Ephesians is only 6 chapters long with just over 150 verses that can be read in about 20 minutes but contains so much that D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, an English Bible teacher, preached 232 sermons from it. Many see Ephesians as the most contemporary of all of Paul’s letters. It addresses issues that are currently being asked by and of the church. It really is a letter for today.
The appeal of Ephesians is found in the way in which it presents basic Christian beliefs in an understandable way, focusing on the central truths of our faith, while presenting them in a way that enables us to understand the implications of those truths on everyday living.
Ephesians is a letter of encouragement. A key word is “riches”. Read Ephesians 1:7; 3:8; 1:18 and 3:16. Ephesians shows us the many blessings that can and should be ours in Jesus.
Ephesus was a sinful city but there were Christians who formed a church and they believed it was their responsibility to live out their faith day by day in that sinful place. It was not easy. They had questions about their faith and how they could remain faithful, so Paul wrote them a loving letter that reminded them of the truths that were essential and expectations God has for His church.
The structure of the book is typical of Paul’s writings. Paul presented doctrinal truth in chapters 1-3 and in chapters 4-6 he presented the way that doctrine is supposed to impact how we live.
Read Ephesians 1:1. Paul’s introduction of himself as an “apostle” or literally a “spokesman for Jesus” reminds us that the message of Ephesians is from God’s servant and falls under the heading of an “inspired Word of God.” We are to read and obey the lessons in it.
Ephesians 1:1 goes on to read, “To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:” To the Christians in the 1st century, every believer was considered a “holy person” or “saint.” A saint is literally anyone who by faith has invited Jesus to be his Savior and therefore has become a genuine Christian. Everyday Christians are “saints” in the sense that they have been made holy because of the provision of Jesus. We are made holy in God’s eyes even as we continue to live in a sinful world and even though we fail in our daily walk.
The believers are further called “the faithful in Christ Jesus.” The word “faithful” can be translated two different, but equally true ways. The word can refer to someone who is a believer, that is one who has faith, or it can refer to someone who has proven himself to be faithful to his commitments to Jesus. Maybe the best way to see this is to see it as saying, “To those who have placed their faith in Jesus and are seeking to live faithfully to that commitment.”
Read verse 2. Paul followed the practice of letter writing in his day by beginning with a blessing. Paul, however, changed the normal greeting to reflect the essence of his theology. The Greek greeting was “rejoice!”, while the Jewish greeting was “peace” or the “shalom.” Paul combined the two but replaced “rejoice” with the similar sounding but far richer word for him, “grace.” For Paul, the whole Christian life was centered on God’s grace. One was saved by grace and one lived each day through the grace of God.
The emphasis in Ephesians is on the “peace” Christians can have in a world that knows little real peace. It was not easy being a Christian in Ephesus, just as it is not easy being one in our culture today. Christians were persecuted, which made an already difficult life even more challenging. But Paul’s prayer was that as they lived each day, they would know a peace that can only come from above.
In the Greek, verses 3-14 are one long sentence containing a variety of praise items and detailing how the triune God has blessed us through the ministries of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all of whom are mentioned in these opening verses. The thrust of this long sentence is that God deserves praise.
Ephesians 1:3, begins with “Praise be to God.” In that long sentence Paul called upon God’s people to praise God for who He is and for the many spiritual blessings He has showered upon us.
In verses 4-6 Paul described how God the Father determined to redeem lost humanity. Verses 7-10 detail how our redemption was made possible because Jesus shed His blood. Then in verses 11-14 we have the ministry of the Holy Spirit in sealing believers to identify them as belonging to God and ensuring the promised inheritance that awaits every believer.
In verse 3 Paul declared that God “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Note three important facts in this phrase:
- God has blessed us in the heavenly realms.
- With every spiritual blessing,
- And it is all in Christ.
First Paul noted we have been blessed in the heavenly realms. The phrase “in the heavenly realms” is used by Paul 5 times in this letter (1:3; 20; 2:6; 3:10 and 6:12). Paul used it as a general term for the whole spiritual realm over which Jesus reigns supreme (1:20). In 2:6 Paul wrote that Christians sit with Jesus in the heavenlies. Paul used it in 3:10 to identify it as the place from which God makes known His will for His church. At the end of this letter, Paul wrote that it is in that heavenly realm where spiritual warfare is taking place against satanic forces who have invaded that realm (6:12).
The term heavenly realm reminds us that while we live in a physical world, there is a real spirit world also. It is from that heavenly realm that God blesses us, and Satan attacks us. That is why Paul concluded this letter by describing the armor of God.
Paul also made note that the blessings he was specifically speaking about were spiritual blessings. When we think of God’s blessing on us, we tend to think of the many material blessings we have, from family to housing to daily bread etc. All of those are important to us here and now but none of them has eternal consequences. Paul’s praise was all about the spiritual or that which impacts eternity and reminds us that we should praise God continually for His Grace, for the peace He gives us, for strength at comes each day, for the joy He brings to us and the assurances we have for eternity.
Finally, Paul wrote that everything we have is “in Christ.” That little phrase “in Christ” was tremendously important to Paul because it summed up the source of every blessing. In Christ denotes the truth that every Christian has been united with Jesus in both His death and His resurrection.
A key theme in Ephesians is the praise that belongs to God. God wants us to praise Him and He is worthy of our praise. Read Psalm 96:4.
Praise acknowledges where our blessings come from. James wrote that every good and perfect gift comes from above.
Praise also reminded us that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing and every good gift because God loves us. Life is far more exciting when we remember that we are truly loved by God.
And praise acknowledges our dependency on Him. In the process of recognizing our dependence on Him we will also recognize that He is able to meet our every need. God is all sufficient provider and we can always count on Him to be faithful to His promises.
Paul’s detail of how God has blessed us can be seen in verbs that he used in that long sentence. We read in verse 3 that God has “blessed us.” In verse 4 He “chose us” while in verse 5 He “predestined us for adoption to sonship.” In verse 7 God has provided redemption through the provision of Jesus and then Paul added we have forgiveness of sins. In verse 10 we read that God intends “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”
Paul had a lot to write to the Christians in Ephesus, but he began by reminding them that they have multiple reasons to praise God. That is a challenge each of us should seriously think about this week.