Ephesians in Two Parts
Ephesians is one of the four “prison epistles,” written when Paul was imprisoned in Rome, in 62 A.D. The other three are Colossians, Philemon and Philippians. Messengers were sent to Paul in prison, and he took the opportunity to write back, reminding those receiving his letter of the blessings of the gospel.
The letter to Ephesus was a likely a letter of convenience and circumstance. A slave named Onesimus apparently ran away to Rome from Colosse. Once in Rome, Onesimus met with some followers of Jesus, came to be a believer, and was brought to and introduced to Paul. Paul then sent Tychicus, his “beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord,” with Onesimus to deliver letters to Philemon – the owner of Onesimus – and to the church at Colosse. When they traveled to Colosse, they had to port in or near Ephesus; thus, the letter also to the Ephesians.
Ephesians and Colossians are twin epistles. The unity of the church as the body of Christ is a theme in both letters. Colossians stresses Christ as the head of the church; Ephesians stresses the church as the body of Christ. But this letter emphasizes our identity in Christ, and the contrast between our former way of life and our new life sealed in the Holy Spirit.
(all emphasis added)
In love He predestined us for adoption as children though Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us through His Beloved Son. (1:5-6)
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace, which he lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of His will according to His purpose which he set forth in Christ… to unite all things in him (1:7-10)
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. (1:11-12)
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth – the gospel of your salvation – and believed in him, were sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory. (1:13-14)
God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (2:4-7)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (2:8-10)
Paul describes here the rich blessings we have already received from God through Christ and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We’ve already been forgiven. We possess God’s grace and mercy new each day. We are new creations in Christ. The Spirit gives us wisdom from the Father, reminds us of Jesus’ words, lifts our prayers to Him, and guides us in righteous living as we surrender and trust Him enough to let Him do so. This is not about self-effort or will power; it’s about allowing the Holy Spirit to have His way in you.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. (2:13-16)
Through Christ, we all have access in one Spirit to the Father. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (2:18-22)
The mystery of Christ is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (3:4-6)
Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (4:7)
And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming. (4:11-14)
Although Paul was writing about the unity of first century Jewish and Gentile people, I surmise on the basis of this last set of Scripture we can infer his meaning to include all denominations of Christianity in this century. Thus inferred, isn’t it time we put our differences aside and focus on the words of Jesus? On the standard of Christ? On His two commands to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves? Isn’t it time we put aside our theological differences and focus on the One who sacrificed all to bring us into relationship with the Father, who made it possible for the Spirit to reside in us?
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then, as Christ makes his home in your hearts as you trust in him, your roots of faith will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life that comes from God. (3:14-19)
Next week: The Imperatives