In the month of April we will begin a message series through the book of Ephesians.
This will be the third time we have had a teaching series through Ephesians in the 11 years I have served as the Senior Minister. After having preached through it at least two times prior to my ministry at First Christian Church of Chicago, you would think that I might havedeveloped a pretty good grasp of its content.
However, there was a simple, but very significant message that I had not noticed previously. Perhaps I had missed it because I too am very much a product of our culture of American individualism. As I looked at Scripture through those lenses, I often made a huge mistake in seeing the intended much and its proper audience.
Here is what I have discovered. The book of Ephesians is very much a letter to the church – not a church as a collection of INDIVIDUALS — but the church as a COMMUNITY of individuals.
Here is the difference. A collection of individuals emphasize the personal message, as everything is read through the lenses of what it says, means, instructs, and encourages me. The emphasis on the individual becomes self–centered and narcissistic.
However, as a community of individuals (emphasis on community), the emphasis moves from me to the community. I come to understand that being part of the church doesn’t mean I am a number in a larger set of numbers. Rather I am a functioning part of a body that needs my presence and participation to fully be what it was designed to be. Paul is not primarily concerned with the individual. His concern for the individual is only as part of the whole.
Here is the principle discovery I made: As I have read through Ephesians in preparation for the upcoming message series, I looked much closer at a word group that I have more or less skimmed over in the past. I did that because we all know what the word group in question means — or so I thought!
problem. Paul repeatedly uses “you” and “your”, not in a second
The word group in question is “you” and “your”. But here it is the not the second person singular sense, but a second person plural. If you were from the south, you might say “yall,” meaning everybody with you. Or you might even use the phrase “all yall all” meaning everybody in the group.
It is these usages that Paul employs in Ephesians. He wants us to see ourselves not as individuals, but a part of a larger body. He wants us to see ourselves in how we relate in community. He wants us to see ourselves in connection. He wants us to see ourselves as contributors toward the whole. He wants us to see ourselves as family, as common structure, as one.
How would your engagement with the church differ if you traded “you singular” for “you plural”? What would change if church was less about you and more about how you relate to others in the body?