In Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians we can follow his use of parallel principles again.
In the previous sections of this essay series, we discussed how Paul often gives a list of offenses, but always in the context of the Gospel and forgiveness. In Ephesians, the list of offenses is in chapter 5. But, of course, it is communicated in the larger context of the whole letter, which is sent in the context of Paul’s understanding of the Gospel, delivered to him directly by God as he asserts in Galatians. Accepting his word for it (which I do), it is not surprising to see that it is in alignment with the teachings on the Kingdom of Heaven presented by Jesus(God). Not surprising, but yet another confirmation.Now we will do a very brief review of Ephesians. As is always true in the scriptures, there are more things that can be gleaned, but we are focused on following the overall flow of Paul’s message to the Body of the Christ at Ephesus. More guidance can be found by a parallel study of the other Letter to Ephesus, sent to them by Jesus himself. If interested, there is another series of essays on the 7 Letters from Jesus, offering observations from a Kingdom of Heaven perspective.Please read the Letter to the Ephesians. Allow me to repeat something I said at the start of the summary of the Letter to the Galatians. This is not a verse by verse study, but instead a study in context. My intention is that you read the Letter as you go through this summary. Because that is my intention, I generally will not refer to specific verses as this summary progresses – instead you can read the Bible and strive to grasp the concept presented in this summary. After grasping the concept of the summary and gaining the ability to see how the Letter presents it, then you have the ability to thoughtfully decide if this summary is supported by the Letter.Paul’s Letter starts with a section overflowing with awe and worship of the tremendous plan God planned before the beginning of earthly time. Like so many passages, those who do not have ears to hear confuse this passage, creating contradictions. But our quest here is to follow Paul’s teaching not defend against the false messages. So we must focus our concepts on what he is saying. A good statement to draw us back into the concept is this one: 7We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.More from the same section: 13When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy SpiritThen Paul rejoices in their salvation. His rejoicing is the response of one full of the Love of Jesus. He shows the Love of Jesus, who said that Heaven rejoices at each despicable, lost, sheep that is saved. And Paul prays that their minds would be enlightened so they may know “what is the hope of his calling, the glorious riches of his inheritance”. Paul proceeds to describe what is the power of God, raising from the dead the one who carried all the sins of the world. Then he does a great summary of the Gospel, especially for those with ears to hear, those people whose concepts remain centered on the Kingdom of Heaven taught by Jesus. Paul reminds them that all of us were saved while completely dedicated to trespasses of all types, including the worst: hostility to God. Paul reaffirms that the Law was made to have no effect. Building one body from the sinners that acknowledged God and the sinners that did not – the Jews and the Gentiles. Those that strove to live by all of God’s rules are saved via the same method as those that ignored all those rules. We are saved by the Grace of God alone, the gift given completely undeserved.
Paul affirms his role again, to bring this New Wisdom from God to the Gentiles, and through them to all the rulers of this world – the Kingdom of Satan, the kingdom of condemnation and accusation. This is the wisdom and plan that God predestined and kept hidden. Then Paul, with tremendously powerful and beautiful language, expresses his prayer, his desire, for the Body at Ephesus. My summary would not come close to the glory of his words. Go and read them, in context. I refer to the end of chapter 3, where it is inescapably clear that the goal is Love, and that Love will fill us with the FULLNESS of GOD!In some Letters Paul separates the parallel teaching placing the correction statements before the call to Love. In this Letter, the order is opposite. Paul calls the Body at Ephesus to “walk worthy of the calling you have received”. The calling he just stated. The call to Love. The next statement gives a list of worthy activities. Depending on the training we have received and our understanding of the word “virtue”, all the items in this list are what we might call virtues. All these worthy activities are attitudes that originate naturally, without effort, from a heart of Love. Note that patience is in the list, because patience will be exhibited by people of Love as no one will always be carrying the Fullness of God. That fact means that the other virtuous people in our group