Is This the Normal Christian Life? Part 9

Ephesians has remarkable themes, but one that seems neglected is the fullness of Christ. Through it, we can see some expectations Paul had for the normal Christian life. I’ll use the Amplified Bible Classic version.

First, God loves us deeply (1:3-13) and desires we live in the richness of our new life, to enjoy “[deep and intimate] knowledge of Him” (1:17). God wants us to know intellectually and experientially His surpassingly great power (1:19). To illustrate, Paul appeals to a miracle, Jesus’ resurrection.

Second, the body of Christ is “the fullness of Him Who fills all in all [for in that body lives the full measure of Him Who makes everything complete, and Who fills everything everywhere with Himself]” (1:23, emphasis mine). Jesus is present in the church in all His person and power.

Third, Paul expands on Christ’s fullness (3:14-21). It includes His indwelling us (v. 17) and His power (v. 18), so that we’d experience His love (v. 18). Then, Paul blows us away. God wants us “to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God – [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!” (v. 19). Paul knew the intimacy and power of Jesus.

Imagine Jesus was living on earth now. What would He do? I think He’d preach the gospel, make disciples, live in unity with the Father and in the Spirit’s power, and, out of compassion, do miracles (cf. Matt 14:14). But, Jesus is living here in the body of Christ (Eph 1:23). So, I think we’d see Him doing these things through us, including miracles and addressing peoples’ specific beliefs which have blinded them to God. 

Now, that raises a question: are the miraculous gifts for today? So, fourth, Paul addresses the gifts in the context of fullness of Christ (3:14-4:13). We are to become mature by attainting to “the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ.” Moreover, the gifts are God’s plan to manifest Christ now (1 Cor 12:7). Since Christ is to be manifested in all His fullness through His body, and He’d be speaking truth to us today in our contexts, and showing His miraculous power, it seems the miraculous gifts (miracles, prophecy, etc.) are critical today. 

Without them, it seems Jesus won’t be fully manifested. Yet, often, that seems to be the case. I think this shouldn’t surprise us. Many evangelicals believe the miraculous gifts have ceased, or they are very cautious, or even skeptical, about them. However, Paul commands us to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). For Christ to be manifested fully to the world, we should not refuse the full measure of Him. According to Ephesians, that seems to require the miraculous gifts.

Fifth, consider the fullness of Christ in relation to God’s armor. We are to be strong in Him (6:10). Now, most of the armor is treated as defensive, and 1-2 as offensive – the word of God (v. 17), and prayer (v. 18). However, this treatment might neglect Christ’s power. Jesus went on the offensive against demons. He cast out demons by the Spirit’s power (e.g., Luke 11:14-26), and not just prayer and Scripture. Yet, I wonder if U.S. evangelicals may not stress this because they don’t expect God to show up in supernatural power. 

Yet, couldn’t someone reply that the foundation of the faith (i.e., Scripture) already has been laid (Eph 2:20)? Since canon is complete, there’s no need for miraculous gifts. Yet, I think this misses God’s plan throughout all of Scripture. He wants to be present intimately in power in His people. Knowing and obeying the written word of God is essential. Yet, God didn’t intend it to substitute for Jesus, the living Word.

If these things are so, it seems Satan has divided and withered the body by sowing discord over the gifts. Yet, we need fullness of truth and fullness of Spirit.

Scott Smith is keenly interested in our abilities to have knowledge of reality, particularly in the areas of ethics and religion. He also is very interested in the needed ontology to have knowledge. He addresses “constructivism,” the fact-value split, and issues with our being able to have knowledge on the basis of naturalism, postmodernism and nominalism. He also has written on the emergent church, as well as a knowledge argument and the moral argument for God’s existence. Currently, he is working on exposing and addressing the many, even subtle, influences of naturalism on western churches. He also serves as secretary-treasurer for the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Scott Smith has earned a Ph.D. from University of Southern California, M.A., University of Southern California, M.A., Talbot Theological Seminary and a B.A. from California State University, Hayward.

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