My wife and I had a glorious gift given to us recently: a tour of Israel. Lord willing, posts will resume on June 24.
Welcome to Expositing Ephesians
THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED to one of the chief passions of my life and ministry, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. I believe this epistle is at the very core of the Christian life. I spent years in the study of it and then three and one half years expositing it from my pulpit. I hope this blog will be a blessing to you as I share that exposition. I also hope you will tell others about this blog. Please check for new posts each Monday .
Friday, May 27, 2011
In our last installment, we examined the main significance of the words in Christ (Eph. 1:1) as being the object of saving faith. But what does this mean in practice? Is this just some mystical concept that has no practical purpose? Ponder four practical applications.
First, being in Christ means we are not self-sufficient but dependent upon Him. As in the analogy of the Vine and branches (Jn. 15:1-5), we are absolutely dependent upon Christ as the branches are dependant upon the Vine. We are totally helpless in ourselves. We are totally dependant upon God. He empowers us to do all things in Christ.
In our day, man is the measure of all things. We see it everywhere. Man is self-sufficient, self-directed, self-motivated, and self-centered. We constantly hear about man’s “self-esteem” and “self-worth.” But God says something a little different: “And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (II Cor. 3:4-5). Paul declares that he is nothing in himself, that he is insufficient for anything, whether it be ministry or personal living. He says that his “sufficiency” is God alone. The Greek for “sufficiency” (hikanos) speaks of something being adequate, or large enough. It’s used in Matthew 3:11, where John the Baptist declares, “He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.” How we need this kind of humility and dependency in our day instead of the self-elevating philosophies that have captured the Church.
Here in Ephesians, Paul later writes: “My brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (6:10). To the Philippians he writes that well-known promise, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Isaiah the prophet likewise challenged God’s people: “They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (40:31).
What a challenge these verses are! May we stop trying to be sufficient in ourselves. Strength awaits us in Christ alone. Instead of self-sufficiency, may we have a Christ-sufficiency; instead of self-direction, Christ-direction; instead of self-motivation, Christ-motivation; instead of self-centeredness, Christ-centeredness; instead of high self-esteem, high Christ-esteem. To be in Christ means that only He is sufficient.
Second, being in Christ means that our assurance is in Him. A hallmark of cults and other false teaching is the total rejection of security. True Biblical Christianity is the only faith that teaches assurance of salvation beyond any doubt or question. Every other religious system teaches an uncertainty about eternal destiny. Only Biblical Christianity teaches that salvation has nothing to do with us, nothing to do with our works, but lies in Christ alone and what He finished on the cross.
Third, being in Christ means that our satisfaction is in Him. As Paul told the Philippians, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:11-13). To be in Christ means that He will meet our needs and that we are satisfied and content with that which He gives.
Fourth, being in Christ means that our authority is in Him alone. Because He is everything to us, His authority controls us, and it is through His Word, the Bible, that He accomplishes that. It is upon His Word alone that we stand.
Monday, May 23, 2011
What does it mean to be a Christian? Paul’s specific two-fold description is in Ephesians 1:1: to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. We examined “saint” in our last installment.
Second, a Christian is a true believer in Jesus Christ. The phrase [the] faithful in Christ Jesus actually involves two things according to the Greek word behind faithful (pistos). The primary meaning is “exercising faith.” This is the act of putting our faith, trust, and commitment in Christ alone for salvation. Faith is not “religion” or just “believing in Jesus.” It is a total trust in Christ to save us from our sin. Paul calls the recipients of this letter “believers.” Just as they were not saints because they lived saintly lives, neither were they believers because they lived faithful lives. Rather the opposite was true: they lived saintly lives because they were saints by position, and they lived faithful lives because they had truly believed.
The second aspect of the word faithful, however, is “trustworthy.” Not only has the true Christian put his faith in Christ, but he is now one who is trustworthy, consistent, constant, reliable, and faithful. God not only demands faith; He also demands fidelity. There is a great lack of faithfulness in Christianity today, faithfulness to the Word of God, the house of God, and service for God. We better take a look at our profession and see if it is true possession. The true saint, the true believer, will remain faithful. True faith is evidenced by practice.
It’s vitally important that we also understand the phrase in Christ Jesus, a phase (along with “in Him”) that occurs twelve times in Ephesians. Further, it’s so important that Paul uses it some 160 times in all his letters.
