Paul spent a long season in Ephesus ministering to the churches. Later he wrote them a letter while he was imprisoned in Rome, elaborating on the revelation that had been unfolded to him about the nature of Christ’s body, the church.
The superlatives in the first two chapters alone give you a sense of his excitement about this mystery. A mystery in the Biblical sense is something that God has to reveal because it was hidden to people because of their (our) limited understanding.
It’s not that God was holding back on his people, but like a good parent, some things have to be learned by experience before a child can catch on. Some things in the Christian faith are still going to be mysteries until we see Christ face to face. Our confidence rests in the holy and loving character of God, the finished work of Christ on the cross, and the witness of the Holy Spirit. We depend on the authority of Scripture to teach and guide us. We are not left in the dark!
Ephesians begins with Paul’s excitement that the mystery of the church has been revealed. “In Him (Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which he made abound to us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which he purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him” (Ephesians 1:7-10).
Paul elaborates further about the mystery revealed to him and to the apostles and prophets of the new church “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:5-6). It was revealed to Abraham that his seed would be a blessing to all nations, but putting it all together didn’t come easily. By the Holy Spirit, God has made it clear that we are indeed one family.
Paul starts an amazing prayer in Ephesians 3:14-15: “For this reason [this means you need to read the previous chapters!] I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named…” [You need to read the rest of Ephesians 3 to soak in his superlative prayer!]
My focus in this verse is the Name. All of God’s family – in heaven and on earth – carry the name of God who created them. Men and women were created in his image. Christ has purchased us and removed our guilt by offering his own blood to restore us to a place as sons and heirs of God.
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him, that we may be glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17).
The angels who are ministering spirits and servants are called at times “sons of God”. Lucifer (Satan) and the fallen angels have already opted out. Otherwise, God has promised to redeem ALL of his creation. I read John 3:16 with a wider lens now: “For God so loved the world…” that is, all of his creation. The “whosoever” in the phrase that follows obviously refers to humans who must choose to believe as God reveals himself. However, God’s redemption is applied to the rest of God’s creation. “The creation itself will also be delivered from the bondage of corruption [decay] into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
Who then are the children of God who will display this glorious liberty and glorify the Father now and in heaven?
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Paul appeals to the Ephesians to walk like Christ in love and humility, with gentleness and patience, guarding the unity of God’s family. He echoes Jesus’ final prayer in John 17, a High Priestly prayer that His disciples will be one, just as He and the Father are one.
You will see that I honor God’s laborers in many “streams” in the family of God. After a journey through various churches and traditions, from Catholic to Pentecostal, I am a minister in the Wesleyan Church. I have written about faithful Christ followers in my family who are Catholic. I mention a local Evangelical Free Church (where I worship)and a Baptist Church below. I will refer to a blog from a United Methodist pastor. In the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition I think that makes us cousins. What matters is that we are fellow Christ followers. Yes, I know that other things matter, but the foundation of the unity Christ is looking for is that we love and honor one another.
Paul will continue in Ephesians to describe the practical walk of Christians as we grow to maturity. He will describe how we are to stand in the battle against Satan and the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:10-20). Our greatest weapon is love, and the offensive weapon in the armor of God is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17).
If we are to guard our families and God’s family, we need to follow these instructions wholeheartedly. What is the best way to equip yourself with this sword?
You can memorize your favorite Scriptures!
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians has long been one of my favorite passages, to the point that I memorized chapters 1 and 2 some twenty years ago. Difficulties with cognitive function in multiple sclerosis left me at times grieving that I could not even recall the words to Psalm 23 as I lay in bed like a lump. The Lord restored much of that cognitive loss and I have worked diligently to commit the Word to memory again. (Note to self: I need to work on Ephesians again.)
Grace EV Free Church in La Mirada, CA is using “Fighter Verses” from John Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist Church to corporately commit key Scriptures to memory as a congregation (www.FighterVerses.com). The Fighter Verse app from the iTunes App store or Android marketplace can be downloaded to your smart phone. Since I am a new iPhone user it’s on my new toy (um, phone) and I love the extra memorization helps (sing the verse, quizzes, etc.)
Another WordPress blogger posted helpful memorization tricks that he uses for large passages of Scripture. See Teddy Ray’s (http://teddyray.com) post on Feb 9, 2013 under Catechesis: How to memorize lots of Scripture. It is an inspiring exhortation about the why and how of Scripture memory.
If you want an accountability partner for what may be for you a new spiritual discipline, please write to me!