Ephesians 5:10-14, Carry the Light

10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 disclosure

“Awake, O sleeper,
    rise up from the dead,
    and Christ will give you light.”

Eph. 5:10-14, NLT

This passage explains two things: the darkness of an unbeliever and the light of the Lord. You and I once walked in the darkest darkness. Nightime was our home, it was what we chose. Looking in the rearview in verse 8, we finally understood.

“For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” 

As believers we now understand that we’ve been fundamentally changed, the black darkness was drained from us (we were full of the night). Instead, now, the light has been infused in us and it has now altered everything. The deathly poison has been stopped.

10 “Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.”

We must be careful. We must figure out what pleases our Father, that is critical. His pleasure is paramount.

We must renounce everything dark. Instead, we’re called to “expose them.” I suggest that this isn’t some militant stand that drives us to actively confront the evil inside of a “worlding.” It seems to me it’s more of an understanding of darkness that resides in those who continue sinning, repeatedly over the Father’s mercy.

We are a people infused with light.

Everything is different now. We’ve exposed the night, and our passion is to please Him alone. Our lives now are radically different, as those who have touched the Holy One. Moses once connected with His glory, but now we have connected with Him in a new way. We now carry His light.

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“It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them.”

The word “shameful” in the original Greek means “filthiness.” These sins are secret ones, a deep dark wickedness that’s hidden from others. But verse 13 talks about a complete disclosure–a clear revelation of their sin. It seems we must rest in the fact that all will be revealed when God determines all will be known and seen for what it is.

“Awake, O sleeper,
    rise up from the dead,
    and Christ will give you light.”

The resurrection of Jesus woke us up. We “slept” for the longest time but now we’re aware or awake. He’s shined the light on us and we now understand. This verse is written in the form of a poem, perhaps used as a “hymn” for the early Church. The idea here is to be “awake” (or “aroused” from a deep sleep).

“The dead” pretty much describes the radical change of someone whose a sinning corpse into a believer who now has the light. A spiritual revolution–a radical change in our very being. We are incredibly different now.

His light has made us new.

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Ephesians 5:6-9, All Aboard!

“Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do.”

“For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

Eph. 5:6-9, NLT

I can see two major hubs–one going away and one moving toward God. Think of a train station with two separate tracks with trains going in opposite directions. One goes east and the other goes west.

Verses 6-7 warn us that the train going one way will definitely destroy those traveling that way–a derailment or a bridge collapse maybe. But something will happen. However, the one that’s traveling to the light will doubtless find it. When we see it that way a decision to board is easy.

“Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. 

Fooled has the idea of being tricked into the deception or delusion of another. There are some who will argue, persuasively attempting to draw you in. “Sin? I’m different.” No matter how reasonable they sound, something isn’t quite right (you feel it).

“The anger of God.” Is that doctrine even acceptable anymore?

Don’t participate in the things these people do.”

The idea behind “participate” is rather chilling. It’s a compound made up of two words: union and companionship, and to become one.

The word “participate” was a word used to become a guest at a special feast.

We’re expressly told not to do this.

“For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord.

There’s quite a contrast here:

  • darkness and light
  • once and now
  • full and have

So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

According to verse 9, God’s light inside you is quite productive. The English Standard Version is very helpful here–“for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.”

We’re now people of light! God has poured Himself into each believer.

The issue is now clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side.

    G.K. Chesterton

Ephesians 5:3-5, Wallowing in the Mud

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Ephesians 5:3-5, ESV

Growing up I remember leaning over a fence to watch the pigs. They typically had a mud hole they wallowed in, and the pigs were caked with muck. I’ve been told that since they’ve got to regulate their heat, so they like to roll in the mud. I never saw a clean pig. They were always filthy.

A number of different sins are mentioned here. We can make a list if we want to, but God isn’t really interested. Passages like these are not to be dissected, instead, they’re to be a warning. We dare not think otherwise.

God made us lambs not pigs.

Paul writes to the Ephesian church about holiness and life in the pig pen. Sins are clearly described and we’re warned not to be unholy or unrighteous. As a believer, you must understand these things.

Some “piggish” Christians want to be believers, but by their actions, they deny a life of a saint set apart for godliness. Immorality and impurity have been chosen as acceptable. And since they believe that God will always forgive them they continue to wallow. They’ve made this choice.

Most of the sins listed deal with sexual problems issues that Paul insists are not the way we should live. They are always wrong and always evil. We dare not deceive ourselves into thinking and acting otherwise. In another Epistle Paul clearly tells young Timothy to “Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts.” (2 Timothy 2:22, NLT.)

Flee is a common translation. It means to “shun, vanish, to be saved by flight.” Perhaps this clarifies things. I think verse 5 of this passage is a definite warning:

“Has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

If we’re true we must be transformed. We must realize that we’ll never receive the kingdom if we choose to live with these sins. They’re never part of all the things God wants to give us (“an inheritance”). They completely separate us from God’s life. This should scare the bejeebers out of us.

We must renounce these things and we must flee. As believers, we must have good running shoes that will enable us to avoid these sins.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Matthew 5:8

Ephesians 5:1-2, To Mimic Jesus

5 “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”

Eph. 5:1-2, NLT

The original Greek for “imitate” is μιμητής, the core word “mime.” The opening concept here is to become a mime of God, which is a bit daunting. A more casual idea is to become a copycat, someone who duplicates the things known and seen by another.

We are His children, and we carry a heavenly heredity that identifies us as God’s own. As the Father’s own, living by faith, means you have taken a spiritual “DNA test” which unequivocally declares this truth. No one can take it away, it’s real. It is a documented fact.

The calling of a disciple, or “mimicry” can be seen throughout the New Testament. You and I are called to imitate our leaders, watching and discerning their faithful walk. Perhaps that’s why so much is placed on their lifestyles.

“Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.”

1 Corinthians 11:1

This is the apostle Paul’s concentrated message–it’s the boiled-down essence of his message to the Church. It’s what he desires most to see in a human being called to Christ and following our leaders.

We need to know what “imitating Christ” really means–to follow Him in the world in obedience. To follow His example, to mimic Jesus, and to do what He did.

“Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20

“He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” (verse 2)

Jesus was your sacrifice, a lamb given for sin, iniquity, perversion, and sickness. What He did was more acceptable than we realize. One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 40:2:

“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
    and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over
    for all her sins.”

Ephesians 4:30-32, How to Bring Joy to God

“And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.”

31 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:30-32, NLT

Sometimes we understand God’s gift of joy to us, it seems wonderful and truly remarkable. We realize that our lives would be quite hollow without it. But have we ever stopped to consider that we have the ability to give Him grief or joy? Is that really possible?

I believe we can bring Him a bouquet of flowers by just obeying!

I believe that the combination of obedience and worship absolutely thrills Him. This passage points out that when our faithfulness to His Spirit gets combined with our praise it’s a very powerful combination. I’ve used epoxy which activates when two different compounds are combined to make a weld that’s stronger than steel. It’s a powerful metaphor for what is happening here.

This passage focuses on our obedience.

Verse 30 explains what happens when we obey (and when we won’t). The Holy Spirit goes into mourning when we make our wrong decisions. Our choices, our way of living, determine His sadness (!) or His happiness. That fact should inform and direct us.

We’re now clearly marked people, given a written guarantee by all who understand these things, resulting in definite salvation.

But we must respond properly. We’re called to bail out on these sins that grieve. We can’t continue to be morally and spiritually ugly to Him. and to others.

The list in verse 31 should “nail us to the wall.” We realize we can’t continue to sin this way anymore.

At least if we don’t want to see His tears.

What’s now open to us is this–kindness, a tender heart, and forgiveness. The forgiveness angle is one that has a special depth. It’s forgiveness that plunges us into all that we’ve been given ourselves. He’s poured out all the wrath on Jesus, enabling us to scramble free from the terrible punishment of our sins. We’re fully forgiven because He has absorbed our penalty.

We’re called to be gracious and loving.

The idea of “get rid” makes these truths possible. A full pail can never receive another drop, and we can’t be filled unless the old one is dumped out. We can only receive it if we’re ready. But that decision is ours to make. (Choose wisely.)

This passage clearly reveals the outrageous grace of God that is focused on us.

If our disobedience in this matter results in grief, then our obedience must bring Him joy. It seems we now have the freedom to walk Godly and to see a delivery of a fresh bouquet of flowers into His throne room. But it’s our choice and our decision. (It seems to make sense to me anyway.)

“Forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:25-29, Making Room for the Devil

25 “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

28 “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”

Paul now takes his good theology (chapters 1-4:24) and gets very practical. It’s not enough to think but we must do it. These five verses tell us that our behavior is just as significant as having good theology. He covers many different areas, and we continually need to stay alert.

Check out this list:

  • Lying
  • Anger
  • Stealing
  • Swearing, foul talk

“So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.

The word used for “lies” here is pseudos. It’s where we get the idea of an intentional falsehood, something fake, pretended or a sham. As believers that’s forbidden, when we do so we deny our “one-ness” with each other.

God is always true, a lie has never crossed His lips. To be Christ-like then means that we are people who will always speak the truth as well.

“But let us speak the truth in love.”

Eph 4:15

Love here in the original Greek is agape–God’s own love which is absolute love. It’s a love that doesn’t have limits, it just gives and gives without any kind of a limit. The Father calls us to “talk” this way with others. (Can you imagine what would happen if we started doing this?)

Our lies will always separate and divide. God calls us to use agape love in our connection with others.

for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”

To “give” means to furnish, supply or commit. I suppose the idea means to hand something over to Satan for his use. We do this sometimes, but here that driving force is anger.

“No matter how just your words may be, you ruin everything when you speak with anger.”

    John Chrysostom

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”

The first sentence is pretty much clear.

The second sentence means we’re always aware of edifying (building up) others. What we say has incredible power, we strengthen or weaken by what we say to another. The word for encourage is where we get the word “edifice” from. It can mean to construct or assemble.

I suppose that takes thoughtful effort.

What we say matters. Angry, or frustrated and we allow the devil to slam others. It seems even words that are not planned, and not really focused become a bit dangerous. Plain old casual talk can serve a purpose, but there is something better. According to this passage, we can speak to another “deliberately” and pre-planned.