The main significance of this phrase is it definitively defines what the object of faith must be. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only object of saving faith. In our day, the word “faith” is used in a virtually meaningless way. Faith is made to be it’s own object. Thus we get the popular concepts of “my faith,” or “my faith helped me,” or “I have faith in faith,” or “I was so troubled that I lost my faith.” The problem with all these is that faith is made to be its own object. This is not only poor grammar, but it’s also ridiculous. What’s the point in saying “I drove,” for example, unless we say, “I drove my car.” “Drive” is the verb—“car” is the object. Likewise, faith is a verb, so without an object, the entire concept is incomplete.
So, any definition of faith is meaningless without a consideration of its object. In contrast to today’s “faith in faith” concept, saving faith has Christ Jesus as its object. While some people do go beyond “faith in faith,” they merely put their faith in other things (money, fame, etc.), but the only sure object is Jesus Christ. As Paul makes clear in this Epistle, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (2:4-9).
19th Century London preacher Charles Spurgeon illustrated the importance of faith’s object by telling of two men in a boat. Caught in severe rapids, they were being swept toward a waterfall. Some men on shore tried to save them by throwing them a rope. One man caught hold of it and was pulled to safety on the shore. The other, in the panic of the moment, grabbed hold of what looked to be a more substantial object, a log that was floating by. That man was carried downstream, over the rapids, and was never seen again. Faith, represented by the rope linked to the shore, connects us to Jesus Christ and safety. Good works apart from true faith, represented in the story by the log, leads only to ruin. Many today are like that. They look to their works and think them more substantial than “just faith in Christ.”
What then is a Christian? This verse declares this: A Christian is one who has trusted totally in Christ as Savior and Lord and who has therefore been set apart from sin and set apart unto holiness of life and obedience to Scripture.
Friday, May 20, 2011
What does it mean to be a Christian? Many today claim to be Christians, but are they really? While there are many definitions of “Christian” today, in Ephesians 1:1 Paul gives two very specific descriptions of a true believer: to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.
First, a Christian is a saint. How this word has been perverted! Pastor and author Warren Wiersbe correctly writes, “No word in the New Testament has suffered more than this word. Even the dictionary defines a saint as a ‘person officially recognized for holiness of life.’” Indeed, a common belief is that a saint is one who has died, one who has performed at least two miracles, and one whose life was “holy enough to be officially recognized by canonization.” But this is not what the Bible says.
The literal meaning of the Greek word behind “saint” (hagios) is “set apart or separate,” and is often translated “holy.” The true Christian has been set apart from sin as the rule of life and unto holiness as the rule of life. A saint is not dead, rather alive. Being a saint is not a matter of achievement or performance, rather a matter of position. It’s not based on what we have done, rather what we are in Christ. It is not dependant upon our works, but upon His grace.
Reformer John Calvin understood this: “No man, therefore, is a believer who is not also a saint; and, on the other hand, no man is a saint who is not a believer.” Likewise, Greek scholar W. E. Vine writes, “In the plural, as used of believers, it designates all such and is not applied merely to persons of exceptional holiness, or to those who, having died, were characterized by exceptional acts of saintliness.” In fact, Paul refers to believers as saints nine times in Ephesians (1:1, 15, 18; 2:19; 3:8, 18: 4:12; 5:3; 6:18). He wrote to ordinary Christians who were all declared to be saints. We can probably assume that saint was Paul’s favorite term for the Christian since he used it some 42 times in his Epistles. He loved saying, “Every one of you who has trusted Christ as Savior and Lord is a saint, one who has been set apart.”
Think of it in this way: You cannot be a Christian without being a saint, and you cannot be a saint without being separate from the world. Many profess to be Christians, but they habitually live in and of this world. But a true Christian cannot habitually live by the actions and attitudes of the world because he or she is a saint, a set apart one. A saint is not an ascetic who wears robes and lives in a monastery. A saint is one who has been set apart and now lives like it.
In other words, we are not saints because we are saintly; we are saintly because we are saints. Many Christians try to “be holy” by legalism; they keep a list of “do’s and don’ts” and call it “spirituality.” This is backwards. What we do or don’t do does not make us spiritual. We are first spiritual in attitude, which is then evident in spiritual action.
