Wednesday, May 6

Ephesians, Part III

As you know, at Quest we have been discussing what our lives will look like if we are truly following Jesus. We’ve started looking at the book of Ephesians with that idea in mind. Last week, we discussed Ephesians chapter 3. Here is some of what we talked about:

  • Paul continues his thoughts on the unity between the Gentiles and the Jews. In fact, this idea is so important to him and such a new concept that he refers to it as “the mystery of the Gospel” (Eph 3:6) It can not be stressed enough that under the rules and regulations of the Old Testament that God was for the Jews alone. He had a covenant relationship with them and with no one else. This affected the culture of the Jews, the way they treated and interacted (or didn’t interact) with the Gentiles, the way that they worshiped, and even the structure of the Temple. Paul tells us that with Jesus, this division no longer exists. All people, Jews and Gentiles alike, are joint heirs and we all have the same access to God.
  • We see Paul’s humility in this chapter. He refers to himself as “the least of all saints” (Eph 3:8). I think lots of times that people say humble things because they think it’s expected. Even if we know that we are kind of a big deal, we also know that nobody likes a braggart. But there is more than just that going on here. We can see throughout Paul’s writings that he never forgot that he spent his early life trying to kill Christians. He hunted down people who followed Jesus so that they could be put to death. Because of this, he knew that he didn’t deserve God’s grace. He felt that God would have been justified in condemning him. However, not only did God not condemn Paul, he called Paul to take the message of Jesus around the known world. Because he knew how far God had brought him, he remained humble.
  • Paul is writing this letter from prison, and he recognizes that this fact has the potential to affect his readers. When this letter was written, the Christians lived under at least the threat of persecution. Following Jesus created at least the possibility of problems with the rest of society. Paul was living proof of this, as he under house arrest. It would be easy for people to think “if even someone important like Paul can be imprisoned, think what can happen to me.” Fearing the consequences could lead to people being quieter and more passive about their faith in Jesus. In fact, this kind of persecution could create the situation of the shallow soil from Jesus’ parable of the sower. (Luke 8:4-15). In the parable, some of the sower’s seed falls on the rock grew up quickly, but when the sun came out it withered because it had no moisture. Jesus says that this represents people who receives the gospel message with joy but who fall away when the time of testing comes. Paul, on the other hand, knows that the message of Jesus runs against the rest of culture and wants to remind people not to be discouraged. In fact, Paul says that our reaction should be the opposite. Because of what Jesus has done for us, and because of our relationship with him, we should have boldness and confidence.
  • Paul prays that God will give his readers strength and understanding. He knows that if his readers have these things, they will not become discouraged. With strength and a fuller understanding of God, people will become bold and confident, and they will no longer be concerned about the consequences from the world around them. Paul seems to indicate that the key to this is coming to understand the love of God. The love of Jesus is so wide and so long and so high and so deep that it surpasses knowledge. It is impossible to figure out where the “end” of Jesus’ love is. If we come to understand that, the love of Jesus will overcome all of the problems we may have in the world.
  • God is able to do more than we can possibly ask or imagine. Paul wants to remind us that we can sometimes put God into a box because we think he can only act in the ways we can think of. Paul reminds us that God can do things beyond our imagination. He can also do these things while working through us. Because of God working through us, we are able to do things for Christ that are beyond what we would imagine with God.
  • The end of this chapter sounds like an end. It sounds like a conclusion, and it ends with an “Amen.” Paul is clearly wrapping up one section of his letter and is getting ready to move on to his next topic. He has given us a three chapter description of who we are in Jesus. In the next three chapters he will begin to discuss some of the ways that we should live because of who we are in Jesus.

This should give you a good idea of what we talked about concerning Ephesians chapter 3. Next week, we will continue our discussions on the book of Ephesians and look at chapter 4.

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