Paul’s Letter to the Church in Ephesus…
The church in Ephesus had a special place in Paul’s heart.
Here’s the backstory…
Scripture tells us more about the Ephesian church community than any other group of believers, giving us our best glimpse of a first-century congregation.
Paul spent three years in Ephesus during his third missionary journey, and on his way back to Jerusalem he met with the elders of the Ephesian church to encourage them.
He sent Timothy, his beloved partner in ministry, to serve the church in Ephesus.
Overview of Ephesians
Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and was a major thoroughfare in the Roman Empire.
Its location made it a multicultural, cosmopolitan city, bustling with activity and influence.
Paul visited Ephesus on his second missionary journey and witnessed the birth of the church in that region.
He then returned on his third missionary journey and spent three years working to establish the church (Ac 18:18–21; 19:1–41).
God used the inhabitants’ spiritual fervor and the strategic location of the city to make the church a center for evangelism and mission to the surrounding region (Ac 19:18–20).
Upon leaving, Paul warned the church that fierce wolves would attack the church from inside and outside (Ac 20:17–38).
Years later, Paul wrote from a Roman prison to his beloved friends in Ephesus.
He wanted to remind them of the gospel he proclaimed, spur them on to perseverance in the face of suffering and encourage them with the blessed hope the gospel brings.
There is evidence to suggest that Ephesians may also have been a circular letter that was used to instruct and encourage believers in the broader world.
The first three chapters explore many of the central doctrines of the Christian faith to show that Jesus’ work brings peace with God and peace with others.
What’s in It for Us?
Eph 1:11 “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.”
Obedience to Jesus can be costly. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
But at some point it is fair to ask how we benefit from following Christ.
The Lord’s first followers raised this question.
“We have left all and followed You,” Peter told Jesus. “Therefore what shall we have?” (Matt. 19:27).
Paul partially answers this question in Ephesians 1:3–14.
Much of what God promises to His followers will be given in the future, in another mode of existence.
Specifically, Paul mentions our “inheritance” (Eph. 1:11), which means that all that God has prepared for Christ in “the fullness of the times” (1:10) is going to be ours as well (Rom. 8:15–17).
This includes salvation from sin (Heb. 1:14), everlasting life (Matt. 19:29), and the kingdom of God (25:34).
As hard as it might be to grasp, we will inherit God Himself.
But much more will happen now!
We find love, joy, peace, kindness and more.
We experience a depth of human relationships as God created them to be.
We find a bit of heaven on earth when we work according to “Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
In these ways and more God lets us glimpse that inconceivable future.
The Holy Spirit lives inside us as a guarantee of things to come (Eph. 1:14).
He “seals” us, assuring that we remain in God’s family and do not lose our inheritance.
And as we move toward our day of inheritance, He works in every part of our lives to make us like Christ.
Paul describes those real-world changes in Ephesians 4–6.
Stand Together in Grace
Eph 2:1-3 “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
The few Gentiles in the church during the earliest days of Christianity were often scorned by Jewish believers who found it hard to accept that God had offered salvation to non-Jews.
But Gentiles composed the majority of the church in Ephesus (see Acts 19:8–41).
The Book of Ephesians details the new life that Christ gave to Gentiles:
Gentiles were . . .
dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1, 5).
children of wrath (2:3).
without Christ (Eph. 2:12).
aliens from the commonwealth of Israel (2:12).
strangers from the covenants of promise (2:12).
without hope and without God in the world (2:12).
far from God (Eph. 2:17).
strangers and foreigners (Eph. 2:19).
God has . . .
made them alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:1, 5).
loved them (2:4).
raised them up (2:6).
seated them with Christ (2:6).
made them right with God by grace through faith (2:8, 9).
appointed them to do good works (2:10).
brought them near by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13).
provided access to Himself (Eph. 2:18).
made them fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19).
built them into a holy temple, or dwelling place, of God (2:21, 22).
God did not give these privileges to Gentiles separately from Jews but along with them (Eph. 2:5, 6, 21, 22; 4:16).
God has torn down the “wall of separation” that divided these groups in order to create a unified body (2:14–16).
These principles were immediately relevant to Jews and Gentiles, but they matter wherever Christians encounter cultural diversity.
Ephesians challenges us to see past our differences and stand together in grace.
We are to “[bear] with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:2, 3).
God’s Power Manifest in the Salvation of Gentiles and Jews (2:1–10)
2:1 The chapter break should not obscure the vital connection between the latter part of chapter 1 and the verses that follow.
In chapter 1 we watched the mighty power of God as it raised Christ from the grave and crowned Him with glory and honor.
Now we see how that same power has worked in our own lives, raising us from spiritual death and seating us in Christ in the heavenlies.
This passage resembles the first chapter of Genesis.
In each we have:
(1) a scene of desolation, chaos, and ruin (Gen. 1:2a; Eph. 2:1–3);
(2) the introduction of divine power (Gen. 1:2b; Eph. 2:4);
(3) the creation of new life (Gen. 1:3–31; Eph. 2:5–22).
When Ephesians 2 opens, we are spiritual corpses in death valley.
When it closes, we are not only seated in Christ in the heavenlies; we form a habitation of God through the Spirit.
In between we have the mighty miracle that brought about this remarkable transformation.
The first ten verses of chapter 2 describe God’s power in the salvation of Gentiles and Jews.
No Cinderella ever advanced from such rags to such riches!
In verses 1 and 2 Paul reminds his Gentile readers that before their conversion they were dead, depraved, diabolical, and disobedient.
They were spiritually dead as a result of their trespasses and sins.
This means they were lifeless toward God.
They had no vital contact with Him.
They lived as if He did not exist.
The cause of death was trespasses and sins.
