Tonight our women's Bible Study is beginning our study of Ephesians, using John Stott's study "Building a Community in Christ" as our guide. I can't wait!
Here's how Stott's commentary starts out talking about Ephesians (my emphasis added):
"Those of us who call ourselves 'evangelical' Christians are claiming by this epithet to be gospel people, who hold fast to the authentic Christian evangel. It is a bold claim, and sometimes resented. In order to sustain it, we need constantly to return to the Scriptures in which alone the normative statement of the gospel is to be found. Measured by this standard, it has to be admitted that many of our formulations of the good news are defective. One of our chief evangelical blind spots has been to overlook the central importance of the church. We tend to proclaim individual salvation without moving on to the saved community. We emphasize that Christ died for us 'to redeem us from all iniquity' rather than 'to purify for himself a people of his own'. We think of ourselves more as 'Christians' than as 'churchmen', and our message is more good news of a new life than of a new society.
"Nobody can emerge from a careful reading of Paul's letter to the Ephesians with a privatized gospel. For Ephesians is the gospel of the church. It sets forth God's eternal purpose to create through Jesus Christ a new society which stands out in bright relief against the sombre background of the old world. For God's new society is characterized by life in place of death, by unity and reconciliation in place of division and alienation, by the wholesome standards of righteousness in place of the corruption of wickedness, by love and peace in place of hatred and strive, and by unremitting conflict with evil in place of a flabby compromise with it.
"... For the sake of the glory of God and the evangelization of the world, nothing is more important than that the church should be, and should be seen to be, God's new society."