Ephesians 4:20-24, God’s Dressing Room

You must throw it off. And then put it on.

20 “But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.” 

23 “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

4:20-24, NLT

Tell me, could it be that simple? A child understands this, and just maybe that’s why it’s clear and direct, “the kingdom belongs to such as these.” The ways of Christ are uncomplicated, a rocket scientist and a pre-schooler come the same way.

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit,” is something we must do every morning. It’s simple discipleship (and so hard). As you mature you’ll see the Father’s wisdom–

But that isn’t what you learned about Christ.

Paul tells us to go back to square one–Jesus. Think about how you first started walking with Him. And remember it isn’t so much learning about Him, but Him. We mustn’t think that just having serious feelings regarding Jesus is going to give us “holiness,” because it can’t. Rather you must draw close and become an intimate companion.

It’s the close friendship that’ll lead you to a pure and holy life, not holiness that leads you to Christ.

“So, if you want to know the Lord Jesus Christ, you must live with him. First, he must himself speak to you, and afterward, you must abide in him. He must be the choice Companion of your morning hours, he must be with you throughout the day, and with him, you must also close the night; and as often as you may wake during the night, you must say, ‘When I awake, I am still with thee.’ ”

CH Spurgeon

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature…”

We heard…we learned…Jesus is the source of truth. Truth is something that proceeds from Him alone. He can’t help it. Truth flows from Him. Our steady contact with the holy makes us holy.

That truth requires a response from those of us who follow Him. It demands that we “throw off” that which resists Him inside. The Greek declares the concept of apotithēmi which means “to renounce” or declare something as invalid. We dare not think we can approach discipleship that includes anything other than a renunciation of who we are.

“The night is far gone and the day is almost here. Let us then drop (fling away) the works and deeds of darkness and put on the [full] armor of light.”

Romans 13:12, Amplified

“Your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.” 

That “former” way of living life is anti-God. Think of your heart is a sponge. Squeeze it and it’ll always be evil, that’s the way it goes. It’s “corrupted.” The word is used to describe a Gentile who dared to enter the inner courts of the Temple. Their very presence defiled the Holy Temple. Their presence made the Temple unholy and impure.

“Lusts and deception” describes you (and I). We bring nothing good into His kingdom. The word here means “destruction” or “corruption.” At my very best, I’m contagious. My disease is terminal and I affect everyone else. I need grace, the only antidote to my sickness.

Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.’

We can’t extract the Holy Spirit’s work from who we are. He renews us. The word is “renovate” or completely recreate. Our attitudes are completely wrong and must undergo His remodeling to make things right.

Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

We each are brought into God’s dressing room, and in it we find God’s clothing. What we wear looks just like Him, fully righteous and completely good. But this passage declares that we must replace evil and take up what is good. We must sherd the evil and take on His goodness.

If we refuse, we’ll never understand the powerful work of purity and wholeness that awaits us. We will never be authentic believers, but nothing less than liars and deceivers.

Ephesians 4:17-19, “Cannon Ball”

17 “With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

Paul reissues his authority just in case the Ephesians forgot. His responsibility, (as an Apostle) extends to accurately describe that man who is without God (and it’s not a pretty sight). But Paul also demands that the Church must separate itself.

This passage is a real cannon blast to living in sin.

17 “With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused.”

Authority in the original Greek manuscripts is “martyromai” which means “to protest, or to demand a witness.” It indicates having legal power to declare something Paul has a right to. He carries apostolic power given to Him by God. (Now that’s the real authority.)

Being a “Gentile” describes an ugly truth about their person or society. The initial declaration is “hopeless confusion.” The World can’t understand.

The lost are separated from what is real and true; their thinking is completely scrambled.

“Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him.

They have blind minds (even the very best). “They wander” or drift through life completely unaware of the things of God. I suppose some will try hard to see, but they fall short. Efforts maybe are given but it’s not enough.

“Closed” and “hardened” are sad and painful places to be.

“They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

It’s getting brutal now! The verse is pretty explanatory. The world carries a heavy burden as they try to find relief through lust. Lust is like a glass of salt to someone wandering in the desert. Not only can’t it satisfy, but it also makes matters worse.

“Practice” is a routine or habitual exercise. In a sense, it’s fashionable to sin, but it’s what the fallen world does. People are not pure, they can’t become godly, so it’s romper room time as they look for something that will satisfy them.

The real issue it seems is one of separation from the world. We are present, but never participants. We’re supposed to soar, not sin. We’re different. This passage makes it clear that being active sinners isn’t an option.

Ephesians 4:14-16, It’s Time to Grow Up

14 “Then we will no longer be immature like babies. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” 

15 “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

Ephesians 4:14-16, NLT

This particular passage examines the walk of a believer, especially those who are very young in the faith. It teaches us about false doctrine. It also declares God’s work in bringing us into unity with others. These are critical issues that really need another look. (I’m using the New Living Translation for clarity.)

“We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching.”

“Tossed and blown” is the exact Greek phrase used to describe the storm on the Sea of Galilee that the disciples experienced. (See Luke 8:23.) Young believers also can find themselves in a storm of faith and doubt. This verse also tells us that there are people who talk convincingly but are lying. Paul uses the idea of immaturity and the absolute need to grow up.

“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly.”

The word “fit” in Greek, energeia, is where we get the word “energy” from. Sometimes we’re allowed brief glimpses into what He’s doing, and sometimes we must just accept it by faith. He’s very much at work, constructing a perfect dwelling. He’s doing all this through His effort and energy.

I’m glad that Jesus Christ is the “master carpenter” who builds us together into an eternal dwelling for Himself.

“So that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

There is something robust and alive about His Church. It’s meant to be alive without any disease. That’s Jesus’ plan. The Body is not only healthy but growing. The end result is to be “full of love.”

“Love” here is agapē, a God kind of love that serves and gives no matter what. It’s something that reaches out to another constantly.

It’s His incredible tidal wave of love.

Ephesians 4:7-10, Jesus Has Gifted You

However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say,

“When he ascended to the heights,
    he led a crowd of captives
    and gave gifts to his people.”

9 “Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world.10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.

Ephesians 4:7-10, NLT

We each have been ‘gifted.’

Ephesians 4:11-13, His Special Gifts

“And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.”

Ephesians 4:11-13, CSB

Paul continues to transition from wonderful “theology” to more discipleship matters. (Sort of theology to “theopraxy.”) He’ll continue on this for the remainder of the book. (One could call it “ethics” but it’s more than that.)

“And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, ” (verse 11).

It’s “He Himself” that’s involved in this, it’s never man’s decision. (See 1 Cor. 12:11.) Some are called and others are not. It’s entirely the decision of Jesus.

  • Apostles–those who are “ambassadors” of the Gospel. Their work is often laying a foundation of the Gospel in spiritually needy places. They pretty much understand authority which comes from servanthood.
  • Prophets–these men are aware of God’s heart and often speak words of exhortation and comfort. They can speak in a predictive sense but always take their “word” and submit to the elders of a church. They often serve in the area of discernment.
  • Evangelists–they serve as those who speak to unbelievers the truth of the Gospel. They also encourage and teach us to do the same. They’re well aware of the Holy Spirit’s burden and filling.
  • Pastors–are anointed shepherds who serve God’s people by caring and watching. Wisdom and grace are especially needed.
  • Teachers–those called to teach God’s Word in a clear and wise way. Their work is typically Bible based and yet saturated by Holy Spirit.

Notice the word “some” in this verse. From that, we can gather that these men have been selected from others, and their ministry has a special purpose. They function for the benefit of the “saints (v. 12) and as servants (not “rulers”).

“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,”

The old King James Version uses the phrase “perfect the saints.” Although I think the word “equip” is a better translation. It carries the idea of being given the equipment necessary to do the work of the Gospel.

“The work of the ministry” reveals not only our efforts (“work”) but our service to the Body. It’s called “work” here, and “ministry,” or servanthood. They’re both needed in order to assist the Church. There needs to be humility in our work.

until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.”

“Be united with other Christians. A wall with loose bricks is not good. The bricks must be cemented together.”

  Corrie Ten Boom

“Unity in the faith” declares God’s purpose. This really is our goal. This is our truest calling. It’s an essential purpose behind the Father’s work in each of us. The enemy pushes hard against it.

“Maturity” is the direction we’re moving toward. Some versions use “perfect” which can be confusing.

We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Colossians 1:28

To become like Jesus is our goal, and in a way that is the truest call. God’s intention is that we become “little Christs” bearing His image and walking in unity with each other.

ephesians101.com

Ephesians 4:4-6, Guess What!

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Eph. 4:4-6

One. That’s all there is. One.

One…

  • Body, our connection to each other
  • Spirit, God’s that ignites us
  • Hope, confidence in His work
  • Lord, King, and Master of those He had delivered
  • Faith, our common commitment
  • Baptism, a sign of repentance and faith, is the entry point
  • God, the awesome Father who now walks with each of us

These three verses contain seven references to all that is common to everyone who believes in Jesus. No matter what we believe in, each is universal and shared.

And actually, to minimize any one of these destroys everything.

You must believe me, and trust the Word. We’ve entered into something common. Each of the seven belongs to our singular faith. To set any one of these aside disturbs our connection with our Father and separates us from our brother.

When I step inside any Church, I can’t really rest until I see the seven.

We’ve been knitted together by the Holy Spirit. Paul emphasizes our oneness, he declares the community of our faith. We dare not place anything (denomination, doctrine, or “name”) above what the Holy Spirit intends. I don’t belong to the “First Baptist Church” or the “Third Koinonia Praise Fellowship”–I belong to Jesus’ Church–and every believer is my brother and sister.

The Holy Spirit never calls believers to become one; simply, we must grasp that we’re already one and need to behave like we’re one.

“One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

One Father! “Over, through, and in.” If we could only see this it will alter our thinking. To grasp this we would see our walls fall flat and we would reach out and finally walk with our brother and sister hand-in-hand.

Oh how that would please our Father!

