Ephesians 6 – God's Armor

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God’s armor helps us defend against the constant attacks of the enemy.

Paul does two things here that are necessary for us as Christians to understand the reality of the battle that we are facing.  First, he helps us determine where the battle is being fought and second, helps us to understand the resources at our disposal for this battle.

One of the greatest struggles in any conflict is determining who the true enemy is.  Often it is easy to over-generalize the enemy, especially in war.  We go to war with a country, but the true enemy is a rogue government or evil dictator, not the citizens trapped therein.  In North America, the Church finds itself at odds with culture, often over-generalizing the enemy that is being fought as an ideology, supreme court decision, or political party.

While there may be some truth to these particular segments, they are gross over-generalizations that vilify things and people whilst distracting us from the true battle that is going on.  Paul cuts through this and points to the true culprit behind not just western culture’s moral decline, but every temptation, sin, and evil that has ever been: the great deceiver, Satan, and the plane that this war is taking place on is much greater than any one single issue or act.

As such, the armor and weapons that are needed for this battle are also greater than any human creation or action.  These are things that can only come from God.  Lately, it seems, and far too often, the Church has relied less and less on God’s armor and more on political structures and lobbying groups to confront the enemy and all his scheming… and to no avail either.

We need to understand the nature of the war that we are in.  It isn’t one that we are going to win on our own.  In fact, it isn’t going to be one until Jesus Christ comes again and wins it for us once and for all.  The image of the Church in the world will not be crafted by how we get our way in governmental structures, whether or not abortion is legal, or any other such thing.  Rather, as Scripture tells us,

Rather, as Scripture tells us, we will face troubles in the world and should expect that.  God has given us weapons to defend against these attacks.  He has also shown us how, exactly, the world will know our identity as Christ followers, and that is through the love that we show all those around us in spite of governmental decisions, moral cultural decline, and the like.



Ephesians 5 – Mutual Submission

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Ahhh, that great chapter on marriage.  Much of what Paul has been talking about continues in the first section of this chapter, living the life that God has called us to live, showing love to each other as Christ has shown His love to us.

Paul then moves on to a more specific application looking at specific relationships; husband and wife, parent and child, slave and master (or perhaps a more contemporary translation, employee and employer).  Each one of these relationship examples is a practical application of living out the Christian life, or as Paul writes, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

All of it finds its credence in the first section as Paul explains what he means using the example of the marriage relationship.  None of this “submission” is meant to create power gaps or abusive relationships, but rather it takes its cue from Jesus Christ who is the example of what true love and submission mean.

Contrary to what some believe, this is one of the most beautiful images of marriage in which both individuals are actively placing the other higher than themselves.  The language of submission is not popular in today’s world because it has been abused by so many and led to a great deal of hurt.  We also don’t like to be told to or involved in actively making ourselves vulnerable.  Certainly, it was never God’s intent or purpose to place people in abusive situations.

That said, when this idea of submitting to each other, to actively loving and valuing the other above our own interests is lived out, taking its cue from Christ, the result is a beautiful relationship and a tangible image of the love that God has for us.

The marriage relationship is one that uniquely images Christ’s love for us.

This, then, can be seen in the other relationships that Paul mentions in the beginning of the next chapter as well, all dictated by the language of mutual submission… or placing a higher value on the needs of others rather than our own.



Ephesians 4 – Mature Unity

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So, Paul writes, what are we going to do in light of this?  His writing often takes this turn into practical application, something theology should always do because the reality of Christ in us is not just something we acknowledge in our heads, it is in our hearts and lived out in our lives.

What does that mean here in the book of Ephesians?  It means we should be taking our cues from Christ, living a transformed life through the Holy Spirit.  God, who has drawn us near to Himself through the life and work of Jesus Christ calls us to draw near to each other, to be unified showing the same love that He has shown us.  This is, as Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians, the freedom we have in Christ to love one another, to put others before ourselves.

This idea of being unified can be a bit confusing for us.  Especially in today’s culture, unity is often misconstrued as thinking the same way ideologically, politically, and even religiously.  When we have differences, we tend to push others away.  That is not at all the way God showed His love for us.  In fact, in the midst of our differences and the barriers that were in place, God stepped toward us, drawing us in rather than pushing us away.

When people wrong us do we push them away or step toward them in love?

Using this as an example, Paul encourages the Church to rise above their differences of opinion and exhibit the same love, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that Christ showed us.  We are of one body, we have one God, and we have one identity that binds us together.  As such, we can transcend our human differences for the and live together in peace.