will behave in a manner that precipitates patience in us.Now Paul begins expanding the concept of the gift of Grace. From Paul’s excellent and clear teaching in Romans we know that he holds as central the concept that we are saved by the Grace of God alone, the un-earned gift from God of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus: mercy and life, available for all who want it. Here in Ephesians 4 Paul speaks of the gift of God, building on his theme of the astounding plan of salvation that he tied to his desires for the church at Ephesus to grow in Love. Paul brings in Psalms 68. As is always the case, this is an invitation from Paul to read the Psalm in its context – the whole Psalm. He is referencing the concept from that section of the Psalm, and that concept has its primary meaning in the framework of the concept of the whole Psalm. Please read through Psalm 68. Here is my summary:David starts the Psalm by prophesying that God (elohim) arises and releases the righteous from the power of God’s enemies. Always remember who are God’s enemies – Satan and his kingdom. And always remember who are the righteous. A person could maintain a righteous status by perfect, absolutely perfect, obedience. In this class of people there is only one member, Jesus the Christ. The rest of the people that are considered righteous are those who believe God. God judges (assesses) them to be righteous by evaluating their belief alone. A good example is David who wrote this Psalm.David goes on to praise God for this deliverance, this release from the power of God’s enemies. David’s words are very much like Paul in Ephesians. And here David says one of the facts that Paul references: as part of this deliverance, God leads the prisoners out of captivity. And David brings in another group of people: “the stubborn inhabit a dry place”. The enemies have been scattered, but the stubborn remain in a dry place. [this is in verse 6, note that most versions say the “rebellious” – the Hebrew word certainly can be translated “rebellious” or “stubborn” as the lexicons indicate. Certainly the stubborn are in a form of rebellion.]David goes on using prophetic language to glorify God’s actions. Of interest, the versions that attempt literal translation from the Hebrew have verse 9 saying that God “shakes out a shower of free-will gifts”, as opposed to other translations that say the shower is rain. Either way, the rain would be figurative language representing blessings or gifts from God to the righteous – the believers.Then David continues proclaiming in the completed sense that indicates future, or prophecy, that (Literal Standard Version): You prepare for the poor in Your goodness, O God. The Lord gives the saying, The female proclaimers [are] a numerous host. Kings of hosts utterly flee away, And a female inhabitant of the house apportions spoil. For me, I see prophecy about the same event being proclaimed in this Psalm numerous times – the fulfillment of the Predestined Plan of God, the coming of the Christ to die for all sin, reconciling those who believe to himself. The Lord gives the saying – what does he say? He has prepared for us, the poor, through his mercy. Prepared what? We will find out if we trust. Perhaps the saying is “It is finished”. The church is a numerous host. The church is often portrayed by God as the bride of Christ. This numerous female host proclaims it. Satan and his kingdom must flee, the kings of hosts flee, leaving their spoils to be divided by the woman of the house. The church is made from the spoils of the victory over Satan’s rule under the shadow of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.The next section of the Psalm is difficult to interpret as a direct prophetic statement. I refer to the section just before the phrases that Paul uses as a reference. I find it helpful to carry the beautiful poetic imagery directly into a concept, bypassing the need for direct analysis. From this technique, I am able to derive an image of God Most High scattering the enemies, with God swooping in as a beautiful dove, making all white. Then the poet declares that the realm of the scattered kings should not covet the status reserved for the realm that will deliver the Christ.For me, it helps to read the text in the most literal translations available, then in every other major translation. Instead of fighting the differences (which are significant), move beyond that to listening to the various voices of the translators to strive to get beyond analysis to a place of listening to the same Spirit that guided Paul as he wrote Ephesians.This puts us, in Psalm 68, just where The Lord (Elohim) is on Sinai, in the sanctuary.Then he ascends on high, taking captivity captive, bringing gifts for men, that even the stubborn may rest. This is the section of Paul’s quote, remember he intends for us to use it in context, so it is correct for us to notice that the stubborn, who were stranded in dry places earlier, are now given the opportunity