Ephesians 4:1-3, Gentleness, With Lots of Patience

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. “

Paul’s urgency is quite clear–he insists that the Ephesians walk carefully through this world. This is not optional, he has shared so much of the Christian’s new identity and position. Paul is a prisoner, but yet he seems to share this sparingly through his “prison letters.” He’s not the type to manipulate his readers.

“I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,”

In the original Greek, the word “urge” also means to “beg.” It can also be translated as “comfort.” (In the Gospels it’s often used when the sick would cry out for healing from Jesus.)

Prisoner Paul more or less insists that his readers would measure up to their calling as fully redeemed people. No more pride, coldness, or selfishness. That’s completely unworthy of a believer. The “calling” they have must completely change them, no more sin, and no more ugliness.

“Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other.”

(verse 2, CEV)

With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

No pushiness, and no advancing one’s personal agenda. We must walk with each other in brokenness and meekness. And we really need to cover the things we do with tons and tons of “patience.”

This is the teaching of Jesus written quite clearly in the Beatitudes. It’s also the incredible character of the Lord, “I am meek and lowly of heart.” It is who He is, period. Never to be mean or harsh, or take up preeminence over others. Even though Jesus was God, He chose to be a foot-washing slave. On purpose.

The “fruits of the Spirit” must be obvious to others we’re with. The acronym, J.O.Y works well here (first some Jesus, then comes Others, and then finally You–and in that order!!

“But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness,

23 “Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things, there is no law that can bring a charge.”

Galatians 5:22-23, (Amplified)

“Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” 

Keywords:

  • Eagerness
  • Maintainance
  • Unity
  • Spirit, (God Himself)
  • Bond
  • Peace

Each word in this is critical. Each has a solid place in the heart of a disciple. This is our calling, our place in the world. We’re followers of a Servant-King who washes feet and wants to die for His friends. We can no longer walk in pride and self-conceit. The world has seen enough of this, and the time has now come when we must renounce this ridiculous foolishness.

Notice also, this particular passage (verses 1-3) is one sentence. Perhaps Paul is “gushing out” at his precious Church. He loves them dearly and the truth he wants them to understand and it comes out as a “torrent” of words.

I think Paul is pretty much stoked.

3:20-21, “To Him Be Glory”

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This passage is a doxology to the prayer (verses 14-19) that drove Paul to his knees. A doxology is a liturgical formula of praise to God. In light of everything that has happened to us, this is to be Paul’s obvious next step–it’s logical and fitting. He has to do this.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,”

“Able to do” is a phrase that stresses the power of God to do anything He wants–even seemingly impossible things (like ‘raising’ us up). I think He has done this to us the Church! The phrase to do is dynamai where we get the English word, “dynamite.”

“Far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” That word ‘abundantly’ is the Greek word, hyper which needs no definition for us–it’s obvious. The “ask or think” part of v. 20 suggests that what has happened is way beyond any hope or dream we have; it’s far beyond what we consider possible.

It is our dream come true.

“To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,”

There’s only one response possible to all that He’s done we declare (and live) in His glory. We need to declare that same glory and pass it on to others. As old Christians, we need to recognize a new generation of believers following us who need us to pass on that glorious “good news.”

“Forever and ever. Amen.”

Who can say more?

3:17-19, His Love for You –Fully Amplified

“And may you, having been [deeply] rooted and [securely] grounded in love, 18 be fully capable of comprehending with all the saints (God’s people) the width and length and height and depth of His love [fully experiencing that amazing, endless love]; 19 and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].”

Ephesians 3:17-19, Amplified Version

This passage is the crown jewel of the believer. It sparkles and shines. It carries a radiance that touches each person that accepts its truth.

“And may you, having been [deeply] rooted and [securely] grounded in love, 18 be fully capable of comprehending with all the saints (God’s people) the width and length and height and depth of His love [fully experiencing that amazing, endless love];

The amazing thing about this its spiritual accessibitiy. Paul is explaining what’s true and what’s now available to the faithful. “Fully capable of comprehending” shouts out the reality, declares the availability of our place in love (agape).

Is His love for us simply too good to be true?

“The width and length and height and depth of His love.”

There’s a spiritual dimension here–it’s not vague–it’s not mystical, rather it’s solid with measurable distances. Now I’ll have to insist that this love is truly profound. It’s a love that goes on and on, far beyond our ability to “map.” Eternity isn’t enough time to explore it. It’ll take forever to grasp.

“And [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience],

Paul insists that God’s outrageous love is now knowable to each of us. The idea of this verse is “practical” not ethereal. It’s not a vague concept–it’s not nebulous. We just haven’t experienced it in it’s real sense. Yes, it “surpasses” anything we’ve experienced, but it is knowable nevertheless. We will see it and handle it.

And that love has incredible dimensions.

“That you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].”

The empty jar gets filled up. The awesome presence of God is poured into the believing Christian. The Father doesn’t stint or measure out His presence. He pours and pours and pours to overflowing. The God who is omnipotent and eternal has decided that He’s going to do this.

Is it any wonder why we esteem the blood of Christ and His great sacrifice for us? The “door” is now open, we can each enter the holy.

3:15-17, He’s Inside You, Right Now!

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,.”

Prayer does what preaching can’t. Some need a reminder. This idea of being “rooted and grounded in love” is crucial to growing up Christians. And it most often happens when the preacher is driven to his knees by a sticky situation.

Teaching has certain limitations, but prayer drives discipleship home.

You must settle on this spiritual fact, only a disciple can make a disciple. Too many preachers are developing believers who don’t understand a prayer life. They end up using the pulpit (and the worship) as their sole ‘means of support.’ I can guess you can see how tragic this becomes.

A prayer meeting is almost unheard of lately. The focus has shifted I suppose, but I still believe that there are still small groups of Christians who believe that both doctrine and prayer are God’s way of growing us up into His image.

Strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 

Prayer is Paul’s way of building up the Ephesian church. In my personal opinion, he was locked up in a Roman prison for a couple of good reasons–the first is that he would discover he could disciple at a distance. Paul seems to understand this, and he rediscovers the way of intercession.

Prayer for Paul becomes a tool of considerable force.

Ephesians 3 papyrus from c. 275 A.D.

from wikipedia.org

The “inner being” is what he’s aiming at, and it’s Paul’s way of touching the heart of anyone the Holy Spirit is dealing with. Mr. Dry Eyes will never reach the hearts that the Father is working in. Rather it is tears, not impeccable logic or great theology that completes the work.

The walk of a true disciple is always inside first, never the outside.

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

The immense power is Jesus living inside us. Faith is God’s own key that He gives. Love is our root; it helps us grow. It gives us stability which is critical living in a confused and fallen world.

“The church that is not jealously protected by mighty intercession and sacrificial labors will before long become the abode of every evil bird and the hiding place for unsuspected corruption. The creeping wilderness will soon take over that church that trusts in its own strength and forgets to watch and pray.”

   A.W. Tozer

ephesians101.com

3:6-7, Everyone is Equal in God’s Eyes

“And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.”

“By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.”

Equality is defined as “being the same in quantity, size, degree, or value.” Paul uses this to explain God’s plan for the Church. It means there are no second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God. Everyone shares everything God gives, everyone is equal and can receive that wonderful grace. Jews and Gentiles are now ‘one and the same.’

Can you understand exactly how radical this idea is?

“And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children.

This is a revolutionary idea, never advanced by anyone else but by Paul. We have no idea living in the 21st century of the tension that existed in the 1st. But Paul presses this idea–God insists that everyone is the same. The Jews have no right to insist on a superior place in the Lord’s plan–this is nothing more than ‘crazy talk.’

Both the Jews and those pesky Gentiles are sharing God’s grace–there’s a spiritual pile of gold, diamonds, and rubies enough for everyone. Sure this is spiritual, but each group can freely take all that they need. And I for one suck at grace–desperately. But when I cry out to Him for mercy, God invites me to come.

But the real issue is ‘believing.’

Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.”

Jesus is our ultimate superior in everything. The obvious issue is one of ‘believing’ in Him. Both Jews and Gentiles can now relish the ‘promise of blessings’ that Jesus Christ now gives. Both groups share the advantage of being His favorites.

‘Belonging’ is now our calling. Wow!

To belong means an attachment to something or someone. We’re a people who are now Jesus’ possession. We’re His, and He has fastened us to Himself–we now belong to Jesus. I suppose this is now an incredible blessing, especially to the discouraged, the defeated, and the depressed.

“By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.”

This is the powerful scope and privilege of Paul’s ministry. He’s a mere servant and he understands that He must communicate the Gospel. Paul understands his ‘privilege’ in this. It isn’t a burden for Paul, but an honor.

We must see that God’s grace and power energize Paul. He shares with us all that he knows.

We have to be energized by Him, we need His grace to survive spiritually. We must understand that His fuel is to give life to the spiritually needy.

I think I might understand.

This is something that motivates Paul. He understands what he is and what he’s called to teach. The Gospel must be communicated in the bright light of God’s favor. Without this Paul cannot operate, the ‘Good News’ means both Jews and Gentiles are singular, and he explains that each group is one. Both must understand this.

Grace is all there is. And grace is all that really matters.

3:1-5, A Captivated Captive

When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending his grace to you Gentiles. As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me. As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ. God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit, he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets.

Paul was a prisoner as he wrote all this down. During the day he could move around a house, but must always be accompanied by a Roman guard. At night he was chained to a soldier so he would not escape. He would spend almost four years in Rome under house arrest.

Ephesians is remarkable in that Paul didn’t make his personal imprisonment an issue, this is the only mention of his situation to his readers.

When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles.”

Paul definitely wore Roman chains, but he was never, ever their prisoner. Rather, he wore his fetters because it was Jesus’ will for him! Those iron shackles were worn for other believers. The Gentiles were always God’s focus. Paul’s imprisonment was for their advantage–he understood this. (I’m sure it was never easy though.)

Now he had plenty of time to write and pray for those things which were needed by the Church.

According to tradition, these are Paul’s chains on display at the Chapel of the Relics, the Basilica of Saint Paul in Rome.

Assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending his grace to you Gentiles.” 