So, the first thing that being a Christian means is that we are saints. We live a life that is holy because of our position of being in Christ. The two greatest evidences of true conversion are holiness of life (Eph. 4:24; I Thess. 4:17; etc.) and obedience to God’s Word (Jn. 14:15, 23; I Jn. 2:1-5). Those who do neither one are not saints. In our day of tolerance and generalization, words, definitions, and terminology have grown unimportant to many people. May this challenge us to exactness in our language. And a case in point is that when God speaks of saints, He speaks of all true Christians.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Most readers tend to skip over the salutations of the Epistles and regard them as unimportant, thinking they’re just Paul’s way of saying, “Hi there!” But the opening words of Ephesians (1:1-2) are not mere greeting; they contain some wonderfully deep Truth. Like a symphony, they are the “overture” of the Epistle; they introduce themes that will be emphasized many times.
One such truth appears in the words Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. The phrase “the will of God” is one of Paul’s favorite expressions, mentioning it four times in chapter 1 (vs. 1, 5, 9, 11). He never says it in a prideful way, but always in amazement that God could and would use him. Why was he amazed? Let’s just briefly ponder his life.
First, Paul was converted by the will of God, struck down on the Damascus road and brought to Christ. This is amazing, indeed, when we consider who he was before that conversion. As he wrote Timothy, he was “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious” (I Tim. 1:13). A “blasphemer” is one who slanders God, which Paul not only did but also compelled believers to do in his persecution of them (Acts 26:11). Further, he was a “persecutor” and an “injurious [person]”. The Greek for “injurious” (hubristēs) denotes a person who is driven by violence and contempt for others; to see them humiliated and suffering brings him pleasure. Jesus used the verb form to describe the mistreatment He would suffer during His arrest and trial (Luke 18:32). Acts 9:1 also declares that Saul was “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord.” No wonder Paul was amazed by God’s will to convert him!
What a comfort this is! I have heard many people say, “Oh, I’m too great a sinner for God to save me.” But to that I ask, “Have you ever murdered someone? Have you ever dragged someone out of their home and beat them in the streets?” Fortunately, most people have not, but even if they have, God can save them.
Second, Paul was called by the will of God. God had something for Paul to do and called him to do it (Acts 13:2, “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them”). He was not self‑appointed or church‑appointed; he was called by the will of God. He later wrote the Corinthians that he was “called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God” (I Cor. 1:1), and that God had made him an able minister (II Cor. 3:6), and that God given him a specific ministry (5:18). True ministry is dictated by the will of God.
Third, Paul was commissioned by the will of God. He was commissioned to plant and confirm churches throughout the Roman Empire (Acts 13:3-4: “And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed”).
Again, Paul wrote in utter amazement, overwhelmed by the thought that God would use him. Is it not truly amazing that God uses sinful, unworthy vessels as us?
While there are no apostles today, men are still called to the ministry by the will of God. But even more basic than that, every Christian is called of God. Beloved pastor and devotional writer Harry Ironside recounts this incident: “A simple cobbler was being introduced to a rather dignified clergyman, and when the cobbler said, ‘I didn’t get your name,’ the clergyman replied, ‘The Reverend Doctor [Blank], by the will of God.’ The cobbler said, ‘And I am John Doe, cobbler by the will of God; and I am glad to meet you, sir.’”
The point is an important one. Whatever we are and wherever we are, we must recognize it as by God the will of God. As Paul says a few verses later, God “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ” (vs. 11-12). And as he writes later, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (4:1). As a Christian, if you are a rancher, a doctor, a lawyer, a soldier, a miner, or a homemaker, it is by the will of God. In short, whatever you are, it is by the will of God. It is that, therefore, that you are committed to, and it is from that position that you serve the Lord.
Friday, May 13, 2011
In addition to all we’ve examined already—theme, contents, key words, and structure—let’s take one more look at Ephesians from a bird’s eye view.
There are many ways to do this, but I came across one that was especially beautiful. One author writes: “Imagine for a moment that the Body is like a great building. The ‘stones’ are redeemed human beings. Christ occupies the great throne room . . .All the parts are like ‘rooms’ in the building.” The author goes on to “walk us through” each room of this glorious building. Adapting it a bit, I close our Introduction to Ephesians with this tour. I would encourage you to keep this in mind as you read this wonderful Epistle.