to receive the wonderful gifts. [note that some translations reverse the subject-object relationship – but I will cast my vote with the translations that lend meaning to Paul’s use of the phrase, using Paul’s understanding of the phrase to resolve the variation in the Hebrew. The interesting variations in Hebrew translation continue in the next verses.]Then David continues in the Psalm with beautiful Gospel fanfare: God gives himself to us. God Himself is to us a God for deliverance, eliminating the death that hangs over us. God fulfills the promise of the Christ to Eve, crushes the head of the one who walks continuously in guilt – Satan. The lands that are in the first part of the Psalm, the poetically distant Bashan, will be redeemed. The Heel will come down and totally destroy the enemy. Then the Psalm praises God and prophecies that all the peoples of the world will worship God. And ends with the Gift of God again: The God of Israel Himself, Giving strength and might to the people. Blessed [is] God!Of course, this summary does not unlock the richness of the Psalm, but it does provide us with context to draw back into Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Note that the theme of the gift(s) of God is a primary focus of the Psalm, and that the gift of God is something that saves from death and gives redemption to the stubborn/rebellious, and brings strength and might to the recipients.Paul introduced this section with the statement that each individual of the group at Ephesus received Grace, the free Gift of God (that no one can boast). Each received this gift using the Christ as the measure, not the individual. Paul refers us to the Psalm so that we can see that God said he would come and crush the head of the enemy. God would crush the head. The Christ would come and crush the head. Paul observes that the Christ ascended. We can infer from the Psalm that he had previously descended to identify the sanctuary, the tabernacle, as his dwelling (not sure how the God that defies description dwells in a tent, but I am sure that He knows that the ability to comprehend that is beyond us. And left it as a concept bomb to mold our self-awareness. We can’t form his name in our communication tools – language – Why would we expect to describe his dwelling?). Paul uses the Psalm to establish that the God eternal, who planned salvation and promised the Christ, is the Christ by whose measure the gift is given. Now that Paul has again established the undefeatable strength of our salvation, he proceeds to tell us that another gift that was given is the gift of human teachers, such as himself. The goal of the teaching is to reach unity in 2 things. The first goal for unity is faith. Faith in what? That Jesus the Christ is our salvation and hope, we have NO other. The second goal for unity is knowledge of God’s Son – Jesus the Christ. Things we know about him. Then we will be mature, when we measure by the fullness of who he is. Remember chapter 3 where Paul prays that we will be filled with Love so that we have the fullness of God? When we begin to measure by his Love we will stop being influenced by every teacher that comes along with logic based on the elemental principles of this world, the principles that originated just before the Christ was promised beside the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.Paul goes on to use logic, based on the principle of the Kingdom of Heaven that he just illustrated using Psalm 68. Paul established that this church filled with Gentiles of Greco-Roman mindset is measured by the gift of God Himself (as the Psalm said several times), they are not measured by themselves. From this logic foundation Paul begins to instruct them in the path of life with the mind of Christ. First he notes that those who do not know God cannot perceive anything of the Kingdom of Heaven. And they exhibit the result of having no vision of the truth of the nature of God – the Kingdom of Heaven. They behave badly. The Greek word Paul used is often translated using certain English words. These English words have evolved to primarily mean sexual bad behavior. But a study of the lexicons shows that the Greek authors predating Paul would have used the Greek word to describe many types or any type of bad behavior. Certainly they would include blatant sexual misbehavior in the definition, although with a different basis for acceptability as we previously discussed. If we narrow the meaning to only sexual misbehavior we lose the breadth of the problem that Jesus, the Christ, came to solve. Review the teachings of Jesus to refresh your memory and reload your concepts, if you need to – review the Sermon on the Mount and many other teachings. Allow me to amplify Paul’s statement, using alternate words from the lexicons “They became callous (ceased to feel pain, apathetic: ceased to care), and gave themselves over to promiscuity (Excessive: maliciousness, violence, sexuality, luxury. Capricious. Unjust. Rebellious) for the