Sins are any form of wrongdoing, whether consciously committed or not, and thoughts, words, or deeds which fall short of God’s perfection.
Trespasses are sins which are committed in open violation of a known law.
In a wider sense they may also include any form of false steps or blunders.
2:2 The Ephesians had been depraved as well as dead.
They walked according to the course of this world.
They conformed to the spirit of this age.
They indulged in the sins of the times.
The world has a mold into which it pours its devotees.
It is a mold of deceit, immorality, ungodliness, selfishness, violence, and rebellion.
In a word, it is a mold of depravity.
That is what the Ephesians had been like.
Not only so, their behavior was diabolical.
They followed the example of the devil, the prince of the power of the air.
They were led around by the chief ruler of evil spirits, whose realm is the atmosphere.
They were willingly obedient to the god of this age.
This explains why the unconverted often stoop to vile forms of behavior lower than that of animals.
Finally, they were disobedient, walking according to the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.
All unsaved people are sons of disobedience in the sense that they are characterized by disobedience to God.
They are energized by Satan and are therefore disposed to defy, dishonor, and disobey the Lord.
2:3 Paul’s switch of the personal pronoun from you to we indicates he is now speaking primarily of Jewish believers (although what he says is also true of everyone before conversion).
Three words describe their status: carnal, corrupt, and condemned.
Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh.
It was among the sons of disobedience that Paul and his fellow Christians also walked prior to their new birth.
Their life was carnal, concerned only with the gratification of fleshly desires and appetites.
Paul himself had lived an outwardly moral life on the whole, but now he realized how self-centered it was.
And what he was in himself was a lot worse than anything he had ever done.
The unconverted Jews were also corrupt, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.
This indicates an abandonment to every natural desire.
Desires of the flesh and of the mind may range all the way from legitimate appetites to various forms of immorality and perversion; here the emphasis is probably on the grosser sins.
And notice, Paul refers to sins of thought as well as to sinful acts.
This is Paul’s final description of the unsaved Jews: they were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
This means they had a natural predisposition to anger, malice, bitterness, and hot temper.
They shared this with the rest of mankind.
Of course, it is also true that they are under the wrath of God.
They are appointed to death and judgment.
Notice that man’s three enemies are mentioned in verses 2 and 3:
the world (v. 2), the devil (v. 2), and the flesh (v. 3).
2:4 The words “But God” form one of the most significant, eloquent, and inspiring transitions in all literature.
They indicate that a stupendous change has taken place.
It is a change from the doom and despair of the valley of death to the unspeakable delights of the kingdom of the Son of God’s love.
The Author of the change is God Himself.
No one else could have done it, and no one else would have done it.
One characteristic of this blessed One is that He is rich in mercy.
He shows mercy to us by not treating us the way we deserve to be treated (Ps. 103:10).
“Though it has been expended by Him for six millennia, and myriads and myriads have been partakers of it, it is still an unexhausted mine of wealth,” as Eadie remarks.
The reason for His intervention is given in the words because of His great love with which He loved us.
His love is great because He is its source.
Just as the greatness of a giver casts an aura of greatness on his gift, so the surpassing excellence of God adds superlative luster to His love.
It is greater to be loved by the mighty Sovereign of the universe, for instance, than by a fellow human being.
God’s love is great because of the price He paid.
Love sent the Lord Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, to die for us in agony at Calvary.
God’s love is great because of the unsearchable riches it showers on its objects.
2:5 And God’s love is great because of the extreme unworthiness and unloveliness of the persons loved.
We were dead in trespasses. We were enemies of God. We were destitute and degraded.
He loved us in spite of it all.
As a result of God’s love for us, and as a result of the redeeming work of Christ, we have been:
(1) made alive together with Christ;
(2) raised up with Him;
(3) seated in Him.
These expressions describe our spiritual position as a result of our union with Him.
He acted as our Representative—not only for us, but as us.
Therefore when He died, we died.
When He was buried, we were buried.
When He was made alive, raised, and seated in the heavenlies, so were we.
All the benefits of His sacrificial work are enjoyed by us because of our link with Him.
To be made alive together with Him means that converted Jews and converted Gentiles are now associated with Him in newness of life.
The same power that gave Jesus resurrection life has given it to us also.
The marvel of this causes Paul to interrupt his train of thought and exclaim,
By grace you have been saved.
He is overwhelmed by the fathomless favor which God has shown to those who deserved the very opposite.
That is grace!
Mercy means we do not get the punishment we deserve.
Grace means we do get the salvation we do not deserve.
We get it as a gift, not as something we earn.
The grace of God lies at the heart of Paul’s letter (Eph 2:8–9).
This grace saves God’s people apart from their works so that, through salvation, God gets all the glory.
Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
Wednesday, August 03
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.”
— Ephesians 2:4-5
In a scene from the 1987 movie, The Princess Bride, Inigo and Fezzig bring their friend Wesley to Miracle Max. They believe Wesley is dead, and they hope Max can bring him back to life.
Max informs them that Wesley is only “mostly dead.” So there is hope that he can be cured!
Isn’t that similar to how we see our relationship with God?
We don’t think we are that bad off; we might be “mostly dead,” but all we need is a simple cure so we can go about the work of pleasing God.
Scripture tells us differently: spiritually we are dead, as dead as the son of the widow from Nain.
In our own strength, we are helpless.
Death is the ultimate disability, isn’t it?
In asking the question, how does God view disability? We are asking something of utmost importance because we are all disabled before a holy God.
Luke answers our question. He says that God looks with compassion on those who are spiritually dead.
He brings them to life! We can’t do this on our own.
We experience new life when we trust Jesus as our Savior. Will you trust Him today?
Come join the Adventure!