A thought struck me yesterday as I was reading something about Ephesians… O’Brien argues that Ekklesia in Ephesians is primarily about the heavenly gathering. So when Paul says in 3:10 that the church displays the wisdom of God, he is talking about the heavenly church. This seems to be to say it is not about the earthly church. It is quite striking that O’Brien finds it very hard then to say anything concrete about the earthly church.

But then I got to thinking… So what? If the earthly church, as O’Brien argues, is a manifestation of the heavenly church, then at least some of what goes for the heavenly must go for the earthly. In the context of Ephesians this cannot be limited to simply ‘gathering’ that they share in common. Chapter 2 shows us that the great news is that both Jew and Gentile is in God’s new community. This is not something that is simply played out on the heavenly scene. In Chapter 4 Paul has to encourage the people he is writing to (surely the earthly church(es)?) to be united. They are to display on earth the very gospel that is talked about in chapter 2, and is indeed displayed in the heavenly church.

But if this is so then it starts to extend, yet again, into everyday life. What is spelled out in chapters 4-5 is a life of loving each other that cannot be restricted to particular meetings. What is displayed in the heavenly church is mirrored in the earthly church as it lives out its life as a community of believers, not as a group of individual believers that meet sometimes. How else could we display this inclusion of those who were once outcasts, unless we share our lives with them, just as Jesus did? He did not simply invite them to the synagogue, or to particular gatherings of his followers. He went to their houses and ate with them. Paul and his band of missionaries similarly shares their lives with the people they are reaching. This is the display of God’s wisdom through his church – when the outcasts are accepted and welcomed in by God among his people.

What a great gospel we have!