practice of every kind of impurity (uncleaness – as in the demons Jesus cast out, as in the state of a person who has disobeyed the Law of Moses, as in the Lepers that Jesus healed, as mentioned in the teachings of Jesus) with a desire for more and more.” Note the order: when they ceased to care anymore, they acted like it.Then Paul ties it back to the Believers at Ephesus: “That is not how you heard the Gospel” They did not learn the truth of the Kingdom of Heaven through their descent into the hopelessness of life subject to death. They learned about Jesus by believing when they were told the Good News, the only news that can break through that apathy, the apathy that is always present in humanity because all humanity sins and there can be no redemption in justice outside of Jesus the Christ. They believed and “are being renewed” – the progressive tense that clearly indicates continuing action. They (we) put on a new self. The “self”, a word we use to indicate a being, appeared in the statements of Paul when he described their descent into apathy , where he used the word “themselves”. Then Paul made it clear and reinforced with a powerful prophecy from Psalm 68, that their salvation is dependent on God Himself (as the Hebrew says several times). So when they (we) put on the new self, which self? The one created in the likeness of Jesus the Christ, as the New Covenant makes clear many times – it is His righteousness that hangs in the balance. With that in the balance of Justice, which way will it tip? It is finished, the Christ said.Then Paul proceeds with instructions to help these Greco-Roman, recovering apathetics learn to how to think about behavior. They now care again, because they have hope, because they believe in the forgiveness of sin, said another way: because of the Love of God. Paul starts his list of instructions with “ceasing the lying”. There are many things people lie about every day, but the most destructive to the true church is about sin. But it is necessary to lie about sin if the group you are in will condemn you for your sin. But if the group follows Paul’s instructions here, there is no condemnation because his instructions include “forgive each other, as God, through the Christ, forgave you” Note that the word “forgave” is past tense completed action.Paul’s next sentence is to imitate Christ in that forgiveness. Now we are in chapter 5, but the logical paragraph has not changed.Paul expands this, referring to the standard of walking in Love. May I again call to your concepts the actions of Jesus – forgiving, healing, eating with sinners of all sorts including sexual sinners. Forgiving all as they were killing him. Yes – imitate Jesus. Paul’s next sentence is another opportunity to mis-translate one of the words that leads to difficulty in understanding many passages: pornea. The version copied in renders the statement: “But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints.”. As we have built into our concepts through the study of the Greco-Roman culture and through the examination of the word “Pornea”, we can see that the first word in Paul’s short list here is related to worship of other gods, specifically the common gods worshiped in the Greek world through acts of sex. The huge problem is the worship of other gods. The sex is a problem also, but there is no salvation for those who reject God Most High – so the idolatry part is dominant. The second word, translated by the version above as “impurity” is the very common word for unclean: an object opposite to God Most High. For example Jesus cast out many “unclean” spirits – demons. The third item, translated as “greed”, is clarified 2 sentences later by Paul as being associated to idolatry: the worship of other objects in place of God Most High. So all three items in this short list are related and are clearly of mortal danger to the person who is imitating Jesus: it is hard to fully imitate Jesus while worshiping Zeus. The call to turn to His mercy is powerless if Zeus is also a path to meaning in life. The call to turn to His mercy is powerless if science is also a path to meaning. The call to turn to His mercy is powerless if success is also a path to meaning. He, Jesus the Christ, came to call us to receive the gift in Psalm 68 because of his great Love. How can we imitate such Love while confused about the Giver of the gift?The next sentence about “base, foolish talk and low jesting” uses another three words that do not mean specifically sexual things in writings of ancient Greek authors. If they did that would be even more confusing, as I am certain that the ideas of the Greek authors about sexual degradation varies dramatically from Paul’s. No, the words have to do with being low in philosophical sophistication, as in conceptualizing humans as nothing more than empty effigies, devoid of meaning itself and useful primarily as objects of derisive humor; using humans and human experience as crude entertainment. Such entertainment can be found in