Early on in my recommitment to Christ, my late friend David Vinyard pointed me to the book of Ephesians as a good starting point for understanding what God had done in my life and for uncovering what a Christian life well-lived looked like.
This coming Fall, the men’s group I lead, alongside several faithful brothers in Christ, is going to take a journey exploring the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. So naturally, I’ve started reading and studying this vital letter myself in preparation for our upcoming study of this book and how it applies, in particular, to Christian men living in the 21st century amidst the turbulent times we find ourselves in. So, I thought I would share my journey through Ephesians with you.
According to Dr. Thomas Constable, the majority of conservative New Testament scholars believe that Paul wrote Ephesians during his first time in Roman prison around A.D. 60-62. During this time, Paul also wrote Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians—known collectively as the “Prison Epistles.”
Strategically located, Ephesus was a thriving commercial epicenter. The city had a harbor accessible to large ships. Ephesus sat as a gateway to the valley leading deep into Asia Minor and it was connected to other important cities in the area through a highway system. For several years, Ephesus, boasting a population well over a quarter of a million people, was the second largest city, next to Rome, in the Roman Empire.
When Paul had first arrived there, he found a number of people who were followers of Christ. Seeing that they needed spiritual instruction and discipleship, Paul formed a church to help them grow in love and unity together as one body.
While no one today really doubts that the Apostle Paul wrote the letter there continues to be some debate about if he wrote the letter to the church at Ephesus or if the letter was actually intended to be circulated around to other churchs in what was known as Asia Minor at the time. The Greek word Paul chose to use–ekklesia–refers to the church in a more universal sense. But clearly, Paul, was also thinking of the individual local church as well.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 1:1-2 NIV
Several clues point to the Apsotle’s intent for Ephesians to serve as a circular letter rather than one directed specifically toward the church of Ephesus. The words “in Ephesus” in verse 1, chapter 1, are not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts, suggesting someone added them later. Paul also did not address specific issues that the church in Ephesus was dealing with at the time. While Paul had developed close relationships with the spiritual leaders in the church that he had started in Epehsus, no one is mentioned by name from the church in the letter itself.
There was certainly a lot going on in Ephesus at the time. A quick study of Acts 19 reveals that while the city thrived commercially as a result of its critical location, it had also become the center of spritiual battle, rife with demonic activity. The Lord was performing extraordinary miracles through Paul during his time in Epehsus. There were protests and riots and those that vehemently oppossed The Way, the common term used to identify Christians during that era.
In writing this important letter, Paul reminded readers of all God did for them out of His love for them. He also explains that the church is a picture of the restored human family according to God’s orginial intent for it. He turns aside the idea that God only accepts the Jews and not the Gentiles. He proclaims that all who are in Christ are people of God and that with regard to salvation, there are no restrictions based on race, class, or gender. The church is ONE household, called to show love and model unity in a world desperate for those very things. In this letter, Paul exhorts all churches–and all who call themselves Christians—to show faith, hope, and love in every aspect of daily life.
As believers, you and are adopted into the family of God. The Lord has given us new life. He continues to bless us and shower us with love. In response, we should accept each other in love, continually speak the truth in love, and live our lives in a manner that models love for the world to see. As Christians—we should be the most excellent picture of love that comes to mind when people think of what love is. That’s quite a challenge.
Thanks for listening. I pray that all is well with you and those you love. Hopefully, you’ll continue on the journey through Ephesians with me in the Saturdays that lie ahead.
More of Him, Less of me
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