Like lining up dominoes for a dynamic display, more than ten times in the book of Ephesians Paul explains his vision for them with the phrase, “so that”, “also that”, “in order that”. He asks our glorious Father to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (1:17). Paul clearly expects that one who knows the wisdom and revelation of God will absolutely know Him better. Just a cursory reading of God’s word will inform us that God’s wisdom and revelation in us is not satisfied simply by our intellectually knowing Him better. Even here, wisdom is not the same thing as knowledge. It is the behavior and activity informed by knowledge. If we really know Him (better and better) we will serve Him and accomplish His will (better and better).
Paul moves to this (1:18) when he prays that eyes of the Ephesians heart may be enlightened. Again, Paul expects dominoes to fall. For when the eyes of their heart (singular use here supposes that Paul is speaking to the “body” of Christ in Ephesus – they corporately have one heart with which to see God’s wisdom and revelation.) are enlightened, they will then be able to know the (1) hope to which He has called them, (2) the riches of His glorious inheritance, and (3) His incomparably great power for believers.
Don’t miss this. Without the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, knowing God better doesn’t happen. Without“heart enlightenment”, knowing His hope, His riches, and His power are merely academic exercises. If the first domino doesn’t fall, the others won’t fall.
Paul presses more deeply into the domino displays. He tells the Ephesians that they have been saved by grace and raised up with Christ. The result of that decision is that God, in the coming ages (that would be you and me), would be shown the incomparable riches of His grace. We (you and me) had/have the opportunity to know and accept Christ because the Ephesians (and others) acted on the hope, riches, enlightenment, and power they received from Him. We should so we act that those coming after us have the same opportunity.
More “So That” Reasons…
- 2:9 Grace…so that no one can boast
- 3:16f – Indwelling Spirit… so that Christ may indwell us
- 4:12 – The gifts of prophets, pastors, etc…. so that the body of Christ may be built up
- 6:11, 13 – Fully armored… so that we can stand against the devil’s schemes
- 6:19 – Spirit provided words… so that Paul can fully make known the mystery of the Gospel.
“So that” thinking is generally strategic thinking. It is the lining up of ideas and resources to accomplish a future purpose or avoid a future problem. It reflects a thoughtful understanding of cause and effect relationships. “So that” thinking incorporates vision, alignment, and flow (an understanding of how people, ideas, and resources move from one stage to another).
In Ephesians 4, Paul reverses his gaze. He contrasts the Godly life he expects of the Ephesians with the backwards thinking of Gentiles. They are darkened in their understanding BECAUSE of the ignorance in them, which is due to (BECAUSE OF) the hardening of their hearts. Hard heart begets ignorance which leads to dark understanding (4:18-19). In short, you can look at the lives, lifestyles, and behavior of Gentiles and you can determine the answer to “Why?” by looking backwards at what has led to this point in time. “Because” thinking generally looks at the past and present. It often sounds like excuses rather than purpose. It lends itself to a sense of “we have arrived, and we like where we are”.
In Mark 7:15-16, Jesus clears up the misconception the Jews had of legalistic defilement. “…it is what comes out of a man that defiles him.” This teaching supports Proverbs 23:7 – “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” Are you a “because” leader or a “so that” leader? How do you think of yourself… in your heart? Why do you do what you do? Why do you attend the church you do? Why does your church focus on the music style they do in worship? Why does your church do Sunday School or small groups? Just imagine the difference between “Because” and “So That” answers. Imagine even more, if the members of your church would be in agreement with the “so that”. And even more, if that agreement would be in alignment with your church’s purpose.
Here’s an example: Take the church whose purpose is to “Connect people to people, people to Christ, and people to the call”. Think about the health of this church if the leaders and majority of members were to answer the question, “Why are you at this church?” with an answer like:
- “Because God called me here.”
- “Because I like the preaching.”
- “Because I like the music.”
- “Because I like the youth ministry.”
- “Because I like the children’s ministry.”
- “Because this is my family’s church.”
Can you sense how temporary the future is for this church? Because the scripture is true, these six answers speak to the “heart thoughts” of various leaders and members, even though the heart thoughts don’t agree with the purpose statement of the church. All of the answers focus on the past and present. There is nothing strategic or future in these thoughts.
To make this more clear, let’s briefly examine the first, “Biblical” response: Because God called me here.
So what? That happened in the past, you were here then, and you’re here now, but WHY did God call you here. If there is no other answer, then we are left with, “God called me here because He called me here.” How much better for the health and future of the church if the leaders, with conviction, can say: “He called me here so that…”.
Why does your church do Sunday School? Having learned the “secret” of the correct answer, one may say, “So that we can make disciples.” To which a “so that” leaning church would have an answer for the next question, “Why are you making disciples?” Is it BECAUSE Jesus said to? If that is the case, then we’re back at the same kind of rationale: we’re making disciples so that we can make disciples.
But there is a better way. Think about the church where the leaders and majority of members answer the question like this:
So that I can help connect people to people, people to Christ, and people to the call.
Do you see the future in that answer? Do you see the unity in that answer? Do you see how this lends itself to effective strategies? Do you see how the members of the body are motivated to know and understand why God has placed them there (just as He desired)?
It truth, a “because” answer can be strategic, and a “so that” answer can be an excuse. But strive to be strategic. Never believe that you have arrived. Paul says it this way,
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:12-14).
(You may also want to read Making Pie for a little different look at this thing we call disciplemaking.)