Monday, March 01, 2010

No individual personal salvation in the Letter to the Ephesians

"...it is difficult to understand Ephesians as a book containing information and direction regarding individual salvation and perfection. Both the kerygmatic and the parenetic parts of Ephesians show primary concern for the community. There is no individual personal salvation preached in Ephesians which may or must be followed by the demand for social ethics; instead, one new social order, called "peace" in 2:13-17, is established for the benefit of heaven and earth by Jesus Christ. This order is the content of the Gospel...

According to this epistle, God's dealings are with Israel and the nations, with the church and the powers for the world, in short, with the whole of creation. Instead of going out to save souls, God establishes his rule and kingship over heaven and earth. All is to be submitted to the king he has enthroned at his right hand... In sum, a political, social, public concept of the working of God's grace appears in Ephesians to substitute for an individual, psychological and existentialist concern in the main epistles of Paul. For a long time, Paul was understood to answer the question which in Luther's phrasing is, "How do I get a gracious God?"... But the question treated in Ephesians is: What, if any, salvation is there for this world?... Ministers of the Ephesian gospel of peace will not forget or neglect the cure of souls, but their concern for individuals will be imbedded in the conviction that they are ambassadors of God's kingdom to the whole world. Their task will be fulfilled in the political and social as well as in personal domains. "The manifold wisdom of God is now to be made known through the church to the governments and authorities." (Eph 3:10)"
(Markus Barth, Ephesians 1-3 [The Anchor Bible; vol. 34; Garden City: Doubleday, 1974], 44-46. Emphasis mine.)

Previously I have asked the question what does it mean to run a "ministry" or to be a "pastor"? The answer is already in the Letter to the Ephesians.

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