Ephesians 6

The start of Ephesians 6 follows the idea of family relationships that chapter 5 ends with. However, this time it is the relationship between children and their parents. It begins with what is stated in the Ten Commandments, that children are to obey their parents.

Now, when we think of this commandment, we probably think mainly of Sunday school children learning to listen to and obey their parents as little kids ought to. However, when we have grown up, it seems we feel that as if that commandment is obsolete and we don’t have to fulfil it anymore. This isn’t the case. In Mark 7, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for the way their practices fail to honour their mother and father. Those Pharisees were adults being rebuked. This commandment is for adults too.

Maybe in society, we think that it’s automatic and if you did a good job when they were little, they will do it when they are older. But then the command should be “teach children to honour your father and mother”. Also, there aren’t commands in the Bible for things that are genuinely automatic, such as “Breathe.” The Bible, authored by God, speaks into the hearts of humans. Our bent is to be independent, stubborn and self-serving and honouring others often gets in the way of that. Honouring our parents requires consideration, thoughtfulness and care. I know I often fail to do it; it isn’t as habitual as it ought to be.

The next part also balances the relationship. Parents need to be good to their kids too.

The next part of Ephesians 6 feels a little off for our times. It’s about slaves serving masters well. However, in the Romans Empire, slaves made up a huge percentage of the population. Paul is simply speaking into the genuine reality of his day. He’s not turning a blind eye to it.

Paul also reminds slave owners that both they and the slaves are actually under the ultimate authority of God and it would be wise to remember that.

In all the relationships mentioned from the end of chapter 5 to chapter 6, Paul shows how there is a balance. Wives, honour your husbands; husbands, lay down your life for your wife. Children, honour your parents; parents, be patient and kind to your children. Slaves, obey your masters; masters, be kind to your slaves. In relationships that are often imbalanced and hierarchical (especially historically), Paul reminds us that God rules over us all and that his love, grace, mercy but also his power, might and wrath is the ultimate equaliser in all this.

Lastly, Ephesians has the famous Sunday school favourite, the armour of God. It makes a nice visual metaphor. However, sometimes this section can be delivered in a way that makes us seem like we are at the helpless mercy of the devil’s schemes and we need to hide and cower away. This isn’t the whole truth. Of course, on our own, we are helpless. But we’re not on our own. For the passage tells us this:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Ephesians 6:10.

We have nothing to fear because we have God and his mighty power on our side. However, we need to make the most of it and not forget to use it!

So, I pray that I continue to go on in the Lord’s prayer.

(The rest of) Ephesians 5

Yesterday, I started writing about Ephesians 5, but didn’t even reach past the first two verses. It got me bouncing around the books of John and 1 John as well as to the prayers in previous chapters of Ephesians. To summarise, it was this: we are loved, and in this knowledge we should be obedient.

This chapter then reiterates what is acceptable and what isn’t in a life of light:

  • no sexual immorality;
  • no impurity;
  • no greed;
  • no obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking;
  • no drunkenness and debauchery;
  • lots of thanksgiving;
  • being filled with the Spirit;
  • speaking with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit;
  • singing and music in our heart.

We are told we need to be careful.

Be careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16

We are also told this in verses 8 to 10.

For you were once in darkness, but now you are children of the light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

I really like the last part of this passage, about finding out what pleases the Lord. It does conjure the image of a child making breakfast in bed or picking out a present for a parent of out love and affection for them. Also, to think that we can do things to please the God that made the universe. That’s like saying an ant could do something to please us. It’s baffling, but it’s true. Although we are tiny and insignificant in comparison, God delights in us and treats us with a significance that we don’t actually warrant. That’s just incredible.

The end of this chapter is the somewhat controversial passage about marriage. I say somewhat because I don’t have a problem with it. (Of course you don’t you privileged white male!) This passage talks about how both wife and husband devote themselves to each other in a compassionate, sacrificial way. It tells us that a man “must love his wife as he loves himself” and must be willing to give himself up as Christ did for his church. This is a fantastic command designed for the man to honour his wife. So, I think this passage is great.

What does make me sad is that it seems historically society were so bent on enforcing the instructions to wives in verses 22-24, that the men were too exhausted it seems to follow the instructions given to them in verses 25-33. I’m sad that because of this legacy of misogyny and misaligned patriarchal focus, that passages such as these are dismissed without looking more deeply into the design for marriage that God had.

Ephesians 5:1-2

Again, Ephesians 5 exhorts us to live carefully and wisely. Here, we follow God’s example because we are dearly loved children. That’s a really beautiful image. We are loved by God, and that love compels us to look to God and obey him and follow him. This very much reminds me of John 14.

In this chapter of John, the idea that obedience and love for Jesus and love for and from the Father are interconnected. Jesus’ words reminds us that we need to love him and that love is shown in keeping his commands.

“If you love me, keep my commands … Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them … Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

John 14:15-24

This passage in John also talks about how Jesus will send the Spirit to be with us. These ideas are also repeated in 1 John 4:

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us.

1 John 4:13-19

When we reread the first part of Ephesians in light of these verses, it’s easy to be encouraged.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1-2

Therefore, it shows the importance of Paul’s prayer in chapter 3 for the Ephesians. So, again I pray that we can “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that [we] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Yes, I pray that day by day I know more and more the love of Jesus and the love of the Father. And because of this knowledge of this love, I can follow God’s example and live a life of love. I pray that, through the power of the Spirit, I know the Father more deeply and completely. May my life be given up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

For the glory of Jesus’ holy name,

Amen.