Paul understood his calling and gifting. This isn’t a casual thing–it was his “responsibility.” He saw his work of extending God’s grace and love to the Ephesians (and most were Gentiles).

The word “responsibility” is οἰκονομία— it means “someone who directs the affairs of an important estate, a manager or an overseer, a head butler.” Paul understands that God’s house must have someone to be an administrator to oversee this ministry.

The Gentiles needed someone like Paul to explain to them about grace, and love, and mercy. He did this very well.

As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me. As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ.

(Briefly? Not sure about that.) 🙂

The source of this revelation was “God Himself,” which emphasizes its seriousness. It was a “revelation,” something mysterious that needed an explanation. Paul was charged by God to communicate this to Gentiles.

Ephesians chapters 1-2 explain this revelation. Paul wants them to read (and reread) until they understand “this plan.” Furthermore, Christ is the fulfillment of this “good news,” He Himself is the Gospel. Jesus Christ just isn’t a new twist on salvation, but He’s the Way we are saved. The Gospel isn’t a nice methodology, salvation is now a person of the Trinity. Paul knew this.

“God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit, he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets.

The Gospel has waited a long time to come to us; it wasn’t understood by earlier men. But now it has come, and those who’ve been called into an apostolic or prophetic ministry now see and embrace it. The Holy Spirit is evident through it all. This has been a work that God has initiated.

The whole earth is now the Christian’s mission field.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

2:21-22, Gathered Together for a Reason

21 “In Him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In Him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.

This is a powerful passage and we’re closing out Ephesians 2 and getting ready to slash our way into chapter 3.

“In Him the whole building,

The word “whole” suggests everyone and everything. All (and I do mean all) are part of this work; this is the construction of our architect God. No 2x4s are being used, only the things that are spiritual. The Greek word for “being put together” carries a meaning of precision, accuracy, and precision. He’s doing amazing things with perfect skill.

I’ve been told that the blocks of the Egyptian pyramids are so fitted together that you can’t even slip a piece of paper between the cracks.

Our builder, God Himself, constructs His people with incredible care and His work is perfect and eternal. The pyramids in Egypt, one of the “Seven Wonders of the World,” will be mere piles of dust and we’ll just be getting started.

“A holy temple in the Lord.

Holy seems to be very important here. It deals with the idea of being consecrated or set apart from common things. A new temple is being built by the addition of every new believer, but it’s something holy, and completely different. Instead of stone blocks, it’s made out of holy saints. This temple is spiritual.

Also, there’s something that must be pointed out; there’s that wonderful phrase “in Him.” It’s written out twice for emphasis. And if you add “in the Lord” things get even clearer! These precious promises can only be activated by faith and from our new place in Christ Jesus.

And let’s grab on this idea of “together,” it’s mentioned twice here. I suppose that means having a connection to the believers around us in that fantastic way the Father delights to do. We shouldn’t minimize this “holy camaraderie.” It’s a unity that’s a gift to His children. We’re brothers and sisters, and He is our sure and loving Father.

 “For God’s dwelling in the Spirit.

We, the sinful and lost, have been called and redeemed by the blood of Jesus. And He now fully intends to live in us. We are to be His new home, His dwelling place for all eternity. Although as individual believer’s we already know the Holy Spirit’s presence inside, and that is tremendous.

But it appears from the text that something more is happening on a corporate level. These verses describe us as a community–spiritual building “blocks”–but together. If the presence of Jesus is powerful on an individual level, I believe the next step is going to be even better than than that!

“Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”

Eph. 2:21-22, The Message Translation

2:19-20, Jesus is Our Starting Point

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation.

Eph 2:19-20, The Message Bible

Here are two different translations, and both intrigue me–together they open up this passage wonderfully. The Gentiles are no longer “second-class citizens,” cast-off half-breeds. Rather they fully belong. “With as much right to the name Christian as anyone” (The Message Bible).

In the day when this was written, it was outrageous–absolutely radical.

Within Judaism, this was beyond the pale. To the Jewish believer, it was like Paul suddenly was calling what was black, to be white. But in Acts 17:6 we can see how the Gospel flips over everything: “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too.” In the Kingdom, everything is now inverted.

Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

There’s authority here–it’s stated that the divine combination of prophets and apostles laid things down–they’re the bedrock of our faith–the essential foundation of the New Testament Church. What they did was solid, concrete, and sure.

God used these men to lay something down that defies weakness or error. Maybe they didn’t exactly know what they were doing (and maybe they did). But God used them to establish His Kingdom–His Church. What they said and did became a spiritual stone. The perfect spot to build.

A cornerstone is a block of rock that becomes the absolute measurement and guide that builders use to keep the rest of the wall straight. Without it, there’s a genuine chance that the building would be weakened. Walls would tilt and the strength would be compromised. We need a cornerstone.

Jesus alone is suited for keeping “the house of God” straight and sure. He’s the solid one, the one who never changes, or weakens. His presence guides and directs and His Word is sure. He’s the One we look to in order to understand the Gospel.

All that He taught us to become our guide. His presence and His words are what our life is built on.

‘”If we do not have Jesus as our cornerstone, holding us together, strengthening us and keeping us in alignment with His purpose, then nothing we build will be of value.”

T.L. Lowry

2:17-18, What He Did For You

“He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.”

He brought peace to the Gentiles. He also bought peace to the Jews. Some of us were very far away, while others were quite close. It doesn’t matter, Jesus’ presence meets both groups.

Jesus carried His gospel to us. This version calls it “Good News” and we’ve never heard anything like it. The Greek is εἰρήνη, a word meaning quietness, rest, a cessation of war, or harmony. It is connected somewhat to the word “saved” which means wholeness, health, and deliverance. (Both are wonderful words.)

Jew or Gentile, near or far, covenant or not, it really doesn’t matter. Jesus (through His Holy Spirit) came and with Him carried exceptional news to each of us–we’ve been accepted and forgiven! No matter if we’re a Jew or a Gentile.

Now all of us can come to the Father”

That dear one is why all this had to happen, that we can now be with Him. That is the purpose of your existence–the reason you live. I like focusing on that amazing word, “Father.” I’m not to dread or fear obsessively about being with Him. His anger over you and your sin has fallen on Jesus our sacrifice.

“The same Holy Spirit”

He refuses to be quartered and divided up. The Holy Spirit does not have two groups and two covenants. He comes in His total fullness to meet our desperate hearts. The word “same” in Greek simply means “a cardinal numeral, one.

We are each our own person. We’re as different as snowflakes, not one of us is alike.

You are altogether unique.

“Because of what Christ has done for us.”

That word “because” is key. We’re saved as a result of what He did for us, and not what we’ve done for ourselves. We’re delivered by our trust/faith in Jesus’ effort alone. He has worked it all without our effort. All we really need to do is repent and believe.

2:14-16, No More Fighting

“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.” 

16 “Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.”

This passage seems a tad obscure, dealing with an issue we really can’t grasp. But for the early church, this was critical and I suspect they didn’t really know how to reconcile the idea of Jews and Gentiles being one people. The Apostle Paul needed to step in and explain what God had done.

The Jewish temple had confined the presence of God to a fixed place. However, the temple was supposed to be the “jumping-off” place for the Father to touch the hearts of everyone on Earth. The Jews had an issue (an important one) with the Law. How could Gentiles come to God without it?

The word hostility is used. The observant Jews detested the pagan Gentiles. It’s interesting to me that the Temple complex had a “court of the Gentiles” which clearly delineated that they could only enter so far. And actually, they enforced the rule that prohibited crossing that line on the pain of death.

O.K. So how is this going to work?

Paul makes it clear that everything is changed. The cross of Jesus Christ tore down that wall. There is now no separation. The finished work of Jesus opened up the work of God to include both groups. The Jews had isolated themselves. They had put themselves in a religious “box” and excluded all contact with the rest of the world.

The Law was no longer the source of righteousness and salvation.

Jesus is; His blood was shed to make us right with God. That was radical and hard to swallow. I suppose that was the issue with the Judaizers who couldn’t adapt–they thought the Gentiles were to keep the 10 Commandments to be believers. An important passage should be considered–Philippians 3:2-3.

Jesus broke down this wall. He fully reconciled both groups, they have been made one through the cross. He is the peace between both groups. There are no longer two groups but one Body. The hatred and hostility “was put to death.”

“May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. 22 I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.”

John 17:21-23, Amplified

2:11-13, The Grand Canyon

“Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. 12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.”

In Arizona, one can stand and look to the far side of the Grand Canyon. The size is incredible, it’s 18 miles wide and almost a mile deep. It’s an amazing site. It’s also a fantastic tourist destination. Over 6,000,000 people visit it every year. (I’m sure there are many gift stores.)

In Ephesians 2 the Apostle Paul explains another type of canyon—the divide that existed between Jews and Gentiles, something very wide and terribly deep. This was a big problem and Paul needed to explain this division in the eyes of God. The Church must understand. Unless he explained it would devastate the Church.

“Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts.”

Have you ever been on the “outside?” You don’t belong and you’re not accepted. It’s a hard place to be. But notice the phrase, “used to be,” it’s critical–a key that opens up this entire passage. All of the previous verses explain the reconciliation between God and man, but there’s still something more–the chasm between believers, Jew and Gentile.

Paul straight up tells the Gentiles, “Don’t forget.” Rather then try to fill up his theological wheelbarrow and try to fill up the gap, he points out the differences between the two different groups. There’s a Grand Canyon seperating them.

However he can’t overlook that the Jews have it all together either. The Jews were proud of their heritage and proudly scorned the Gentiles as “uncircumcised heathens.’ They pretended they were holy, and as a result they became “holier-than-thou.’ But the fact was they themselves, in their hearts, were just as wicked. Hard words!

In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them.

Three horrible truths about the Gentiles are made:

  • Their lives were completely without Christ. (They were zeros.)
  • They’re not (nor will be) citizens of the nation of Israel. (They had no “spiritual” passport.”)
  • All those beautiful promises? (Not Gentiles. Never, ever.)

You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus.