the Greek plays at times, and is found in excess in the Roman coliseum. Many religious traditions hold that these words of Paul are all related to sexual conversation, because if “pornea” means undefined sexual failure, then it follows that the three conversation words are related. But because we have come to see that the word “pornea” is about the most important commandment (per Jesus) – Love the Lord your God -we can see that Paul is warning people about taking seriously the essence of belief. Talking to a Greco-Roman church, Paul may be cautioning them to not drag their faith into the same context as all the legends, plays and poetry about the Pantheon of human like gods. For me a study of the Greek poetry revealed a dominant theme of fate. Beautiful and tragic, but hopeless, meaningless fate. It was mixed with low humor as described above, mockery of human existence. Paul says do not drag this beautiful gift of God into such meaninglessness.Paul continues with the same language we saw in Galatians – language about inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven. It is tempting to assign this to salvation, again. But holding the context of preceding chapters in our minds, we recall that Paul has emphatically established that salvation is the Gift of God, dependent solely on the measure of the fullness of the Christ, not the measure of ourselves. If we keep our minds focused we can recall that Paul has moved from the Glory of Salvation to practical advice on living together as a body of believers, the church, the Body of the Christ. Let me ensure you have the last two statements of Paul in your concepts: The activities Demon worship (via pornea), involvement in spiritually unclean things, and greed, should not be even heard of in the Body. And also coarse, foolish talk and low jesting. So now that Paul has equated low jesting with pornea, he asks the Body to recognize that those involved are not sharing in the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven. Keeping in conceptualization the ministry of Jesus, the Christ, it is impossible to reconcile Paul’s words if we take him to mean that “every such person is going to hell”. But it is perfectly clear – easily recognizable – that people who apathetically abandon themselves to such a lifestyle have no concept of the Kingdom of Heaven.[Some may say Paul is changing subjects back and forth. This is a common view: that all of scripture was written as a random string of disconnected proverbs. This is a helpful concept for incomplete scribes, a concept that is subtly presented often through teachings that isolate verses as proof of viewpoints. This concept of ubiquitous proverbs requires assuming that Paul’s communication skills were basically non-existent, that he did not organize his thoughts and present them carefully, that he did not have one of the gifts he just mentioned: teacher. I do not accept this as a defensible concept, I hold to the concept that Paul was a great teacher, second only to Jesus. When I become aware of a problem such as contradiction, I find the problem is on the side of the student, me, a failure to understand. Then I can learn.]Paul says that those who abandon themselves (being “wanton”) to a lifestyle embracing dependence (faith) in something other than God cannot conceptualize the Kingdom of Heaven. This is of great risk, as made clear by Jesus the Christ in Matthew 24 and 25. Our belief in his nature is the only hope that will endure the hard times that approach in each person’s life. Maintaining hope in anything else may result in disbelief in God, which is separation from God, which is what he hates because he Loves us.So Paul then says God’s anger will result from those who follow these alternate beliefs to their fullness. The Lover is angry when the object of His Love is separated from himself.Paul presents his instructions about Inside vs Outside, as he does in his letter to the Thessalonians – do not associate with them. I use the phrase Inside vs Outside to refer to that essay in this series. Again, because the concept can easily slip out of our minds, he means that we should be sure our belief systems stay distinctly separated. Here in Ephesians the HCSB says it nicely: “Do not become their partners”. Just as in other letters, here Paul reminds the Body at Ephesus that they were part of this group of people at risk of God’s wrath. We know how they changed status: they believed that God loves them without requiring justice for their sin. Now they are in the Light of the Gospel, the growing understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven. While they walk in that light, they WILL bear the fruit of that light, here Paul uses “all goodness, righteousness and truth” to describe the fruit. In other letters he uses other words, but the construct remains present in all letters: it is the fruit of embracing the Kingdom of Heaven, it is the fruit of the Tree of Life: fruit comes from the tree without force, it is part of