Eugene Peterson tells about his four-year-old grandson crawling up on his lap and saying, “Tell me a story, grandpa, and put me in it!” That’s Ephesians. We get to read about the story of God, and we’re in it.
Ephesians is the most comprehensive book on the Christian life. This letter was likely not written to a specific church in Ephesus, but rather to the churches in Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital (In Ephesians 1:15 and 3:2, Paul signals that they don’t know each other. Also, the earliest manuscripts don’t have the title “Ephesus”). Tychicus is carrying Colossians and Philemon (Col 4:7-9), and it seems like Paul had him carry this letter (6:21-22) in order to support and encourage the churches in Asia Minor along the way. This is a letter of encouragement to a diverse group of people, talking about the Christian life in a broad, overarching way.
The Galatians were trying to become Jews again, and if they hadn’t, they probably wouldn’t have gotten a letter from him. The Philippians were getting lazy, so they got a letter. The Corinthians were getting distracted with sexual and food related sin, so they got a letter. Often times with Paul’s letters there is a segment where he corrects and admonishes something going awry, but not in Ephesians. Ephesians seems to be written out of a sense of wholeness. Things are well. Life is good.
In Ephesians, Paul emphasizes how we are a part of a new humanity. This new humanity was created when Jesus brought both Jew and Gentile together into the family of God. The people who you thought were your enemies can become your brothers and sisters in Christ. This was shocking and scandalizing then, and it continues to shock and scandalize us today.
Paul also emphasizes how Christ is victorious over ‘the powers’ through the Holy Spirit for the sake of the Church. Because this is a broad letter, we don’t get much insight into what ‘the powers’ are, but we can guess that they were both harmful and powerful. And Christ is stronger than the things which are harmful to Christians and the Church, and believers have the opportunity to participate with the Holy Spirit in that victory. I must say, participating with the Holy Spirit in what is going on in the Church and the world is one of my absolute favorite things.
Paul also talks at length about maintaining the unity of the Spirit. Oh and what a challenge this is. I have a hard time maintaining unity within myself, unity within my marriage, unity within my family. Unity is a slow, painful, makes-me-grow-up sort of thing. We pray, we watch, we take steps when we can, we don’t quit on anyone; even ourselves.
I realize the rooted blog schedule tends to allocate posts based on the size of the text, so a longer book like Corinthians would have more posts than a shorter book like Ephesians. Yet I wish we had weeks of blog posts in Ephesians, because this book is so comprehensive in its approach to talking about the Christian life. Enjoy!