Connections 11.26.2017: Past, Future, and Present

Ephesians 1:15-23

I have a longstanding affection for time travel stories.

I think it goes back to the television show The Time Tunnel (1966-67). Its tales of two scientists lost in time and popping up in one historical event or another each week fascinated eight-year-old me.

These days, almost sixty-year-old me is watching Continuum, which ran on the Canadian network Showcase from 2012 until 2015 (I’m watching it on Netflix). It’s about a group of terrorists and a detective who get transported from 2077 to 2012. I’m also looking forward to the second season of Travelers, a joint production of Showcase (Canadians are apparently really into time travel) and Netflix about agents from the future whose consciousness is sent back to occupy the bodies of people just as they die in order to try to alter events in order to prevent future catastrophes. Really.

One of the recurring themes in time travel stories is the extent to which future events can be altered by changing the past. If you could go into the past and alter events in what would then be your present, how would that change things in the future?

(By the way, Stephen King produces a great thought experiment around this question in his novel 11/22/63. If you could go back in time and prevent the assassination of President Kennedy, would you? And if you did, how would that change the future? It’s fascinating.)

Our lesson text for this Reign of Christ Sunday doesn’t deal with time travel but it does call us to reflect on how the past and the future affect the present.

“God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come” (vv. 20-21). Christ rose from the grave and assumed his place of power and authority two thousand years ago. He will reign in the future. He reigns in the present.

That’s a lot to celebrate.

Let’s remember that Paul wrote these words to Christians to encourage them in their present. He wanted them to realize the power of God in their current circumstances. He tells the Ephesians, “[God] has put all things under [Christ’s] feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (vv. 22-23).

Here we are two thousand years in the future from when those words were written. The resurrection of Jesus all those centuries ago means that Christ will reign forever. But it also means he reigns today. And he reigns through us, his church.

Right here, right now, Christ reigns.

Celebrate!

Discussion

1. Why does Paul “not cease to give thanks” for the Ephesian Christians (v. 16)? Would he have cause to give thanks for us for the same reasons?
2. How do “wisdom” and “revelation” (v. 17) work together in the Christian life?
3. What is “the hope to which [God] has called” us (v. 18)?
4. What does it mean for the resurrected Christ to have “all things… under his feet” (v. 22)?
5. If someone asked you to define the church and all you knew was what this passage says, how would you answer?

Reference Shelf

The resurrection of Jesus is the fundamental conviction of the Christian faith. Thus the primary and greatest evidence of God’s “great might (v. 19) is that he raised Jesus from the dead (v. 20). Throughout the New Testament, resurrection is an act of God, not self-generated by Jesus. Early Christians understood the risen Christ to be both alive and in their midst and with God in heavenly glory. That God made Christ sit “at his right hand” indicates both the sovereign power of God and the privileged position of Jesus, because the right hand was the position of honor given by eastern potentates. The verse may allude to Ps 110:1, which is used with messianic implications at several points in the New Testament (see Mark 12:36; Acts 2:34; Heb 1:13) and in reference to Jesus in Mark 16:19; Rom 8:34; Col 3:1; Heb 10:12; and 1 Pet 3:22…

Essentially, the intercession in 1:15-23 is for the recipients’ awareness of the power available to them. The writer has heard of their attitude of faith and their activity of love and, therefore, praises God and asks God to give them wisdom, knowledge, and illumination to know the hope, inheritance, and power that is theirs. That power is best attested by God in Christ whom God raised and exalted above all things to rule for the sake of his body, the church. Ephesians 1:15-23 promises believers four things: spirit and revelation; the hope of a calling; the riches of a glorious inheritance; and the power of faith.

Bonnie Thurston, Reading Colossians, Ephesians, & 2 Thessalonians: A Literary and Theological Commentary, Reading the New Testament (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2007) 104, 106.

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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