Trevin Wax’s Ephesians Road Expanded

Yesterday I reviewed Trevin Wax’s Holy Subversion. I have been smitten with the idea of the Ephesians Road, a variation on an older idea of a Romans Road.

The Romans Road was and is an explanation of the gospel using a few verses from Romans. It focuses on personal guilt, forgiveness, and salvation. It misses much of the message of Romans and is too limiting, as if God’s great plan is me-centered and my personal guilt is the main issue of the gospel. It goes something like this:
–You are a sinner and guilty before God (Romans 3:23).
–Your guilt has earned you death (Romans 6:23).
–God has a plan to save you freely through faith (Romans 5:8).
–All you need to do is call on God (pray) and your faith will save you (Romans 10:9).

There is certainly truth in this Romans road (penal substitution is part of what the atonement is about). But there is more to the gospel and more to the atonement made by Messiah than that. The Ephesians Road is more like the view known as Christus Victor, the death of Messiah is a victory over the forces of evil and death.

Wax’s Ephesians Road
Ephesians lends itself more than Romans to a simple presentation of the bigger picture of the atonement and of the gospel. This is not because Romans is missing the bigger picture, but because Romans develops it in a more complex, spread out fashion.

Wax’s Ephesians Road is simple and effective (though note I will discuss a complexity about it afterward):
–Salvation is about God’s plan for the world (Ephesians 1), including election, adoption, and uniting all things in Messiah. Wax says it’s not so much that God has a wonderful plan for your life, but that God has a wonderful plan.
–Salvation is only by unearned favor (Ephesians 2:1-9), raising us from the dead and saving us from God’s wrath. Wax says we weren’t rescued while drowning, we were already dead and God made us alive.
–Salvation comes with a calling that must be fulfilled in the community of faith (Ephesians 2:10-22), including good works, kingdom community, and imaging God to the world.

Whereas the Romans Road says, “You can be forgiven and live forever,” the Ephesians Road says, “God is making a perfected cosmos and you can join in.” The Romans Road is limited because it ends in mere acceptance of future blessing. The Ephesians Road is more complete because it ends in all things united in Messiah and calls for us to work with Messiah through the community to bring about healing and redemption for the world.

Complexity Unexamined: Israel in Ephesians 1
In October 2009, I wrote about Ephesians 1, especially vs. 12, and the idea that the “us” and “we” are Israel and the “you” are the Gentiles Paul is speaking to. You can read that post here and see the evidence (the only other viable option I see is that the “us” and “we” are the apostles, but can we say that the apostles hoped in Messiah before Israel did?).

That would mean, if I am right, that Ephesians 1 is not about the church’s election, but Israel’s.

Wax doesn’t consider this issue, reading Ephesians 1 as a statement about the church in the common hermeneutic, assuming that Paul would not use such language about Israel. I don’t know if the idea even occurred to Wax or if he made the interpretive decision rejecting the Israel view and preferring the idea that the us of 1:12 is about the apostles.

But does the possibility that Ephesians 1 is about Israel’s election, not the church’s, invalidate the Ephesians Road?

I don’t think so:
–1:13-14 speaks of the inclusion of the church and, while it doesn’t specifically say this means inclusion in Israel’s election, I think it is a corollary.
–Romans 8:29-30 speaks of the church as foreknown by God and predestined.
–1 Corinthians 2:7 speaks of the wisdom decreed before the ages. The wisdom of the gospel to all, Jew and Gentile, seems to be in view.

Expanding the Ephesians Road
Still, even though Wax’s points from Ephesians are not invalidated by the strong inclusion of Israel in Ephesians 1, I think his model should be expanded.

I think as Christians grow in a bigger understanding of the gospel, it is vital to grow in an understanding of Israel’s election as well.

It is not only in Ephesians 1 that the grand picture of the gospel has Israel at the center. It is also in Ephesians 2.

Ephesians 2:12-13 speaks of Gentile salvation as an inclusion in the commonwealth of Israel.

So, here is my expanded Ephesians Road:
–Salvation is about God’s plan for the world (Ephesians 1), including the election of Israel, the adoption of Israel as the people of God, the inclusion of Gentiles in salvation, and the uniting of all things in Messiah symbolized by the new unity of Jew and Gentile in Messiah.
–Salvation is only by unearned favor (Ephesians 2:1-9), raising us from the dead and saving us from God’s wrath.
–Salvation comes with a calling that must be fulfilled in the community of faith (Ephesians 2:10-22), including good works, kingdom community of mutual blessing between Jew and Gentile, and imaging God to the world.