Doing so may not always be perfect, comfortable, or even clean.  There are bound to be bumps in the road.  However, the encouragement here is not to let those things be a reason to push others away, but that in those times we would step into the gap and move closer to the other in that relationship and in so doing, show the love of God to all those around us, whether in the Church or not.



Ephesians 3 – Plan A

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What is truly amazing about the love of God and the grace that He shows us is that, as Paul says here, this has always been the point and purpose.  This is why we were created, out of love, and what God has always desired, relationship with us.  It has always been His will to draw us to Himself.

Even after the Fall, when sin entered the world, the point at which God could have said that He was unequivocally done with us because of our lack of obedience, He still stepped into the gap desiring to show us His love.

Furthermore, this plan was always meant to include all the people of the earth, both Jews and Gentiles alike.  While God chose to work through a certain people that He called His own, it wasn’t for the purpose of keeping others out, but rather for the purpose of bringing them in.  This is a fact that often gets missed in the Old Testament, especially by the people of Israel.  They, like the Church, are called to be a “light to the nations” in the same way that Jesus is the “light of the world.”

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…” Isaiah 9:2

This full inclusion is made clearer through the life and work of Jesus as well as the revelation and power of the Holy Spirit and God removes the barriers that have long existed to being in a relationship with Him.

Paul accents this point in his prayer for the Ephesians, which is also a prayer for the whole of the church, that

…out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.



Ephesians 2 – No More Barriers

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Salvation isn’t quite as simple as we often think it to be.  We mainly talk about salvation in terms of having our “sins washed away,” sometimes even reducing it to a simple “get out of hell free” card.  Here, however, Paul breaks it down using stark terminology for what really happened for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul begins by laying out the reality of where we were before Christ, dead in our sins.  The use of the word “dead” is both intentional and telling.  Sometimes we brush sin off as being just a little thing, something that is relatively inconsequential in our lives.  Here, however, Paul reveals the truth of the reality of sin… and it’s literally killing us.  “Meaningless, meaningless,” writes the author of Ecclesiastes, “everything in life is meaningless” without God.  It’s utterly futile, a chasing after the wind; we live and then we die and all of our works come to nothing with no real significance unless God is in them.

Moreover, our sins also create a barrier between us and the only one who can both heal us and give our lives true meaning, God.  Isaiah writes, at the end of his book, that our works are like filthy rags without the Lord to redeem them.

Sin creates a barrier between us and God. Jesus Christ destroyed the barrier by dying for our sins.

In the midst of all this, though, Jesus enters the scene.  He doesn’t wait for us to figure it out, but rather lives and dies in our place that we may be reconciled to God, that the barriers would be removed.

“He himself is our peace,” Paul writes, “who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”  In language equally as stark and descriptive as barriers and death, Paul talks about the results of Christ’s work, breaking down barriers, bringing life, and drawing those who were once foreigners and strangers, near to God as citizens, members of God’s house, and intimately near to Him.



Ephesians 1- Predestined

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Paul begins his letter to the church in Ephesus, a letter that was most likely meant to have a greater audience than just this one church, on a really high theological note.  In fact, he basically sums up salvation history in this one chapter, and it all begins and ends with God.

From all eternity, God has called us to be His own.

There is a tenant in the Christian faith known as the doctrine of predestination that is something that has been talked about and debated over the years.  Many different denominations of the Church see this differently.  Essentially, the picture that Paul is trying to paint here is a God that is far above any confines of human existence.  In fact, before the beginning began, God had worked out the plan of salvation and had even called people to Himself.  This calling, which happened before all time began, is what we know of as Predestination.

Now, this particular doctrine also raises a number of questions for us.  If God had the plan of salvation already worked out before He created the world, does that mean that God knew sin was going to happen?  How could He allow that?  Does that mean He created an imperfect world?

What about free will?  Humans were created with the freedom to choose God or not, yet God already knows who He has called and who will respond?  Doesn’t that conflict with free will?

These are good questions.  The responses would take more time and are more nuanced than this writing has time for or can address.  Some of it is beyond human understanding and comprehension.  However, it may suffice to say that what we know as salvation history, as recorded in the Bible, is far greater, more thought-out, and abundantly more complex than we may have initially thought.  Yet, even in that, God has taken care of every detail to the point that we cannot lose even a hair from our head without it being His will.  Truly, He is amazing!



Introduction to Ephesians

Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus rather unique in that it does not address any specific theology error or doctrinal heresy that was present in the church at that time.  Rather, Paul’s writing here seems to be focused more on expanding the understanding of God’s love, grace, and eternal purpose and to link those to God’s goals for the Church as well.

