We talk a great deal among ourselves about mission and ministry and what that means. Our church has taken the theme Witness, Mercy and Life Together to try and explain how all these things “fitly form together” as someone once said. I amusing an article from P. Kent Smith to meditate on this letter of Paul as a missionary text. The purpose of missions must be to form a worshipping community that in turn becomes a witnessing community because it is God’s intention according to Paul to ” to enlighten all that they may see what the economy of the mystery is, which throughout the ages has been hidden in God, who created all things, so that now, to the rulers and authorities in the heavenlies the multifaceted wisdom of God might be made known through the church, according to the eternal purpose which God made in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paraphrse of Ephesians 3.
Luther preached on Ephesians as not only as a mission text which some may find hard to believe but as a text that tied together his great themes of justification by grace. We have been saved from something – sin death and the power of the devil; and we have been saved for something. Here is Luther.
“Having comforted his followers concerning his tribulations, Paul tells them it is his earnest petition, his longing, that God would grant them power to cleave in firm faith to the Gospel, not forsaking it or growing weary when they have to endure affronts and tribulations, but firmly resisting these. It is not enough merely to accept the Gospel, or even to preach it. Acceptance must be followed by that spiritual power which renders faith firm and manifests steadfastness in conflicts and temptations; for “the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power,” as Paul says, Corinthians 4:20. There must be a motive force consisting of the inner belief of the heart and the outward proofs of faith: not mere speaking, but doing: not mere talking, but living. Conditions must be such that the Word does not simply remain on the tongue and in the ears, but becomes operative and accomplishes something. In the Old Testament dispensation, Moses preached much indeed, and the people practiced little; but here Paul desires that much be done and little said. He would not have the Gospel preached in vain, but desires that it accomplish the object of its revelation.”
Later on he says, “Paul’s desire, briefly summed up, is that the faith of Christians malt be strengthened unto efficacy, and that love may be warm and fervent, and the heart filled with the fullness of God. “Filled unto all the fullness of God” means, if we follow the Hebrew, filled with everything God’s bounty supplies, full of God, adorned with his grace and the gifts of his Spirit — the Spirit who gives us steadfastness, illuminates us with his light, lives within us his life, saves us with his salvation, and with his love enkindles love in us; in short, it means having God himself and all his blessings dwelling in us in fullness and being effective to make us wholly divine — not so that we possess merely something of God, but all his fullness.”