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A LETTER FROM PRISON TO CHURCHES IN ASIA
Dr. Bruce Nicholls   /   Oct 12, 2008
   

The apostle Paul founded many churches but the one in Ephesus had a very special place in his heart. Ephesus is today in Turkey and was one of the great cities of the Roman Empire. Ephesus was a pagan city, an immoral city and was the world center for the worship of the goddess Artemis, in Latin, “Diana”. The city had half a million people and so this means that one person in fifty was a prostitute so you can imagine how immoral this city of Ephesus was despite its entire splendor, culture and Roman power.

            Paul with Aquila and Priscilla, the husband and wife couple,  went from Corinth and arrived in Ephesus to begin the work of preaching the Gospel and establishing the church. Out of the short life of his ministry, Paul went to the Jewish synagogue as was his usual practice and to the Jewish communities preaching the Gospel that Jesus was the Messiah. He was so successful that people began turning away from going to the temple and coming to Christ instead. The last time that Paul came to Ephesus was later on in the third journey when he felt greatly called to go back to Jerusalem. Paul was then taken into Rome and imprisoned and after six years of the founding of this church, he wrote this letter to the church in Ephesus.

            The first section is his opening words of grace and and peace to the church. Ephesians 1:1-5 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,  To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will”. Paul gave a wonderful greeting and a familiar one which he used for many of the letters he wrote. He is stressing here his sense of call, as an apostle called by God by the will of God. He was writing to these Christians and saying that as Christians they belong to two cultures: a spiritual, divine culture, expressed in the life of the church, and they're in a secular, pagan world where they have to be a witness for Christ. Our calling as Christians is to live out the peace of God in our daily lives and to promote it. We are called to bring people so that they might have the peace of God, that they might be reconciled to God and reconciled to our neighbors which are the two great commands of God. Paul's prayer for us is "that you may know Him better." “That the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe." (Ephesians 1:18-19a)

            Chapter 2 starts with a very important passage where Paul begins by warning that “you were the object of God's wrath because of your sinful life and behavior, you gratified the cravings of our sinful nature, you followed evil thoughts and desires and you are by nature the subject of God's wrath.” This truth speaks to us about our inner life which we may hide from the rest of the world. He goes on to say that because of God's great love we are saved by grace alone. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” Ephes. 2:8-9 The source of our salvation is the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Perhaps one of the challenges of Christians today is to share by the grace of God to those who have no relationship with God and help them to understand that their salvation is not dependent on their good lives or good works or their worship but is dependent upon their trust and faith alone in Christ and in His saving work. We having nothing to boast about, we are God's workmanship and are created to do God's work.

            In chapter 3, John Wesley's theme “I am what I am by the grace of God” reflects Paul's humble thinking, that he was a “slave of Jesus Christ”. God's love is like a moving stream of water, wearing away rocks. If we want to reach our neighbor, our relative who's not a believer, we have to begin by loving them “in the power of the Holy Spirit”.

            As with all his letters, Paul deals with doctrine and belief in the first half of his letter, and in the second part, how we should live. In chapter 4, Paul moves from who we are in Christ to what is our responsibility in the world, the kind of life that we have to live. He says to put on the ways of righteousness, put on Christ, “Put off your old self, put on your new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”. It's very hard to do this on our own; we need others to help us. It's important to know that if we see some who have ungodly habits, don't just rebuke them, but together see how we can help them stop the wrong things.

            Chapters 5 and 6 are about family as the unit of God; the relationship between husbands and wives and how to bring up children. Paul begins by saying that we should learn to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ to have a happy family life. Husbands have the responsibility to earn the respect of their wife by giving the leadership in the family that Christ would expect. Wives must respond in gratefulness to God and in the leadership of her husband. Children, on the other hand, should obey their parents and parents must be very careful not to exasperate their children when they discipline.

            The latter part of chapter 6 deals with our spiritual walk as we realize that our real battle today is not what we see but the unseen, the demonic powers that control our governments, control our society and education. We have to stand firm against them and realize where our power lies. Paul admonishes us to defend ourselves and be clothed by God's armor. (Ephes. 6:13-17)

            Finally Paul ends with a prayer that God's grace would rest upon us and from there we know we can find peace. Ephes. 6:23-24 “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.”

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