The Letter to the Ephesians is one of the most theologically beautiful works of Paul. But it also is a bit of an anomaly. For the amount of time Paul spent in ministry there (a little over 2 years- Acts 19:8, 10), it seems impersonal as there are no intimate greetings like those in Colossians (Col. 4:10-17) or Romans (Rom. 16). In literary style it is far more in depth than the other Pauline epistles perhaps indicating Paul’s imprisonment has given him ample time to meditate and write as compared to many of the other epistles which were written during the height of his ministry and addressed specific situations which needed immediate attention. Unlike his usual rapid-fire points, Ephesians is a steady stream of thought which continuously flows from his pen and is seen in the fact that Eph. 1:3-14, 15-23; 2:1-9 and 3:1-7 are each one long, meandering sentence! Ephesians is Paul’s peak of eloquence.
Lawrence O. Richards noted that “Though institutional religion was a great success in Ephesus (the cult of Artemis was rampant there), and a source of both pride and profit, it failed to meet the deepest needs of the population.” We read in Acts 19 of Paul’s ministry which basically turned the city upside-down and initiated his departure for safety reasons (Acts 20:1). The church which Paul planted there stood in stark contrast to the massive temple to Artemis. While the pagan temple was magnificently built, extremely wealthy (it operated as a bank from which kings are recorded as taking massive loans), and powerful enough to run the city’s population of over 200,000 people, Paul illustrates the church as being completely different and describes the nature of the church using three analogies.
The first illustrates the Church as a body and Christ is the head of the body (Eph. 1:20-22; 2:11-18; 4:1-6, 15-16; 5:23). As the head of the Church, Christ joins together two groups that were formerly irrevocably separated (Eph. 2:16) and He is now exalted above all other spiritual powers (Eph. 1:22). The second pictures the church as a holy temple, but instead of being built with marble and concrete, it is built with people through the work of the Spirit (Eph. 2:19-22). Christ is the cornerstone of this structure (2:20) and He holds the building together (2:21). The third analogy speaks of the church as a family (Eph. 1:1-6; 2:19; 3:4-6; 5:1). This identity is based on the believer’s relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3-4).
Interwoven between these illustrations are practical instructions on how these truths should affect the way we relate to one another and to the world we live in. We are to recognize the work of the God-head in our salvation (1:3-14), the depths of mankind’s lost condition before God’s grace touched our lives (2:1-10; 4:17-24; 5:3-14), be able to reconcile differences with one another (2:11-22), minister to one another (4:1-16, 25-32) in the unity of the Spirit, understand authority (5:15-6:9) in relationship to Christ and His love for the Church, and to live diligently prepared for spiritual battle (Eph. 6:10-18).
Anyone who is a part of a body of believers knows “Life Together” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it is not easy. People have different tastes, different opinions, different styles, different feelings, and so on. Some of the smallest things can divide a church: music, prayer, sermon length, even the color of the carpeting. There are more serious divisions as well: doctrinal issues, worship styles and choosing leadership. Have you allowed small things to divide you from other members of the body? How are you serving your family of faith? Are you building up the church or breaking it down? May I challenge you to make Paul’s prayers for the church your prayer for YOUR church (Eph. 1:15-19; 4:14-19) and to live in community with your brothers and sisters as Christ did (Eph. 5:1, 25-27). May the words of Eph. 3:20-22 be ever apparent in you as you walk your journey of faith.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 10/11/2015