Editor's note: Erik was unable to finish the next article in his Ephesians series this month due to a full ministry schedule, so we are republishing his introduction to the book. Originally published in Disciple, August 2013.
Ephesians is certainly one of the greatest New Testament letters written to the Church. The Apostle Paul writes to the believers in Ephesus, giving a beautiful picture of our salvation in Christ and walk of faith as the Body of Christ. Grand themes such as our election, grace, faith, the bringing together of both Jew and Gentile believers into one body, unity, the vastness of Christ's love, and the greatness of His strength in the believer, are all elements woven together within this letter.
Paul writes this letter in two parts. The first three chapters deal with the reality of believers' identity in Christ; the last three chapters are an exhortation of those "in Christ" to walk in a manner worthy of the calling being empowered by Christ. Paul gives us an overview of his letter immediately in his introduction, "to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus" (1:1).
In the first three chapters, Paul expounds on who the saint is "in Christ." Paul details what the Father has done on our behalf calling us into relationship with Him through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul clearly explains our salvation as being of the Father, who is blessed (1:3) and "who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." We have been called, chosen "before the foundation of the world" in order that we would walk with Him in holiness and in love (1:4). Paul establishes that the believer's salvation is not by any effort or work but rather is a receiving of the gift of Christ's salvation through belief (vs. 13).
Paul makes very clear Christ's headship over the church. God the Father has placed Christ in authority over all things including the church (1:22). In writing to believers, Paul reminds them how at one time we had been without Christ. In chapter 2, he continues to expound on the theme of Salvation by grace through faith encouraging believers to remember what we used to be apart from the Lord and now what He has declared us to be "in Christ."
Paul, in writing to mainly Gentile believers, reminds the Ephesian believers how they were separate even from the covenants of promise, having no hope. He makes clear that both Jews and Gentiles are now one in Christ through faith revealing a profound mystery. Jew and Gentile believers are being built into a holy temple in the Lord. Paul emphasizes this truth through chapter 3 and concludes this portion of his letter with one of the great Scriptural doxologies. Christ, whom we are saved by as a result of His doing, whom we are blessed with, whom we are loved by and who is building us into a holy temple, is able to do far more than we could ask or think, deserving all glory.
In the final three chapters, Paul directs his attention to imploring the saints "to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called" (4:1). As a result of who we are, saints-called out ones-who are now "in Christ," Paul exhorts and commands believers to walk empowered by Christ and in His love. Due to the salvation that we have received as believers by grace through faith, we are now indwelt by Christ Himself and have the opportunity of experiencing Christ in action in and through our lives as we submit to Him.
Paul immediately addresses relationship themes within the Church such as unity and love for one another. He also gives practical commands concerning work, speech, and attitudes. As a result of our new nature, Paul consistently reminds us of the difference from what we used to be outside of Christ to what we have been called to be in Christ. This certainly carries over into his directives concerning wives, husbands, children, slaves, and masters. Families and those either in authority or under authority have specific God-ordained roles, which, once embraced, should be recognized as ultimately service rendered to Christ. Paul also acknowledges the spiritual battle we are in as believers reminding us of the presence of Christ, who is our armor, and encourages saints to be engaged in the battle through prayer.
The Church, the Body of Christ, reflects the very life of Christ. Through our sonship, having "been brought near by the blood of Christ" (2:13), and into a relationship with the Lord and one another, the Church now has the privilege of not only experiencing the Lord individually and corporately, but also reflecting the glory of Christ in the midst of the world's spiritual darkness.
Paul's final words to the Ephesian believers are, "Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love" (6:24). It is interesting to note that only about 40 years after Paul penned these words to this church, the Lord tells John to write to the Ephesians that they had left their first love (Rev. 2:4). As we take a look at this amazing letter to the Church, let us remember that it is the Lord Himself who has called us out of darkness, now empowering us to walk in such a way as to glorify Him in all that we do and say.
Erik Christensen is senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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