Chapter 1 is the Anteroom, the foyer, which prepares our minds for the rest of the tour. As we look around, we see several wall hangings that declare great truths. One tells us that God has “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Another declarers that “He has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world,” and another, “that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” Still another proclaims that we have been predestinated “unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself” and have been made “accepted in the beloved” (1:3-6). Reading such truths truly prepares us for what is to come.
We then walk into the Audience Chamber of the King in Chapter 2, that is, into the very presence of God. Because of Christ and His Holy Spirit, the true Christian Believer has access to the Father and therefore “are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (2:13,18-19).
Continuing our walk, we come to the Throne Room in Chapter 3. Here we behold the King Himself seated upon the throne. It is here we “bow [our] knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (3:14-15).
Having been with the King, our life changes. When we leave the Throne Room and enter the Jewel Room in Chapter 4, we receive our garments of holiness. We put off the garments of the old life and put on the garments of our new life in Christ (4:22-32).
We walk on and come to the Choir and Oratory Room in Chapter 5. And what a glorious place it is! It is here that we sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in [our] heart[s] to the Lord” (5:19), and it is here that we discover a transformed social life at work and at home.
Finally, our tour brings us to the Armory in Chapter 6. We look around the great room and see armor everywhere. How I would love to visit an ancient castle that still has its Armory intact. But the Armory of Ephesians does not contain museum pieces, but rather brand new, fully functional suits and weapons that are ready for the battlefield. We, therefore, don God’s armor, prepare our hearts and minds for battle through prayer, and then step out the door to face the enemies of God.
What a glorious Epistle this is! Truly we are about to embark on a journey through the grandest, most awe-inspiring piece of writing known to man. As Church historian Philip Schaff writes of Ephesians: “It certainly is the most spiritual and devout, composed in an exalted and transcendent state of mind, where theology rises into worship, and meditation into oration. It is the Epistle of the Heavenlies . . . an ode to Christ and his spotless bride, the Song of Songs in the New Testament.”
Monday, May 9, 2011
As already mentioned, the basic structure of Ephesians is in two distinct parts, but we also see that the two parts are in perfect balance. In fact, one of the most outstanding features of all Paul’s Epistles is their perfect balance of doctrine and duty. Colossians 1-2, for example, present doctrine while 3-4 present practice. The same is true of Galatians 1-3 and 4-6. But Ephesians is the most vivid example of this feature. We can demonstrate this contrast in several ways:
· Chapters 1‑3 present our Riches in Christ; 4‑6 show us our Responsibilities in Christ.
· Chapters 1‑3 present our Wealth in Christ; 4‑6 show us Walk in Christ.
· Chapters 1‑3 contain the truth Stated; 4‑6 contain the truth Applied.
· Chapters 1‑3 present our Heritage in Christ; 4‑6 present our Life in Christ.
· Chapters 1‑3 present the Exposition of what we have in Christ; 4‑6 give us the Exhortation of what we are to do in Christ.
For a strategic grasp of Ephesians, here is its basic outline:
I. The Believer’s Wealth In Christ (ch. 1‑3)
A. His Riches in Christ (ch. 1)
B. His Reconciliation to God (ch. 2)
C. His Rank in God’s plan (ch. 3)
II. The Believer’s Walk In Christ (ch. 4‑6)
A. Walk in unity (4:1‑16)
B. Walk in purity (4:17‑32)
C. Walk in love (5:1‑7)
D. Walk in light (5:8‑14)
E. Walk in wisdom (5:15‑17)
F. Walk in submission (5:18‑6:9)
G. Walk in victory (6:10‑20)
III. Conclusion (6:21‑24)
Ephesians also has an Old Testament counterpart. An interesting feature of the Bible is how certain Old Testament books correspond with specific New Testament books. When one examines Exodus, for example, he finds that its New Testament equivalent is Romans. Likewise, Hebrews dramatically corresponds with Leviticus.
As one, therefore, examines the wealth and inheritance that the believer has in Ephesians, he finds that the Old Testament equivalent is Joshua. In Joshua we see God’s people entering into their inheritance by faith, and we see the same thing in Ephesians. Just as the blessings that God gave Israel were located in Canaan, so ours reside “in the heavenlies.”
