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Ephesians - An Introduction

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(1/3) I once heard a story told by the old country comedian Jerry Clower, (I think). A country boy walked into a hardware store and wanted a new saw. The clerk brought out a new chain saw and told him that this baby will enable him to cut as much as 5 cord of wood a day. The country boy bought it and left. A few days he came back with the saw and said he could hardly cut one cord a day with the saw. The clerk was a little confused. So, he took the saw, and pulled the start cord and the saw roared as it started. The country boy jumped back and said, "Whoa, whatís that?"

The point to the story is that the country boy didnít know the power of the tool that he possessed. Thatís the purpose of this book called Ephesians. Our God wants you to know the power of what you possess, as well as who you are and what His purpose is for you. Many, many Christians think that being a Christ Follower is about attending church and putting money on the plate, singing a few songs, listening to a guy who doesnít really interest me, and then, going home to watch a game. Now, I love sports, but I sincerely want you to leave here each Sunday having learned something that will enable you to grow in the likeness of Jesus. I want you to be saying, "I or we need to start this or stop that and adjust to this, so that God our Father will be honored and someoneís life will be touched because I want to live to honor my Father." I sincerely hope that the study of this book will change your life or the lives of those around you. So, letís begin.

I. The Author

The author identifies himself to us as Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the Will of God (1:1a). This is one of at least 13 letters written by Paul and included in the Bible. This is the first in order of 4 letters he wrote from a Roman jail. Last Spring, we studied the conversion of the Pharisee named Saul that would become known by his Roman name of Paul. He is one of about 15 people called an Apostle or one commissioned to take the gospel to the world. He is one who personally saw Jesus and was gifted by Jesus to do incredible things as proof of the truth He was sharing.

He was an Apostle by the Will of God. Like Moses, or Jeremiah in the Old Testament, He didnít choose this, instead, he was chosen for this by God. Paul didnít wake up one day and say, "I think I will follow Jesus and be a missionary." But when he met Jesus he did ask, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" (Acts 9:6)

Have you done that? Perhaps, people wanted to refer to him as Paul as a new creature in Christ, rather than refer to him as Saul, the one with the reputation of a self-righteous persecutor of the church? I donít know, but I wonder if that is so. Most of us want to be remembered for who we are because of Jesus and not what we were before Jesus. Wouldnít you agree? We want to be the one who knew how to keep Christmas and not as the miser who detested Christmas.

I was saddened as I read of the allegations against Bill Cosby once called Americaís dad. Mr. Cosby was a favorite of mine and he has admitted to have many sexual relations outside of his marriage and now may face jail time. No-one wants that to be the story line of the end of their lives. How do you make sure that your story line will be one of honor? The answer is to incorporate the lessons of this book into your life.

Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem and had been taken to Rome because as a Roman Citizen he had appealed his case to Caesar. The last seven chapters of Acts tells us that story. But he doesnít waste his time in jail. God has him ministering to the guards and those who come to see him and to write the letters to the churches in Colossae, Philippi, and these Christians in Asia Minor or what we now call Turkey, as well as a letter to his friend named Philemon.

II. The Addressees.

A. To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: (1:1b)

Our Bibles all say to the saints and in Ephesus. Though it is really

inconsequential, some old manuscripts just say, "to the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus." Ephesus doesnít appear. Some think this is really for the church at Laodicea as Paul mentions a letter that he wrote to them in Col. 4. It makes no difference, because everyone agrees that this is what is called a circular letter. Probably intended for all the churches in Asia Minor or Turkey just as Johnís Revelation was. Every church that received this would make its own copy and then pass it on to the next church. Every one of the seven that we know of and others that received this could write their own name in there.

Ephesus makes good sense though as it was a center of activity in Asia Minor. Acts 18-20 tells us how Paul stopped there on his 2nd and 3rd missionary tours and a tremendous ministry and church were planted. Paul was enabled to do incredible miracles adding validity to the gospel he proclaimed. He stayed there for two years. People who had been involved in black magic brought their books and confessing Jesus they burned their books of sorcery.

