February 6, 2010

Ephesians 2:6-7; A Devotional

And also with Christ1, God has raised us up and sat us down2 in the celestrial realms by Christ Jesus so that within these coming times3 He has shown, in His kindness,4 the overwhelming5 riches of His graciousness6 over us by Christ Jesus.
Because these devotions are based upon my translation of the text, I discovered that not only was it nearly impossible to keep up with it around Christmas time, but that once I lost track of it, it was difficult to start up again. So, I am sorry that I haven't been attending to this for a month.

When looking at these verses it is important to remember what came before it, since we are actually in the middle of that action here. It is important to view this section of Ephesians as 'action', for the first few verses of chapter 2 set up the context (we are sinners who deserve the wrath of God), but then, in verse 4, God acts through Christ. This action is nothing less than taking these sinners who deserve His wrath and exalting them to glory through transformation (verse 5) and now given authority to rule beside Him.

It is important to remember that part of humanities purpose is to rule over creation with God (Genesis 1). The redemption through Jesus Christ is as much to do with restoring God's created order as it is about saving us, for God loves all His creation. Here we see God, not only restoring us to be the kinds of people that He intended us to be, but to also restore us to purpose as well.

But I want to emphasize how Christocentric this is! We are sunezoopouesen, sunegeiren, and sunekthisen! Sun- means with, and emphasizes that all these actions (being made alive, being raised up, and being sat down) are not simply down to us, but done with us. We were made alive along side Christ, who was made alive on the third day. We are raised up beside Christ who has ascended. We are sat down into places of authority as Christ has been given full authority. Everything we are given, we are given because it was first given to Christ, and therefore it has been given to us through Christ. We are attached to Him, and are fully dependent on Him for everything.

But all of this glory is meant to be held in contrast to what we deserve, which is nothing. Indeed we deserve His wrath. It is only through recognizing this juxtaposition that we can see the overwhelming riches of His graciousness. This is the fundamental Christian vision of humanity: that we are worthless undeserving sinners who God has designed for great things, and who God has redeemed for His purposes.

Translation notes

1'sunezoopouesen' from verse 5 and 'sunegeiren' and 'sunekthisen' here in verse six all have the same prefix: 'sun', which means 'with'. Therefore, we are 'raised up with' and 'sat down with' in the same sense that we are 'made alive with'. I added the "with Christ" in the beginning because the distributing the "with Christ" through the sentence messes with the flow.

2The juxtaposition of 'sunegeiren' and 'sunekthisen' forms the rhetorical device known as anaphora (repetition of an idea, in this case 'with') in both the senses that the words have the same prefix and ending. However, this didn't flow as powerfully in the English because I couldn't do it using prefixes, thus loosing the cadence of the phrase. Instead, I've attempted to retain the same rhetorical effect by instead using antithesis (hence up and down).

3 This section is kind of interesting if we look at all of the time elements to it. 'Aion' means eternity, but can also mean age or epoch (i.e. long stretch of time). It is also plural, so we are already thinking ages, rather than eternities. The participle of 'to come' (hence 'coming') is in the present tense, thus implying that this ages are indeed arriving right now. But the phrase 'coming ages' implies the future, not the present, for if these ages, or times, were present, then they wouldn't be coming, but arriving. However, the verb 'to show' ('endeixetai') is actually past tense. Therefore, that which God wants to demonstrate, He already has, though who He is demonstrating it to is only just arriving.
The way in which these temporal elements play together in our minds creates a picture of vivid immediacy, and yet I believe it is lost in many of the translations. I've attempted to bring this out more by making sure the verb is past tense, and using the wore 'these' instead of 'the' to emphasize the present tense sense of the participle.

4The Greek word 'chrestotes' means primarily goodness, in the terms of usefulness. There is a strong connection in the ancient mind between morality and practicality, and connection that we would be wise to recover. Thus, 'chrestotes' refers to God's practical kindness and goodness toward us.
I should also mention word order. In most translations, the phrase "in His kindness" comes after "the riches of His grace". I put it before because I think the other way is clumsy in the English.

5The Greek word 'huperballon' etymologically breaks down to 'overthrown' or 'overcast'. Thus it means that it goes far beyond what is necessary. I used to the term 'overwhelming' instead of 'surpassing' because I wanted to retain the preposition 'over' later on in the sentence, and 'overwhelming works better in with this term. This is why translations using 'surpassing' also translate the preposition 'ef' to 'through', 'in', or 'toward'.

6I went with 'graciousness' here over 'grace' because the idea of graciousness is more general, and thus works with the word 'ef' (or 'epi') better. We can get an image of graciousness passing over us like a great blanket, or like the wings of a mother bird over her chicks. The English word 'grace' is more aptly employed to refer to a persons character, or a particular act, rather than one's overall action toward us, I think. Still, both are completely justified by the Greek.

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