Ephesians 4

This chapter is quite challenging. Paul asks us to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” And the bar is set really high. To do that we need to be

  • completely humble (v. 2);
  • gentle (v. 2);
  • patient (v. 2);
  • bearing with one another in love (v. 2);
  • united in the Spirit (v. 3);
  • putting off our old self (v. 22);
  • made with a new attitude (v. 23);
  • created like God in true righteousness (v. 24);
  • holy (v. 24);
  • putting off any falsehood (v. 25);
  • speaking truthfully (v. 25)
  • building one another up with our words (v. 29);
  • rid of all bitterness, range, anger, slander, brawling, malice (v. 31)
  • kind (v. 32);
  • compassionate (v. 32);
  • forgiving (v. 32).

Paul also tells us we must not

  • live as the Gentiles do (v. 17);
  • give ourselves over to sensuality (v. 19);
  • indulge in impurity (v. 19);
  • be full of greed (v. 19);
  • be corrupted by deceitful desires (v. 22);
  • sin in our anger (v. 26);
  • let the sun go down while we are still angry (v. 26);
  • give the devil a foothold (v. 27);
  • steal (v. 28);
  • let any unwholesome talk escape our mouths (v. 29);
  • grieve the Holy Spirit (v. 30).

That’s quite a list!

However, it’s in the context of the previous chapter promising us that Christ is working in us and the rest of the chapter about the body of Christ. We’ve been given prophets, apostles, evangelists, teachers and pastors to teach and encourage us. They help us to grow into mature believers that are equipped for every service.

So with Christ working in us through the Spirit and through unity in the body of Christ, we can live a life worthy of our calling.

Ephesians 3

Ephesians 3 again holds many blessings. The first section, which the NIV versions titles “God’s marvellous plan for the Gentiles”, is again a great encouragement. The main reason of this: I am a beneficiary of this plan. I am a Gentile. (I do in fact have some Jewish ancestry, but not enough to count.) Without this plan and without it being revealed to Paul, I would not have known the grace of Jesus. It’s wild to think that my parents, who told me the gospel, were told by someone else, who in turn, heard the gospel. Someone told them, and someone told them, and someone told them. If you go far back enough, it would have been the first missionaries around Europe that told them the gospel, and then eventually to the first Christians and perhaps even Paul. Isn’t it mad that nearly a thousand years ago Paul could have initiated the chain of people that would eventually reach me?

It’s perhaps why I think missionary work is so important, because we all can all thank a missionary at some point for spreading the gospel. I just wonder how my contribution in this chain will continue.

When I think of that, it becomes so much more personal when I read the following verses:

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ.

Ephesians 3: 7-8a

So tonight I am grateful for all the people who were servants of this gospel before me.

Then Paul prays a prayer and asks for various things for the recipients of the letter:

  • strengthened with power through the Spirit
  • Christ may dwell in their hearts
  • to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ
  • to know this love that surpasses all knowledge
  • to be filled with the fullness of God.

What amazing things to pray for! I definitely pray for them for myself!

Then this chapter ends with some very famous verses. These verses are such an encouragement, reminding us of the sheer, incomprehensible goodness of God and that his power is in us. He is definitely deserving of the glory.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen.

Amen, indeed.

Ephesians 2

In this chapter, Paul really outlines our need for grace and mercy, as well as how everyone in Christ is equal and united in one body.

Paul explains this: we were dead in our sins as we obeyed the ways of the world; all of us once gratified the desires of our flesh, and as a result we deserved punishment. But God didn’t give us punishment, instead he extended mercy. Instead of receiving death, we received life. Instead of being cast low, we have been raised up to the same level as Christ. If I’m pretty honest, it’s bonkers. The disparity between what we deserved and what we receive through Jesus is massive. It’s too huge to comprehend. We don’t need to work towards this either, we receive it freely when we believe. It’s amazing.

Paul reminds his readers that because of Christ there is no barrier between those who were Jewish and those who were gentiles. I wonder how we should apply it now. Should we apply it between different denominations: the traditional and new wave? Or perhaps between older, more refined believers and the more uncouth recently transformed drug addict? Or the Southern Baptist and the Mexican immigrant? What barriers do we put up in our churches? If Jesus died to break the barrier between heaven and earth, we need to do our best to break down the barriers between fellow believers. For we are “members of his household” and together make “a holy temple”.

Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1 is packed with so much. It’s pretty full on and it really emphasises the blessing it is to know Christ. It tells us that our identity is in Jesus, and this was the plan before we even came to believe.

God has blessed us with everything we need. This is some of the things that Ephesians 1 tells us we have received from God:

  • adoption into sonship
  • glorious grace
  • redemption
  • forgiveness of sins
  • the knowledge of the mystery of his will
  • the message of his truth
  • the gospel of salvation
  • an inheritance
  • great power

So verse 3 is not wrong when it says God “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing” (emphasis mine). God has truly given us so much through His Son Jesus Christ.

It also tells us of our identity in Him, having been chosen even as creation was happening. I really like the way The Message puts it:

Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planing this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

I think it’s amazing to think that He took pleasure in planning our adoption and redemption. Of course, the pain and suffering Jesus experienced as a result was terrible and unfathomable. But to think that the love the Father had for us was so great that He took pleasure in redeeming us and knowing that we would be His. What a wonderful thought.

This chapter also talks about our identity as members of the church. Despite the fact that it often seems that the church is sidelined and ignored, it isn’t. Verse 22 and 23 tell us that Jesus is the head over everything, as as the church is his body, that is higher than anything else on earth to. The Message version again puts it nicely:

The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body. in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

This reminds us that as citizens of God’s kingdom and members of Christ’s body we have way more authority and power than we often remember. It also reminds us that we have a very high calling and should take this role seriously indeed.

So I will end with an adapted version of verses 18-19, which is a prayer.

I pray that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened in order that I may know the hope to which he has called me, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Amen.