Another parallel is as Joshua details the physical battles that God’s people fought in the land, Ephesians speaks of the spiritual battles of the Christian (6:10-20). The conquest of Canaan in Joshua is a beautiful picture of our conquest of Satan’s forces in Ephesians. Further, the source and assurance of victory in both is God’s power, not man’s. The Israelites could not possibly have been victorious in Canaan without God’s power. Likewise the Christian today cannot be victorious in today’s “Canaan” without God’s spiritual armor. In both cases, all God’s people have to do is go forward with faith in God’s promises and obedience to His commands.
How wonderful Ephesians is in showing us the things that are “in the heavenlies.” But at the same time it does not “let us off easy,” for it shows us what God demands in our daily walk. True Christianity is not theoretical; it’s practical. Ephesians does, indeed, demands that we walk according to our wealth.
Ephesians 4:1 declares the application of all this: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.”
There are some preachers today who emphasize only “doing right,” “serving the Lord,” or “being practical” but who fail to give the doctrinal teaching on how to do that. This is often characterized by “legalism,” that is, the keeping of some law or code as the producer of spirituality. In contrast, others concentrate only on deep teaching but fail to apply it to practical living. But either extreme brings failure in the Christian Life.
Thankfully, Paul gives us the balance. He first gives us doctrine, for this must come first; it is the foundation. We can never do right without first having Truth. Paul then gives us duty, for this is how doctrine is applied; it shows us how to live. Knowledge without practical application is worthless. To put this contrast simply: Duty without Doctrine is legalism but Doctrine without Duty is lifeless.
Friday, May 6, 2011
There are several key words and phrases in Ephesians that instantly provide us with an immediate grasp of its content. Let’s look at just a few of them.
“Grace.” If any word stands out as the main key, it is this one, which appears a total of twelve times (1:2,6,7; 2:5,7,8; 3:2,7,8; 4:7,29; 6:24). It is an amazing fact that grace is spoken of more in Ephesians than in any other New Testament book, even more than in Romans! Ephesians has been described as “The Epistle of Grace” and rightly so. It is a misunderstanding of grace that is at the very root of all false doctrine concerning salvation. All such teaching tries to mix grace with works, which immediately negates grace. Ephesians details what grace really means (e.g., 2:4-9).
“Riches.” This word appears five times in Ephesians, all of which occur in the first half of the book (1:7,18; 2:7; 3:8,16). Why? Because the thrust of the first half of Ephesians is our wealth in Christ. Right in line with this is the next key word.
“Walk.” This word, along with “walked,” appears seven times (2:2,10; 4:1,17; 5:2,8,15). Amazingly, just as “riches” appears five times in the first half of Ephesians, “walk” appears five times in the second half. Why? Because the thrust in the second half of the book is our walk in Christ.
“In Christ.” The phrase “in Christ” (or “in Him”) occurs twelve times (1:1,3,4,10 [twice],12,20; 2:6,10,13; 3:6,11). It shows us that we are in Christ, that we are in His Body and all we have is because we are in Him.
“Heavenly places” (or “high places”). Here is a truly fascinating phrase that appears five glorious times in this letter and nowhere else in the New Testament. As we’ll see in more detail later, the Greek phrase (Greek is the language in which the New Testament was originally written) is en tois epouraniois, literally “in the heavenlies.” Each occurrence is unique.
The first occurrence (1:3) tells us that the riches the Christian has in Christ are “in the heavenlies.” The riches we claim are not earthly; they are heavenly.
The second occurrence (1:20) declares that Christ is now “in the heavenlies.” We also read in 4:8‑10 that Christ ascended into heaven and is seated there right now.
The third occurrence (2:6) affirms that the Christian is also “in the heavenlies.” Not only are we on this earth, but we are also in the heavenlies right now; our place there is already set. We are not yet there physically, but we are there positionally. Our position is “in Christ in the heavenlies.”
The fourth occurrence (3:10) speaks of the holy angels who dwell “in the heavenlies.”
The fifth and final occurrence (6:12) shows that evil angels, to some degree, have access to the heavenlies. An example of this is when Satan came before God to accuse Job (Job 1:6-11).
