Ephesians 4

Part 1   |   Part 2   |   Part 3

We have arrived the central cycle, the “Pentecost” of the epistle. Here’s how it looks so far:

Overview of Ephesians

1 – The Church called and arranged as a New Creation
2 – The Church given authority and called to holiness
Leviticus/Ethics GivenAscension/Firstfruits/Altar:
3 – The Firstfruits Church is the new Levitical house
Numbers/Ethics OpenedTesting/Pentecost:
4 – The Firstfruits Church lavished with gifts
Deuteronomy/Ethics ReceivedMaturity/Trumpets:
5 – To come
6 – To come
7 – To come

(Compare this with the structure of Numbers.)

The New Covenant Pentecost consists of only blessing, whereas the original Old Covenant Pentecost resulted in the slaying of over 3,000 Israelites by Levites. If this structural analysis is correct, we should find references to the Covenant Ethics, and the gifts of the Spirit. Each stanza will follow its own theme but also reflect the overall “Pentecostal” theme of this cycle.

SABBATH – TRANSCENDENCE (Creation – Initiation)

[I exhort therefore, (T)
you, (H)
I (E)
the prisoner (O/S)
in the Lord, (S)
worthily to walk of the calling]  (Division)
to which you have been called,  (Ascension)
with all humility and gentleness, (Testing/Ethics)
with patience, (Maturity)
bearing with one another in love, (Conquest/Atonement)
eager to maintain (T)
the unity (H)
of the Spirit (E)
in the bond (O/S)
of peace. (S)

The first and last lines of this initial stanza both have a fivefold Covenant shape. You might think it’s pushing it to find a fivefold structure in a mere phrase, but the fact that phrases have subjects, verbs and objects means they have a “chain of authority” sourced in the Trinity, like everything else in Creation.

It does mean we have to look at the Greek. I was wondering to what degree scholars assume that Paul’s Greek is the norm when it seems clear to me he is replicating Hebraic structures. They probably just put it down to his ‘style.’

Laid out like this, you can see that the stanza itself is a fractal “blooming” in which the first and last lines are allowed to have a “bloom” of their own, each a single bud whose petals open into a microcosm of all history.

Notice that “prisoner” is at Sanctions in the first phrase, and “bond” is at Sanctions in the last phrase. Paul’s chain becomes the means of the unity of the Church. He is bound that they might be constrained by love. It is sacrificial. (See “Binding and Loosing” in God’s Kitchen.) But he is a prisoner “in the Lord.” The position of this phrase means the Lord is his shelter, his booth. He might be in a Roman prison cell, but he has a wall of fire.

Also, “Bearing with one another” takes the Sanctions role in the complete structure (Conquest/Atonement in the sevenfold pattern corresponds to Sanctions in the fivefold pattern).

PASSOVER – HIERARCHY (Division – Delegation)

There is one body and one Spirit— (Creation)
just as you were called (Division/Hierarchy)
to the one hope that belongs to your call— (Ascension – Call of the Bridegroom)
one Lord, (Testing – Ruling Lights)
one faith, (Maturity – the Bridal Body)
one baptism, (Conquest – Covenant Blessing)
one God (Transcendence)
and Father of all, (Hierarchy – Pass-over)
who is over all (Ethics – Ruler)
and through all (Sanctions – Pass-through)
and in all. (Succession)

The first line refers to the Spirit hovering at the Creation, but as mentioned, the theme here is Pentecostal. Notice also, that, despite the protests of some, baptism is placed at Sanctions, and it comes after Maturity. Not only this, but in the chiastic structure, it is the result of the call of the Gospel, which replaced circumcision. Paedobaptism doesn’t even get a look in, here. Baptism is the obedient response of an individual, but baptism puts individuals into a Spirit-filled body of faith. The tongues of fire did not hover above one single infant at Pentecost. The New Covenant is not about the root but about the flower and the fruit. The flesh, circumcised or uncircumcised, became irrelevant, which is the only way there could be a new Israel made of Jew and Gentile. To misuse baptism as some kind of new circumcision is to put every unbaptized man, woman and child outside the New Covenant, when Jesus died to put them under it, commanding all men everywhere to repent. Every baptism account in Acts also puts the rite at step 6 in the narrative.

In this stanza, it is the final line which is allowed to bloom, and it is a literary wonder (once we know what we are looking at).

FIRSTFRUITS – ETHICS GIVEN (Ascension – Presentation)

But grace was given to each one of us (Vision of Jesus)
according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Seven Churches)
Therefore it says, (Jesus opens the scroll)
“Having ascended on high (True and False Rulers)
he led captive captivity, (Apostolic witness)
and he gave gifts (The first resurrection)
to men.” (Humanity enthroned with Christ)

Well, the pattern is working out fine. We are up to ascension, and Paul puts it right at the centre of the stanza. His point is to demonstrate the source of the Pentecostal gifts: Jesus ascended to heaven as the Firstfruits Lamb (Rev. 4-5), opened the New Covenant scroll, and out came blessings and curses. The curses were for those who disobeyed the Gospel, and the blessings for those who obeyed it. The stanza itself replicates the shape of the book of Revelation. It’s cool that “captivity” is at step 5: swarms. The saints under the altar are the fifth seal: Covenant witnesses awaiting vengeance and redemption. (See What Lies Beneath)

PENTECOST – ETHICS OPENED (Testing – Purification)

In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean
but that he had also descended (Pass-over)
into the lower regions, the earth [Land]?
He who descended (Bronze Altar – Sacrifice of flesh – ashes)
is the [same] one (Holy Fire)
who also ascended (Golden Altar – Sacrifice of praise – smoke)
far above all the heavens, (Pass-through)
that he might fill all things.

