Paul’s Letter to the Church at Ephesus – Intro Lesson
What we know about this letter:
1. It is from Paul, written while he is in prison.
2. The courier is Tychicus.
3. It is written to a church that is predominantly Gentile in composition.
4. No individuals or site specific situations are addressed (unlike Romans, Corinthians, Philippians, etc.).
Several manuscripts omit the city name, and with the very general character of the letter, suggests Paul wrote it as a circular type of letter that could be addressed to multiple churches.
Some scholars think that this may be the letter to Laodicea referenced in Colossians, because some of the syntax at the beginning makes more sense if two cities are addressed; ( Laodicea and Hierapolis were adjoining cities).
Ultimately, who the letter is addressed to is not overly important, because all of the churches in Asia minor (Ephesus, Philadelphia, Smyrna, Pergamum, Laodicea, Colossae…. etc.), were Gentile churches and were in the area that Tychicus would have been active in serving.
Much of the material used in Colossians is reused in Ephesians; this is particularly interesting if in fact this letter was for Laodicea. Why would Paul want the Colossians and the Laodiceans to read both letters if the material is much the same? It is a testament to the Spirit of God and Paul’s brilliance that he uses much of the same material to create two distinctly different-focused letters:
Colossians: understand Jesus is Lord over everything.
Ephesians: understand the Church reveals Christ’s Lordship.
Colossians: focus can be summarized as Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Ephesians: focus is Us in Christ, the glory of His church.
Colossians: portrays a view looking up at Jesus as Supreme.
Ephesians portrays God’s view looking from above, down upon his amazing church.
Everything in Ephesians is focused on helping the disciples understand God’s vision for the church and how to fulfill that vision. Even Eph 5, when Paul gives practical instruction about the husband and wife relationship, “’for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
Eph 5:31-32. It is all about the church!
The letter is divided neatly in two halves.
Chapters 1-3 describe the who and why of the letter.
Chapters 4-6 address the practical what and how.
Chapters 1-3: principles to understand: our blessings and the truths in which we need to trust.
Chapters 4-6: commands in response to those principles: actions to take and attitudes to acquire.
At the very center of the letter Paul identifies the crucial component of UNITY – having shown us the unity God created and calls us to maintain that unity.
As we read Ephesians, realize that all of the “you” and “your” statements are plural; y’all and y’alls’ is a proper translation. As westerners, we tend to read you and your as individual focused, rather than group focused. Read all of chapter 1 and insert y’all and y’alls’ when you see a you or a your.
In Eph 1:3-7, Paul praises God “who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” The us is the church, of which we are a part. We tend to read God has given ME every spiritual blessing in Christ, when the statement is in fact aimed at the church – God has given THE CHURCH every spiritual blessing in Christ. We receive every blessing in Christ by being a part of the community he has established.
In Eph 4:7-16 he addresses each individual: “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” He goes on to describe specific gifts of grace apportioned to each individual for the purpose of building up the body: “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Paul is showing us is that the church is essential to our salvation. Without it we cannot mature, we cannot experience all of the spiritual blessings that God has poured out for us.
WHO AM I?
Paul addresses the disciples as SAINTS. 1:1, 1:15, 1:18, 3:18; 5:3; 6:18
What does it mean to be a SAINT?
Am I a SAINT or a SINNER?
Can I be both?
SAINT means pure, holy, sanctified.
Do you remember the Light/Dark study? This was the study where we came to understand that we are either in the darkness or we are in the light. There is no middle ground.
Before I was baptized into Christ, I was a sinner. I pursued sin. I lived under sin’s rule.
After I was baptized into Christ, I was set free from sin. I was washed, I died and was reborn, a new man, filled with God’s HOLY SPIRIT – A SAINT. A SAINT is a person who is in the light. A SINNER is a person who is still in the dark.
Paul wants us to know that we are SAINTS.
Eph 2:1-10 makes this break between sinner and saint very clear.
If you read from the older NIV translation or grew up with that translation, please note that in EPH 2:3, NIV says: All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.
This is a poor translation. The word translated “sinful nature” is the Greek word for flesh. More recent NIVs use the proper translation. Why is this important?
1. We have never had a “sinful nature.” We have always had the “flesh” and will continue to have the flesh in this life.
2. When we gave in to the desires and thoughts of our flesh, we sinned and became slaves to sin.
3. When we were saved, we were freed from slavery to sin and were called to be slaves of
4. As a SAINT, when I sin, it is not because I have a “sinful nature,” it is because the flesh is weak and I have not relied upon the strength of the Spirit and fully developed the spiritual disciplines to properly control my flesh.
We must transform our thinking from SINNER identity to SAINT identity.
AM I RICH?
DO I CONSIDER MYSELF RICH?
Paul says we are: 1:7, 1:18, 2:7, 3:8, 3:16
These riches reside in Christ… in the Church!
Do I believe it? How can I know?
One way to know is to ask myself “What is My Idea of Success?” What I chase after and where I expend my time and energies reveals where my heart and mind are focused.
THE WORLDGOD’S KINGDOM
$$$ Wealth Eternal Riches
Servants/being served Grace, Serving
Possessions Generosity, Sacrifice
Pride in Accomplishments Humility
Strength/Beauty Weakness/Inward Beauty
Worldly Wisdom Godly Wisdom
QUESTIONS TO REFLECT ON: WHO AM I? – AM I A SAINT OR A SINNER? IS THE CHURCH ESSENTIAL TO MY LIFE, MY SALVATION? AM I RICH? WHAT SUCCESS DO I PURSUE?