I often get very discouraged by the racist views expressed on so many news and social media sites. It seems that some (sad) people are hell-bent in making any and every issue about the amount of pigmentation of another’s skin. Sadly racism is also sometimes seen in the church; this was especially true of the apartheid years in South Africa. The Bible teaches that there is only one race, the human race. We are all descendants of Adam and Eve.
Within this “brotherhood” of humanity, we have different languages, and cultures, and ethnicities; but only one race. The New Testament tells us that God has acted in Jesus to call people from all nations to be part of His kingdom. The church, being the geographical outposts of the kingdom all around the world, must be demonstrating to the physical and spiritual world the death of racism. The apostle Paul reminds us of this in last half of Ephesians 2 and makes a startling statement in 3:10.
In Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul describes the Ephesian believers’ hopeless condition before they had come to experience the power of God in Christ Jesus which had transformed their lives – this of course is true for all believers. According to the Paul they were (spiritually) “dead”, which figuratively describes the state of being lost or under the dominion of death and also denotes an inability to communicate with the living God.
This condition was due to their “transgression and sins” and therefore the recipients needed to be made “alive” (2:5) in Christ. Ephesians 2:1-10 can therefore be described as a continuation and application of the theme of the power of God’s actions in Christ. Before God had made the believers alive in Christ, the believers were influenced by the environment (“the age of this world”, 2:2), by a supernaturally powerful opponent (“the ruler of the realm of the air”, 2:2) and by an inner inclination towards evil (“in the desires of our flesh”, 2:3). Of particular interest to my series of posts is the second influence mentioned above.
In recent years scholars have taken more seriously the influence of Jesus of Nazareth on the apostle Paul’s thinking. You might think this connection was obvious, but in the world of “biblical” scholarship nothing is obvious. Evangelical scholars contend that the greatest change in Paul’s thinking was brought about as a consequence of Paul’s vision of Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul’s conversion took place after he saw Jesus who “appeared” to him on the road to Damascus (1 Corinthians 9:1, 15:8). Paul describes his conversion as a revelation of Jesus the Messiah (Galatians 1:12). The risen and exalted one appeared to Paul accompanied by the radiance of his glory. Paul was convinced that Christ Jesus was YHWH’s (LORD’s) promised Messiah who would inaugurate the long-awaited kingdom of God. Paul did not abandon his monotheism when he became a follower of Jesus; rather Paul’s monotheism was “recast to include Jesus within the divine identity”. Paul resolutely maintained that the one God had revealed himself in Jesus.