Paul doesn’t mince his words. The Gentile way of life is doomed spiritually. “Without God and without hope,” and it seems these Gentiles are on the opposite side of the Grand Canyon, without any chance of getting across.

“But now…” With these two words build the bridge. They can finally cross this deep theological divide. Jesus Christ has made it all possible.

But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

(verse 13)

The word “united” simply meets to be joined together, to make as one. The bad news for the Gentiles was a revelation declared by Paul, and it was horrible. However there is no a bridge to be built–it only comes by the blood of Christ!

“But now” is repeated twice in this verse.

We’ve “been brought near to Him by His own blood. He’s done it all. Both Jew and Gentile ate saved together by the cross of Christ.

2:7-10, We Can’t Boast

 “So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

We will never deserve what He has done.

We struggle with this, and we try very hard to earn our salvation. Paul reminds us that this is simply given and we can’t work enough to deserve it.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

Grace-saved-faith, words that bring a triple lesson in how the Father makes salvation happen. It’s grace first. Saved is second, and our faith makes it all real. We must believe, not work.

“Not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Works in the original is ἔργον which can be translated as “energy.” That stresses work, effort, and labor as well. Paul is amazingly clear and our obfuscation is thrown out the window. It confuses us and we often try to produce good works. Grace often is abandoned by our earnest desire to be saved.

The gift of grace mystifies. It is a handout that befuddles and confuses us. You must realize that your “energy” will never be enough. Salvation will always be charity, an endowment that gives us eternal life without us making an effort.

I’m thinking now of the thief on the cross dying with Jesus. (Read Luke 23:42-43.) He had nothing. He deserved nothing–all he could do is ask. And Jesus promised that he would be saved.

What we have is His gift. It’s given and never earned.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Let’s think about this, and let’s pray that we understand. Works (energy), workmanship, and good works–words mentioned in this verse. There’s a real connection here between the three which may need an explanation.

  • “Works” is what we do to earn salvation.
  • “Workmanship” is God’s effort in making us like His son. He is creating us to be like Jesus.
  • “Good works” is what happens when we understand what He has done.

Good works are not the cause of our salvation; good works are the evidence of our salvation. Our spiritual efforts can’t save us, but as a result of being saved (free) we’ll do good things.

Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works.

    Martin Luther

I feel I must reiterate this. Salvation is yours as a gift. Good works are what we do after receiving this free gift. God planned ahead, our lives are now to be given over to do things that bless others–we work to bestow good things on our neighbors. That’s now our mission.

2:3-5, He’s Very Very Rich!

“We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for usmade us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!”

Ephesians 2:3-5

We’ve got a terrible need to be right with God–one of the theological terms used is called “reconciliation.” My dictionary states that two facets can be found

  • it’s the restoration of friendly relations.
  • the action of making one view or belief compatible with another.

But first, there’s bad news:

“We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts,

The “we” means everyone on the planet. “Previously lived” suggests the way we were, for the believers in Ephesus this is past tense, sin no longer to be the position of the reconciled. Yes, we sin, but it’s not ingrained inside us any more. It seems to me that this is the realm of Satan and his rebellion.

“Fleshly desires” clarifies things. It points out what Paul writes about in Galatians 5:19-21 (“the works of the flesh”);

This all fits with “inclinations” of sinfully rebellious life.

and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.

This pounds this even deeper. “Children” typically is a good term, but the way it’s used here gives it an awful or terrible sense. Within the inner recesses of our hearts is nothing but rebellion, as a matter of fact, scripture tells us that you and I are the “children of the devil.”

If we’re ever going to be reconciled, God is the only one who can pull this off. So, let’s move on to the good news in the remainder of this passage.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love that he had for us”

But God”

(Where would we be without this little word “but?”)

We got horrible news and it stings. Then we read “but” and everything gets tipped upside down! That three-letter word is a game changer. It comes totally out of the blue and alters everything. “But God,” is a phrase of hope and not despair. This passage is infused with His love. He loved us, and that was why He did this.

made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!”

But God figured out how He would save us (and actually this method was an eternal one). And we must go back to chapter 1 to this truth of being “in Christ.” Most certainly we’re ruined sinners; rebels and traitors. We’re dead inside. But God makes it clear that we’re “saved by grace!”

We were the dead ones. We’ve been brought to life.

2:1-2, Being Spiritually Dead

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient.”

This is really a past tense for the believer. And the word “according” is used twice in this passage. Dead and disobedient is a critical assessment of the fallen human race. And of course, there is the presence of evil—someone (or something) who is in control, “working” inside of those who are disobedient. It’s called a “spirit.”

This passage is critical to understanding the fallen state of the world. It explains so much.

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,”

Death is the state of those who don’t believe. “Trespasses and sins” is the cause. We dare not minimize or ignore Paul’s statement about this. We shouldn’t try to dismiss this.

We live in a world where death is in charge.

It troubles me to think about this. Sometimes in movies, there are zombies and mummies walking around and attacking the living. This seems bizarre and spooky but it’s probably closer than we can ever imagine. Jesus’ power to raise the dead is absolutely critical to being an authentic believer. We’re like Lazarus who was resurrected.

“In which you previously walked according to the ways of this world,

Each of us walked in darkness, the world is cloaked in sin and disobedience. Each of us has turned in our way. (Romans 3:10-18.)

“All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Romans 3:12

The history of man makes this terribly clear.

I suppose the word “previously” is also a crucial. It means that this sinful lifestyle is in the past. It’s no longer is the path we’re taking . Death can no longer hold us. We used to, but now we’ve been brought to a resurrected life.

“The sinner can no more raise himself from the deadness of sin than Lazarus, who had been dead four days until Jesus came.”

George Whitefield

“According to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient.”

Evil exists. Satan is alive and well on planet earth. We see his work (his ministry) all around us. Some are controlled by the enemy, a few more than others. Notice it’s called a “spirit” and it’s something active. Something supernatural. Paul’s assessment seems very blunt, there’s not much wiggle room. He’s telling us the truth.

And now we must figure out how we’re going to live our resurrected life.

So What Really Happened to the Church at Ephesus?

God speaks to the Church of Ephesus:

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.

“But I have this complaint against you.

You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!

“Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious, I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.

Revelation 2:2-7, NLT

I ministered full-time in San Francisco, preaching and teaching in a very difficult place for three years. The sin and degradation of that city were extremely difficult. But I suppose ministering in the city of Ephesus was also quite challenging. Like San Francisco, it was full of false idols, immorality, and much sinfulness. I encountered much of this. I know firsthand about evil powers in high places.

Paul knows what the Ephesians are up against, there is an organized evil in Ephesus that could very well destroy them. Paul is on his way to Jerusalem, and in order not to miss his boat, he requests that the elders of Ephesus meet him near his port. He has an urgent warning for them. Here’s Acts 20:28-32:

“So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders. 29 I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. 30 Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. 

31 Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you.’

“And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.

Keep in mind that Paul lived in Ephesus. He taught the church daily and prayed often for them for three years. Also, Apollos (a tremendous evangelist) would become a disciple there. Also, Timothy based his ministry in Ephesus.

There seems to be a slow drift away from the first love for Jesus and slippage into an unacceptable doctrine. During my own time in ministry in San Francisco, There always seemed to be resistance there, constant spiritual pressure on any attempt to stay faithful and live in purity.

In Revelation 2 an angel speaks to the church in Ephesus. His assessment wasn’t kind but yet it was accurate.

A papyrus fragment from the book of Revelation chapter 2 written to the Ephesians by John the Apostle.

Maintaining the first love in this center of wickedness and depravity wasn’t easy.

Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote to the Ephesians. He put pen to papyrus to write down and to show God’s purpose for them. He taught and preached, he knew that they must know the intentions of God for their lives.

In Acts 20 he states a warning to the elders of the church in Ephesus. They must be aware. And for the most, they stayed true, and yet they were missing a vital and critical truth. In Revelation 2 they are nailed and we must understand. They had somehow down the line they had lost their “first love.”

Jesus must be primary to the true walk of the real believer–this isn’t optional.

This is the critical definition of an authentic Christian. We must love Him first. The Ephesians had faithfully protected against heresy. But we discover good theology without real love isn’t acceptable.

We’re called to love Him first of all. Living in a wicked world demands a love that exceeds the norm but even that isn’t acceptable. We must go on to love Him first. What we know isn’t enough. We must love Him.

Is Jesus our first love? And what does that really mean?

ephesians101.com

1:22-23, Everything is Now Under His Feet

“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Ephesians 1:22-23, ESV

Feet, head, body. These two verses are apparent when we see the connection each has with the other. (The word “all” is mentioned 4x which is interesting and of vital importance.)

The hidden thrust of this passage is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When He rose from the dead it was not only an earth-shaking event, but it was a profound game-changer! From that point on nothing will ever be the same. The entire course of the universe has changed. Completely.

“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,”

All things. Exactly what does that mean? The phrase in Greek is fairly common–“the whole, everything there is.” If we press this text a little bit we’ll discover that God designed it to be exactly that. He meant “all, everything there is or will be.’

The idea of feet expresses the idiom of a king who puts his foot on a defeated king’s neck. The victorious king stands, and the defeated king is prostrate. It was to emphasize superiority and servitude.

This victory was God’s gift to Jesus.

He was made our “head.” (And we’re His body.) We’re affixed to Him organically as you can get. And you know what, we need our head, without it we’re nothing but stiff corpses. Bodies don’t do very well if the head is missing. Ha! 😁

The word for Church is ecclesia, or “those called out of a group, and called to be set apart or holy.” (It makes sense doesn’t.) After all, we have been chosen–we’ve been picked out to be His favorites. We’re Jesus’ very own and very personal ecclesia. You’re Jesus’ inheritance!

“Which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Think about this–the fullness of Him! The word “fullness” means to be “liberally supplied, a very full measure, filled up to the very brim.” The meaning is quite clear. We’re now jam-packed with Him. He has inserted His all, everything into us. (Perhaps if you cut me, I’ll bleed “Jesus.”) 😁

“The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.”

1:22-23, The Message Bible

Chapter 1:20-21, Jesus is Exalted in the Heavens

“This is the same mighty power, that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.”

