Of Bok Fridays and Ephesians

A few Sundays ago, a guest preacher delivered a homily (I like that word; it has more class and specificity than merely a ‘message’) at our home church, regarding unity, specifically the unity of Believers.


The idea of unity has stood out to me of late, how various people espouse unity but its merely a front, a cute idea without any meat. Recently the Springboks played the Canucks in the Rugby World Cup taking place right now in Japan, and on this particular work day, the televisions in the production area were on (with sound on low) showing the Springbok game live.


The singing of the national anthem by South Africans asserted that “united we shall stand…” however it suddenly occurred to me that I was listening to sentimentality instead of fact. Hardly a day goes by when there is not some controversy in the media about happenings in our country, and I work and live among a large contingent of local South Africans who wholeheartedly and chauvinistically support the New Zealand national team, especially when they are playing against the Springboks.


Bok Fridays


The apartheid government was no less hypocritical than the lyrics to the national anthem, with a coat-of-arms that proclaimed ‘Unitate Ex Vires’ (strength in unity). Groups of people are seldom truly united. Its different with the Bride of Christ.


Or at least there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be.


And so, some days later I found myself in the rare quiet of a morning reading through the passage in Ephesians:




Believers are united to each other because we are primarily united to Him. Reading through the passage, certain words/ideas recur: that God the Father has put thought and consideration into the church and the Believers who make up the Body.


Paul insists that being Believers is strongly and definitively part of his will:


  • Paul was an apostle by the will of God (1:1)
  • Believers are predestined to be adopted by his will (1:5)
  • His mysterious will is revealed, to unify creation (things in heaven and earth) under Christ (1:9 – 10)
  • He works out everything in conformity with his will (1:11)


The Father’s foreknowledge of and grace for us is seen:


  • He predestined us in love to be adopted (1:4 – 5)
  • He chose us before the creation of the world (1:4)
  • He gave us his grace freely (1:6)
  • In fact He lavished it on us (1:8)
  • We were predestined according to his plan (1:11) and his plan will work out


His mighty power selected us, saves us and keeps us:


  • When we believed we were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit (1:13 – 14), a guarantee of our inheritance
  • His power to fulfil our hope is the same resurrection power that raised Christ (1:19 – 20)


The fact that you are a believer or may one day be, can be attributed to the will of God. God foreknowing those who are His, He sets our destiny, an eternal appointment to take our lives in His direction. Its a sure thing because the power over death (resurrection power) is at life in the Christian, and in this we share a unity that the world cannot understand.


The Springboks have won the Webb-Ellis trophy twice in its 32 year history. As a trophy, it is coveted. Any rugby nation would want to win it and retain the trophy every four years. For the supporters in a rugby nation, either a win or a loss binds them together in misery or elation.


Paul’s letter to the Philippians paints the picture that we as believers are pressing on to a prize, although it’s not a trophy or recognition:




The prize is participating in the race. The goal is Christ.


Since the Springboks last won the Rugby World Cup in 2007 under the coaching of Jake White, the innocence for me has been lost. There’s too much politics involved in sport. Too many selfish personalities, different agendas. My relationship with the Springboks is complicated. Honestly, I also have an affinity for the Home Unions.


I’ve found that the unity amongst believers is more significant and authentic than support for a national rugby team. I don’t mind Bok Fridays. But I love Sunday mornings more.


In Romans 5, Paul writes about Adam and puts into context the human story and where it all went wrong for us.


By way of confession, I rarely consider Adam and the fall of man, at least in the same way that I consider historical events to which I was a witness.


Not that I have been a witness to many fundamental moments in world history, but mostly personal ones in my own history.


Although I wasn’t there in New York on 11 September 2001, in a very real sense, I was along with millions of people who were witnessing events in real time. An event that would re-shape geo-politics that would re-shape how we travel and how we think about the nexus of politics and religion.


Many of us were as good as eyewitnesses to 9/11, a moment in time that drew us all together, an event that formed the creation of a zeitgeist as absolutely as the Kennedy assassination defined the 1960’s.


In the years since then, we have seen the explosion of the internet and its uses, driverless cars, innovations in space travel, the ubiquity of social media. And into this context, I want you to think about Adam, as Paul did the Romans as well as the church today.


You may wonder what the significance of this is. It’s the foundation that explains why we are the way we are, and it is in light of this that the cross is so significant and makes sense.


Paul accepts the account of Genesis 3 and the fall of man as a historical fact, an event that actually took place.

