Feudal Oneness in the Body
The next letter we look at is Ephesians.
Paul opens with a glorious vision of feudal faith in Christ. The whole of Chapter 1 is consumed with the image of God as an eastern potentate adopting us into His household, with unspeakable wealth and glory. Chapter 2 recounts what a high privilege it is to be in His household, particularly as Gentiles previously excluded from God's works on earth. It's all by grace, and God has a plan to make us fit together into one Body of Christ. In Chapter 3 Paul celebrates what a high privilege it is to serve such a marvelous Lord.
Then he jumps right into the necessity of seeking unity with other believers. It is noteworthy that the unity is not of essence, as if we have to create that unity. Rather, our duty is to discover that unity in the unified function here in this fallen world. We already have a spiritual unity; we had nothing to do with establishing that. Rather, we join it and are obliged to find our place in the scheme of things. God has already decided what each of us shall be, and all of us are precious gifts to the rest. Paul mentions some of those callings and roles in our churches.
It is Christian Law that we work out a path through our fallen existence so that we can operate with a single witness to the world. It is not imposed from the leadership top down, but it sprouts organically from our common redemption. He goes on to explain how that witness must be a clear departure from the pagan Gentile past. Chapter 4 ends with advice on how to work past those flaws we cannot change. Our whole business is wrapped up in that. If we cannot demonstrate a commitment to each other, we have no witness. We must nail our fleshly natures to the Cross and cooperate in love with those our flesh hates among the believers.
Chapter 5 continues on with the same image of unifying by seeking together to escape the fleshly nature. Don't get lost in worldly concerns. This is the foundation for launching into an outline of what a godly household looks like. He talks about the necessity of male headship, and that women must submit to their husbands as the first line of feudal lordship, the nearest representative of Christ. By the same token, the man must sacrifice for his wife like Christ did for His Bride. Husband and wife are no longer independent entities, but two halves of the same body. This is the Law of Christ.
No one should be surprised that, in Chapter 6, Paul continues along these same lines with children as totally dependent on the parents. During Paul's times, household servants and slaves were very much like adult children, and God Himself required the feudal submission of both.
It becomes necessary at this point to notice how utterly foreign all of this is to western culture and social structure. Absolutely nothing in Western Civilization will fit in Paul's model here. It requires a radical departure from the West before we can even begin to obey God's requirements. This is the shepherd sheikh culture of the Ancient Near East.
The chapter and book closes with a bracing vision of the Heavenly Soldier. It's a blending of Roman and Eastern imagery, but no one in those days was lost by the symbolism. The whole point is not fighting people, but fighting the demons in your own life. You are the soldier and you are the battlefield, and the turf you hope to capture and hold includes the connections you have with other believers, like Paul himself. Praying is our warfare; living in unity is the plunder.
Paul has mentioned earlier that he writes this from prison in Rome, and ends the letter with a few personal notes consistent with that.