What a marvelous phrase this is! It is used in Ephesians to contrast that which is earthly from that which is heavenly. Paul speaks here of glorious things, things that transcend this earth. But he doesn’t leave us “up in the clouds” in some “mystical trance,” as some view spirituality in our day. No, he brings us crashing back to earth in Chapters 4-6 with the practical application of these spiritual truths. True spirituality is always practical.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Ephesians is so broad, so sweeping in its content, that recognizing the underlying theme is easily missed. Some view 2:8-10 as the key passage and therefore conclude that the theme is “the Grace of God.” Others are struck by 4:1 and therefore view “our Christian calling” as the theme. Many others, in view of 2:11-22, consider “unity” as the central message. Others define the theme, based on 1:3, as “the Christian’s riches in Christ,” while still others think it’s “the mystery of the church.”
But while all those subjects are vital, none of them, I believe, is the central theme of the letter. The theme is far more sweeping. To put it succinctly, The prevailing theme in Ephesians is God’s eternal purpose and the place of Christ and His people in that purpose. Chapter 1 lays the foundation by showing us the eternal purpose of God in choosing the elect who would be His people. We then see many figures of this throughout the letter: God’s children (1:2), God’s heirs (1:11), Christ’s body (1:22-23), God’s building (2:19-22), Christ’s bride (5:22-31), and the Church (1:22; 3:10, 21; etc.).
Recognizing this theme is of the utmost importance because everything begins with God. The comprehensive idea in the letter is what God is doing. God is mentioned by proper name or pronoun in every verse of chapter 1 except verses 16 and 21, but is still implied in both of those. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ exposition of chapter 1 stands as one of the greatest in church history. In it, which is appropriately titled God’s Ultimate Purpose, he writes with almost as sweeping of language as what we read in the Epistle itself: “The Bible is God’s book, it is a revelation of God, and our thinking must always start with God. Much of the trouble in the church today is due to the fact that we are so subjective, so interested in ourselves, so egocentric . . . Having forgotten God, and having become so interested in ourselves, we become miserable and wretched, and spend our time in shallows and in miseries. The message of the Bible from beginning to end is designed to bring us back to God, to humble us before God, and to enable us to see our true relationship to Him. And that is the great theme of this Epistle; it holds us face to face with God, and who God is, and what He has done; it emphasizes throughout the glory and greatness of God—God the Eternal One, God the everlasting, God over all—and the indescribable glory of God.”
That thought immediately points us to several verses in chapter 1. I would encourage you to read verses 3, 6, 7, 12, and 14. Permeating this chapter is the praise of God’s grace and glory. That is the theme.
One of the great tragedies in the church today is that it has become “purpose-driven,” “seeker-sensitive,” and “user-friendly.” The accepted approach today is more concerned with “meeting needs” than proclaiming truth. Modern ministry is “people-centered.” Many pick up a newspaper and shop for a church like they shop for a movie. Many are looking for what they can get, how they can be “ministered to.” We are starting with man instead of God. But Paul declares that this approach is wrong. We are to worship, not be entertained.
What is the appeal of Ephesians? What is its charm? What makes it so loved? After all, there are no new doctrines in it, nothing, in fact, that isn’t in other Epistles. So what is the attraction? It is this: Ephesians, unlike any other Epistle, is the best statement of basic Christian doctrine and practice in all of Scripture. I am convinced that no other Epistle is more basic to living the Christian life than Ephesians.
While troubles arose later, at the time Paul wrote this letter there were no problems in the church at Ephesus (1:15). Unlike its sister book Colossians, which was written as a “preemptive strike” to warn of and ward off the heretical teachings that threatened the Colossian church, Ephesians had no such purpose. Its purpose was to present doctrine for doctrine’s sake, to express the basic doctrines of Christianity in language unequalled anywhere else.
One might be thinking, “Wait, what about Romans? Isn’t it the greatest of Paul’s doctrinal treatises?” Indeed it is. But as commentator R. C. H. Lenski writes about this very comparison: “Ephesians is unlike any other of Paul’s letters in that it treats a great subject for the purpose of edification only. Even Romans has the special purpose of preparing for Paul’s proposed visit and in 14:1-15:13 treats a peculiar situation which had developed in the Roman church.” Indeed, while Romans is the most thorough and comprehensive presentation of Gospel doctrine, Ephesians is the most basic, the most profound, and the most awe-inspiring. Our greatest need today is doctrine and Truth. It is only this that will bring growth, depth, and maturity.