Aardappels (potatoes); neither the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, nor the ‘root of all evil’, just un-made French fries

And like 11 September 2001, I was as good as there. So were all of us. My genetic make-up is infused with my relationship to Adam and to his sin.


12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”




Is it fair that we who have been born after Adam bear the penalty for his actions? You may not think so, but consider that if Adam’s sin could trickle through to us and infect us, the righteousness of Christ could be introduced to us and take away that sin.


Engage in a thought-experiment: You stand on your own, not associated with Adam at all, a free moral agent who can sin, or not sin in the garden. How long would you or I have lasted in state of sinlessness? Adam and Eve had every benefit and still managed to find themselves in a mess.


You didn’t make the rules, you didn’t establish the principles that govern righteousness and sin. Adam and Eve fell, and that present fact is so deeply ingrained in our human experience that we no longer consider it consciously.


One sin was all it took to condemn all humanity going forward. Paul writes ‘one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people’ (5:18, NIV).


One sin. All humanity. That’s a big deal, that’s how serious sin is.


Paul compares and contrasts Adam and Christ. Both were sinless from the beginning and both performed acts that had consequences for all mankind:


15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!




Adam’s sin was tragic but Christ’s sacrifice (and gift of righteousness) was stupendous. As completely as one sin infected the human race, it was to a greater degree that one act of righteousness by Christ brought grace to man.


One righteous act, that’s how significant it was. To wipe out sin, centuries and millennia of it.


Paul compares and contrasts Adam and Christ. Both were sinless from the beginning and both performed acts that had consequences for all mankind. This is what is called a ‘Federal Theology’. A federal state means that representatives speak for and represent the people that choose them.


The natural man is born in sin, sins, chooses yet more sin and in the default setting, is represented by Adam. We are born in Adam. We are born-again in Christ.


Adam represents us whether we choose that he does or not. The only alternative choice we have is Christ.


Although I wasn’t there in New York on 11 September 2001, in a very real sense, I was along with millions of people who were witnessing events in real time. And like 11 September 2001, I was as good as there when Adam and Eve sinned.


In a very real sense, I was also there in Jerusalem when Christ was crucified. A historical event, a true event that I ‘witnessed’ and more importantly, took part in. I go to the foot of the cross often.


The gift is greater than the trespass. We are all familiar with sin and the consequences, and the fear of death. Paul writes that even more certain and overwhelming than sin and death is the grace to ‘reign in life’ for the Believer.




If the reality of sin is pressing on us, the reality of life through Him is even more present.


Acknowledgement to:


Bible Commentary

In perspective

When I set out to study through the book of Romans, I began with the idea that I don’t merely want to know more about God, but to know Him more and be changed in the process.


There are plenty of people who know a lot more about God in a theological sense than I do, but that might not mean a thing in the grand scheme. Knowing what is true and internalising it is not the same thing. Truth is like a tool…if we don’t pick it up and use it, it’s merely theoretical and of little use.


On a practical level, the question is there: of what use is theology? Are there any practical uses for knowing Scripture on a more than basic level? If I look at the epistles of Paul the answer is unequivocal: Yes, theology is practical and applicable.


Paul unpacks deep theological truths in his epistles before rounding them out with practical steps to walk in.


In a parting word to the Believers in Philippi, Paul writes:


“8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (NIV)




To emphasise Paul, the things that he has taught the Philippians, he tells them to ‘put it into practice’. And in a real sense, the peace of God would be with them as they do so.


This passage also illuminates the idea of perspective; Paul urges the Believer to think about what is right, noble, pure, the things of God. A large part of operating as a Christian involves the life of the mind.




Speaking personally, the most fundamental change that theology brings is to change my perspective. I read this week of the final phase of a court case in the State of Texas.




The court heard that a police officer Amber Guyger entered what she thought was her apartment after a 14-hour shift and being the wrong floor, she encountered her upstairs neighbour, Botham Jean, who she supposed to be an intruder in her apartment, drew her weapon and fatally shot him.


A tragedy, precisely because it was avoidable if things had panned out differently. Found guilty of murder, Guyger was due to be sentenced in the court room of Judge Tammy Kemp.


The victim’s brother spoke at the hearing, extending his forgiveness, urging her to turn to Christ and asking the judge for permission to hug her, which the judge allowed to gasps and sobbing from the court gallery. The judge also withdrew to her chambers to fetch her personal Bible and present it to Guyger, along with a hug.


Stunning! How awesome the perspective on display, the theology applied to a tragic situation which was supremely practical, life-affirming and rooted in forgiveness.