Ephesians 1:20-21, NLT

We (you and I) discover that power is now part of our spiritual DNA! It’s given to us and it’s the stuff of the resurrection. Power has varying degrees of quality and this is resurrection quality. God gives us a gift of authority and strength that will overcome death. It’s potent, and nothing even compares to it.

“This is the same mighty power, that raised Christ from the dead

The phrase, “mighty power” is the word energeo. (It’s where we get the word energy.) It means work in a fervent manner, to be active and mighty. A great word I think.

A resurrection after being stone cold dead for three days is pretty good evidence of something that’s going to happen to us as believers. We have been “infused” with that power. It’s inside of us and has been activated through faith in Jesus.

“And seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”

He sits, His work is done. He was essentially “tortured,” having been beaten to the point of death, and then brutally crucified. But at this very minute, He sits next to the Father in the place of supreme honor. When we do see Him finally face-to-face you’ll definitely will recognize Him. He’ll be sitting at God’s right hand.

“Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else”

“All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever.” 

1:20-21, The Message Bible

This translation simplfies and explains far better then most. It fascinates me–galaxies and governments function by Jesus. And, believe or not, He has become my Savior and Lord. He’s my closest friend, my intimate companion. (See John 15:13-15.) This galaxy watching God-man is my very closest friend!

“Not only in this world but also in the world to come.”

The whole thing continues, it truly is a never-ending story. Eternity rolls on and on, it’s time without end. It’s already begun and it continues forever. As Jesus’ closest companions we’re part of that. His resurrection is a shared one. Because He now lives I will live with Him. Forever.

“With the power of God within us, we need never fear the powers around us.”

Woodrow Kroll

Chapter 1:18-19, The Light Has Come

“Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” 

Ephesians 1:18-19, ESV

Remember Paul is still down on his knees. He continues to intercede for Ephesus. He prays from his prison cell, focused on this church. He has laid out the truth in theological terms (in verses 3-14), but now Paul wants to burn these wonders into the church’s heart. And prayer is how he must operate.

First of all our new position in Christ is something supernatural. There isn’t any way we can walk this out without light from God.

Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.”

The New Living Translation is interesting: “ I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light.” Both the ESV and NLT are great. The phrase “flooded with light” suggests it illuminates, to shine upon, to lighten up, or to causes to glow. Paul’s prayer is that the Ephesian church be lit up!

“Know” isn’t a casual acceptance of a fact, but rather something much, much deeper. (Remember, this is all supernatural.) This knowledge means perception, a deep observation, to be skilled in, or to cherish. Paul prays that this church is enabled to see something quite supernatural. But all this is not automatic.

“Hope” and “calling.” Hope is a looking-ahead word, we hope for future things. Calling carries the idea of becoming placed somewhere, a summons. This supernatural word implies hope in something quite significant. A real calling to become supernatural.

“And what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.”

“Immeasurable” is a funny word in original Greek. It’s a compound idea–“hyper ball.” It literally means to throw a ball very very far. It also means to exceed the normal. That word suggests that God has basically gone far above the norm.

“Greatness,” tells us that our calling as believers is indeed monumental. It is no small thing.

“Greatness,” tells us that our calling as believers is something quite monumental.

He insists that our faith is in our calling, it’s no small thing. And it’s completely God’s decision, not ours. We must accept what’s just happened.

What He’s done is amazing. His salvation reaches out to us.

His power toward us who believe.”

As believers, we will encounter a force and strength far beyond anything here on earth.

“According to the working of his great might.” 

“Working” seems to suggest effort. Perhaps this means Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross for us. He cried out “not my will but thine” in the garden. It’s said that He sweated blood. All of this took effort, or work. It wasn’t easy. (Read Luke 22:44.)

“Great might” implies the power it took God to do this for us. It wasn’t small and not minor. It took the death of His son in order to save us.

Chapter 1:15-17, Paul Goes to Work

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.

Paul now shifts from theology to prayer. It’s the second section of chapter one. Personally, I’m impressed with the absolute need for this dynamic. Theology is great, (verses 3-14) but as leaders, we dare not try to teach one without the other. Prayer is Paul’s way of making theology real.

Theology means very little without intercession.

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere,”

Paul heard. It was a report, a letter, a testimony perhaps–but Paul knew. Strong faith…your love is the critical fruit of real Christianity. This was a faithful and true church, and these two qualities are what made the Ephesians real. I believe that is the way we determine authenticity.

The word used for love is agape. God’s love is both limitless and unparalleled. It loves in spite of obstacles and sin. It’s His love, and it never ever gives up.

 “I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly,” 

Paul isn’t side-tracked like we are sometimes. He doesn’t stop, he’s like a “runaway train!” Chained in prison, held and confined, Paul understands prayer and what it does.

Paul prays for the Ephesians constantly. He can’t be stopped!

Constantly is an exciting word in Greek, it means to continue all the time without deviation or interruption.

It’s also interesting. As verses 3-14 are one long sentence in Greek, but so are verses 15-23!

Paul can’t contain himself. He turns on a “spiritual fire hose” on the Ephesians. He blasts and pounds them, first with theology and now with prayer. And by doing so he gives an example of true spiritual leadership. We do well to try to do the same; our churches are counting on us.

“Asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom

The previous verses emphasized theological truth. Knowing who we are–predestined, adopted as sons. Now Paul wants to burn these truths in their hearts through intercessory prayer. He wants God to give them a “present,” the gift of spiritual wisdom. (Perhaps we need this as well?)

Wisdom is a critical component of receiving from God.

“Spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.

Growing up is a God-thing. But it often comes when leaders pray long and hard for their church. I for one seem to emphasize preaching–imparting theology in the best way I can. BUT…maybe prayer and intercession are what I’m missing. Maybe our leaders need to back up their teaching with it. Maybe it’s why the churches seem to struggle so?

The church that is not jealously protected by mighty intercession and sacrificial labors will before long become the abode of every evil bird and the hiding place for unsuspected corruption. The creeping wilderness will soon take over that church that trusts in its own strength and forgets to watch and pray.

   A.W. Tozer

ephesians101.com

Chapter 1:13-14, The Seal and the Guarantee

13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

This passage is a bit hard to believe.

But if we do really believe what was preached to us, something eternal happens. These verses are a “spiritual” x-ray that clearly reveals what just happened. It’s quite dramatic to be honest.

And you also were included in Christ.” Some readers know what it’s like to be “excluded.” I remember being the last one picked in a 6th-grade baseball game. Neither side wanted me on their team–I learned what it was like to be ostracized. (It’s now become a tremendous lesson for me.)

Included in Christ. We finally (and truly) belong on His team! We belong and He desires to have us. Believers are now chosen beyond our wildest dreams. Also note: In Christ, is used 12x in Ephesians. (I like to reinterpret this as “inside Christ” as it helps me understand.)

You must believe that He put His insignia on you. We belong. That spiritual seal will finally be opened up when we arrive in heaven.

We are His.

“The gospel of your salvation.” Good news about the things He decided. “Salvation” (sozo) means deliverance, health, wholeness in the Greek. Salvation is a superb translation. One of the keywords here is “your.” It communicates possession or ownership–we have been something that’s personally ours.

When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” Some translations say “stamped” and others “sealed.” The word for marked is to authenticate, place beyond doubt, made secure from the enemy. The idea also declares certification that can’t be nullified.

We are given the Spirit that has now irrevocably changed us forever. We’re signed off and sealed for heaven’s court.

“Who is a deposit to the praise of his glory. our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Again we read of something fully promised. It’s a banking or accounting term, declaring a deposit given, a down-payment.

“Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

2 Corinthians 5:5

Inheritance implies the death of someone who passes on something: money or property. When Jesus died we received from Him eternal life. All we must do is repent and believe (John 3:16, Acts 2:38).

God’s possession. Honestly now, whom among us can take from Him what is His! We’re God’s property.

To the praise of his glory. Again, Paul uses the phrase that seems to explode inside. He now concludes his singular sentence (verses 3-14). It’s the longest in the Bible with no punctuation! The impression I have is something Paul can’t contain.

These truths explode.

ephesians101.com

The Terribly Lost Son: What Jesus Wants Us to Know About God

What Jesus Wants Us to Know About God!

14 After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing. 15 Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one would give him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.”’ 

20 So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:14-24

Ephesians 1 must be applied if it’s going to make any real sense at all. Sometimes when reading this chapter it can remain theological. For instance, the terms predestination or adoption remain on our bookshelves and somehow they never enter our spiritual hearts. We may assent but we do not absorb.

Both Ephesians 1 and Luke 15 are magnificent. They truly belong together.

I use the word magnificent—let’s define that as both passages declare that fact:

  1. impressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking (“a dramatic landscape of magnificent mountains”)
  2. very good; excellent (“she paid tribute to their magnificent efforts”)

These two chapters, Luke 15 and Ephesians 1, taken together, are potent. If the Bible is a mountain range, then these two chapters, taken together would be Everest. In Luke 15 there are 3 parables, each dealing with things that are quite lost. Everything is terribly off-track—-but we can also say that everything is found.

Our Father runs because He sees our hearts. His joy can’t be explained but only received. The words in Ephesians 1–chosen, adopted, accepted, and redeemed become truths that are just waiting for us to take hold of.

Just perhaps it will take an eternity to understand these words? If so, we should get started now.

There are just three characters here in Luke 15:14-24: there’s the Father, the son, and the elder brother–and each plays an integral part. The prodigal is the main character, yet the father is the main focus. The son is a wastrel, a good-for-nothing rascal who blows his father’s inheritance on parties, booze, and prostitutes. He lives for the moment, he seeks pleasure in those things which are destroying him.

Haven’t we all done that–at least to one degree or another?

The father represents God, who represents the loving patriarch of the parable. He’s the one who has turned over the prodigal’s portion of the inheritance. To a degree I suppose he has funded the prodigal’s descent into depravity, and yet it was the son who decided to go crazy. The father is not to blame.

But in this story, the father is vital. His actions are very difficult for us to grasp. God behaves outrageously, and His character is difficult to understand or fathom. (After all, who acts this way?) Granted we think our earthly fathers might do this for us–but even that may be a stretch for some. Yet this parable describes how God feels about sinners.

