Holy Ephesian Saints, what does "hagios" mean?

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus...(Eph 1:1)

Some of us have begun reading Ephesians. We are trying to read the whole letter once a week and then concentrating our discussion on a specific section. Having invested so much well spent time in Isaiah last year, I feel like I will never be able to read the books of the bible in the same way.

The KJV translated the greek word "hagios" as "holy" 161 times, and as "saints" 62 times. I have picked this word out of Ephesians 1:1 to consider the jewish weightiness of its meaning. Paul who I now know to be steeped in the God-given world-view of the prophets is using "saints" in a way completely informed by God through His prophets.

In the New Testament the word "hagios" translated "saints" or "holy ones" has everything to do with the special remnant of Israel. To this remnant we may now graciously be added, not through the "works of the law" like circumcision, but by the obedience of "a loyal recognition" to Jesus Christ. (This "obedience of a loyal recognition" is what most english versions have as "obedience of faith" in Romans 1:5)

"In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel. It will come about that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy[saint]--everyone who is recorded for life in Jerusalem (Isa 4:2-3)."

"Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, And it will again be subject to burning, Like a terebinth or an oak Whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump (Isa 6:13) ."

And they will call them, "The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD"; And you will be called, "Sought out, a city not forsaken (Isa 62:12)."

"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might (Eph 1:18-19)."

remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, (Eph 2:12-19)


The Kingdom of God is not of this evil age.

The Kingdom of God is not of this evil age. It is not defined in the ways that the kingdoms or even the institutions of this age are defined.The Isaiah shaped worldview is the correct worldview for the people of God. It is a worldview which God will vindicate over against all others. People immersed in other worldviews can use the language of the scriptures to present faulty views to the general public but those who know the mysteries of the kingdom should recognize the dissonance. This perspective is centered on Israel and therefore it is centered on Jesus as Israel's Messiah. Again we see the importance of the observations of an earlier post in which we noted that Jesus came for Israel, He came to be Israel and He came to ultimately define Israel around Himself. We made these observations while studying the first four chapters of Matthew. From the same gospel, a hidden truth about the very nature of the kingdom of God is revealed. The Kingdom of God is not communicated or defined at the institutional level, but is realized at the level of individual response and fidelity.
"Hear then the parable of the sower. "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. "The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. "And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty." (Mat 13:18-23)
This Kingdom of God is for the saints, and the saints are those of Israel set apart by loyal recognition of Jesus the Messiah.


evil empires are God's instruments (part 2)

When we look at the big story, we see God's concern with nation-states is actually focused on one nation-state; Israel. Also known as the children of Abraham, Israel finally becomes a people who anticipate the realization of the kingdom of God. We can think of exceptions to this Israel-focus, Jonah's mission to Nineveh is one example. But the motif sustained in that story will fold into God's focus later in the big story. God's focus, and therefore the focus of the big story, is clearly upon the formation, purification, and realization of the perfect kingdom -a kingdom anticipated in old testament Israel.

National -laws, -religion, and government, were all tools of this evil age before the Israel-specific, God-given, versions were provided to The People through Moses.

We recognize that the national law given through Moses has a temporal, provisional, and pedagogical role in the big story (ie Matt.19:7,8). But the national tools 0f this age even when provided by God, fail to produce the perfect nation. This part of the big story brought the wrath of God on the people because of their unfaithfulness.

In Isaiah chapter 10 we can highlight how God uses "evil" nations as a tool in this age.

First we hear God's testimony of displeasure with Israel. "Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey (Isa 10:1-2) !"

God uses Assyria as a tool, as a vessel of wrath, to pour out punishment on Israel. "Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury (Isa 10:5) !"

And yet God still holds Assyria responsible for their imperfection (evil).
"When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. For he says: 'By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I remove the boundaries of peoples, and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones. My hand has found like a nest the wealth of the peoples; and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken, so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing or opened the mouth or chirped.' Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood (Isa 10:12-15) !"

Assyria, like all other nations is not the chosen nation of Israel and they are certainly not Israel's anticipated "Kingdom of God" therefore they are not to be feared, nor are they to be imitated even though they presently exercise a God ordained authority over both, God's chosen and over other peoples of the earth.
"Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: 'O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction (Isa 10:24-25)'."


evil empires are God's instruments (part 1)

First I should mention that the word "evil" is used differently in scripture than the way we might often think of it.

Jesus said "Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? "Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him (Mat 7:9-11)!"

According to Kittle's "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament," the word behind "evil" (poneros) has a range of meaning that includes bad, useless, disadvantageous, detrimental, harmful, troublesome, unserviceable, and defective, as well as the more familiar "morally reprehensible."

The point is that "natural fathers" are called "evil" because of their imperfection. And yet earthly good is received from these evil fathers. similarly, we find the prophetic perspective on national governments to be that they are evil. Yet, people under those governments (Egypt, Babylon, Persia, China, Rome, USA, the modern nation-state called Israel are all examples) receive the "good" of being under a government. In this sense all nation-states are thoroughly evil even if they are not completely evil and yet they are instruments in God's hand.

If our minds become saturated with the prophetic perspective as found in Isaiah, even as Paul's was, then our view on the role of nation-states in contrast to the kingdom of God will "true up."

For that purpose I need to discuss Isaiah ch. 10 and 45:1 in my next entry as a glance at the framework-of-thought in which Romans 12:9-13:13 makes amazingly clear sense.