Ephesus was a center of worship for the goddess Diana or Artemis, a sex goddess of fertility whose temple there in Ephesus was one of the ancient 7 wonders of the world. A major business was the manufacture and sale of silver images of Diana. But the presence of the gospel and the growth of the church made the idol makers afraid that their business and religion were in danger of being discredited and ruined, so they started a riot. As a result, Paul was shuffled off to Macedonia, but on a return trip to Miletus he called for the Ephesian elders and encouraged them to take care of their flocks and to watch out for false teachers. They loved Paul and were sad to think that they would never see him again. They hugged, cried, and prayed together. It makes sense that Paul would write to them.

Paul wrote this addressing them as the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus. We will talk about that next week.

Ephesus was one of the 7 Churches in Asia Minor that our Lord Jesus would address in the Revelation and it would be addressed first in that book, and though praised for their diligence, they were blamed for leaving their prime love.

B. This is only one of two New Testament letters that does not deal with a

problem with that church. The other is 1 Peter, and while 1 Peter does not deal with a problem in the church it does deal with the problem the church was facing in the persecution and suffering that was beginning under Nero. A persecution that would claim the lives of many believers including Peter and Paul.

Every other letter in the New Testament deals with a specific problem or problems that the author needs to address. But not in this book of Ephesians. So, letís spend the rest of our time this morning just trying to grasp an overview of this letter. We will do a word by word or verse by verse study starting next week.

III. The Worship of God (Chapters 1-3)

The first line of verse 3 is what the first three chapters are all about. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ," The word Blessed is eulogeo or eulogy, meaning, to speak well of or to praise. You usually hear that word at funerals. A eulogy is when you speak of the personís life and character. And you usually choose the good side of their livesí.

These chapters are about what our God has done for us in Christ and therefore God is to be praised and honored. Those words, in Christ, or in Him, or in the beloved, occur 27 times in this book. You are not just a person who has been forgiven though you have, and you are not just a person who spends a few hours a week attending church, you are an adopted child of God, redeemed, forgiven, accepted, and an heir of Almighty God, and itís not because you earned it, or because of your good looks or your race, or nationality, itís all because of Grace. 12 times the word Grace is used in this book. We know that the word Grace means unmerited favor, an unearned gift, and in all of our cases it means an un-deserved gift.

Someone said, that a good way to remember what Grace is, is to use the 5 letters as an acronym. Godís Riches At Christís Expense. That certainly fits this book. The word riches occur 5 times and the word inheritance occurs 4 times. You are an heir of God, you have a rich inheritance, you are a child of God, because you are in Christ. And you have the very presence of God in your life, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit who will be in you forever (1:13-14). He is the earnest or guarantee of all of Godís promises. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you-permanently. If we would only realize it, it might be said of us what was said of Paul and his company, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too." (Acts 17:6) More about that in a few weeks.

You are in Christ and Christ is in you. You have been bonded and joined to Him just as a husband and wife are in marriage (5:32). God took children who deserve His wrath, and He graced them with an inexhaustible supply of mercy, love, and grace and brought them into His family, saving them from a hellish future and from destroying themselves with their sinfulness, and He did so to show the world the power of His grace. When our Lord was on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, the night of His suffering, He stopped to pray for us and this is part of what He said, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

24 "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:20-26)

Our Lord prayed that you may realize that we are one with Him because we are in Him and He is in us and that we might know that the Father loves us as He loves Jesus. Thatís the same thing Paul wants you to know in chapter 3. He prays that you will experience a love that you canít explain, because it is beyond comprehension but not beyond knowing and experiencing. Sadly, it is this very love that they were accused of leaving in Rev. 2. I have a 20-year-old daughter sitting here. She is adopted. When my wife first suggested adoption, I worried a lot. We had 4 children. Itís easy to love a child that is your flesh and blood, but will I be able to love a child that isnít? It didnít take very long to realize; I love her with all the fullness of love that I have for all my children. And that, my friends is what our Father in heaven has for you. He loves you, a child deserving His wrath, yet He loves you as He loves His Son Jesus. Wrap your mind around that!

