August 15, 2009

Ephesians 1:15-16; A Devotional

Because1 of this, and2 because I heard about your faith in Lord Jesus and about your love toward all the saints, I've not stopped praying for you, recalling you to mind3 in my prayers.
The thrust of this passage is about prayer. At first it hits us as a bit of a surprise. This first section in Ephesians is so full of high theology that one hardly expects the sudden intrusion of something practical. But I think this points out an important feature of Christianity.

Many times Christianity is described as a reflective faith. We have a deep history of serious theological and philosophical reflection. However, as much of American evangelicalism has aptly demonstrated, it can also be a very practical faith, and can exist and act separately from high level theology.

The truth of the matter is that Christianity in its purest form takes abstract theological concepts and makes them practical. Christianity is more than something to make us feel better, or something to motivate us, or a hobby to muse over when there's nothing on TV. Instead Christianity is a robust and provocative way of viewing the world which is grounded in the reality of life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and as such every theological thought reaches in and affects the way in which we interact with the world.

For instance, in prayer Paul cites two impetuses for his prayer for the Ephesians. One is the witness of their love and faithfulness to Christ and His church. This as an impetus for prayer is relevant because it sets as an example the level of commitment we are supposed to have for our fellow Christians. Often we forget this.

The other impetus is all the theological stuff Paul has been saying so far, especially what he just said in verses 13-14. Because the Gentiles are now included within the inheritance that was the Jews, they are now brothers and as such Paul loves them as his own people. The prayer that Nehemiah prayed about the ruin of Jerusalem and the corporate love of his people has, for Paul, now extended to the Gentiles.

Therefore we see that the theological idea of the Gentiles' inclusion into the promises of God had direct influence on Paul's prayer. Now I wonder how much it has on ours. Do we pray for the saints as brothers? Do we reach out to those loyal in Christ in our prayers? Do we hold them up? I think we should.

Translation notes

1 The Greek reads 'Dia touto' which literally means 'through this' or 'by this'. 'This' is referring back to what Paul has just been saying. The English words 'because', 'therefore', etc... serve the same purpose. I chose 'because' so I could distribute it through the 'and'.

2 I wrestled a bit with the 'kai' in this passage, which is usually translated as 'and' or 'also', depending on context. It is a very common word, and I never really expected to have trouble with it. However, I found it difficult to discern exactly what was being joined in the sentence with the word. One option was to consider the Ephesians as something else that Paul is giving thanks to, but that doesn't seem to work with 'kai''s position in the sentence. I also found little help in the translations. The NIV uses 'ever since', which I don't see at all. The ESV just crops it out.
The KJV and its descendants translates it as 'also' which doesn't work contextually. This would either mean that Paul also heard this (though Paul hasn't mentioned hearing anything) or that Paul also heard the gospel as the Ephesians heard it (which seems to contradict the sentence).
However, I think what makes the most sense is to see the subordinate clause as something else "through" which Paul is not ceasing his prayer. Thus, it is connecting the subordinate clause with 'touto' in connection to the preposition 'dia'. I attempted to demonstrate this by distributing the 'because' through the 'and'.

3 'Mneian poioumanos' literally translates 'making memory' or 'doing memory'. The word picture is literally forming the memory in your mind in order to act on it. I felt that 'remember' was too soft and 'making mention' was too inaccurate. Therefore I used an synonymous expression in English that uses the same word picture: 'recalling to mind'.

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