its DNA. To further clarify, Paul instructs them to not walk in darkness. Paul tells the Body of the Christ to not walk in the darkness of the unbelievers like they have their entire lives. HCSB says “Do not participate in the fruitless works of darkness”, which we know from his previous statements are the choices to believe in other sources for hope, or the complete apathy of godlessness. He gives this instruction to the Body, those who believe: Now that you believe, leave behind the concepts of unbelief.To further confirm this Paul says “Everything exposed by the light is made clear, for what makes everything clear is light. Therefore it is said: Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead, and the Messiah will shine on you.”When we have the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven forming in our mind, everything is clear. To illustrate this Paul quotes what is apparently a line from a popular worship song of that time. Naturally the church (the Body) that is singing that song would be able to relate to his words. How does one rise from the dead? How did they rise from the dead? How were they born afresh in the spiritual realm? By believing and trusting in Jesus to save them. And then the Light began to shine. That is how they stopped walking in darkness where there is not the good fruit. That is how they started walking in the light where they bear good fruit. Note, again, that Paul is giving this instruction to Believers, people saved by their belief in Jesus the Christ. Yet they are asleep, they need to wake, rise from this state of being dead to the Kingdom of Heaven concepts.Paul continues with a repetition of this admonition about walking in the light. Encouraging them to get started on walking in the light of the Kingdom of Heaven principles, reminding them that time is short (it always is short). He again advises them to not be foolish, similar to the admonition earlier about foolish talk, but here he illustrates by using the opposite of foolishness: understanding the will of God, that all be saved, which is a foundation of the Kingdom of Heaven. Then Paul illustrates by parallel: the parallel yet opposites of being drunk on alcohol opposed to being filled with the Spirit of God, who guides us into all truth. Which he then illustrates with actions that are worth pursuing. His earlier list at the end of chapter 4 was actions not worth pursuing. This current list is beautiful. Which one of us would not love to live in a Body of believers that were in pursuit of this Love?
Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ [fear meaning Love submission out of reverence]Paul then illustrates this with a parallel to the wife/husband relationship. If you understand the Church/Jesus relationship this is beautiful. In case you don’t understand, Paul gives yet another restatement of the Gospel: just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. He cleans us. We don’t present ourselves already clean. There are powerful lessons to be learned from this that will cause rejoicing in every woman and every man who finally understands and can accept the analogy. But that is not the main message, and this is just a summary of Ephesians, so I will not pursue that wisdom here. Paul says the mystery is deep, and is tied to the Gospel. Jesus presents his bride, the believers, to himself by cleaning her and making her to be without fault. It can be difficult to grasp the commandment from the Law – “Love your neighbor as yourself”, even after Jesus illustrated it with the Good Samaritan parable. Here Paul uses it again, perhaps in a way that makes it more clear while it shows us the Love of Jesus for his bride. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body. The husband who is imitating the Christ, cares for his wife with the extreme care most use to care for themselves. This is a parallel teaching, where we can learn about loving each other as we learn about the unsurpassed love Jesus has for us. The husband who tries to love his wife with this true love will inspire reciprocal love. And the parallel in the spiritual realm is just as true. “The two will become one flesh” – Paul draws us back to the Garden, to the first prophecy about the Christ, given through the enduring parallel of the Love relationship that has no equal.Allow me to remind you of the context again: Paul was talking about this astounding Love, then in that context brought up exhortation that these believers watch out for the various problems that weaken the love between them. Still exhorting them to be filled with loving actions Paul encourages them to learn how to live as husband and wife by understanding Jesus and his bride – the church. Paul uses this context to reaffirm who it is that cleans them – Jesus the model for Love.Paul continues with further exhortation to them in their daily roles: children, slaves (many of them were slaves), and slave masters.Then he follows with advice to all, the famous section of the armor. Again