Here Paul addresses a number different aspects of God that we have later formed into doctrines, key aspects of the Christian faith that are drawn out of Scripture.  As He explains God’s great purpose and forethought in the plan of salvation and the goals God has for the Church, Paul then moves on to show the steps toward their fulfillment.  As is almost universally true with Paul, this is the move from theological thought to practical application.

Ephesus itself was one of the most important cities in western Asia Minor, which we know today as the country of Turkey.  Located just inland, it had a harbor along the Cayster River that ran down to the Aegean Sea.  Because of this, the city became an intersection of several major land and sea trade routes.  Acts 19 records Paul’s visit to Ephesus, where he spent over 2 years evangelizing and setting up a church, which is also the time and place that he wrote the first letter to the church in Corinth.

The Apostle John also spent a majority of his later years in the city of Ephesus, from which he rebuilt the Christian community there.  He used the city as a home base for evangelism throughout Asia Minor.  John was exiled from Ephesus to the Island of Patmos, from which he wrote the book of Revelation.  He later returned to the city where he would spend his last days and be buried after his death near the end of the first century.

Paul visited Ephesus on his Third missionary journey. Photo Credit: www.thinglink.com

Paul visited Ephesus on his Third missionary journey.
Photo Credit: www.thinglink.com



Ephesians 1:3-14 "Let's Talk About Identity"

Jesus Christ is the foundation on which our faith is built.  He gives us our identity as sons and daughters of God, called out of darkness into God’s light forever.



Ephesians 5:21-6:9 "Go: Jerusalem (Family and Work)"

We are called by Jesus Christ to “Go into all the world.”  Part 1 of 3 in our series entitled “Go” as we use Acts 1:8 to guide our conversation.  Jesus say, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  This week we will talk about our individual ‘Jerusalems,’ which we are interpreting, for this week, as our families and work relationships.



Day 342: Ephesians 4-6; Unity in the Spirit

Our reading today beings with a very important key word: “Therefore.”  I think that we have talked about this word before when we got to Romans 12, Paul is saying in this, “because of all that I have said to you in previously, now do this…”

“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

This is the main thrust of the second half of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, Unity in the Spirit.  Interestingly, Paul asserts here what we hold as true for the whole church, the upholding of unity, even in the midst of the diversity of denominations.  Paul’s point is very important, and I think it even more important as we look at the church today.  There have been a considerable amount of splitting that has taken place, especially in the church in North America.  Denominations are at odds with each other over little things that are really peripheral in the life of the church.  Paul is saying that we need to make every effort to heal these divisions among us.  I’m not necessarily advocating for the end of denominationalism here because there is certainly room within the church for the diversity of worship styles and even peripheral theological beliefs.  The fact is though, that we all hold (or should be holding to) the same core principles: Salvation in Jesus Christ by the Grace of God alone through Faith.  Those that do not hold to this Gospel, as Paul has written elsewhere, are in essence, not Christians.

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.  Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.  Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.  Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.  Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Keeping in mind that all of this falls under unity in Christ Jesus, Paul moves on from the greater faith community to that of the Christian house hold.  This passage of Scripture has often been misinterpreted to reference the subservience of wives to their husbands.  Sadly, people have used also to be proof that wives are somehow always to be submissive to their husbands in a sort of abuse of power way in which the husband dominates the wife.  This is truly not the case, and Paul says this outright. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”  Marriage itself is a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Jesus indeed left His Father in heaven to be united to His bride the Church, something that happened through His death and resurrection and something that will happen in its fullness when Christ comes again in His glory.

Finally, as Paul closes out this letter, he talks about the armor of God and Christian living.  Paul says again and again “put on” the whole armor of God.  This is not “armor” is not something that we use for special occasions, it is something we are to wear like clothing, putting it on everyday.  We are to clothe ourselves righteousness, guard our head with the salvation we have in Christ, be always ready with the Gospel of peace.  We have the Sword of the Spirit and the Shield of faith for our defense, and all of it is held up by the belt of Truth which supports all things at all times.  The best news of this whole passage is that this armor is not something that we create for ourselves, but like the salvation given to us by grace through faith, this armor is built up and given to us by God through the Holy Spirit.  These too are meant not just for our own protection, but for that of the protection of our neighbor, our brothers and sisters in the community of faith.  We defend each other and ourselves, fighting the good fight against the spiritual forces of evil that are at work against us.