The mysteries of this parable and Ephesians1 explain who God is, and His love for nasty varmints like us. We are His Church, and yet we still need to come home.

And we serve a running God.

w

“Jesus wants to make it clear that the God of whom he speaks is a God of compassion who joyously welcomes repentant sinners into his house.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal Son

(My favorite painting. Rembrandt’s painted this in 1669. I know that that was done long ago, but I enjoy seeing and reacting to what he did. I’m always blessed.)

Chapter 1:11-12, Chosen by the Father

In Him, we have also received an inheritance, because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will, 12 so that we who had already put our hope in Christ might bring praise to his glory.

This passage extends the thrust of the previous one. It does add some new information though. Verses 9-10 must be understood first (and actually verses 3-10 set this up as well).

In Him, we have also received an inheritance, because we were predestined… In Him is part of the twelve. Everything we experience spiritually is the beginning point of that wonderful truth–“in Him.” I’ve used the term “inside of Him” as it helps me (and I need help).

“Received an inheritance” is a phrase that fits well with “the Parable of the Prodigal Son” in Luke 15:11-24.

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

It’s there we visualize this wonderful truth. God loves this son who has blown his share on whores and drunken parties. He has nothing left from the inheritance. He decides he must return. He must go home.

“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him.”

Luke 15:20, The Message

According to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will, 

His plan and purpose are in agreement, one and the same. He wants us to see this. The Father looks and then finds. It all fits and astounds. It all comes together, and He agrees. It’s His purpose, and it doesn’t compute. He desperately wants us to come home. He has “kisses” which are not what we expect.

 So that we who had already put our hope in Christ might bring praise to his glory. It seems that our faith in Him, (our hope) establishes His glory. Now I honestly don’t grasp this. But we “praise” Him and it adds gold into His treasure chest. Perhaps this is my own interpretation.

This passage is meant to bring Him incredible glory. And it does.

“If God is compassionate, then certainly those who love God should be compassionate as well.”

― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal Son

Chapter 1:9-10, Everything Comes Together in Christ

He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ as a plan for the right time—to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him.”

Ephesians 1:9-10

He made known to us the mystery of his will. “Known” here means having a thorough knowledge. It’s knowing, but having it made whole and complete to our hearts. It’s spiritual granite.

“Mystery”–it comes to only those who have been initiated, it’s a word that implies “exclusivity.” You can only understand if you’ve gone through all of the previous steps (verses 3-8). It’s going to be a locked book otherwise. You’ll think you know, but you really don’t have the slightest.

According to the good pleasure that he purposed in Christ as a plan for the right time. Please don’t try to completely understand this. You will never quite grasp its significance. Perhaps He takes a kick out of saving us out of our confusion and sin in spite of our ignorance. He absolutely delights in saving you!

“He purposed in Christ.” He has a very specific motive–it’s His pleasure. And, it was waiting until the time was just right. It’s a plan that was just waiting for the perfect time to be launched. His perfect design that is now part of history, and, we’re part of this!

“I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.”

Jeremiah 29:11, NCV

To bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him.” He’s the magnet of God. He pulls everything toward Him, like iron filings come together with a power that we can’t grasp–unless, we are initiated into this mystery. We really can’t grasp it until we’re “in Him, (phrase used 12x in this letter).

“In heaven…on earth” It shocks us to realize the totality of this idea. Jesus Christ is the center of the entire universe. It’s all about Him. History (his-story) can only be understood with Him as the “hub.” It doesn’t make sense otherwise. He’s the complete center of history. The entire universe is His.

“All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.”

John 1:3

“Christ the Redeemer” statue stands in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It’s considered as one of seven new “wonders of the world.”

Chapter 1:7-8: Our Redemption, Our Forgiveness

In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding.

“In Him.” This is a critical truth in the Book of Ephesians. Paul pounds this into our thick skulls and hard hearts, repeatedly. He uses this 12x in the text. I must believe that this is intentional–a key to understanding truth.

In Him, we have redemption through his blood. “Have” is sort of a minor word, but the Greek makes it significant–“to own, possess or to be closely joined to.”

Redemption through His blood gives us tremendous insight. To be “redeemed” literally means to buy back. Isn’t that what has happened to the believer? God has reclaimed us, repurchased us, and retrieved us from a dead life (if that makes sense).

Blood. That’s the only way that this could’ve happened.

The blood of Jesus is a scarlet thread that can be seen in every book of the Bible.

We must trust that the blood of Jesus Christ is more than enough for our redemption. It’s that blood that has repurchased us and brought us into full acceptance. It’s not about being a better person, rather it’s the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

The forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. Trespasses are what we do best. We’ve all turned away from a relationship with God.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;”

Romans 3:23

Riches of His grace. His wealth is seen in the “type” and quality of His grace. Grace is given (a gift) for the undeserving and unworthy. We’re all at war with Him. but the sacrifice of Jesus (blood) restores us completely.

That he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding. He doesn’t stint and God is no miser of His grace. He “richly pours out” and holds nothing in reserve.

All wisdom and understanding. “All” is key, it means a super-abundance, to exceed the norm. (A good word I think.) “Wisdom” means supreme intelligence, an awareness of different matters. The word “understanding” carries the concept of comprehending and perceiving.

Putting it all together helps us understand the heart and mind of God in redeeming us through the blood of His Son. He knew everything and decided to give it to us anyway. He has redeemed and forgiven us.

ephesians101.com

Chapter 1:5-6, Lavished On Us

He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.

These particular verses establish the believer’s election. That involves being predestined or having a “pre-destiny” to be adopted as sons and daughters.

He predestined us to be adopted as sons. This is staggering. He’s made a profound move to bring the adopted (us) into a place of the family with this place of the divine. He chose us, and we simply accept this choice.

Sons. Not slaves. We’ve now included in this predestination that has made us His family. His own family!

For himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, What can we say? It’s what He wanted to do. He has willed our adoption. He wanted it, and because of this, we belong. We’re now part of His family tree.

“…to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.

Ephesians 1:6

To the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One. “Praise” here is a strong word in the original text. It’s the highest level there is. It’s very intense.

“Glorious grace.” This glory is fully attached to grace and in a way it intensives it. Grace here is something undeserved and yet it’s given to us freely. It belongs exclusively to God, but it’s like a “Christmas present.” It’s now given to each of us to open up what God has given us.

The word “grace” is charis in Greek and it can be translated as a benefit, bounty, “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness.” It’s a word with a lot of dimensions to it.

Lavished on us in the Beloved One. It’s extravagant and excessive and it’s poured out on one’s spirit without measure. When one first believes in Jesus, (the beloved one) it completely saturates us. This poured-out grace isn’t earned or deserved, rather He has made His decision to heap on us a powerful love.

B

Chapter 1:3-4, God’s Fire Hose

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him.

As we step out of the introduction we’re hit with some pretty profound stuff–this is pure and unadulterated truth, something we’re really not used to. Paul is passionate, and what he gives us in verses 3-14 is profoundly challenging.

In the original Greek texts, these 12 verses are written as one sentence. As you read it you realize that Paul’s enthusiasm saturates each word. He’s unbelievably excited! It’s like he has to share (or burst)!

I compare this section to a “fire hose.” It pounds and blasts, penetrating the reader’s spirit with God’s Words about us. Truth just keeps coming and coming pointed right at us. Trust me on this–there’s nothing quite like verses 3-14 in the entire Bible!

Let’s step into God’s burst.

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word for blessed is “to eulogize,” and it communicates saying something very good about someone else. We typically think that it’s only used when someone dies–but it’s not the case here. Paul starts with that word to set the stage for everything that follows.

In the original Greek texts, these 12 verses (verses 3-14) are written in a single sentence! As you read it you realize that Paul’s enthusiasm saturates each word.

Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.” Again the word is a eulogy. God eulogized us (speak very well of) and we’ve been given all that He has to give. It’s a fantastic word, isn’t it!

“Heavens” is the region of God’s throne. That seems to be the deep source of our personal blessing. It’s the place where God sits!

“In Christ.” This particular praise is used over and over In Ephesians. It’s in Christ that we receive all these (outrageous) promises. I often substitute the word “in” as “inside,” this helps me to understand this truth.

For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,” is a spiritual lightning strike! Chosen literally means “to picked out, or hand-picked.” I think of the 12 disciples who were selected out of the crowds to follow Jesus. In the same way, you and I have been chosen by Him. And God did this a long, long time ago.

To be holy and blameless in love before him.” Thre keywords: holy and blameless and love. I believe that this is what God wants–it’s our response to being blessed and chosen by Him. But to be holy and blameless (“faultless or unblamable”) isn’t enough–we’re to do this all in love.

It’s how we’re to act after we realize that we’ve been handpicked by Him.

(Didn’t I say, these verses are like God’s fire hose?)

Chapter 1:2, Peace Finally

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Verse 2 completes Paul’s greeting. Embedded in it are many amazing ideas.

Grace to you.” This isn’t a typical “how do you do?” I believe it carries God’s heart for His people. It’s called “charis” in Greek, meaning mercy and love combined into one. The word also can mean “joy, pleasure, or delight.”

This is pretty amazing is it not? Paul’s heart is God’s heart, and the apostle starts this letter off with a bang!

“And peace from God.” The word means “harmony, exemption of rage or hostilities, safety, and abundance.” God is not at war with the Christians of Ephesus, instead, there is only a profound peace. God is not an enemy to us. Instead, Paul makes it crystal clear that the Father is now your friend.


“I no longer call you servants, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. But now I call you friends.”

John 10:10

“And the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word Lord jumps into my mind. “Lordship” works two ways. First, Jesus is in control, holding the world together. (He also protects us from our many enemies!) Second, He is to be the Lord and Master of our lives. We now belong exclusively to Him, and Jesus is to become our Lord. We must obey Him in everything.

“Christ.” It means anointed and was the exclusive name of the Jewish messiah. He’s the promised one–the one who’s come to save us from our many sins (John 1:29.) He still is the Messiah (even to us Gentiles) and He rules all of eternity with that title and power.

I have to say that Paul has given us a very good introduction.

Chapter 1:1, Paul Begins

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will: To the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus.”

Well, enough posts of introduction, let’s step into Ephesians itself. My previous three posts only were background. Now we step in the book and find out what the Father wants.

Paul’s Greeting, verse 1

“Paul, an apostle” is very short and sweet. (This is actually the shortest intro of all Paul’s epistles.) He is Paul, and he’s an apostle. An apostle is literally “a sent one.” He doesn’t claim any preeminence, only a very simple fact. He knows who he is, and understands his function. The authority he carries strengthens his epistle. The book that follows carries the mark of someone who has seen Jesus.

“An apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will.” He represents Someone else–the Lord Jesus. Paul himself carries no authority of his own. His purposes are completely connected to Jesus and have absolutely zero power apart from Him. Paul knows this and writes this introduction with this in mind. Apart from Him, he’s got nothing.

He mentions “by God’s will.” This puts himself in the hands of God Himself. So Paul understands that he’s part of God’s continuum, someone that is continuing the ways and purposes of God Himself. His ministry is not of his doing by no means. It’s part of what God is doing on earth. He belongs exclusively to Him.

“To the faithful saints.” The word “faithful” strikes me as something significant, it implies loyalty or devotion. Perhaps if we’re faithful we’re now someone who’s committed to Him. (Perhaps this is the key that opens up this epistle to us?)

“Saints” is a curious word. It means “a holy one.” It implies someone who has been set apart for God’s purposes. Perhaps this letter is blocked, and’s the exclusive domain of those who’ve found the grace God has given, the true “qualifications” of being His? Or maybe the book “opens” up to those who aspire to be “faithful saints?” That’s a good question.

“At Ephesus.” The city was evil and filled with idols. It’s also a place that has incredible significance to the empire. (It was as big as Milwaukee, Wisconsin.) Pagan temples were everywhere. One of the seven wonders of the world was the city’s “Temple to Diana.” Ephesus was a city that only advanced darkness in this world.

The phrase “at Ephesus” is not found in some of the earliest manuscripts. This leads many scholars to believe that the book of Ephesians was meant to be a circular letter, something that would be shared by all the churches of Asia Minor. (I’ve no problem with this, it makes sense.)

The letter needed to be circulated.

ephesians101.com

A Prisoner, by God’s Grace

Does being in prison change a person? How would it affect you? I imagine the Apostle Paul’s frustration. He loved to disciple and establish churches. To be confined like this would be quite difficult. What a spiritual trial it would’ve been. Me, personally, I would have definite issues. I made a list. I probably would be:

  • Angry? Depressed?
  • Frustrated? Anxious?
  • Full of self-pity?
  • Isolated, lonely?
  • Frightened?

During his imprisonment, I’m sure that the Apostle Paul had to work through all of these things–I’m certain that Satan tempted him repeatedly. I think the man Paul had dealt with the enemy through all of this (and more besides). Most feel that he would be imprisoned in Rome for at least two years. That’s a long time.

It’s generally agreed that he wrote the four epistles in 60-62 AD. These letters are regarded as written from his prison cell in Rome: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Each of these four is different. (But admittedly, Philemon is the most unalike.)

And yet the scent of the prison can be found in these writings.

Despite the possible response of an incarcerated man, Paul’s writings from the Mamertine Prison are incredibly encouraging–he shows none of the issues of a man locked in a cell–but yet there are hard things he must deal with. Take a second to look at some direct references to his imprisonment.

  • “I appeal to you, instead, on the basis of love. I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus,” (Philemon 9.)
  • I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:22-24).
  • “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles,” (Ephesians 3:10).
  • “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” (Col. 4:18).
  • “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” (Philippians 1:12-14).
  • “The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” (Acts 23:11).

It’s clear to me that Paul used this time to witness through his writings. He never grew bitter, only better. One could suggest that it’s we have been blessed by these epistles. His time in prison was the time he needed to bless us today. Where would we be without these books?

A papyrus fragment from Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians.

How many times was Paul imprisoned? Was he jailed once, twice, or several times? I’ve read different commentaries and they can’t decide. It’s a challenge to put together a solid timeline. There seems to be more evidence for two different confinements. Check out this site if you want to dig deeper.

But no matter what. These writings are God’s gift to us today.

From a dark prison, Paul writes these absolutely incredible letters. I believe Satan wanted to destroy Paul. I also think that this was a tremendous trial for him. He was a spiritual dynamo, wanting to establish and strengthen churches and then being chained to a wall must’ve been a challenge for him. There was so much for him to do.

But we desperately needed these letters!

Perhaps, out of our confusion and challenges, God’s purpose goes far beyond what we think. Sometimes we have no idea what our “imprisonment” is going to do. That encourages me. He turns our hard times into spiritual gold!

Through these letters, we’ve been given so much. These epistles are written from Rome’s dungeon, and yet they continue to shake the world!

ephesians101.com

Evil and Magic in Ephesus

Selling Idols in Ephesus

And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, 19 while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So they calculated their value and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread and prevailed.”

Acts 19:18-20

Many years ago I served in evangelism work in the Mission district of San Francisco, California. The challenges there were staggering, there was a concentrated evil present. Something very wicked. A pastor friend once told me that a cult a day was born there. He also said that it was “the graveyard of churches.”

I first encountered definite demonic forces in San Francisco.

So many walked in homosexuality, drug addiction, and strange doctrines, etc. I witnessed so much evil that I choose not to share because I really don’t want to glorify this iniquity. But believe me, this beautiful city is saturated with darkness and perversion. I saw it up close.

Ephesus ranked right up there as a center of evil and magic.

Diana of Ephesus was a very well-known goddess in ancient times. Diana’s temple (Temple of Artemis) was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. She was seen as a goddess of fertility and to highlight this she’s covered with breasts.

The text I chose to open this teaching is from Acts 19, but there is much more here.

  • Paul healed and cast out many demons while in Ephesus. (Acts 19:11-12)
  • The seven sons of Sceva tried to copy Paul. (Acts 19:13-16)
  • Demetrius, an idol maker incited a riot that tried to destroy Paul and the church. (Acts 19:24-34)
  • The basis of this riot was financial, which every believer must understand when dealing with iniquity in a center of evil. It’s often the root cause. Magic scrolls, rings, amulets, bracelets, and necklaces thought to have powers were all common in ancient Ephesus. A financial loss was an issue.
  • Paul exhorts the church in Ephesians chapter 6 to “put on the full armor of God.” He lists each piece and describes its purpose. The church needed that direction because the city was saturated with evil. The specific direction had to be given for their spiritual survival. (Ephesians 6:10-20)
  • Paul spoke of “wrestling with the wild beasts” while in Ephesus. I don’t believe that he is literal.
  • The church in Ephesus understood up to a point, but they were rebuked for having “left their first love. In Revelation 2:1-7 we can read of their sin.

I’m certain that the church faced many other challenges in this city. The demonic was active there. Believers had to encounter this on a daily basis.

“There is nothing so abominable in the eyes of God and of men as idolatry, whereby men render to the creature that honor which is due only to the Creator.”

    Blaise Pascal

Ephesus: The City

What was Ephesus like? Understanding the background of this important city will clarify Paul’s greatest Epistle.

The city of Ephesus was incredibly prominent in the Roman empire. One of the seven wonders of the world was the Temple of Artemis which pretty much defined the city. It becomes the background of much of Paul’s ministry there. The length of that Temple was 377 feet, or 125 yards long, (bigger than a NFL football field)! You can also see the ruins of the theater–it could seat 25,000 people comfortably.

The population of the city was 300,000 (bigger than Stockton, CA or Pittsburgh, PA)!

It was governed by over 100 senators in a primitive sort of democracy. It was seen as the third largest city in the empire. Ephesus had a fine harbor to the west and was at the end of an important trading highway to the east. Ephesus therefore served as a center for east-west trade, and it became the greatest commercial city of the Asian province.

The city was definitely a pagan one, with various temples throughout the city. It was also the significant center of magic and the occult which had a terribly dark influence on much of the empire. (But more about that later.)

Being as large as it was its effect was considerable.

Paul spent at least three years living and ministering there, and the book of Acts described his work. We can read of his efforts in Acts chapters 18-19. We know that he was there from 52-55 AD. It’s clear that the Apostle Paul loved the Church in Ephesus, and esteemed the disciples who lived there. It’s also believed by some that John ministered there at the end of his life. Ephesus is also where Apollos began his ministry, Acts 18:24-28.

Regarding Paul and his ministry in Ephesus:

“Here for the space of three complete years – a unique length of stationary work for him – Paul had lived and laboured, not as the apostolic missionary only but as the apostolic pastor. Here he had taken that critical and momentous step, the ‘separation’ of the disciples from the Synagogue to a distinct place of teaching and no doubt of worship, ‘the school of one Tyrannus,’ the lecture-hall, we may suppose, of a friendly professor in what we may call the Ephesian University. Here he had laboured, watched, and wept, for both the community and individuals.”

Henry Moule

Map of the Main Cities of the Empire

The Queen of the Epistles

It seems to me that the book of Ephesians is very very special. There’s a stature or an inherent magnificence to its message. It’s something that places it above every other letter in the New Testament. Most scholars and serious preachers would agree. I think she’s grand.

Now I don’t discount the other books in the New Testament. Obviously, they are powerful stuff. When we read them we see the signature of God, evidence that He has written them–supervising and directing each and every word. We understand that as believers the power of God’s words.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17, CSB

The word for inspired in Greek (the original language) literally means “God-breathed.” I suppose that means that each carries with it the breath of God–and that’s pretty heady stuff if you ask me. When we do read God’s words they have the power to change lives like no one else has been able to do.

On a more human note: My intention is to proceed cautiously and carefully. I won’t be rushed. I have no timetable, no compulsion to write out anything in a hurried manner. I simply hope that my posts be short and sweet. I also want to be careful about handling Ephesians which is accompanied by an awareness that the Holy Spirit is looking over my shoulder!

The book is alive and has the breath of God in it. I’ll try not to forget this.