This Valentine’s Day week it’s easy to say that everyone is looking for something. Love changes everything! Some of us found love in the city. Some of us this week will be asking questions like, “Who am I?”
Instead we really should be asking questions like, “Who am I in relationship to Jesus?” and “Who am I in relationship to Jesus, the church, and my city?”
Paul had spent two years in a city called Ephesus, leading people to Jesus. Face to face conversations – asking questions, listening, and describing how Jesus makes a difference.
Many people had found new life, through a relationship with Jesus, and the whole city knew about it. You can read the story in Acts 18 – 20.
After the two years, Paul leaves the city and the people he came to love. Later he writes them a letter. It’s not in response to a situation or controversy. No, he’s just thinking about how much he loves them. He’s being kept as a Roman prisoner. Now he spends time to write them a letter.
What’s the big idea? That’s a perfect question to ask every time you read the Bible!
He loves them and he wants them to grow in love. He wants to strengthen the believers in their love for and faith in Jesus Christ. He wants to help them put off the “old” and put on the “new”. In this letter, Paul uses the word “love” 19 times and the word “grace” 12 times. He structures this letter much like a verb, ie: “state of being” (in Chapters 1-3) and “action” (in Chapters 4 – 6).
Be: Chapters 1-3 Spiritual Privileges of the Church.
Do: Chapters 4-6 Spiritual Responsibilities of the Church.
When asked about Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said, “there’s a difference between inspiration and impact”. If you want more than inspiration from your reading of this letter…if you truly want impact in your life you will need to do a few things differently. One of them is that you need to consider the, “Who, What, Where, When, How, Why?” questions surrounding this letter.
We’ve already discussed the “Who” and you can see here a map of “Where”.
Ephesus on highway between “East” & “West” as the central city of 230 individual communities in Asia. It was the base of circulation of this handwritten “Letter to the Ephesians”. This city knew heartache and trouble. It had been leveled many times by war and earthquakes.
Ephesus was a port city, on the coast line, that was important for trade throughout the region in the areas of: business, religion, and culture. The city was under Roman rule at the time. The citizens were from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, educational standing, and economic strata which included slavery. There was any variety of tension common to any big city. There was a constant movement into and out from the city. The city had influence in the region. The amphitheater was the largest in the region and was used for plays, concerts, sports, and religious & political activities.
So in many ways, the people that Paul is writing too had very similar experiences and challenges as we do.
Now we should ask about the people that Paul is writing to. What were they talking about?
When we read the accounts of Luke in Acts 18 – 20 we see that they’re talking about – Jesus “The Way” Following resurrected Jesus as the way to Father God. Holy Spirit “The Help” Receiving the Holy Spirit as a huge part of their faith walk. That’s the big idea!
What can we learn, before we even start to read Ephesians?
(from what we’ve learned from Acts 18-20 and the context,)
1. God is alive and has something to say.
2. God knows what is going on in the city, including every aspect of culture.
3. God’s love is powerful and effective for everyone.
Paul is wanting them to take next steps, to experience growth in deeper levels of the life giving relationship with Jesus Christ.
They had an initial experience with Jesus through hearing & believing. They had confessed sin and their belief in Jesus. Pastor Paul is wanting to help them grow in their knowledge of and relationship with Jesus.
In the first part of the letter, “Ephesians Chapter 1”, we read that God loves us through Jesus & He is the head of the church.
If we break down Ephesians 1 what can we learn?
- God loves us. Eph. 1:1-5
- In response we praise Him. Eph. 1:6-14
- So that we may grow. Eph. 1:15-20
- Jesus leads for our benefit. Eph. 1:21-23
“To help his readers appreciate the magnitude of divine grace, Paul contrast their domination by sin before conversion and their freedom from that tyranny after conversion. He also emphasizes the fact salvation is wholly unearned; it comes by divine grace, through faith, and apart from meritorious good works. God’s action does produce good works, but they are a consequence rather than a means of salvation.” – Robert Gundry
My prayer is that this look at Ephesians connects with you! I pray that you connect with Jesus in the way that the letter’s original readers had.
To quote Pastor Paul, “I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called – His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.” Eph. 1:16-18