Everything will change. A Ministry of WorldVenture.
The book of Ephesians opens with a glorious articulation of the Gospel. Immediately following this Paul offers a prayer to God on behalf of the Ephesian church. Often in Paul’s writings he reveals part of his letters purpose as he prays for his reader. Paul’s letter to Ephesus is no different. Paul prays this, “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him… (Ephesians 1:17 ESV).” Paul prays that this little church would have the, “knowledge” of God.
This theme of knowledge appears over and over again through out this book, twelve times, to be exact. Why is knowledge of God important? In Chapter 3 Paul tells us the result of knowledge, “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19 ESV).”
So now you are probably asking, how does this relate to the last blog? Well let me explain. We have established that knowing God is a theme of the book. We have also established that knowing God results in being, “filled with all the fullness of God.” Now, how do we gain that knowledge? Ah, I am glad you asked.
I wish I could tell you there was a single way to acquire knowledge of God, but I can’t. If consider wider biblical truth, there are two different arenas where we can gain Knowledge of God; general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is, “the knowledge of God’s existence, character, and moral law that comes through creation to all humanity (Grudem p. 1242).” Special Revelation is, “God’s words addressed to specific people, including the words of the Bible (Grudem p. 1254).” These two types of revelation are then divided into many others subcategories, but I want to focus on the revelation that is presented in the book of Ephesians, so I will focus in on only a few.
Half way through chapter two, Paul transitions from prayer into the subject of racial reconciliation. Through the gospel, God has brought gentiles, who once were alienated, into the family of God. Paul say’s, “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, (Ephesians 2:19 ESV).” Paul describes Jews and gentiles as different parts of a building that TOGETHER becomes a, “holy temple in the lord (v.20). In Christ, all the differences are combined into a dwelling place for God.
Paul then explains in chapter 3 how God had given him a calling. Paul’s calling was to reveal a mystery that he says “was not made known to the sons of men in other generations (Ephesians 3:5 ESV).” Here is the kicker, Paul explains why God chose to bring gentiles into the body of Christ when he says, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10 ESV).” Then, as though he was picking up his prayer from chapter 1, he begins to pray again. Paul prays specifically that we would have the strength to comprehend, “with all the saints” God’s love. Paul doesn’t stop there either; instead, he continues on this subject for the remainder of the book. He talks about the unique gifts that God gives people and how they are all designed to work together.
From a western American perspective Paul is speaking about the uniqueness’s that appear between individuals but our worldview may be hindering us. Paul was writing to people who saw the world through corporate eyes. Groups of people were rewarded or punished for the actions of the individuals in that group. Although it is certainly true that God gifts individuals differently, it also seems to me that God gifts people groups differently. My questions from the last blog come back to haunt me.
What if, God never reveals himself completely to any single church? What if the unique elements of the body of Christ around the world were designed by God to manifest or highlight a specific part about who God is? These questions have raised other questions in my mind. What if, God blesses each culture with the ability to understand elements of His nature better than any other culture?
What can we learn about God from his church around the world?
I think that God delights in diversity because it brings him glory. Only a might God can unite the complexity and diversity of the nations. I believe that missionaries are blessed by what they learn from Christians from the places they serve. Missionaries do bring the good news of the gospel to the nations, but when the gospel takes root and grows; the nations can return the favor. Let us keep our hearts soft to what God would teach us through our brothers and sisters around the world.
If I were to speak about this differently, you might buy it right away. America has been blessed with a largely christian heritage. Certain elements of our culture have helped us to value education deep thinking and in turn theological education. As a nation, we have resources to offer the global church in the area of theological education and leadership development. We are also a wealthy nation. It makes logical sense when we talk about what our culture and nation has to offer the global church, doesn't it? But what are we lacking that the global church can offer us?
Let me give you one example. Americans are not very good at doing community. We live in neighborhoods where people drive their cars into the garage and then close the door. We rarely interact in our communities, and when we do interact the subjects we talk about are largely trivial. These things are NOT true of west african communities. African society is a community society. They understand what it takes to live in unity much better than we do. What can we learn from them? The bible speaks about unity and community all the time. Maybe we need to ask our brothers and sisters in Africa how to live out those commands of scripture.