father taking the lead for this portion of the dance, but the Son and Spirit (as always) working in unison. “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and overall the creatures that move along the ground.’ So, God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:26-27.

So, we’re created in an image of divine community, and as we all know, we fell. The heart turned inward, the we became an I, and the unity was broken. So, God in accordance with His will and perfect plan extended His hand for us to rejoin him on the dancefloor. The Son taking the lead showed us what unity and love looked like, and offered himself as a dance partner, to us. “Follow my lead and return to the dance of unity”, He beckons. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) This offering of himself is costly for Him and He pays our admission price to enter the dance. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” (v. 7-8) Now, we (try hard to think communally, “we” being the church) are invited back into the dance. “With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (v.9-10)

So, we as the church having been blessed are called to follow the lead of Christ. To submit under His lordship, for only when we let God lead the dance can we know where He is leading. “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (v. 13b-14) God the Spirit marks us as His and now we belong to God, we are being led back into the dance. Surrounded on all sides by the loving embrace of the Trinity. Until the day comes when God in His divine timing sees fit to place everything fully under Christ, and we are united entirely back into the divine dance for eternity.

Small Group Questions: In what parts of your life have you resisted giving God the lead? How can we as a community discern where God is leading?

Paul uses the word praise in verses 3, 6, 12, and 14, first in reference to God, then in reference to God’s glory and grace. The tone of this introduction is gratitude.  Our response similar to last week is one of praise. But furthermore, in the midst of our praise, and in recognition of God’s glorious grace, our qualifications or lack thereof to lead our own lives gain clarity. It is in seeing and acknowledging God’s goodness through the multitude of blessings that we are most suited to submit to his Lordship. Beloved, far too often we pray for God to work in our midst and then do not submit the space for Him to work. Our response to Paul’s declaration of praise and blessing is “God show us where we are trying to take the lead and remind us again and again of your grace and love that we might submit the lead to you.” God is Good! Amen.

 

Our reflection song this week is by a friend of mine, Dan. He wrote it for a project in a Trinitarian Theology class we took together. I hope it blesses you as it has me.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wXBGT8Xnsk