So, how does this strike you? Is Paul’s use of Israel in Ephesians 1 and 2 and inconsequential afterthought? Or is the Jew/Gentile issue a redemptive example of inestimable worth demonstrating what reconciliation of the cosmos will look like?

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian, Judaism, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Trevin Wax’s Ephesians Road Expanded

  1. judeoxian says:

    I like this Ephesians road stuff. It really captures it for me.

  2. Pingback: Dr. Platypus » Blog Archive » The Ephesians Road

  3. samstfleur says:

    Derek,

    How do you view the new identity that both Jew and Gentile receive in Messiah? If the distinctions are removed, how would a MJ approach that?

  4. Intriguing remark concerning Israel with Eph 1:13-14. Are you saying that when Paul says “our” he is saying that the inheritance is Israel’s and the Gentiles get to partake in it? If that is the case, what’s Eph 2:11-22 about, in which the two have been combined into one new person? If the two have been combined, and Paul knew that when writing Eph 1, wouldn’t he have been saying with “our” that he is including himself in the same new person as the Gentiles he was writing to, indicating that they both share in the inheritance? Furthermore, if “our” is pertaining to Israel, what about the Spirit, who is the seal of salvation for those who are in Christ, not for Israel proper?

    It seems to me that Eph 2 and 3, especially in the light of Eph 2:15, reveal “our” language to be the inclusion of Paul within the church because of the new person that was created in Christ, the person in which both Israel and Gentiles are combined, and this new person is the church.

    I still agree, however, that an understanding of Israel’s election is essential for Christians. And not only do I agree, but I especially appreciate your remark that salvation comes with a calling, which includes community. I think you are absolutely right: we need to veer away from individualistic interpretations of communal concepts in Scripture, which includes the fact that the church, the new person, has been called to do good works.

  5. warland52 says:

    I think your intrepretation of the “we” and the “you” in Eph 1:12-14 is logical and the most likely for the reasons you state. I note the following from sources you probably don’t frequent:

    1) the “modern” footnotes to the Catholic New American Bible view it as the most probable understanding of the “we” and the “you”
    2) the “traditional” footnotes to the Navarre commentary on the Revised Standard Version (Catholic) views it as the meaning of the “we” and “you” and doesn’t even posit an alternative.

    So when scholars on both side of the fence can agree – that is usually a pretty good piece of evidence.

    And yes, I don’t think it excludes gentiles for the reasons you state…pretty darn clear I think.

    As for “Ephesians Road” – I like that road. Also agree that the same road can be found in Romans – just more spread out in complex argument exactly as you say. In fact, the same road can be found winding its way from Genesis to Revelation. God and Yeshua make it happen – and by God’s grace they permit us to “join in.” God, strictly speaking, doesn’t of course “need” our help. But He wills our “help”. He permits us to help and gives us the grace to “help”. Just because He wants it that way. So any “merit” on our part is ultimately a “grace” from Him. We are joined to Him – and only by joining ourselves to Him our acts are infused with redemptive potential for the world. Otherwise the good we do is just natural good – not that there is anything wrong with that. Well enough.

    Great Post as usual.

    Todd

  6. Had to be away from blogging today, so sorry for the slow response.

    People have asked how my understanding of Ephesians fits with the idea of unity of Jew and Gentile.

    First, my smart-aleck answer: don’t churches still have men’s and women’s restrooms (in spite of Galatians 3:28).

    Second, a referral: Markus Barth’s commentary on Ephesians in which he develops the unity and distinction dialectic for Jews and Gentiles very well (it is in the Anchor series).

    Third, think man/woman, husband/wife, Israel/nations, Jew/Gentile.

    Derek

  7. warland52 says:

    Agree. The same verse which says no male or female – it also says no Jew or Gentile. But we can see that doesn’t mean Jews and Greeks might not have different vocations or roles within the Church. Indeed Paul stresses in Corinthians 12 and elsewhere that there are distinctly different roles in the Church (apostle, prophet, tongues, teachers, helper, administrator etc). In fact, in Corinthians 12 he repeats “Jews and Greeks” along with “slaves and free” before he goes on to say although all are in “one body”, the body has different “members” that do different things. I am a married man – I cannot be a priest in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church(I could in most Eastern rites). An unmarried man can be a priest in the Latin rite. Does this “divide” the body of Christ? Surely not.

    Just what that unique Jewish vocation within the mystical body particularly consists of – not sure yet.

    Todd

  8. Paul says:

    Interesting! Thanks for posting this. Now I’m curious…have you reviewed/spoken to N. T. Wright and his views on justification?

  9. Paul:

    I see justification much as Wright describes it in his book. Right on with the New Perspective!

    Derek

  10. Pingback: The Road Trip Ends | An Author at Work

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