confirming where lies the real battle, Paul says that our battle is not against humans, but against Satan and his kingdom. This statement is a reaffirmation of the section about pornea etc. The physical, flesh and blood sins are not the true battle – worshiping Satan or one of his spiritual representations (including the modern ones) is the true battle. This subject, who is God, should be the main battle in every age. It is not much of a battle in our time because the Prime Mover of this world has convinced most of the church that the battle is against flesh and blood – sinners. [Yes, that is a reference to Aristotle’s Unmovable Mover which I am subverting to represent the force of thought that drives this world.] Paul’s list of armor is very rich – study it, ponder it, think about the meaning of each in the context of the Kingdom of Heaven. I cannot restrain myself from observing that the faith armor is yet again the recurring theme: “In EVERY situation, use the shield of faith (your belief that Jesus is the Christ who forgave the sins of the world) to defeat ALL the attempts of Satan to separate you from God.”Paul then encourages the believers to have the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven always present in their minds as they face every situation in life. Read what he actually says in your Bible, but think about this: when you focus your attention on communicating or communing with God (prayer), it is necessary to bring some concept of God into your mind. When you have made the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven the reality through which you perceive God, this is the concept that is present as you “pray”. This concept, when it becomes rooted in you, when you have the mind of the Christ, changes your perceptions. I started to write “when you turn to God in prayer”, but that does not represent it well – no turning is needed when I manage to have enough faith to continue to believe that He, the Christ, has kept his promise to come in and be with me. He has knocked on the door of my consciousness for years, as he said in one of his 7 Letters. At times, I momentarily had enough faith to believe that his death on the cross paid for my sins, but the attack of Satan, with the accusations that are his weapon (the fiery darts), would cause my faith to waver. I would fall back to reliance on self- “I will not sin again” – slamming the door on the Christ because I no longer had faith in the mission of the Christ. I was still destined for eternal life, but I could not let Jesus in while my dirty clothing and disgusting body were causing me shame. But gradually, I trusted more and more, trusting that Jesus, the husband of my being, loved me in the condition I was in. I began and begin to trust that he can clean everything. When I have opened the door and Jesus “sups” with me, there is no turning needed to present “prayers and supplications” to him. His dwelling place has shifted from the Sinai sanctuary, I am one of the myriads of changes (using the language of Psalm 68, literal version), my thoughts are before him as I conceptualize them. My heart hurts for the people I meet each day in the empty agony of life; he precedes me with tears. My heart burns for an end to the misery of this world; from his being flows agreement but with patience. My soul starts to rage against the wrongs done to me; through a blood-stained mirror I see that he is intimate with the pain. My heart begins to turn from him because of the shame of my many sins (being a scribe that believes all Jesus words – there are many, many sins); his being draws me like a powerful magnet with a strong unspoken reminder that from within the pit named “hatred of sinners” the pure light of Love is ghastly. I want that Love, I will choose faith. Paul’s shield of faith: By faith we are saved, without regard for our works.Paul says – “for this gospel I am an ambassador in chains”
So hold this Letter in your concepts as we move towards the first Letter to the Corinthians. No human is capable of holding all the detail in focus at the same time. That is why Jesus spent years, teaching through indirect methods. We must change our fundamental concepts, so that as we proceed in our existence we can evaluate our situations and propositions in agreement with God. Among the many subtle forms that comprise the concept Paul conveys to us is one that I find very helpful for understanding the measure of acceptability Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians. I am referring to his repeated use of the same approach to teaching, present in his letters with variations that demonstrate that it is a theme that flows from his concept of the Kingdom of Heaven as opposed to a forced construct imposed over a partially believed concept. I am referring to his technique of clarifying the nature of salvation, the nature of God, Love expressed in forgiveness. Then offering encouragement on how to live with each other in this new concept of the Kingdom of Heaven.