Friday, February 26, 2021

The Divine Fatherland

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name" (Ephesians 3:14–15).

Commentators are divided on the question of what Paul means when he writes in Ephesians 3:14 that he kneels before the Father. It could refer to prayer or to the homage due a king. The normal Jewish posture for prayer was standing and looking up to heaven, while the normal posture before a king was prostration. Perhaps it would be best to see both ideas in what Paul writes, since they overlap to a great degree.

Verse 15 poses a problem for translators. It can literally be rendered “from whom His whole fatherland in heaven and on earth derives its name.” The Greek word is patria, which comes from pater, “father.” It means a nation that is descended from one father, which thus is one vast family. Such a nation would include people adopted into the fatherland as well. The Jews might have seen Abraham as their father in this sense, but Paul says that God the Father is the Father of the church (and God was the Father to Israel as well, as Exodus 4:22–23 makes clear).

Who is included in this divine fatherland? Verse 15 says that it includes His whole family in heaven and on earth. Clearly it includes the saints in heaven and on earth. Also, since we see that angels are called “sons of God” from time to time in the Bible, they also are included in the divine fatherland. Believers have God as their Father because they are in union with the only begotten Son of God. We have God as Father through adoption. But originally Adam had God as his Father by creation (Luke 3:38), and we can see that the angels have God as their Father in the same sense.

Citizens of the divine fatherland live in a context of all the riches of the Creator Himself. This is the true “land of milk and honey.” The Father will pour out His riches to strengthen our inner beings. More and more, Christ will dwell in our hearts (v. 17). The more we live in Christ and He lives in us, the more we will have the ability to experience the love of Christ in all its width, length, height, and depth (v. 18). And as our capacity to know God expands, so does our capacity to be filled to the brim with the fullness of God (v. 19).

Preachers have often “spiritualized” the promises of the Old Testament, referring the promised outward blessings to the privileges of the saints in Christ. From this passage, a “spiritualized” application is appropriate as the first form of God’s blessing. Do the outward blessings also follow? Which should we pursue? How?