Good morning everyone (or evening depending on your part of the world)! I have been up since 2 a.m. and I’m feelin’ the Spirit, so here I am to blog for the Lord! This is a fine day that the Lord has made, so come along with me as we spend a little time in ancient Ephesus!
The Book of Ephesians is considered The Apostle Paul’s crowning achievement by many Bible scholars. Paul wrote the letter to the church at Ephesus around 60-63 A.D. while imprisoned in Rome. His main purpose for the letter is to teach the believers who they are in Jesus Christ (including assurance of salvation, how to be saved, the power of the Holy Spirit, the promise of God’s covenant, and our relationship with God), explain that Jews and Gentiles are now one in Christ, give them practical advice on how to live a Christian life that pleases God, and he explains the spiritual battle we are in and what we must do to stand strong and be victorious in it. Yeah, it’s quite a letter! I encourage you to read the entire six chapters!
This study will be a bit longer (3,310 words) as I will highlight the key lessons from each chapter as we take a nice Sunday stroll through ancient Ephesus. It is a dream of mine to visit all the places of the Bible! How about you?
Ephesus was the most important city in Asia Minor. According to research done by BibleAtlas.org, it was:
“A city of the Roman province of Asia, near the mouth of the Cayster river, 3 miles from the western coast of Asia Minor, and opposite the island of Samos. With an artificial harbor accessible to the largest ships, and rivaling the harbor at Miletus, standing at the entrance of the valley which reaches far into the interior of Asia Minor, and connected by highways with the chief cities of the province, Ephesus was the most easily accessible city in Asia, both by land and sea. Its location, therefore, favored its religious, political and commercial development, and presented a most advantageous field for the missionary labors of Paul. The city stood upon the sloping sides and at the base of two hills, Prion and Coressus, commanding a beautiful view; its climate was exceptionally fine, and the soil of the valley was unusually fertile.”
According to research done by biblestudy.org:
“Ephesus was the capital and premier city of Asia Minor’s western region (known as proconsular Asia). It was the Athenians who initially colonized the city, which is located near the mouth of the Cayster river (and opposite the island of Samos). It was famous for possessing a Temple dedicated to a pagan goddess named Diana. This pagan shrine is generally considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. For many years during the Roman period the city was considered the second largest populated area of the Roman Empire (the largest being the empire’s capital city of Rome). In the first century B.C. the city had a population of more than 250,000, making it the second largest city in the WORLD.”
Chapter 1: How blessed we are in Jesus!
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
That is a great way to start a letter! Right away Paul wants the believers to realize that they have been given everything they need in Jesus. So have we! We lack nothing when we come to Jesus and we are blessed in the heavenly realms!
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–”
Did you know that? God chose you and adopted you! How cool!
Paul also wants them to understand that they are forgiven and redeemed by the Blood of Jesus, and that freedom came by the grace of God.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”
Paul makes it clear that every believer in Christ has full assurance of their salvation, which is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit!
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.”
Those who believe in Jesus belong to God, and that glorious inheritance is fully secured by the Holy Spirit inside of us! Your salvation is guaranteed! Amen!
Paul ends the chapter with a powerful prayer that I highly recommend praying over yourself and your family! Whole countries need to be praying this!
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
Amen! Yes, please! I would like more of that! Do you understand just how powerful Jesus is and what has been given to us in Him? The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is living inside of us! That one section of Scripture makes it very clear indeed! Pray that prayer and God will answer it!
Chapter 2: Saved by Grace and One in Christ
“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 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.”
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Paul wants to be sure the believers understand very clearly that their salvation is a gift from God and comes only by His grace through faith in Jesus. He is very clear that we cannot earn salvation by our own merit. This is the foundation of the Christian faith! We are sinners. We cannot work our way into Heaven. No amount of meditation or good works are ever going to get you to Heaven. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
One of the most important truths Paul stresses to the new believers is that they are now included in the same promise of God’s covenant alongside the Jews. He helps them understand that Jews and Gentiles are now one in Christ and that salvation is for all people! This was crucial because up until Jesus came, the Israelites were the only people included and that would have been everyone’s understanding at that time. Jews and Gentiles did not mingle and that was well known.
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)–remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”
Salvation in Jesus Christ is not only for Israel. It is for the entire world! The covenant of Isaac and the promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him was fulfilled in Jesus! That covenant of forgiveness and salvation in Christ is for every single person on the earth!
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”
There is no Jew or Gentile in Jesus Christ. We are all one and at peace in Him! Amen!
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household..”
Chapter 3: Further explanation of inclusion of Gentiles & Our relationship with God
In chapter 3, Paul continues his explanation of how the Gentiles are included into the same promise as Israel.
“In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”
Paul also gives a short and powerful description of the new relationship God offers all people to have with Him!
“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
That is an incredible offer from God! The veil was torn when Jesus died. There is no longer any separation between God and people. He wants to have a deep relationship with us! Through Jesus, we can approach Him freely with confidence that He will accept us in love. He destroyed the barrier between Jews and Gentiles and we are all just human beings in need of God’s grace!
Paul ends chapter 3 in verses 14-21 with a powerful prayer and reminder of God’s power. I highly recommend praying that too! I will post those verses at the end.
Chapter 4: Unity and Putting on the New Self
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
The promise of salvation through Jesus Christ is for everyone regardless of culture or status. Once you belong to Jesus you are given the Holy Spirit and there is unity among all believers through that Spirit! Very cool!
Paul also explains how God is making us new, and gives some detailed instructions on how to live for God.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
When you accept Jesus, God washes away your old self and He makes you brand new! That is what all people truly want. To be washed clean and made new by God is the longing of every soul!
Chapter 5: Be imitators of God
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
In chapter 5, Paul stresses the importance of holy living.
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
Paul also gives the most important instruction ever given to wives and husbands. If we love each other and serve each other in the way Paul describes, our marriages will be at peace in God’s order. After 17 years of marriage, that is easier said than done, but if we loved each other in this way every day, just think how powerful that would be!
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”
Now that might make some women mad, but wait until you read the next part about how men are supposed to love their wives! Being the husband comes with a great responsibility that we are held accountable to God for. Check this out:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
Can you imagine how great our marriages would be if we loved each other like that every day?! That is not a picture of an abusive husband dominating a submissive wife. No! That is a picture of mutual love and respect that is focused solely on Christ. Amen!
“”For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. However each of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Chapter 6: Advice to Parents & Kids, The Spiritual War, and the Armor of God
Paul covers it all in this letter doesn’t he?! This is the last chapter in the letter and it contains some of those most famous and most quoted verses in the whole Bible.
Paul begins by giving very wise advice to families with kids.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise–“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Our homes would be much more peaceful if we lived that way every day!
Paul ends his letter by explaining the ancient battle that we are engaged in. In order to live victoriously on this earth, you need the power of the Holy Spirit. The battle we are in is not physical, it is spiritual. Every day it is spiritual! We cannot fight the dark powers of this world on our own. We desperately need Jesus!
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Folks, I know that is true! I lived it along with my mother, father, and sister for 4 years (’92-’96) as we suffered torment by a demon living in the house we moved into! There are most definitely spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, and only Jesus can deliver you from it!
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
That is how you get the victory over the evil that lives on this earth! With faith in Jesus Christ you can stop all of the evil one’s attacks! That is real power people!
“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”
I hope you enjoyed your visit to ancient Ephesus by way of Paul’s letter! I pray God’s Word takes root deeply in us and I pray He may give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know Him better!
Grace and peace to you all!
“For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”