A wise man said that throne rooms and prisons see a lot of the same faces. Humiliation and exaltation, or vice versa, go together. When Adam sinned, Satan was exalted to the role of legal accuser in the court of God. When Jesus ascended, as our Advocate, Satan was thrown down (we also see this in the Revelation). This stanza shows us Christ on earth, in fact, Christ in the earth, in the Land, imprisoned like Joseph. Then He is exalted like Joseph, to rule with all the emperor’s authority. Here, step 6 reveals what baptism symbolizes: passing through, walking on the water, the crystal sea, as an elder, dining with God. In doing so, we see revealed, in the exaltation of Christ, a new heaven and a new earth.

TRUMPETS – ETHICS RECEIVED (Maturity – Transformation)

And he gave the apostles, (Ark – authority)
the prophets, (Veil – dark sayings revealed)
the evangelists, (Horned Altar – four gospel horsemen)
the shepherds (Table – sacrificial lambs)
and teachers, (Lampstand – Ethical instruction)
to equip the saints (Incense – Awesome Military “Bride” – Trumpets)
for the work of ministry, (Mediation – Blood and Water)
for building up the body of Christ, (Shekinah – Booths Fulfilled)

Stanza five is the “swarm,” the cloud of fragrant incense, the legal witness and song of the Bride after the crushing of the serpent. Here it is the apostolic witness which resulted directly from the pouring out of the Spirit from heaven at Pentecost. And the order of the gifts is also significant. They are listed in a Covenantal order, as furniture in a New Tabernacle.

ATONEMENT – SANCTIONS (Conquest – Vindication)

until we all [arrive at] (Vision of Christ as promise)
the unity of the faith (Seven Churches)
and of the knowledge (Scroll opened)
of the Son of God, (Ruler)
at a man fullgrown, (Jew and Gentile Body)
to the measure of the stature (Adam completed)
of the fullness of Christ, (Vision of Christ fulfilled)
so that we may no longer be [infants], (full grown from “birth”)
tossed to and fro by the waves (called out of Egypt)
and carried about by every wind (four corners!)
of doctrine, (the oral law)
by [the cunning of men], (false Jews)
by craftiness (accusation instead of advocacy)
[for] deceitful schemes. (false epistles and apostles)

As is common, Atonement here gives us both approaches of the High Priest, the first for the Head (the priesthood) and the second for the Body (the Bridal nation). Notice the reference to deceit when it comes to the Bride, with “teaching” at Testing, right at the centre, replicating the exact pattern of the events in Eden. Being step 6, the reference to infants is also interesting. Step 6 concerns being robed as a mediator (in baptism) and ruling, overcoming, once clothed with Christ (we will see this clothing described for us in cycle 6 of the epistle). This correlation means Paul wouldn’t baptize infants. There are no infants in the New Covenant body, because it is not merely a body of flesh, but a body of flesh filled with the Spirit, a union between heaven and earth.

I love the reference to “every wind” at step three – the four corners of the altar, the four winds, the four gospels, are all positioned here. False doctrine is not mere words, but words sourced in a an evil spirit (like the one Rob Bell has, making him unable, or unwilling, to discern). Doctrine is “breath.” True doctrine gathers. False doctrine scatters. In Revelation, four angels are ready to take vengeance upon Jerusalem for the murder of Christ, but they are told to wait — for one generation. They are horns thirsty for blood, and forty years later all Israel, the four-cornered Land, would become a bloody altar, up to the horses’ bridles. God sent the evil spirits back into her so she would fill up her sins and hasten her judgment.

So, overall, this double stanza is about the priesthood of Christ, through the Spirit, making him an Adam who steps in and prevents His Eve from being deceived, which Paul also mentions in 2 Corinthians 11:1-4, in reference to false Judaizing doctrine.

BOOTHS – SUCCESSION (Glorification – Representation)

Rather, speaking the truth in love, (Creation)
we are to grow up in every way (Division)
into him who is the head, (Ascension)
into Christ, (Initiation – Ark)
from whom the whole body, (Delegation – Veil)
[fitted together] (Elevation – Altar)
and held together (Presentation – Table)
by every joint (Purification – Lampstand)
with which it is equipped, (Transformation – Incense)
[according to the working] (Vindication – Mediators)
of each individual part, (Representation – Shekinah)
makes the body grow (Maturity)
so that it builds itself up (Conquest)
in love. (Glorification)

The final stanza finishes the Pentecostal house. The Church will not only enter the glory cloud as Christ did. The Church would become His glory cloud, His “booth.” He was preparing a place for Her, but she was also a place for Him: all in all. Fittingly, the central line, the “Pentecost,” is allowed to flourish as the seven lamps on the Lampstand.

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