Saturday, 6 September 2014

Message in the Epistle to the Ephesians

Paul's letter to the Ephesian church is full of some of the most wonderful revelations about the believer's union with Christ found anywhere in Scripture. Paul said that the truths he was presenting in this letter were mysteries, previously unknown (Eph 3:3-6). For this reason, Paul included two prayers (Eph 1:15-23 and 3:14-21) in this letter, asking the Lord to grant the readers wisdom.

In contrast to Paul's letter to the Romans, which masterfully expounds the method of salvation (see Life for Today Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Romans), this letter reveals the benefits of salvation by grace through faith. The letter to the Galatians was harsh (see Life for Today Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Galatians); this letter is uplifting. The two letters to the Corinthian church were personal, addressing specific problems and questions; this letter is impersonal, advancing doctrine in much the same way a book would do.

The impersonal nature of this letter might be explained if Paul intended this letter to be circulated among other churches. He clearly stated that this was to be done with the letter to the Colossians (Col 4:16) and the letter to the Thessalonians (1Th 5:27). Therefore, there is some reason that this letter is nonspecific, with Ephesus being mentioned because it was the principal city from which Paul spent three years evangelizing. This could possibly make this letter the unknown letter to the Laodiceans mentioned in Col 4:16.

The first three chapters of Ephesians deal with our position and calling in Christ. The last three chapters (Eph 4-6) are practical and speak of our life in this world that demands a conduct inspired by this new calling of grace. It has been said that on the practical side, the book of Ephesians is "the Gospel walked out in shoe leather," for it talks of relationships between husbands and wives, masters and servants, parents and children, etc.

On the doctrinal side (Eph 1-3), we find that everything has been done and is complete in Him. A true understanding of Christianity does not begin by doing but begins with what has been done. We are invited to sit down and enjoy all that God has done for us in Christ. We are to rest in Him. It's only from this revelation that true works of faith spring; otherwise practical Christianity can turn to the works of the Law--a danger that Paul himself warned us about (Eph 2:15 and Ga 3:3).

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