And then Paul wants us to understand a mystery. He mentions it in 1:9 and several times in chapter 3. The church is a mystery. In the Biblical sense, a mystery is something that has been concealed but is now revealed. The Old Testament doesnít mention the church, even the gospelís do not mention the church, except in one place (Matt. 16:18) where our Lord says He was going to build it, but He doesnít tell us its exact make-up. The Church means a called out company, a set apart people. The disciples supposed this to be entirely Jewish. But Paul says, that what God didnít share until now, is that the church, His body as stated several times in this book, would be made up of Jew and Gentile, God would bring together in one body, and in equal status, people of every nation, every race, every language, every social standard or class, and remove that which divided us (our sinfulness) and make peace for us and unite us in Him as one body. Jew, Gentile, Male, Female, Slave, Free, Black, White, are all of equal standing and place in the body of Christ with the same access to God, and the same inheritance, and the same hope of eternal glory with the Father forever. And itís all Grace. Our Lord said in John 17 that when the world sees this unity, this oneness, they will know that Jesus is for real, and know the power of the Gospel of God. Now there is a lot more to this mystery that we will take the time to unfold for you when we get to chapter 3. Understanding this mystery will help you to understand what has been going on in this world for these last 2000 years

IV. The Walk of the Church (Chapters 4-6)

So 1:3 sets us up to Praise God who has blessed us with His Grace in these first 3 chapters. Chapters 4-6 then tells us how to live as Children of God who have been graced. This is discipleship. This is living what we believe. This our do-over. This is going back and living by the book, as the Author of life intended for us to live. And because we have the presence of God living in us we have the power and potential to live the right way. We have been rescued and adopted out of the orphanage of this world and therefore we should no longer live as if we are still in the orphanage. Take off the world like you would take off dirty clothes and put on Christ, like you would put on your new gown or suit. (4:17-24)

Start with your character (4:1-3).

Listen to me carefully, (if you are listening say, "Amen!") How do you know what God is like? Answer, you look at Jesus. He was God incarnate. God in the flesh. How will the world know what Jesus is like? Answer. By looking at you and at the church. Because God dwells in His church and Lives in every one of us, we are supposed to be the means by which people see Him. Do you understand that? I heard this years ago; You may be the only Bible some people will ever read; or, you may be the only Jesus people will ever see. Is that true? It is true.

What was Jesus like? Well, He, Himself said, that He was meek and lowly in heart, or gentle and humble (Matt. 11:29). Look at 4:1-3. What should your character be like now? Like Jesusí.

The reason you need to be part of a life group and listen to your pastor is so that you can be mature and grow to look like Jesus (4:10-16).

4:17-6:9 tells us what being like Jesus should look like in your personal life, your marriage, your home, and at work. And, Paul reminds us again in chapter 5 that the power and potential to live changed lives is because Holy Spirit is in you. He is grieved when you live as if you are still in the orphanage of the world (4:30). He is in you to fill or to give you the power to live as God wants you to live. But, you have to yield yourself to Him. When you do things your way, in your own strength and power for your own purposes, He is grieved. But when you yield to Him (5:18, Be FilledÖ) He is honored and His purposes are accomplished, because your family, and your community will see the difference Jesus can make.

V. The Warfare of the Church (6:10-18)

Paul will remind us that living for the Glory of God and living like Jesus will not be easy, because you have an enemy who wants to destroy you. Are you aware of that? Do you think about that when you start your day? Jesus our Lord said, you should. You should start your day every with that war on your mind. Our Lord told us to always pray when we pray, deliver us from the evil one (Matt. 6:12). He, Himself prayed this for us, "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth." (John 17:14-19)

Before you begin your day, or walk out your door, you need to make sure you are suited up and ready to face the enemy. Peter says he is stalking you like a lion stalk its prey. Paul says, he uses people to attack you and tempt you, and he wants to destroy you, but God has given you all the tools you need to overcome him.

He reminds us of the importance of praying for each other and always praying.

Paul closes the book just as he started by wanting the church to experience the Peace, faith, love, and Grace of God.

This morning is a great time to start this study. Itís a great time to worship God for His grace. The communion table reminds us of Godís grace and love in the sacrifice of Jesus. It also reminds us of the promises and the position we hold because of Christ and His grace. And then it reminds us that He is in us, both by His word and by His Holy Spirit to enable us to live our lives in gratitude and honor of the one who gifted us with endless grace so we could be forgiven, and adopted into the family of God. Praise Him this morning.

Letís worship as we remember.

Letís Pray about it.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman