A Targum on Ephesians 4-6

To bring together the themes of the studies in the first half of the series, I did a Targum — an extended paraphrase and application — of Ephesians 1-3. Today, I’d like to do the same for the second half of the book:

(4.1) In light of all this, I — a prisoner for our master’s sake — encourage you to live up to your calling in Christ: (2) with humility, gentleness, and patience, putting up with each other in love. (3) Do the hard, urgent work of unity in the Holy Spirit and of the peace that binds us together — (4) just as the Body of Christ is one and the Holy Spirit is one, so too are you called to one shared hope: (5) One Lord, one faith, one baptism, (6) one God and Father of us all, who is above all things, through all things, and in all things.

(7) That said, Christ’s grace has been given to each one of us, each our own share, to help us fend off our spiritual enemies. (8) It’s just like that Psalm where God, vanquishing Israel’s enemies who sought to oppress the powerless, gave them strength to fight future battles. (9-10) For Christ — the same Christ who humbly came down to serve and teach and die for our freedom — also ‘rose up’ in victory, where he sits in authority over all our spiritual foes, and will one day fill the whole cosmos with his own glorious love. (11) His gift involves some individuals acting as his ambassadors, some as prophets, being able to understand how what’s happening now connects to God’s Mystery, some preaching the Good News, and others protecting and building up the faithful through their teaching. (12) None of this is about them but, about all of God’s holy ones being taught to serve as they are called, and that the whole body of Christ might be built up and strengthened (13) until the day when every single one of us arrives at our final destination: at the unity of true faith, at the true knowledge of the Son of God, and at maturity, as measured by the standard of everything that Christ was and is, (14) so that we might no longer be like toddlers, tossed about by every wave or carried off by every passing breeze, gullibly believing whatever nonsense and damaging teaching comes our way. (15) No. With truth lovingly guiding our every action and word, may we grow up in every way imaginable into him, into Christ, (16) who is the head from which the whole body grows up effectively, with each part being perfectly fit together and doing its job.

(17) Therefore, I tell you as my testimony from our master himself: You must no longer live like you used to, according to the way the world works. All that old life gave you was hearts and (18) minds that were unable to discern the world as it really is, and ignorant of the realities of the world because you just didn’t care. (19) You were numb and senseless, and therefore gave yourselves over to life with no restraints, ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and YOLO!-ing your lives away, leading you to all sorts of behaviours contrary to God’s ways, in your never-ending quest for ‘more’, ‘bigger’, and ‘better’. (20) This is a far cry from the Christ you were taught! (21) I know you were in fact taught the truth of ‘the Jesus way’: (22) to set aside the person you used to be in that old way of life, ruined by your lying appetites that confuse what the body needs with what it wants; (23) and to let the Holy Spirit completely renew your mind, (24) and to put on in place of the old self the new person, created to be like God — for justice and the sanctity of an authentic life in Christ.

(25) So then, stop deceiving yourselves and one another, and, each of you, speak the truth to your neighbours. Remember, we are limbs of the same body! (26) Of course you’ll get angry, but don’t sin when you do. Don’t brood over your anger — (27) that just gives the ‘Liar in Chief’ an opening. (28) Thieves must stop stealing, but do honest work, so that they have something to give to those in need. (29) Stop talking shit, but only what is good and useful for building each other up. Your words should be grace to those who hear them. (30) Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit, with which you’ve been marked and sealed for the Day of Redemption: (31) Bitterness, temper tantrums, indignation, screaming and slander — excise such traits as you would any kind of evil. (I’m talking to you, Karens.) (32) Be good to each other, help one another, be compassionate and gracious — just as God was gracious to you in Christ.

(5.1) What I’m saying is, be imitators of God, like little kids mimicking their mothers, for you are God’s beloved children. (2) Live lives of love, just as Christ loved us — even to the point of handing himself over on our behalf as an offering and sacrifice to God — a ‘pleasing fragrance’ indeed!

(3) But the ‘disease of ‘more’’, whether expressed in sex or possessions or food or security or any other aspect of life — that should never be your reputation as holy followers of Christ. (4) The same goes for cruel and silly talk, sarcasm and shade. Too much of anything can be bad news; give thanks for what you’ve been given and stop searching for the ‘next big thing.’ (5) Get this straight: The ‘disease of ‘more’’ in any area of life — including sex, greed, and entitlement — is idolatry, and anyone who participates in it is not participating in the life of God’s Kingdom in Christ. (6) Don’t let anyone deceive you with pretty but empty words: When it comes to injustice, God is like a mamma bear protecting her cubs — make no mistake that she’s coming for those who don’t act in good faith. (7) So, don’t join in their games. (8) Once you were in the dark like them, but now you are light in Christ, just as he is the light of the world! So live as light. (9) How do you know you’re living as light? Light produces goodness, justice, and truth. (10) Light discerns what is pleasing to our master. (11-12) Again, don’t take part in darkness, its secrets, and what goes on in the shadows that no one wants exposed, but bring it all into the light. (13) Everything brought into the light shines out, (14) for light makes everything shiny. As the hymn goes, “Wake, O Sleeper! Rise up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!”

(15) So then, be alert how how you live. Don’t be foolish, but wise, (16) making the best use you can of this season while it lasts, because evil is never far away. (17) So don’t be foolish by wasting time, but put your life under the microscope and discern God’s will. (18) Don’t get drunk on wine, because that’s also wasteful excess — but instead be filled with the Spirit, (19) encouraging one another, and with words and songs of praise on your lips, playing a beautiful melody for Christ with your life, as though your heart were a musical instrument. (20) In everything, give thanks to our God and Father in the name of our master Jesus Christ.

(21) And submit yourselves to each other, in honour of the humility of Christ, our common master. (22-6.9) There are institutions in our culture that make this difficult to live out well, because they have unequal power built right into them. If you’re on the bottom end of these imbalances, I urge you to sit tight and, as much as possible, understand your submission and service as being rendered to Christ himself, who after all has been entrusted with all legitimate authority in the cosmos. Listen to those who have been entrusted to care for you and educate you. As the Ten Commandments say, this type of respect leads to a good and long life. Obey those human ‘masters’ the world places over you, just as you would your true Master — not just to keep up appearances or to ingratiate yourself to them but with all your heart, with good will, knowing that your efforts will be seen and blessed by our heavenly Master himself.

But if you find yourself on top of any of these institutions, listen up: You must love those over whom you’ve been given power — not in some easy sentimental way, but in precisely the same way as Jesus loved us, the kind of love that led him to offer up his very life on our behalf as a sacrifice, that he might make us holy and pure — everything that he is — and fit to offer up our own lives in return. That is the kind of love you are to show for those entrusted to your care and leadership. As Jesus himself said, “Love your neighbour as yourself” — and no one hates his own flesh. When the Scriptures talked about a man leaving his parents and becoming one flesh with his wife, they were really talking about Christ becoming one with the beloved community of faith — But this is a great Mystery and I digress.

This means that if the care or education of others has been entrusted to you, for Christ’s sake don’t be a jerk about it; don’t provoke them to anger — your job is to nurture them, build them up, and teach them in the ways of our master Jesus. And if the world has given you power or authority over anyone, threat them in just the same way as you expect them to treat you, remembering that we all have one and the same Master, and God doesn’t care in any way about your earthly status.

(6.10), Finally, be as strong as you can be, empowered with our master’s strength. (11) Just like the divine avenger Isaiah talked about, arm yourself for spiritual battle so that you are able to stand firm against the ‘Liar in Chief’ and all his schemes. (12) Despite how it may look, our battle is never just with flesh and blood; any opposition we face — be it social, religious, or political — has spiritual energy behind it. (13) So arm yourself with spiritual weapons so you can withstand the onslaught, and come out the other side standing tall. (14) Make truth your belt, and justice your bullet-proof vest. (15) As shoes, put on your readiness to bring the Good News of God’s peace to those who need to hear it. (16) Make your trust in God’s faithfulness your shield in every situation — it can snuff out any incendiary weapon thrown your way. (17) Put on salvation as your helmet, and use God’s word — Scripture, prophecy, and prayer — as the Spirit’s very own sword. (18) Pray and intercede in the Holy Spirit with all your heart on every occasion, and don’t let your alertness falter on behalf of God’s holy ones.

(19) And while you’re at it, pray for me too — that I would be given the right message and be free to proclaim the mystery of the Good News, (20) the Good News for which I act as an ambassador in chains. Again, pray that, since I’ll be forced to speak anyway, I will be able to do so freely. (21) Tychicus, my beloved brother and faithful servant in Christ, will tell you everything that’s happening, so that you will know what’s going on with me. (22) That’s why I’m sending him to you in person, so that you will know how things are going and that he might encourage your hearts.

(23) Peace, my blessed siblings, and with the faithful love of God our Father and Jesus our master. (24) Grace be with all of you who love our master Jesus Christ with integrity.

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